Although you may not always believe it, living a balanced life is not out of reach. Nurses have a variety of ways to achieve daily balance and well-being, both informally and through dedicated programs. Today, institutions and nursing organizations alike are prioritizing initiatives to support and strengthen nurses’ well-being.

What the Research Tells Us

Chronic stress exposes the body to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The hippocampus, which is the learning and memory center of the brain, is especially sensitive to cortisol. Ongoing stress and elevated cortisol levels can eventually damage the hippocampus and affect our ability to reason and remember. Learning and memory often decline during periods of chronic stress and unresolved trauma.

How to Practice

Recognizing how much stress you are experiencing at any given time can be challenging, but several assessment tools can help you track your perceived levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Oncology nurses may be familiar with the Patient Health Questionnaire 9-item depression scale (PHQ-9) and the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7) as validated tools used in healthcare settings. Some smartphone apps also have easy-to-use, simplified assessment scales. Tracking stress levels over time can help us gauge how well certain health strategies reduce our stress and increase our feelings of well-being.

The American Nurse Association’s (ANA’s) well-being initiative provides nurses with tools for reducing stress and achieving physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. ONS also has the Nurse Well-Being Learning Library and many other helpful resources. Several of ONS’s and ANA’s strategies are listed in the sidebar.

You can use a preferred technique consistently or switch it up. The important thing is to recognize that general stress is universal and a necessary part of life, but chronic stress is damaging. Start today to revitalize your path to essential well-being and living a life in balance.