How to Diffuse Tension at Work: Tips to Alleviating Stress












Guest Post By Elizabeth Scala


The hospital where I work has many nursing committees. One that I attend, is the nurse research committee.
We meet monthly and each functional unit is represented.



There are usually a dozen nurses at the meetings and since they’re all interested in nursing research, everyone is quite brilliant.
Well, put a lot of people in a room that are highly intelligent with lots of ideas, you’re likely to have a dispute now and then.
This was the case last month.


We were discussing bed alarms and two women brought up how things were handled in their specific areas.
While both had very good points, the tension in the room was palpable.
Neither wanted to back down and both felt that they were right.
Even though they never said anything that was outwardly mean or nasty; we could all read between the lines.
These women were angry at each other.


Have you ever had this happen in your work?
You believe in what you are doing, but so does the other person.
While you both hold strong beliefs, unfortunately they are not the same.
Neither of you say or do anything that is entirely rude, but somehow the side comments, rolls of the eyes, or body language tells another story.
What would you do to diffuse the tension at work?
Here are 3 tips for alleviating tension during stressful situations:

• Try not to get personal. For the most part, everyone in healthcare has one goal in mind: to give the best care to the patient.
If you find yourself in a stressful situation, take a step back and observe it from the opposite viewpoint.
The person with the differing opinion also wants what’s best for the patient.
Let go of emotional attachment and see if you can both see all sides to the story.

• Realize you have options. You actually don’t have to engage in the tension.
You can choose to walk away, take a deep breath, talk about it, get help, or do none of the above.
You have choices in each and every circumstance and you don’t have to involve yourself if you don’t want to.

• Go up the chain of command. Sometimes you simply need help. If a coworker isn’t willing to discuss, diffuse, and debrief a situation you may need supervision.
You might not have to go right to your manager.
Does your unit offer peer support, a clinical ladder, or nursing peers that can help you manage conflict?
Use your gut instincts. If you’re feeling uncomfortable; ask for help.


Maintain your own health.
What does your health have to do with stress and tension? Everything!
If you’re overtired, hungry, or irritable everything will seem much worse.
It’s like that saying: making mountains out of mole hills.
A person who isn’t feeling their best runs the risk of overreacting to every situation.
The best way to diffuse tension at work is to be in a space of healthy coping, mental relaxation, and peaceful calm.
The more that you can feel good inside and out, the better you will be in stressful experiences.

Having a supportive network of like-minded, positive professionals always helps. Join me and hundreds of colleagues for a virtual retreat.
The RejuveNation Collaboration is an online space for nurses to rest, restore, retreat, and refresh.
Participate with us and you’ll find a community of caring and helpful nurses who understand you and your work.

About Elizabeth Scala

Elizabeth “Coach” Scala, MSN/MBA, RN, is beyond passionate about helping healthcare professionals, nurses in particular, to embody holistic living and embrace self-care.
Through her business, Living Sublime Wellness, Elizabeth writes regularly on the topic of self-care, conducts wellness workshops, and offers both in-person and online seminars for busy nurses. Elizabeth is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach and a Reiki Master Teacher.
Originally from Carmel, NY, she now lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and two dogs.
Elizabeth Scala is a fellow Nurse Entrepreneur and a great friend.


  1. Thank you so much for the share! Maintaining a positive attitude is what gets me through it. It feeds off on to others and really makes me react consistently. Which can be a problem for a frustrated nurse.

    • Hi Haley,
      You are welcome! Thanks for enjoying the article. I am so happy to hear that you have seen benefit in having a positive attitude. We can only be in control of our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. By keeping yours positive you are creating that environment for yourself. I am so glad for you!
      Enjoy your health today,

  2. Great post coach! Nurses have many opportunities for tense situations to crop up working in such a personal industry. This is an excellent resource. It’s always good advice to take a step back from the situation to assess – although not always easy!

    • Joyce says:

      Yes Katy. You are right. It is not always easy, but it is one of those things we need to do
      as Elizabeth said.

    • Hi Katy!
      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to share a comment. I am glad you found the article helpful. Enjoy using this resource in stressful situations. Have a wonderful rest of your day,

  3. Thanks Kevin, I appreciate your input. I agree that sometimes we aren’t teaching what really needs to be taught to those going into the healthcare field. Enjoy your health today, Elizabeth

  4. Thanks for letting me share a post with you and your audience, Joyce. I was honored to do it and look forward to the feedback! Enjoy your health today, Elizabeth

    • Joyce says:

      You are always welcome.
      Thanks for this post. The tips are really practical.
      I like that we have options – to walk away from a tense situation.

  5. Great post Elizabeth…as always!

    The “getting personal” aspect is a HUGE piece to consider in many aspects of our day-to-day. You are correct. We should all have the same end goal in mind. Positive patient outcomes. We talk about clinical skills quite often, but what about other skills we can hone? It’s amazing the perspective one can have if they have the skill set to step back from a situation like this and observe from another viewpoint.

    Kudos sister!

    • Joyce says:

      I totally agree with you Kevin.
      Thanks for visiting:)