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10 Effective Strategies For Nurses to Decompress Post-Shift

Minion Training LLC


Aug 3, 2023


When was the last time you were leaving a long and tiring shift and felt like going to a Beyonce concert, I’ll wait…? Exactly, never. You dedicate long physically and emotionally demanding hours to caring for others and oftentimes head home to rest without a proper way to decompress and restore yourself.


After a hectic shift, it’s crucial to find ways to decompress and recharge your mind and body. Incorporating effective post-shift decompression strategies into your routine can significantly improve your well-being, job satisfaction, and overall performance.


This article will explore ten evidence-based strategies that will help you unwind, destress, and promote a healthy work-life balance to advance your delivery of optimal care to your patients.


1. Mindful Breathing Techniques

When you’re feeling overwhelmed after a demanding shift, taking a few moments to practice mindful breathing can work wonders. Focus on your breath, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. This simple technique activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Consider integrating mindfulness apps like Headspace or Calm into your routine to guide you through tailored breathing exercises.


2. Engage in Physical Activity

Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. Whether it’s taking a brisk walk, mobility training, or a high-intensity workout, physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise post-shift to experience its incredible benefits to adequately decompress.




3. Expressive Writing

Now you don’t have to be a J. K. Rowling but letting your thoughts and emotions flow onto paper can be profoundly therapeutic. Take some time to journal your experiences and feelings after a shift. This can help you process any stress or emotional tension you may be carrying, leading to improved mental well-being.


4. Practice Gratitude

After a challenging shift, it can be easy for your mind to dwell on the negatives. Instead, shift your focus to the positive aspects of your day to help properly decompress. Practicing gratitude can boost your overall happiness and resilience. Consider keeping a gratitude journal, jotting down three things you’re thankful for after each shift.


5. Connect with Supportive Colleagues

Conversing with friends from work who understand the challenges you face, can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health.

When sharing your experiences and feelings with peers, they may offer helpful insights that you can use to better get through your shift. You may even get a laugh out of some of these conversations which can certainly help you decompress post a brutal 12 hours.


6. Engage in a Hobby or Creative Outlet

After a long and draining shift, it would be advantageous for your health to engage in something highly rewarding. Certain creative activities can release dopamine hits in your brain, bringing you lots of joy and comfort.

I understand you may be extremely tired post-shift. But being intentional about committing as little as 15 minutes to hobbies like painting, crafting, or playing an instrument — can serve as a therapeutic escape, helping you to better relax and recharge from your intense 12-hour shift.


7. Disconnect from Technology

After a busy shift, it’s essential to unplug from work-related emails and notifications. The last thing your brain needs is more information (which is 9 times out of 10, negative content) to bombard your mind and make you even more fatigued.

Set boundaries with technology and avoid checking work messages during your downtime. This will allow you to disengage from work stress and focus on self-care mentally.




8. Decompress With Mobility Training

Chronic stress is an occupational hazard of being a nurse. The highly demanding and traumatic nature of nursing is no doubt a catalyst for high stress and anxiety. One of the best and most feasible ways of reducing this stress is by routinely performing mobility training.

Learning how to implement mobility training into your daily routine and even pre and post-shift can significantly, and oftentimes, completely eradicate workplace stress and anxiety.


9. Create a Relaxing Environment

Basically, get in some good vibes. We understand this and view this as insignificant but intently creating a relaxing environment on a consistent basis has amazing effects. Transform your home into a soothing space that promotes relaxation. Dim the lights, play some Anita Baker, and add comforting elements like scented candles or essential oil diffusers. A serene environment can help you unwind and leave the stress of the day behind.


10. Get Adequate Sleep

Long and unpredictable work hours often disrupt nurses’ sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation, which can have serious consequences on immunity and cognitive function.

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine are essential steps to optimize sleep quality.


To practically enhance the quality of your sleep…

  • Stop eating 1-to-2 hours prior to sleeping.
  • Make sure the temperature of your room/house is pretty cold to allow you to hit REM sleep faster.
  • Doing some light reading can induce a deeper and more rejuvenating sleep.
  • Staying away from screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
  • Limiting the number of daytime naps.



Every nurse’s needs are unique. To find out which method would be most auspicious, explore them all before picking ones you can be committed to.


Your recovery post-shift is critical when it comes to delivering exceptional care to patients and maintaining optimal health.




Please share if you found any value in this article, and make sure to subscribe to my newsletter (BELOW) for tons of free evidence-based content.


No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other licensed clinicians.

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