Holistic Stress
Management for Nurses

Welcome to the AHNA Stress Management Portal!

Use this portal for questions and answers about the causes of stress, the effects of stress and stress management for students and nursing professionals. You can also access helpful stress reduction exercises* and stress relief articles

The stress response of the body is somewhat like an airplane readying for take-off. Virtually all systems (e.g., the heart and blood vessels, the immune system, the lungs, the digestive system, the sensory organs, and brain) are modified to meet the perceived danger. 

What Causes Stress? 

Centering Exercises for Nurses 

The Reality of Stress in the Nursing Workplace

Virtually everyone experiences stress. However, in a 2001 survey conducted by the American Nurses Association, it was reported that:

70.5% of nurses cited the acute and chronic effects of stress and overwork among their top three health and safety concerns and that 75.8% of surveyed nurses report that unsafe working conditions do, in fact, interfere with their ability to deliver quality care. In a meta analysis of workplace stress in nursing, several major themes were identified as sources of workplace stress for nurses. These were:

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  • Workload/inadequate staff cover/time pressure
  • Relationship with other clinical staff
  • Leadership and management style/poor locus of control/poor group cohesion/lack of adequate supervisory support
  • Coping with emotional needs of patients and their families/poor patient diagnosis/death and dying

Indeed, nurses are experiencing stress at higher rates than most groups.

What are the Effects of Stress?

Stress in Nurses and Other Health Care Workers

Factors commonly mentioned as causes of stress by all categories of hospital workers (including nurses) are as follows (NIOSH 1978c; Huckabay and Jagla 1979; Bailey 1980; Gribbins et al. 1982; Koran et al. 1983):

  • Understaffing
  • Role conflict and ambiguity
  • Inadequate resources
  • Working in unfamiliar areas
  • Excessive noise
  • Lack of control (influence, power) and participation in planning and decision making
  • Lack of administrative rewards
  • Under-utilization of talents and abilities
  • Rotating shift work
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Exposure to infectious patients

Other important stress factors include job specialization, discrimination, concerns about money, lack of autonomy, work schedules, ergonomic factors, and technological changes. Learn More

Managing Stress:  A Holistic Approach

Holistic nursing views everything as inseparable and interrelated – our mental, emotional, physical and social/relational aspects are all intertwined and interconnected. What affects one aspect of yourself will influence all other aspects. For instance:

  • The thoughts you think affect every cell in your body.  
  • The emotions that you feel affect your thoughts, and likewise, the thoughts you think affect your emotions. 
  • The way you care for your body: the foods you ingest; the type and amount of exercise that you engage in; the amount of rest and sleep that you get; the air you breathe . . .all of these practices have a profound effect on your thoughts, your emotions, and your relationships. 
  • And likewise, the types and nature of the relationships that you engage in affect your overall physical health, your emotional health, your mental clarity, and your sense of well-being. (Thornton, 2006) 

In developing a personal plan to help you deal more effectively with stress and bring more health, vitality and wholesome behavior into your life, a holistic program that utilizes a variety of approaches is useful. The wonderful thing about this is that since every aspect of who you are is interrelated, when you create health in one area of your life the positive effects spill into all other areas of your life! (Thornton, 2006)

Learn More about Managing Stress

*The information, facts, and opinions provided here are not meant as a substitute for professional advice.  Always consult your primary healthcare provider for any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and before undertaking a new diet or exercise plan.  

Special thanks to Karen Sanders RN, MSN, Lucia Thornton RN, MSN, AHN-BC, and Jeanne Crawford, MA, MPH
for developing this section of the AHNA Web site.


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