Stressed, Anxious, and Overwhelmed! Strategies to Manage Stress for Healthcare Professionals in 2024

A Stressful Day in the Life

Your working conditions in 2024 affect your mental state more than you think. Every day, you diligently wake up for your morning or night shift and know that when you go in, you will be understaffed, carry a heavy workload, and work in sometimes dangerous situations. You know there is a shortage of qualified nurses, providers, and support staff, but today may be different. You go through the day trying not to make an error, give your patients the care they deserve, and try to squeeze in a lunch break sometime during your shift. Your stress level, anxiety, and coping skills are really challenged, and you are increasingly unable to cope on a daily basis. Whether you are a nurse, provider, pharmacist, or healthcare administrator, you feel the pressure and stress that comes with working in the Healthcare field. With the COVID-19 pandemic subsiding, it could be easy just to sweep it under the rug and say that another crisis for healthcare workers has come and gone. Many healthcare workers, however, continue to experience overwhelming stress on the job, and it is affecting their health and well-being.

According to Becker’s Healthcare, US healthcare workers have walked off the job at least 18 times since November 2022. Many reasons have been attributed to nurses striking, including increased workload, concerns over patient safety, and high levels of burnout. Health and Human Services (HHS), have attempted to address the burnout that most of you are experiencing as a front-line healthcare worker. Burnout is an occupational syndrome characterized by high emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishments at work. Health and Human Services addressed health Worker burnout by citing that “throughout the Pandemic, health workers have reported high rates of stress, frustration, exhaustion, isolation, feeling undervalued, loss of sleep, anxiety, increased use of substance use, and suicidal ideation.”

Your patients depend on you to perform at the highest level to meet their healthcare needs and to get them back to the highest level of function. However, you cannot meet their needs if you are experiencing high-stress levels and overwhelming work conditions. Chronic work-related stress is the first sign of burnout. HHS has defined work-related stress revealing itself with symptoms such as impaired cognitive function, sleep disruptions, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. If you do not manage your stress, burnout will ensue, and there will be a number of consequences for patient care.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Stress can affect healthcare workers differently and manifest in physical, mental, or behavioral signs. Most frontline workers are very poor at taking care of themselves. You spend most of your workday focusing on what you can do to help your patients get and stay healthy. Oftentimes, your own care is being neglected. It is critical that you recognize that your physical and mental health is important, and stress and burnout can cause various symptoms. Be on the lookout if you are experiencing these signs of stress.


  • Feeling tired or fatigued
  • headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • fast heartbeat


  • Being irritable
  • making mistakes
  • Being forgetful
  • feeling depressed or overwhelmed


  • Being irritable or snappy
  • Crying
  • Avoiding others
  • Sleep or rest issues

Effective Strategies to Manage Stress for Frontline Healthcare Workers

Know Yourself and Your Feelings

Pay attention to your mind, body, and behavior. Do a daily check on yourself to see if you are experiencing any signs and symptoms of stress. It is important to recognize if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed at work by your workload, work environment, or occupational stressful situation. Fast Company pointed out that internal self-awareness in stressful situations is the key to combating stress in the work environment. Your internal reaction to stress can be overcome with self-awareness of the situation and by asking yourself what caused you to feel this way. As a healthcare provider, nurse, or support team, you are often racing through the day to care for your patients, and seldom do you take the time needed to spend 30 seconds to assess if you are ok. As the day progresses, check periodically to look within and gauge your stress level. This can be during your hand-washing activity or drinking some water to trigger you to assess if your level of stress is manageable or causing physical, mental, or behavioral effects. Self-awareness is the first step to help reduce and cope with stress and give you more control over your work environment.

Practice Resilience

As a healthcare professional, being resilient is the heart and soul of who you are. Caring for patients is always your first priority, but self-care is equally important. If you don’t take the time to take care of yourself, you will eventually be unable to take care of others. It comes with the job, and you probably are very resilient in handling occupational stress. Working in an acute setting, you may have experienced Your patient coding, and you jump into action to revive them. Another stressful situation is that your patient has a seizure, and you are there to ensure they do not hurt themselves during this episodic event. Over the course of your long day, compounding work shifts, these external forces pile onto your workload, and you shoulder the emotional stress baggage, making it very tough to cope. There are ways to build your resilience to stress.

