Common Stress Reactions in Nursing

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 2
Words: 593
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Bachelor

Common Stress Reactions

Stress can be defined as a stimulus, external or internal, that causes a state of physical, emotional, or psychological strain. The effects of stress can range from reduced productivity to physical violence or even death based on the type, period, and severity. It also causes loss of body weight, reduction of brain mass, and changes in the nervous system (Johnson & Johnson, 2020). Stress is not always easy to identify, and various people manifest and react to it differently. Most people feel stress through their muscles, mood, thoughts, energy, and breathing. This post discusses a personal experience of how stress is manifested in my body, how I react to it, and how I see the other staff nurses reacting to it.

How Stress Is Manifested in My Body

Stress in my body manifests itself in different ways, some of which may be hard to explain. When I am pressured, my muscles almost always feel tense and tired. When stressed, the reaction of muscles dramatically resembles the experience of fatigue (Johnson & Johnson, 2020). I am more likely to stretch, yawn, and move around to reduce the tension. My stomach muscles become shaky, and my heart rate increases. I unknowably clench my fists and Jaws and stretch from time to time for no apparent reason.

Whenever I am under tension, my breathing pattern tends to change. My breathing in this state is shallow and feels restricted. I find myself using my shoulders other than the diaphragm to breathe, causing only a little volume of air to reach my lungs. My heart rate in this period fastens, and I am more likely to experience tremors and muscle twitching. Sometimes, I feel burning headaches, fatigue, and back pains when stressed. There was a day I was worried and had a stomach ache and diarrhea, though this is not a common reaction when stressed.

How I React to Stress

My reactions to stress can be put into three broad categories: behavioral, psychological or emotional, and physical. The physical reactions are how the body reacts, as I previously discussed. When stressed, I am also prone to emotional responses; for instance, I am an energetic individual, but that vigor goes away when stressed. Instead, my mood, usually cheerful, changes into irritable, defensive, and frustrated. I tend to eat less when stressed, and this can be mainly attributed to the anxiety that I feel at such times. My ability to perform tasks reduces, and my otherwise good communication skill is lost. These periods of life are not the most reproductive, and I have come to appreciate the need to identify them and modify my responses to them.

How Other Nurses React to Stress

The majority of individuals find stress overwhelming and do not react to it well. One of the worst reactions to stress I have seen my fellow nurses exhibit is drug and substance abuse. The overarching question is if it helps; however, no one can know for sure apart from those who use it as a mitigation method (Smith et al., 2021). Studies, however, show that drug abuse is associated with a greater desire for achievement, higher perceived stress, and fewer coping strategies (Pascoe et al., 2019). I also observe depressed fellow nurses who want to perform heroic deeds, unsuitable for the profession. It is common to see a nurse who is extremely angered towards fellow professionals and clients, and this reaction makes them underperform. Not all responses are negative, as some caregivers change their work habits and work even hard to produce good results.


Johnson & Johnson. (2020). 3 Stress-Management Techniques for Front Line Workers [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Pascoe, M. C., Hetrick, S. E., & Parker, A. G. (2019). The impact of stress on students in secondary school and higher education. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 25(1), 104–112. Web.

Smith, S., Kassam, A., Griggs, L., Rizzuti, F., Horton, J., & Brown, A. (2021). Teaching mindfulness-based stress management techniques to medical learners through simulation. Canadian Medical Education Journal, 12(1), e95. Web.