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5 signs of excessive stress, according to ANA’s Well-Being Initiative

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Everyone handles stress differently, and nurses are no exception. Being on the front lines of the coronavirus nonstop for a year now, many nurses are likely experiencing excessive stress, even if they don’t realize it.

According to the American Nurses Association, these feelings will subside with time as the country begins to recover. The important thing is to develop coping mechanisms and find the support you need to address this stress. This support will look different for each person.

“The realities of the situation are changing your ability to provide care to your patients, spend time with your family, and go about your daily life,” ANA Enterprises wrote on its Well-Being Initiative website. “The stress may be affecting you physically, interpersonally, and emotionally more than anything you’ve ever experienced.”

ANA lists five signs you might be suffering from excessive stress:

Physical symptoms

Stress doesn’t affect you just mentally. Researchers have long believed stress and heart health are linked, and a 2019 study by a group at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, shows that stress related to work-family conflict may be disproportionately dangerous for women.

Physical symptoms of excessive stress include rapid heart rate, muscle tension, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, difficulty breathing, high startle response, nausea, nightmares or flashbacks, and chronic exhaustion.

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Sleep disturbance

Nightmares, trouble falling asleep or struggling to staying asleep are also signs you’re not dealing with your stress. Research has shown lack of sleep can cause everything from memory problems to heart attacks and strokes.

A study published Sunday found a lack of sleep made it difficult to solve problems or make decisions, both of which are crucial for nurses.

A January 2019 study by the National Center for Cardiovascular Research in Madrid determined that sleeping fewer than six hours a night can cause atherosclerosis — the hardening and narrowing of arteries — which is the usual cause of heart attacks and strokes.

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Emotional responses

As the person patients interact with most, nurses try to be friendly and helpful. Excessive stress can make that difficult, however.

If you find yourself experiencing anger, fear, frustration, irritability, anxiety, sadness or guilt more than usual, or are having difficulty maintaining emotional balance, you should seek help to cope with your excessive stress.

Problematic or risky behaviors

The coronavirus pandemic has seen alcohol sales rise in Georgia and across the nation. According to a recent study, the continuing outbreak has led to excessive consumption of alcohol.

“Alcohol consumption is associated with a range of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and mental health disorders, which can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19,” WHO’s the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe wrote early in the pandemic. “In particular, alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes.”

If you find yourself taking unnecessary risks, or increasing your use of alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings, please reach out for help.

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Social impacts

Excessive stress doesn’t just affect the person experiencing it; it also has an effect on those around them.

Do you find yourself blaming others for problems, or having more conflicts with co-workers or family members? Are you becoming withdrawn and isolating yourself? Are you becoming clingy or needy? All of these behaviors are signs of excessive stress and signal the need for help.

The Well-Being Initiative lists resources to help nurses cope with the added stress brought on by the pandemic. You can check them out here.

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