Why is it that you take care of everyone else, but not yourself?
Were you waiting for me to answer that? Sorry, only you can do that. Don’t feel bad. Nurses are often EXTREMELY guilty of not taking care of ourselves. I can see you nodding your head in agreement (and no, I am not psychic).
But what I can do, is help you make the shift to start making YOU a priority.
As you probably know, I firmly believe that you should enjoy your work. I think enjoying your work (or life for that matter) is very hard to do if you do not take care of yourself.
Every week I used to add a new Self Care Tip to the blog. I am no longer running the series, but from time to time I do post a new self care tip.
Below are the Self Care Tips. Pick one….pick two…..and TAKE. CARE. OF. YOURSELF.
This week’s self care tip is all about taking baby steps.
Ever decided to commit to caring for yourself before? You try it a few times, maybe you even last a week or two, and then what happens? You end up reverting to you old habits and your self care routine falls to the wayside.
Part of the reason maybe that you had a grad plan that was hard to stick to. The same way you wouldn’t have a post op hip replacement patient take a jog down the hallway, is the same way you shouldn’t try to make radical changes that are pretty much impossible.
Let me give you a concrete example:
You understand how important self care is so you decide that you are going to start eating right, exercising 4 times a week, making time for solitude, changing your negative thoughts, and journaling in the morning and at night.
All of that sounds great but what’s the problem? The problem is that it is too much all at once. The chances of you sticking with so many changes and new habits are slim to none.
Instead, try baby steps. Maybe try replacing one “unhealthy” meal a day with one healthier alternative. Or spending 10 minutes every night to write what you are grateful for in a journal.
The point is to start small and build. That is one of the reasons I give you a different tip every week. Some tips may really resonate with you, and others may not. You don’t have to do all of them. In fact, I don’t want you to even try. You can try a different tip every week or pick one tip and stick with it until it becomes a habit, and then add on another tip the following week.
It’s up to you; just remember: BABY STEPS!!!
This week’s self care tip: Spoil yourself rotten & feel good about it!
When was the last time you did something for yourself that was totally self- indulgent? Something that was not about anyone else; not your spouse, your patient, your child; just YOU?
If you are like most nurses, you may be thinking that I am in fantasy land. Spoiling yourself just doesn’t happen. Well, it’s time for that to change.
This week, I want you to spoil yourself. Go ahead. Do something just for you. Remember when you were a kid and wanted something. Maybe it was an ice cream cone, a new pair of skates, or a fancy new bike. You wanted it, and you wanted it bad. I want you to remember that feeling and want this badly as well. Don’t let anything get in the way. Take a serious look at your calendar and see where you can schedule some time for your self indulgent project. It could be 2 hours, 1 hour, less or more. It depends.
You may be saying, “I don’t have any free time”. You’re right. Your time is usually taken up with activities. Here’s the deal: you have to either move something around or give something up. Such is the nature of life. To add any new habit/activity, something else has to go. And making that adjustment usually ends up for the better. What TV show can you miss? This is the #1 area I feel most people have extra time that they don’t even realize they can use. You may not realize it now, but missing an episode of a show to spoil yourself will totally be worth it. Try it! You will be surprised how much better you feel. It may not be TV. It may be something else that you do that takes up more time than you realize. Sketch out what you did today or yesterday and take a real honest look. Were there any activities (such as a rambling telephone conversation) that you could sacrifice?
Here are a few ideas for spoiling yourself:
*Create a folder for that vacation you have been dreaming about. Start clipping pictures from magazines or the internet about that location and add them to the binder. Use google and search for tours in that area and create a sample itinerary. Write it down and add it to the binder. Look for clothes online or in a store that you want to wear on this vacation. Have fun with this. You never know, just by writing about it, and planning it, you may set some positive energy in motion. Dreams can and DO come true!!!
*Take yourself out to a store/boutique in town that you have never been to before. Take your time in there exploring all the goodies they have. Even if you don’t buy anything, have a good look around and relish in this time.
*Turn off your cell phone and tell your family that you have a project that you HAVE to work on. Even if you can only spend 30 minutes, use that 30 minutes to indulge in something you have been putting off for a while. Examples: a book you’ve been meaning to start/finish reading, or a craft or hobby you have been abandoning.
