Pre-Night Shift Anxiety

Pre-Night Shift Anxiety

Nursing is a very rewarding field, but it’s also a stressful one. Sometimes, it can seem like there aren’t enough hours in a shift to get everything done. You’re frequently hurrying and juggling more than one task at a time. Understaffing, poor support from supervisors, and difficult patients add to the stress, and shift work can bring sleep deprivation on top of everything else. When you consider all these challenges, it’s easy to understand why pre-night shift anxiety and depression are common among nurses.

The good news is that there are ways to deal with pre-work anxiety and night shift depression. Following the tips in this post can help you head into your shifts feeling more relaxed and ready to tackle whatever comes your way.

What Is Pre-Night Shift Anxiety in Nursing?

Pre-night shift anxiety is a feeling of dread or worry that you feel before the start of your shift. Having pre-work anxiety doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to be a nurse or that you don’t love your job. It’s a response to the stress and fatigue that come with working overnight, and it’s common. One large study found that 62% of shift nurses had symptoms of anxiety.

Some nurses with anxiety also experience night shift depression. This term describes a shift in mood that occurs before the start of a night shift. Its symptoms are like clinical depression and include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue. In the study mentioned above, 58% of shift nurses said they experienced depression.

What Is the Effect of Anxiety on Nurses?

Every nurse experiences pre-night shift anxiety differently. For some, symptoms are mild and inconvenient, but for others, they can be severe and may make it difficult to work or enjoy time off before a shift. Nurses with anxiety may notice the problem getting worse over time, or symptoms may come and go.

Pre-work anxiety in nursing can have many short- and long-term effects, including:

  • Physical symptoms: Anxiety can cause headaches, heart palpitations, indigestion, diarrhea, and other symptoms that can make it hard to work.
  • Panic attacks: Some nurses with anxiety may experience panic attacks before, during, or after shifts.
  • Coming in late: Dreading the night shift can cause you to drag your feet when getting ready for work, leading to frequent lateness.
  • Reduced empathy: Even though you still care about your patients, you may have a hard time fully connecting with them due to symptoms of anxiety. One study found that nurses with anxiety had a more difficult time responding to patient needs.
  • More risk of errors: It can be hard to concentrate when you’re feeling anxious, so you’re more likely to make mistakes.
  • Problems with coworkers: Night shift depression and anxiety can leave you irritable and prone to mood swings. You may find it harder to work as a team with your coworkers, or you may have conflicts with them due to your mood.
  • Job dissatisfaction: If you have pre-night shift anxiety, you may begin to feel disillusioned about nursing as a whole. You’re more likely to become burned out and unhappy in your role.

How to Deal With Night Shift Anxiety and Depression

If you have pre-work anxiety or night shift depression, you don’t have to resign yourself to symptoms. Over time, the following coping mechanisms can help ease the dread and sadness that you experience before a shift.

1. Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep

All shift workers need to make sleep a priority, but getting enough rest is especially important for nurses with anxiety and depression. For your mental health, strive to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep before each shift. If you’re wide awake at the end of your shift, start a routine to help you relax. You could listen to music, read, or take a long bath.

Creating the right environment for daytime sleep can also help. Use blackout curtains or wear an eye mask to block out light. If your home is noisy, wear earplugs or turn on a white noise machine. You may also find it helpful to stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on your days off.

2. Prepare the Day Before

Rushing around to prepare everything you need for your workday can raise your stress level and make pre-work anxiety and depression worse, so save yourself time and hassle by getting as much done as you can the day before. Pack your lunch and snacks for the next day, and prepare breakfast ahead of time if possible. Get the coffee maker ready to go. Set out your scrubs and put your ID and car keys in a place where you can grab them fast. Have the toiletries and personal care products you’ll use organized and within quick reach. Incorporate these plan-ahead tasks into your wind-down routine if you’re working back-to-back night shifts.

3. Establish an Exercise Routine

Exercise can ease stress, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, and improve sleep. Try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly. You can divide your workouts up in a way that fits your schedule, such as exercising for 30 minutes five times per week or twice a week for 75 minutes. The key to sticking to an exercise routine is to choose something you enjoy. If you hate the gym, try taking brisk walks, cycling, hiking, swimming, or playing a sport, such as tennis or pickleball.

