Letting Go

Caring

Caring (Photo credit: -RejiK)

Ever spend your entire shift working your tail feathers off to be told by someone that you were a failure?

Or maybe it’s not YOU that is the failure; it’s the work you are DOING that is failing.

Frustrating isn’t it?

You see, last week I was stuck in a really difficult place. Caring for a patient on MAXIMUM life support, both chemically and mechanically. When I say maximum,  I mean that multiple people commented that the room itself looked like an equipment fair. The surgeon, looking at the numbers, had hope that the patient could recover when there was evidence of some things improving. Consultants from every inch of the hospital were pulled in to give their advice, for a patient suffering from multi-system organ failure. The outcome looked grim.

Let me tell you that I am all for having HOPE. In fact, I have witnessed miracles happen more than once. However, did you ever sense a patient slowly fading away, as if their soul was no longer present in their physical body? These are the ones I give the gentle whisper that it is okay to LET GO.

As nurses, we have the ability to see the BIG PICTURE.  Our number one priority as a nurse is to be the PATIENT ADVOCATE. Yet somehow that can get lost by looking at numbers, chasing outcomes and forgetting to focus on what IS. If nothing else, we are there for SUPPORT. For the patient and for the family. But this can leave us as the scapegoat. The middle man. Somehow, if something goes wrong, it tends to be our fault. Heck, we are left to blame for things we cannot even control! This can be from family, doctors or even the patient. That feeling that you are doing everything right but if something goes wrong, it’s all on YOU.  We are not there to CURE. We are there to CARE. We are there to LISTEN. But, caring “too much” can lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. Where is the middle ground? How do we preserve OURSELVES while taking the best care of our patients?

It’s LETTING GO.

Letting go of the control. Letting go of the judgement. Letting go of the blame. Letting go of the idea that we can save everyone. Because we know in our hearts that what we do is the RIGHT THING.  And while we can do everything in our power to help a patient, it’s not always up to US. We are BLESSED with seeing the big picture.

And in the end, failure is merely about perspective.

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Practicing Presence

Anxiety - Stress ... Time management vital for...

Anxiety – Stress … Time management vital for finals — cancel your Netflix subscription (7:45 PM, Nov. 28, 2012) …item 2b.. Muddy Waters – After The Rain – Full Album (1969) … (Photo credit: marsmet481)

Ever get that anxious feeling the night before work/day of work or even more so driving in? What am I walking into? Is the sh*t gonna hit the fan?

ME TOO.

Especially those times when you have been off for a couple of days. Or coming back from vacation. Or when you’ve been there just hours before (because 12 1/2 hours on means only 11 1/2 hours off…oh wait then you have to factor driving…and before you know it it’s time to turn around and head right back in).

Working day shift, there were surely nights I spent all night dreaming about my extremely sick patient/patients that by the time I woke up, I felt like I was working all night long. Only to be heading back into work in the morning. Hold on, no one ever told me I’d be working 36 hour shifts.

Working night shift, I came home in the morning to try to go to sleep, but WAIT. The sun is shining, I can hear life going on outside me right outside my window (grass cut, children playing, construction work), and I’m back in tonight for another 12! But…I could take the time to run errands, sneak in some ME time, or work on that project I’ve been putting off for forever which suddenly seems extremely important to be done right NOW. This past winter was especially painful with boardwalk construction to rebuild what Hurricane Sandy swept away leaving my house shaking for most hours of the day. Oh yeah, and the house directly behind mine that they have been building for what seems like eternity.

In a nutshell, I’ve been sleep deprived. Being a single mom with a 3 1/2 year old who is always go, go, go…I try to catch the zzzz’s when I can. But there is always SOMETHING more to do. Sleep deprivation undoubtably leads to anxiety. But do you want to know what else can cause anxiety? Being too focused on the FUTURE.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve thought about how I could really use a little something to chill me out. Pick your poison…alcohol, the latest anti-anxiety meds (Xanax anyone?), shopping, eating. Want to know what I chose? Taking a deep breath. A BIG, deep cleansing breath. I chose to force myself to get to a yoga class. Dragged my butt out for a run. If that doesn’t FORCE you to breathe, what will?

Breathing is what connects the mind to the physical body. It is what brings you back to the present. The times I found myself verging on meltdown, breath. The times I found myself with tears welling up in my eyes while at work, deep breath. Was I bringing my work home? Sure. Was I bringing my home to work? Abso-freaking-lutely.

You know what it’s done for me? Wonders. It’s forced me to be PRESENT. It’s made me an active participant in my own life. Because numbing yourself from all the junk leaves you numbing yourself from all the good stuff too, like joy and happiness. Want to know how I feel? ALIVE!