*Have a spa day (or morning/afternoon). If going to a spa for a few hours of pampering is outside of your budget, create your own spa at home. Light a candle or two, play relaxing music, soak those tired footsies, search the internet for easy home made facial instructions.
These are just a few examples to get you thinking. Think of ideas that would excite you and that would make you feel indulgent, not guilty. This is an important point. Sometimes when we think of indulgence we think of food or other things that later come with feelings of guilt (or upset stomach lol). Try to steer clear of activities like this. Also try something different. If you watch TV every night, spending 30 minutes alone watching TV will probably not feel like you are spoiling yourself. Try to do something outside of your routine. Get creative and use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it is just about giving yourself permission to be spoiled for a while.
Now for the kicker, this actually isn’t spoiling yourself. These things are just part of taking care of yourself. We have just become so accustomed to routines and to giving to others, that the idea of taking time out for ourselves in these type of activities seems like being spoiled.
Whatever verbiage you choose to use, it doesn’t matter. Just think of some ideas, make a plan, and then DO IT!!!! You are worth it!
This week’s self care tip: Mindfulness
In the rush of the world nowadays, embracing mindfulness is extremely important. We have become consumed with external stimuli, things to do, and thoughts that never seem to cease. But what exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of deep, full presence. Being fully present with the here and now, instead of thinking (or in most cases overthinking) about events of the past or possible future. Deep breathing and meditation are two “activities” that cultivate mindfulness. But understand that it is a practice. Meaning, the more you do it, the deeper and easier it gets.
Why is mindfulness important? The practice of mindfulness can help you to feel calmer, more at peace, less frantic. It can also facilitate a state of well being. Take some time this week to practice being mindful. Try to set aside a few minutes a day to practice deep breathing and stillness. If you find your thoughts racing (as they will), don’t fight them. Observe, acknowledge them, and then focus again on your breathing. Deep, focused breathing is often one of the simplest practices if you are just starting to cultivate mindfulness in your life.
You can also try to be more mindful while doing routine activities. For example, while eating, showering, brushing your teeth, etc. While doing those activities, really focus on what you are doing, how it feels, smells, how your body feels, and so on. Usually when we are doing these activities, our minds are racing with other thoughts. The first time I tried this was with eating something. I really focused on what I was eating. How it looked and smelled. How it felt in my mouth and as I swallowed. The sensations may surprise you and the focus on the activity will be a welcomed relief for the mind. Try it!
Here are a few books I recommend that have helped me in my own practice of mindfulness.
This Week’s Self Care Tip: Get grateful!
This one is for everyone, but is especially helpful for those of you who feel overworked or disgruntled in your jobs.
Getting grateful is a surefire way to feeling better about the situation you are in. I know it sounds counterintuitive since you may not be happy where you are, but I want you to be open to this concept. You see, no matter how bad things may seem, there are usually always things that you can be grateful for. Here are a few examples:
- You are earning money
- You enjoy 1 or 2 (or more) of your coworkers
- You are employed
I am sure there are aspects of your job (and entire life for that matter) to be grateful for.
One thing that helped me a lot was getting into the habit of expressing this gratitude. I started a gratitude journal. It’s a journal that I write in for a few minutes every morning and then again at night. Sometimes I write general things, but other times I get super specific with things that happened that day that I am grateful for.
Doing this on a regular basis has a compounding affect. The more things you look for to be thankful for, the more things you will find, the better you will feel, and on & on it goes.
Self Care Tip: PLAY!!!
C’mon who doesn’t like having fun and playing around? For some reason, once we reach a certain age the concept of ‘play’ almost becomes extinct in our lives. And when we think of play, we think of children.
The type of play I am suggesting is not just for kiddies. Nope. All of us need to let go of the stoic concept that play is for kids only, loosen up, and play a little more.
Play is such a fabulous expression of creative energy.
Here are just a few of the many benefits:
One of the reasons play can be so helpful to us is that it is not so outcome focused. In our professional lives we tend to be focused on creating perfect outcomes for everything (get it done, do it right, be more efficient, wear many hats, etc). Play is the exact opposite.