4. Create Commute-to-Work Rituals

Unpredictability plays a role in pre-night shift anxiety. Not knowing what might be in store can leave you feeling worried and upset. While you can’t control what will happen during your shift, you can calm your mind by following a routine during your commute. Create a playlist of songs that put you in a good mood, or listen to audiobooks or podcasts that inspire you. Stop for coffee or a smoothie at the same place every day. Take the long way to work to avoid traffic on the highways. Whatever you choose to include in your pre-work ritual, stick to it and enjoy doing something special for yourself on the way to work.

5. Talk to Someone

Night shift depression and anxiety can be isolating. Sometimes, simply talking to someone about your feelings can help you deal with stress. Find a friend or family member who you feel safe with and share what you’re going through. Call or send texts before your shift to get a pep talk when you need it. Talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional can also help. Through therapy, you can explore the specific causes of your pre-work anxiety and get advice on how to address them.

Remember that your coworkers may be experiencing pre-night shift anxiety and depression, too. Consider making a group chat or private Facebook group where you can lean on each other. Online and in-person support groups for nurses with anxiety can also be great sources of support.

6. Try Meditation or Breathing Exercises

Relaxation techniques can calm your body and your mind when you’re feeling pre-work anxiety. When you feel tense or nervous, turn your mind inward toward your breath. Try to inhale for 10 seconds and exhale for the same length of time. Trace the path of your breath from your nose to your chest to your belly. Repeat a few times until you start to relax.

Meditation can also be beneficial for pre-night shift anxiety. Download an app with meditation or visualization exercises. Make time in your schedule to use it daily for ongoing stress management.

7. Arrive at Work Early to Decompress

Jumping into caring for patients as soon as you walk in the door sends your stress level through the roof. Allow yourself to ease into your shift by leaving home a little earlier. When you arrive, find a quiet spot to sit and relax. Simply sitting in your car with the windows down for a few minutes or taking some deep breaths in the break room can help.

Build yourself up with affirmations while you decompress. Repeating a phrase such as “I can do this” or “I’m a great nurse” can be powerful.

8. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is crucial for a nurse with anxiety or depression. Going nonstop from the first minute to the last minute of your shift will add to your stress. Care for yourself as well as you do your patients by drinking water, eating snacks, and taking breaks when you need to. A few minutes spent relaxing or seeing to your own needs can allow you to better focus on your patients, so everyone can be healthy.

9. Keep a Journal

Journaling can provide an outlet for feelings of night shift depression and pre-night shift anxiety. Expressing how you’re feeling in writing can put you more in touch with yourself. You can also use journaling as a way of letting go of the stresses of the day. Spend a few minutes exploring your frustrations, and imagine that you’re transferring thoughts of work from your mind onto the paper.

Don’t just focus on the negative when you journal. Record the details of those moments that remind you why you became a nurse. Rate your anxiety level from 1 to 10 somewhere on the page. As you continue to use these coping strategies, see how the numbers change. Celebrate even small improvements and recognize that you made them possible by taking care of yourself.

10. Keep Your Supervisor Informed

Pre-night shift anxiety isn’t a dark secret you need to hide from your supervisor. Many nurses experience it, and it’s in their best interest to help you manage it. After all, they want you to remain happy in your position and to continue to provide great care to every patient.

Let them know if you’re feeling burned out, anxious, or depressed. If your supervisor asks how they can help, be upfront with them. Identify anything about your workplace, policies, or procedures that add unnecessary stress. After your initial conversation, continue to check in with your supervisor. Give them updates about your mental health, and notify them when you need to take breaks during your shifts.

Switch Up Your Routine With Wanderly

Working as a travel nurse could help you manage pre-night shift anxiety and stress. With short-term placements, you’re less likely to be sucked into workplace drama and to become burned out by an ongoing routine. The opportunity to travel and see new places could also revive your passion for nursing.Wanderly makes it easy to find travel nursing opportunities across the country. With tens of thousands of pay packages available, we can even help you say goodbye to the night shift for good. We put the power in your hands, giving you the ability to choose the travel jobs that are the best fit for you. Create your profile today and find your next assignment on Wanderly.