Four Ways Nurses Can Help Ease Patient Anxiety
Anxiety and stress are very common for people, especially if they’re tied to an illness and have to spend their days lying on a hospital bed. Not only does the feeling and thought of being ill make one feel helpless and restricted, but it is also bound to push you into a downward spiral of anxious and stressful thoughts.
Since a patient is already struggling with their health issues, they may become more frustrated and prone to anger when forced to stay in a hospital, confined in a ward, and tied to a bed with electrical wires. It is normal to feel anxious in such situations; however, know that you don’t have to struggle alone. If you are considering becoming a nurse, here are four ways to ease the anxiety of a patient struggling to cope with the stress.
1. Recognize Which Patients Might Need Help to Ease their Stress
Being struck with an illness is one thing, but being admitted to a hospital is where things go downhill for most people. Your patient may already be physically or mentally struggling, but now they’re stuck in an environment where others are going through the same bouts of emotion. This environment may become conducive to their mental and physical health and make them uncertain about life.
Feeling hospital blues is so common that some people even get nauseous out of anxiety when they see a doctor or a healthcare professional. However, this is where you step in as a nurse, ensuring they take medicine on time and have every assistance required to make it past the troubled waters. Nowadays, many online nursing programs and diplomas teach aspiring healthcare workers how to effectively care for their patients, including recognizing their anxieties and fears and helping them cope.
The first step to recognizing your patient’s anxiety and fear is noticing the behavior shift. Have they been showing emotions of withdrawal, anger, and frustration, or are they overly sarcastic lately? If yes, look for non-verbal cues like the shift in body language or physical symptoms like gastrointestinal issues, sleeping troubles, etc. That’s where you can begin talking to them about how you can help ease their stress and anxiety.
2. Effective Communication
Once you have noticed the difference in the emotion and mood of your patient, it’s time to develop a strategy that would help you effectively communicate that you are here to help them with whatever is keeping them up or eating away at their peace. Of course, you don’t want to startle your patients by suddenly discussing anxiety or stress.
It is understood that most patients feel slightly out of place in a stressful hospital environment, on top of their ailing health, giving them all the anxiety they may be dealing with. The environment is not only new for them, but witnessing or living with other people who may be going through the same issues as them or, even worse, can become taxing for one’s health.
As a nurse, you need to understand that it’s okay for the patient to feel anxious, given they are in a foreign environment. What you need to take care of is finding the perfect time to communicate with your patient effectively.
In the beginning, ensure you have fully informed the patient about their diagnosis, treatment, and procedure as laid out by the doctor. Let them know how you fit into the procedure and what you will do to ensure they are safe. It is important to build a repertoire with your patients early on so they don’t feel intimidated by your presence.
3. Teach them Breathing and Meditation Exercises
Once you have communicated thoroughly and effectively with your patient that you’re here to help them and care for their needs, you teach them ways to look after themselves or train their body to respond to anxiety healthily. One of the best ways to do so is by noticing things that may trigger one’s fear and allowing oneself to relax by noticing breathing. Breathwork has been known to help with anxiety and stress, alongside helping ease out troubled sleeping patterns and mood.
Breathing exercises are also a part of meditation exercises as both help calm jittery nerves and relax. Nurses can teach patients to identify anxiety, practice mindfulness, and slow breathing when anxious. Not only will this help them notice anxiety patterns and triggers, but they will also become good at controlling their response to anxiety and stress.
First, ensure you teach your patients in real-time so they can learn better. If you witness a patient feeling anxious, help them relax by focusing on their breathing. Later, you can teach them to adapt mindfulness by meditating regularly, like before bed or when they feel a stressful emotion overpowering them.
4. Guided Imagery
Besides meditation and breathwork, nurses can help their patients calm anxiety through guided imagery. Though it may seem similar to breathwork, the approach is slightly different. The guided imagery exercise allows the person to align their mind and body to alleviate the physiological symptoms of anxiety or stress. Guided imagery can help reduce respiration rate, common during anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure.
You must adequately tell your patient how they must engage in exercises with guided imagery. Guide your patient to imagine a place or thing they admire. The patient must rely on their imagination to help feeling of calm and happiness override the stress or anxiety they may be feeling. Guided imagery will help them feel comfortable and get used to the surroundings that otherwise may make them feel out of place and stressed out.
Take the exercise one step further by adding verbal cues, like guided meditation. When practicing this with your patient, ask them what they see and how they feel what they are looking at so that their brain registers the positive feelings and eliminates negative emotions residing due to anxiety.
It’s usual for a patient to feel unsettled and stressed out in a new environment, let alone a hospital environment. The air is tense and thick with uncertainty in a hospital as the patient is surrounded by machines and medicine that may make them feel restricted and scared.
It’s not uncommon to feel tensed and nervous when surrounded by everyone struggling in one way or another. In this situation, it’s necessary for you, the nurse, to step in and make sure your patients are at ease. These four tips are at the precipice of ensuring your patients know how to ease and calm their jittering nerves.