It’s made me a better nurse for sure, because I can stand in the room with my patient, or even sit down to have a conversation, and I can tune out everything else going on outside of that room. I can take a breath and realize maybe the best gift I can give my patient is the gift of presence. To be fully THERE. To really CARE. It’s caused me to totally change the way I view going into work.

It’s made me a better mom. Because a meltdown isn’t going to last forever (though some times it undoubtably seems like it will). And the good times don’t last forever either. I can totally soak in all the happy times and engage in every moment.

It’s made me a better friend and sister. Really listening. Taking a deep breath when I can only think of what I’m going to say next. I’ve probably learned more about some of my best friends in the last few months than I have in years of knowing them. And it’s caused me to stop giving out so much advice. Because people really have a way of fixing themselves if you just stop to listen and ask just a few open ended questions.

So the next time you just feel in your own head, stop and breathe. All the way down into the base of your lungs. Then, tell me how it feels.

Sending love, love, love. XOXO

Clearing out the Clutter

Image

With summer just around the corner, have you done your spring cleaning? I’ll admit, these days I tend to be a day late when it comes to most things (or a couple months late) but a few weeks ago, I spent a night cleaning out my closet and my drawers and managed to get rid of 3 large garbage bags full of clothes. Do you want to know how it felt to drop them off for donation?

F-R-E-E-I-N-G!!

I have room in my drawers instead of jamming the stuff in. I have empty hangers! I can see what I have and I know what I need. Let me tell you that it feels GOOD!

However, with a basement full of water due to some flooding this past week, my room (and living room, and halls) are once again full of stuff. Everything had to be moved up to the main floor to clean up the water. Want to know the ironic part? It’s been on my rainy day list of things to do-to get rid of some things in the basement that I do not NEED. Seems like every other rainy day something else came up. Until the universe told me this time-it’s time to DO IT! I have to say it’s quite nice having everything right in my face-forcing me to do something about it although I’m admittedly a bit claustrophobic with the feeling the walls are closing in on me. But it’s helping me really think-why am I holding on to this STUFF? Let’s just say I see a bulk trash pick up in the near future. 

With all of this going on-it has me thinking… What kind of mental, emotional, and spiritual CLUTTER am I holding onto? 

It’s easy when you work with people to take on their energy. It’s contagious. Ever go into work feeling really good only to find yourself depleted within minutes? Sometimes it’s your co-workers, sometimes it’s your patients. We can tend to carry this around with us and creates mental and emotional clutter…GUNK.  I’ve found that I have to consciously tell myself-I’m not going to let these people get to me. I’m going to spread my POSITIVITY and LOVE!

I’ve been taking some time this past week to focus on letting go. REALLY letting go. With water seeping up through the floors, and the rains continuing to pour down. What could I really do about it? A whole lot of NOTHING. (Well maybe I could have plugged in the other sump pump that I didn’t know about?) Some of the stuff I’ve put up with in my past…I took it, it’s all I really knew what to do. But now-I’m done with that!  I’m letting go of the guilt. It served it’s purpose. It has made me who I am.

Sometimes it’s physical stuff. Sometimes it’s a relationship. Sometimes it’s the story you tell yourself.

DEEP BREATH…

It’s over. Get rid of it. I’m letting go. I’m having fun now. 

What’s holding you back? 

“Je pense, don…

“Je pense, donc je suis”-Rene Descartes (I think, therefore I am.)

 I’m super fired up to come back and share all of the wonderful things I have in mind after attending the American Holistic Nursing Conference this past week. Speaking of the mind….

Did you know that most of your thoughts are not your own? Over 90% of our thinking is automatic and it all goes back to how we are programmed. Did you know you have the ability to control and CHANGE the way you think? The key is to become more AWARE of your thoughts. Here is an acronym to help you when you find yourself getting caught up in negative thinking (“I can’t do it”, “It will never get better”, “Things will always be this way”):

STOP!

Stop

Take a few deep breaths, transform your mood. The breath connects the body to the mind.

Observe sensations in your body and your mind

Proceed with compassion, kindness and creativity -Deepak Chopra

Thoughts>Feelings>Actions=Results Change your thoughts and transform your results. You are not your thoughts!

 

What is one action step you can take? Reply back, I’d love to hear.

Stress…less

Español: Hata yoga

Español: Hata yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CSA Haul the First

CSA Haul the First (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: vegetable garden, detail Français : j...