Play is about losing yourself in the moment. Enjoying what you are doing. Being present while you are doing it. And not criticizing yourself. Just have fun. There is no right or wrong.
Here a few suggestions for you:
Grab a notebook/sketchbook and start doodling or drawing (use different colors/styles/etc)
Do karaoke with friends
Bake cookies in funky/different shapes
Can you knit/sew/crochet? create something fun. Maybe a gift for yourself or someone else
Invite friends over and whip out an old boardgame or even better a physical game like Twister™ or Charades
Take a dance/theatre/acting class
Think of fun, new, or different ways you can wake up your desire to PLAY.
Have fun with it! You deserve it.
Self Care Tip:
No complaining. Do not complain about anyone or anything. Try it for an entire day.
The real challenge is to try it for 21 days. It can have remarkably positive effects on your life. But for now, try just one day. If you find yourself complaining about something, acknowledge it and then STOP! Move on. Just like that.
To add to this you can try not complaining, gossiping, or criticizing.
You may be wondering what this has to do with self care? It has everything to do with self care. Negative thoughts, emotions, and words are literally toxic. Ever noticed how your body feels drained and tired after a big argument or a day working with negative people? That’s precisely the point.
Caring for yourself includes managing your thoughts and words.
Don’t forget to email me and let me know how you did. alicia@TranisitionsInNursing.com
Self Care Tip:
Don’t forget to spend a few moments during the day to stop and deep breathe. We are nurses. We totally know the importance of deep breathing. In fact we encourage our patients to do it right?
But how often do we do it.
Let’s change that. For this week, try add deep breathing moments throughout your day. Just stop and take a few moments. Close your eyes if you can and really BREATHE.
This can be especially helpful if you are feeling tense and stressed.
Let me know how you do with this tip. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Self Care Tip of the Week: Solitude
“Solitude is not an absence of energy or action, as some believe, but is rather a boon of wild provisions transmitted to us from the soul. Purposeful solitude is both palliative and preventative. It is used to prevent fatigue and weariness.” –Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Finding solitude time helps you to:
At first it may seem difficult to find the time. It may also seem awkward if you are not used to long periods of solitude. Try it in bite size pieces. For example, find 10 minutes a day to go for a walk by yourself or to meditate or pray. Then increase the time gradually.
Eventually, you may even want to schedule longer periods such as a weekend or a Saturday “retreat”.
Let me know how you do with this tip. Email me: email@example.com
Self Care Tip of the Week: Get moving
Get some movement. If you do not already have a regular stretching/exercise routine, now is the time to start one. Movement literally “shakes stuff up”. Being a nurse, I am sure you know the benefits of regular exercise. But if you are like most of us, you feel you don’t have the time. Some of you may know that a few years ago I lost 70 pounds and have kept it off. I did it while maintaining a forever busy schedule. Here are a few ways to fit “movement” into your busy schedule:
- Break it up (exercise for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening)
- Exercise while doing something else (i.e. hop on the treadmill while watching your favorite show)
- Force yourself to get moving (Park your car far from the store/take the stairs, not the elevator)
- Remember that something is better than nothing. Even if you only have 15/20 minutes, pop in a work out DVD and do it for the amount of time you have and then stop, cool down, and stretch, or grab a jump rope, or do some squats followed by sit ups/push ups/whatever. Doing something is always better than nothing. Just because you do not have 45 minutes to exercise, it doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Use the time you do have.
*of course this is not medical advice. Seek medical advice before beginning an exercise regimen.
Which action are you going to start taking? Send me an email to let me know: alicia@TransitionsInNursing.com
Self Care Tip: Rest up.
How much sleep are you getting?
If you are like most nurses, you are probably not getting enough. With work and family obligations, there never seems to be enough time to get decent rest. Nevertheless, getting enough sleep is essential for yourself and also for providing quality care.
Check out this interesting article “Why Nurses Need More Sleep”: http://bit.ly/JKWZ1x
Start small. For this week, try to go to sleep just 30 minutes earlier than usual. Your body and mind will thank you for it. Is there a TV show you can tape and watch another time? Is there a phone conversation that you can end sooner than later? Just a few ideas for giving back to yourself and getting a bit more shut eye.
