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5 Ways to Decompress After a Long Shift as an RGN

Picture this. You’ve had a particularly long and arduous shift doing the wards; your feet are sore from standing all day, your eyes are weary, and all you want to do is collapse onto the sofa and let out one great, big sigh. Nursing is a beautiful and rewarding profession. But it’s also a challenging one.  

It’s essential that RGNs have methods in place to relax and decompress so that they don’t burn out and so that they can continue to function as effectively as possible each and every working day. But how can you decompress? What self-care methods are there that you can try as an RNG nurse to work through the stresses of the day? 

1. Exercise

Undoubtedly, one of the best things you can do to decompress after a stressful shift is to go and do some exercise. Whether it’s a gentle jog, a brisk walk around the park, a sweaty spin class, or a few rounds with a gym punching bag, exercising can help us get the stresses of the day out of our system.  

Plus, when you exercise, you get that added benefit of an endorphin rush. These feel-good chemicals that course through your body after exercising can make even the hardest of days that little bit more bearable. Exercising in the evening is also thought to improve your quality of sleep.  

When our bodies are placed under stress, which RGNs often are on a long shift, we can proceed to have that horrible double-whammy of, on the one hand, being exhausted and, on the other, being too wired from the stresses of the day to actually fall asleep. When we exercise, though, levels of our stress hormone, cortisol, are reduced, which makes falling asleep much easier.

2. Talk to Someone

We all need a good ol’ vent, sometimes. RGNs can experience an extensive range of emotions on any given day – both spectacular highs and devastating lows – and having to shoulder such intense feelings alone can lead to a pressure cooker kind of situation. By having someone to talk to, however – be that a significant other, friends or family members – you have an outlet for that ‘steam’.  

Prevention is always preferable to cure when it comes to managing burnout-like symptoms; the more you talk it out (regarding stress), the better.  

Of course, it’s important to be conscious of the recipient’s emotional bandwidth if you’re able; are they in a good position to receive the information? Or are they struggling with their own problems? A simple “Hey, are you okay to listen now?” rather than just dumping everything on them is usually greatly appreciated.  

3. Do Something You Enjoy

An obvious one but an important one. After a long shift at the hospital, you might only have a little time before your next one (once you’ve factored in rest, eating and other general life admin).  

It’s crucial, therefore, that you take that time to engage in activities that fill your cup and nourish your soul rather than just scrolling mindlessly through social media – even though we’re all a bit guilty of that now and again.  

It could be baking, reading, catching up on that new TV series, or taking a nice hot soak. Whatever it is, carving out some time for yourself can help take away from the day’s stresses and restore your energy levels.

4. Practise Mindfulness

RGNs are often working at a million miles per hour. It can be hard to tune that mental noise when they get home following a shift. That’s where mindfulness can come in so handy. Mindfulness refers to observing your thoughts, letting them come and go without judging them.  

To be mindful is to be fully present and aware of both our external surroundings and our internal feelings. Developing a mindfulness practice can help slow our brains down, and that little mental handbrake can be just what’s needed following a stressful day at the hospital.

5. Seek Professional Help

If you find things are consistently overwhelming, then consider a therapeutic intervention rather than simply mindfulness or self-care alone. Burnout is an all-too-common phenomenon amongst healthcare professionals, including RGNs, and as we touched upon already, it’s much better to nip problems in the bud rather than deal with full-blown burnout.  

So, if you find the stresses of work becoming unmanageable, consider therapy with a licensed professional. Therapeutic techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help alleviate symptoms of stress before they risk developing into something more drastic.

Final Thoughts

It’s pivotal that RGNs find effective ways to decompress following a difficult shift so that they can continue to work as effectively as possible and avoid symptoms of burnout.    


Carry on reading