English: vegetable garden, detail Français : jardin potager, détail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you carving out some time and space for yourself? What do you do to neutralize the harmful effects of stress? Dr. Mark Hyman says, “Stress is a thought. No more. No less. If that’s true, then we have complete control over stress, because it’s not something that happens to us but something that happens in us.” Stress produces a fight or flight response in our body (whether perceived or real) which produces adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin raises heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol is directly toxic to nerve cells which mediate memory and emotion. Chronic overproduction of cortisol depletes our adrenal glands and can leave us fatigued, cranky, and nervous. Over time, stress can lead to heart disease, obesity, sleep problems, digestive problems, depression, memory impairment and worsening of skin conditions such as eczema.

The trick to reducing stress is creating balance by making the time-rather than finding the time-for self-care practices…because how many of us sit around and say, “WOW, I have all of this free time, what on earth can I do with it ALL?” Commit to taking time out for yourself each and everyday. Here are 8 simple tips for decreasing your stress levels:

1. Quiet your mind. You can do this through meditation or deep breathing techniques. A few weeks ago I attended a conference in which I learned a simple 4-7-8 breathing technique from Dr. Andrew Weil who is a leader in integrative medicine. Gently close your eyes. Take a deep breathe in for a count of 4. Hold it in for a total of 7 seconds. Then breathe out through your mouth with the tip of your tongue pressed slightly to the roof of your mouth touching the area where your gums meet your teeth for a count of 8. Repeat this for 4 cycles. Aim to do this exercise twice per day. You can do this in the morning and and night while in bed or while you are sitting quietly. It is especially good to use during a particularly stressful time where maybe you need to step away for a moment to re-focus. I have been doing this consistantly for the past few weeks and have noticed a marked decrease in my overall stress level.

2. Eat clean. Cook more at home. Eat more fresh fruits and veggies and crowd out the processed foods you take in. Consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or an organic co-op so that eating fresh and healthy is more convenient. Check out some local farmers markets (which are popping up everywhere!) and you will know where your food is coming from. It will also give you a little boost knowing you are supporting people in your community. Plant a garden! Planting and tending a garden alone are big stress reducers.

3. Move. This could be “exercise” or something simple like cleaning the house. Yoga is also a great way to combine movement with calming the mind. Got kids? Don’t be afraid to run around with them at the park. I love taking my daughter to the park and playing right along side her. This lightens me up and reminds me not to take life so seriously. Why am I usually the only mom out there hanging upside down from the monkey bars and doing handstands and cartwheels in the field? I’m not afraid to get out there and PLAY! Why do we grow up and forget to have fun?

4. Rest. Are you getting enough sleep? I know as a night nurse that this is a season of my life where many times I am NOT getting the sleep I need. I make it a priority to rest when I can-even if that doesn’t necessarily mean sleep. Maybe that just means snuggling up to a good book or a favorite TV show. Rest is important because it allows our body to recharge. How can we expect our body to perform optimally if we are chronically abusing it? Make time to put your feet up..and put the guilt aside. Feeling guilty for taking time to rest is counterproductive. Believe that you deserve it.

5. Connect. Friends are so vital to our mental and emotional well being. They are there to listen to us vent. Observe who you hang around. Do you know experts say you are the average of the five people you spend the most time around? Surround yourself with positive people! Practice improving your own listening skills, many people aren’t looking for advice, they just want an ear. By fighting the urge to fix things, you remove yourself from energy sucking situations. Make a priority of spending quality time with those you love, including your family!

6. Observe your thoughts. Many times we can be our own worst enemy. Make a conscious decision to change negative thinking habits. What story are you telling youself? Avoid using words like “always” and “never”. Practice being more gentle with yourself. I like to surround myself with positive quotes, inspirational sayings, and powerful words. My bathroom mirror has a magnet that says, “Yes, you look beautiful”. My computer background is plastered with “sticky notes” of motivational quotes and simple reminders to be grateful. My refrigerator is covered in magnets about happiness and peace. I find that having more positive things around, it’s much more difficult to fall into the trap of negative thinking.

7. Unwind. Take time to do things that make you FEEL good. Take a bath. Use those bath salts that I know all of you have. You know, the ones that usually just sit in the container looking pretty but are just collecting dust on your bathroom shelf or in your linen closet. Put those things to good use! Book a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure (or all of the above), or maybe you dont have the time or money. Instead, take a few minutes in the shower to use a great smelling body scrub (you can even make one of your own! You can find simple body scrub recipes on the internet), take time to steam your face, soak your hands and/or feet and put on a fresh coat of nail polish. Ever notice how good it feels to use a simple washcloth to scrub your skin? This brings blood flow to the surface improving circulation and is highly recommended!