Time to Make Lifestyle Changes

Workplace stress is not going away from your hospital, clinic, or treatment center. The first tool starts outside the work environment and can work in any industry, but it is especially helpful in the healthcare industry. We are always good at taking care of others, but at the end of a long shift, it is harder to muster the energy or enthusiasm to give ourselves some much-needed self-care. A sensible lifestyle change to strengthen your resistance to stress should be prioritized. Focusing on exercise, diet, and rest will help you feel less stressed by making your body and mind healthier and more resilient to the daily effects of working in a stressful healthcare environment.

Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle changes to incorporate. You know that regular physical activity can help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and reduce tension in the body. If you have not exercised in a while, it’s a good idea to consult with your provider to assess your level of health. Virtually, any form of movement is good and can provide immediate benefits to strengthen your immune system and pump up the endorphins to make you feel better. You can start by taking a walk up the stairs or around the block on your breaks to get you started and get you to focus on self-care throughout the day. These breaks are important and provide both time and a break away from the distractions of the normal stressors at work. As you start an exercise program or advance in your routine, it is important to be consistent.

To achieve this consistency, find ways to make exercise enjoyable.

  • Find an activity that you like, can easily do, and fall into a routine
  • Workout with a partner so both show accountability to each other for exercising at regular intervals
  • Book time on your calendar to stick to a routine and allow yourself to prioritize exercise
  • Make the activity convenient to access. A Gym close by work or home, a walking route that is easy to access, an activity that you enjoy so you will prioritize your day around getting to the activity.

Diet is also important in managing stress; eating a healthy and balanced diet can help improve your mood and energy levels. In combination with avoiding processed foods, sugary snacks, alcohol, and caffeine can contribute to your body’s defense and increase resilience towards stress. As healthcare workers, we tend to do the exact opposite. Time is always our enemy, and reaching for processed foods in the snack bar or a cup of coffee to give you that burst of energy to fuel your day is a staple of a frontline healthcare worker’s diet. However, there is a strong correlation between the foods you eat and the mood you experience. Food high in refined carbs and sugar may exacerbate our response to stress at work. Your body works better with fresh foods, vegetables, and the right nutrients to fuel your energy.

To achieve the right diet, start with planning your meals and snacks.

  • Pack your meals and snacks to be protein or vegetable-based to give you a sensation of satiety
  • Avoid foods or snacks high in sugar or processed foods by packing healthy alternatives
  • If you must have some sweets – go with the surprising dark chocolate choice, which is satisfying and also a mood elevator during stressful times.

Rest is essential for managing stress; getting enough sleep every night helps regulate hormones that are necessary for the proper functioning of the body and mind. Most healthcare workers are just not getting enough rest and sleep. This becomes a vicious circle as insufficient sleep leads to irritability and stress, while stress causes insomnia, depression, and anxiety. As healthcare providers, you always work in stressful situations, and prolonged exposure can lead to sleep problems. If you find that you are not getting enough sleep or rest, taking steps to be proactive about the situation can lead to better mental outcomes.

You can take some steps to achieve enough rest to improve your resilience towards stress.

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule when you can. Even if your shift varies, try to establish a pattern of going to bed and waking simultaneously for workdays and off days.
  • Take regular breaks on the job to allow for rest periods
  • Give yourself permission for personal time to unwind. Getting a massage, listening to music, or talking with a friend are quick activities that promote rest and a relaxed state of mind.
  • Take a vacation. If you feel the situation getting out of hand, give yourself permission to take a break from work. You will feel better, and your co-workers will know that you will function better as a team member when you return to work; no guilt is needed for taking time off.
  • Practice focusing, using meditation or yoga to achieve a state of calm on a routine basis.

Manageable Workplace Stress

Your feeling of being overwhelmed, overworked, and unable to cope can be managed. The joy of helping others and caring for your patients can be achieved without risking your mental and physical health in the process. In order to avoid burnout, start working on self-awareness of what is causing stressors with your job. Invigorate yourself to be resilient to stress in the workplace. Take the time to improve your lifestyle and take care of yourself so you can take care of others.

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