Healthcare

Mindfulness helps nurses manage stress and anxiety

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A new study has found that practising mindfulness can significantly reduce feelings of stress and anxiety among nursing staff. Researchers analysed data from 14 previous studies across 7 countries, involving over 800 nurses and nursing assistants.

The analysis, published in the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing journal, showed mindfulness techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and present-moment awareness provided statistically meaningful relief from anxiety and stress levels.

“The number of robust studies on sickness among nursing staff and their growing use of mindfulness practices was significant, and we realized how important it was to explore the use of this kind of intervention to manage anxiety in the group, combining the two previous research lines,” explained Karen Oliveira Santana, the study’s lead author.

“It helps you pause between stimulus and response so that you think before acting. Conscious breathing and meditation promote physical and mental relaxation, alleviating anxiety and stress so that you can be more aware of your needs.”

While mindfulness practices can alleviate symptoms, the researchers emphasise that healthcare workplaces must also address the root causes of stress and anxiety for nurses. Long hours, low pay, constant disease exposure, and gender inequalities all contribute to difficult working conditions.

“Because a majority are women, nursing staff also suffer from gender inequity. As if stressful work conditions weren’t enough, many also have to cope with housework and other domestic tasks culturally assigned to women,” Santana said. “Burnout is increasingly frequent as a result.”

The researchers hope their findings encourage more nurses to try mindfulness strategies as a way of managing the unique challenges and stresses they face daily. However, institutional changes are still needed to create healthier environments.

“It’s possible to manage symptoms of anxiety and stress, but their causes must also be tackled,” Santana said.

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