8. Stop taking things so personally. There is only one person we are in charge of and that is ourselves. We cannot control what someone says or does. We can only control how we react (or don’t react) to a person or situation. I myself, am a recovering control freak. Recovering…not yet completely recovered. But I’ve learned to shift my focus of my control issues onto myself and I’ve coupled this alongside being more gentle with myself. This my friend takes practice, practice, practice. But when we begin to release this, we can see major shifts in our stress levels.

“The human body has been designed to resist an infinite number of changes and attacks brought about by its environment. The secret of good health lies in successful adjustment to changing stresses on the body”-Harry J. Johnson

Try incorporating some of these tips into your everyday and notice if it helps you achieve balance.

Nurture the Nurse from A to Z

Nurture the Nurse
From A to Z

Accept yourself
Be present in the moment
Connect with nature
Discover the divine within you
Empower yourself
Face your fears
Give generously
Have an unrestricted belly laugh
Indulge without reservation
Journal often
Keep good memories
Love yourself
Maintain wellness
Nurture your spirit
Open your heart
Play often
Quiet your mind
Receive with gratitude
Seek truth
Trust yourself and others
Use your gifts and talents freely
Vent emotions with great compassion
Work like you play
Xentuate the positive
Yes! To life!
Zest for living is the holistic way

http://www.ahna.org

Allergies got you all stuffed up?

It’s that time of year again-you want to enjoy the great outdoors, but your. just. so. stuffed. up.  Headaches, congestion, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes? Sounds like an advertisement for the newest antihistamine, nasal spray or prescription allergy medication. I personally developed seasonal allergies in my late teens and for once I am sailing straight through this spring season with barely a symptom, and this year without my allergy medication. How so? I swapped out my PHARmacy for a FARmacy. Here are some things I have done differently this year:

  1. I’ve been consuming one tablespoon of local honey in my tea daily. Though the research doesn’t necessarily support the beneficial effects of honey against allergies, the science seems simple and common sense. Introduce a small amount of allergen to the body and it acts like an immunization whereby the body triggers an immune response in response to the allergen. One informal, unpublished study supported the theory that local honey is beneficial and participants reported fewer allergy symptoms. This may be a subject of absence of evidence vs. evidence of absence. Interesting that in researching this, an advertisement for one of the popular antihistamines always happened to show on the webpage. Did you know we are one of only two countries (The U.S. and New Zealand) which allows direct to consumer advertising of prescription medications? Americans are often looking for the magic pill to make themselves feel instantly better and it’s quite amazing what a little marketing can convince you to do!

    Honey

    Honey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  2. I’ve been taking Vitamin C. Did you know Vitamin C has an antihistamine effect? In addition to consuming Vitamin C in your diet, you can consider taking between 500mg-2000mg of Vitamin C per day as a supplement to produce this effect. Vitamin C can be found in most fruits and vegetables but is found highest in cantaloupe, citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, watermelon, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green and red peppers, spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, tomatoes and tomato juice, and winter squash.
  3. I’ve been using a sinus rinse (or neti pot, or other nasal irrigation product). The research has supported that this thins mucous and flushes out the nasal passages. Just make sure you follow the instructions carefully. It takes a few times to get the hang of it but once you do it properly, you can instantly feel the effects.
  4. I’ve drastically reduced my consumption of processed foods. By consuming tons of fruits and vegetables, I’ve allowed my body to do its job. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Seems simple because it is.

 

Citrus fruit slices

Citrus fruit slices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I encourage you to experiment a little. These things may not work for everyone but if you are anything like me, you hate taking medication unless absolutely necessary. Someone somewhere said nurses make the worst patients. Wonder where they got that idea?

May we all be well. May we all be happy. May we all be healthy.  XOXO

Resources:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/444603-antihistamine-action-of-vitamin-c/

http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/allergies/allergy-treatments/local-honey-for-allergies2.htm

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002404.htm

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/sinus-pain-pressure-11/neti-pots

Nutrients are essential to our well-being

English: Auscultation of lungs / Auscultation ...

nutrients plural of nu·tri·ent

Noun
A substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.

-google.com

Nutrients are the essential building blocks of life. They allow things to grow, flourish, and become beautiful. This blog is meant to inspire, motivate and support nurses to be caregivers for not only everyone else but most importantly, for themselves. It’s meant to support you to nourish your body, mind and spirit. It’s all too often we run on empty making sure everyone else is cared for-our family, friends and patients-when we ourselves are falling apart at the seams. Why do we not value ourselves enough to say that we matter too? I use to think it was selfish to nourish myself. Now I learned that I can do more, be more and give more when I am taking care of myself first. You know when you are on the airplane and they tell you that in an event of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others? Life is something like that. Start small, make a commitment to yourself! YOU DESERVE IT!