#1 Tip to Dealing with Stress in Nursing School

by Cathy Parkes

If nursing school (or your nursing career) has you feeling stressed, you are definitely not alone!

There's class, clinicals, exams, more exams, and a huge amount of material that you are expected to master. And that doesn't even consider the rest of your life where you may be a parent, a spouse, or a primary breadwinner alongside the work you are doing to achieve your dreams.

That's where stress comes in. At the heart of stress is your body's incredible response mechanism that prepares you to survive tough situations. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone. While cortisol is essential in small amounts, if it sticks around, if your stress levels stay high, you can find yourself anxious, depressed, exhausted, or even with health problems.

So what's to be done? Cathy explains in this quick video how a professor shared a tip with her that has stuck with her, and helped her to keep stress and cortisol in check. (Spoiler Alert: Exercise is key!)

Full Transcript

Hey, it's Cathy.

So I am sitting here before you in my exercise clothes with my hair up and sweat all over my body and no makeup, although that's nothing. There's nothing different about that. I never wear makeup.

I want to talk to you about something I felt like you guys could really benefit from, which is stress reduction.

When I was in nursing school, one of the most important things I learned was in my nutrition class taught by Dr. Long. And this class was early on in my program, and he taught us that when you have chronic stress in your body, your body releases cortisol, and that cortisol really makes you feel bad.

Right? You know what it feels like when you're stressed. You're nervous, maybe sick to your stomach. Maybe you're not sleeping well. It doesn't feel good.

And he taught us that the only way to bring those cortisol levels down and feel better is to get exercise, pretty much moderate to vigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes. About an hour ago, I was feeling kind of irritable and I was feeling kind of I wanted to rage on someone, which would have been my husband because he is the only one home.

But instead of doing that, I made myself go out for a run-walk. I'm not a very good runner. What I do is I run pretty fast for a minute and then kind of walk briskly for five minutes and then repeat that. But it gets my heart rate up and I do it for about 30, 40 minutes. And boy do I feel better, 100% better.

Dr. Long was right. Going out for a vigorous exercise like that totally brings the cortisol levels down. I feel way more focused and motivated. I thought of you guys in nursing school with all that chronic stress.

I wanted to urge you to get outside or go to the gym and get your heart rate up if you're feeling really bad. And 9 times out of 10, you're going to come home feeling better, more motivated, and less depressed, and just happier. I know it totally works for me.

And so with all the things I learned in nursing school, that has actually been probably the most important thing I learned because it stays with me years later today, and I definitely use exercise as a way to reduce stress. So I encourage you do the same!

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