Try it this week and let me know how you do. Email me: alicia@TransitionsInNursing.com. I would love to hear how you did.
Self Care Tip:
Detach, unplug, and de-screen
Nowadays we are so connected. Connected to the internet, our cell phones, our televisions,etc. Don’t wait for a planned vacation to unplug from it all. Take some time this week to unplug/detach yourself.
Spend time away from a screen (computer screen, cell phone screen, TV screen, etc). Here are a few ideas:
*Go for a walk (without your cell phone!!!)
*Pick up a book you have been meaning to read
*Take a long bubble bath
*Write in your journal
These are just a few ideas. In the comments below, let me know what you will do this week to unplug.
This week’s self care tip is about letting go. Letting go of grudges, arguments, and all that other past “gunk” that can hold you down.
I also want to stress that letting go of “future worries” can be a HUGE relief. When I say future worries, I am talking about what “may” happen. You know exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes we get so caught up worrying about something that may come to pass that it bogs us down. Well here’s the deal, most of the things we worry about, may happen, or may not happen. And guess what worrying about it will do? Absolutely nothing!
We sit and stew and worry over things that are totally out of our control (both past and future). LET GO!
Recognize that you are where you are right now and focus on being fully present. In the moment. Right now!
Believe me, your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.
They say you are what you eat right? Well if that is the case, what are you?
Whether or not you agree with that statement, have you looked at your eating habits recently? If you are like most of us nurses, you are busy juggling so many things, that your intentions to eat well have fallen to the wayside.
You know what’s good for you.
You know what you should eat.
But you still find yourself eating the “wrong” foods.
This quick tip is not going to magically change all of that for you. But what I do want to encourage you to do is take a baby step.
If your eating habits have been less than stellar lately, make the commitment today to take one step in a positive direction. Don’t try to overhaul everything. That often doesn’t work. As someone who struggled with my own weight for years and then finally losing over 70 pounds, I can tell you that what worked for me was that I started making small changes and built momentum and healthy habits over time. But of course, you have to find what works for you. Here are a few suggestions* for “baby steps” you can choose from:
- Drink more water. One thing that helps me is pouring out the amount of water I want to drink for the day into a large container and carrying that around with me. You can also carry small bottles/containers. Setting the intention for the amount you are going to drink at the beginning of the day helps you to stick with it. It is also a visual reminder of how much you have left to drink
- Be prepared. Going shopping for a few hours? Usually get hungry/thirsty? Carry water and healthy snacks. Same goes for work. If you prepare yourself, you are less likely to be tempted by “junk” food.
- Add 1 more fruit or vegetable serving to your diet every day. Chances are, you are not eating enough fruits/veggies during the day. If this is the case, add one.
- Replace one meal (any meal) with a salad everyday. Remember, there is no prescription for salad. You get to play around and add things and try different veggies and dressings that you like. Just be mindful of the condiments and high calorie additives.
- Replace soda drinking with water or other healthier alternative.
Those are just a few suggestions. Pick one and do it for a week. Then try to add something else each week. Baby steps!
*of course these suggestions are not medical advice. Seek medical advice as appropriate.
———————————————————————————————————————————————————————–Self Care Tip: Cherish Your Friends
This week’s self-care tip is to cherish your friends. We all have people in our lives who have been there with us through the good and the bad. It is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that we forget to appreciate and cherish friends like this. But cherishing these friends makes your friendship stronger and is a fantastic reminder to yourself of the support you have in your life.
Take some time to enjoy your friendships. Schedule some face time. And I am not talking about the iPhone App called face time. I am talking about actual face to face time. With the prevalence of technology, it is easy to get consumed in the world of digital hangouts, text messages, and video chat. But real in-person connections can never be replaced by technology. If your friends are local, use that to your advantage and set aside time to do something interesting this week. If they are not local, then of course, use technology to connect. It’s your best option. Perhaps you can scheduled a Google hangout or Skype call. Or even better yet, make plans to see each other. That may just be motivation to take a trip someplace.
The point is to find time to really cherish your friendships this week. Let them know that you appreciate them. If you cannot connect in person, maybe send them a card or make some other relevant gesture that they would appreciate. Be grateful for them, enjoy them, and watch your relationships grow.