Any degree program is bound to come with a high level of pressure. Aside from your personal desire to succeed so that you haven’t wasted the last several years of your life and several thousand dollars pursuing a path that didn’t pan out, there is the onus to obtain a degree so that you can improve your job prospects and live up to your full potential. And while the field of nursing is one of the few that continues to grow despite the recession, you won’t get far without some kind of degree. So to say that stress and anxiety are part and parcel of going to nursing school is something of an understatement. And yet, you’re not the first person to suffer from these ill effects of higher education, and you certainly won’t be the last. In a way, this is good news; it means that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to finding ways to cope with the many pressures that accompany the academic process. Here are just a few helpful tips to see you through.
The first thing you need to do is address your physical health needs, including diet, exercise, sleep, and so on. When you are functioning at your physical peak you will perform better in every area of your life, thereby reducing the effects of stress and anxiety even if you can’t remove the cause. A decent amount of sleep (about 8 hours a night on average) is essential for proper brain function and emotional stability, especially if you’re filling your noggin with tons of new information. But the way you eat and the amount of exercise you get are also important.
For example, loading up with sugar and caffeine may seem like a great way to prepare for hitting the books or heading to class, but the burst of energy you get will quickly fade, leaving you less able to focus and retain information than before. But consuming a steady diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats (and animal products) and eating regularly throughout the day will keep you clear-headed and ready to work. And fitting in 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise at least 3-4 times a week can reduce stress, pump you full of endorphins, and even help you to fall asleep at night and sleep more deeply, all of which bode well for your ability to function free of anxiety.
Of course, this might not be enough to alleviate your anxiety and lower your stress level. Some people need extra help to dispel these jittery feelings that keep them up at night and make it difficult to apply themselves to their school-related tasks. You can try all kinds of non-pharmaceutical strategies to deal with the pressures of obtaining your nurse practitioner masters degree or even a certification; yoga and meditation, frequent spa days for massage treatments, and even hypnotherapy could help. But for some people there is no alternative but to turn to psychiatric care. You’ll likely have to meet with a qualified doctor on a regular basis in order for this form of treatment to work, and in the meantime you’ll take medication for your anxiety issues. This probably isn’t a good long-term solution, and your doctor can help you to develop other coping strategies, but there’s no shame in getting the help you need to make it through a rough patch.