Left coast NP


Hitting Reset

I've had a brief hiatus from blogging, mostly due to lack of time, but also due to lack of energy and inspiration. Recently with all the life events, in particular the birth of my second child and start of a new job, I've felt joy, but also at most times completely overwhelmed. I realized how overwhelmed I was after two separate phone conversations with friends where I suddenly went off on a monologue about how I felt like I was just keeping my head above water and felt my life was out of control most days. I then had a further epiphany when I realized that I kept telling myself I shouldn't be overwhelmed because my problems were nothing in comparison to so and so, or I should be lucky I don't have problem x,y or z. I took a step back and realized I was constantly comparing myself to others, but that it didn't really matter how my life measured up to others, I still was feeling overwhelmed. I also felt as though I was stagnant and restless, and I could not quiet my mind. I was stuck at the same weight, I felt constantly tired, anxious, and as though I was doing a million things, but getting nothing actually done. I wasn't present or happy when I was around my children. Because I was feeling exhausted and time being so precious, in order to feel more energized, positive, and productive I decided to do a 30 day "reset" so to speak. Here's what I resolved to do:

1. No negative self-talk
I found myself berating myself over little things, including my appearance, my performance as a mother, my career, and everything. I resolved to restructure my thoughts whenever I caught myself doing this.

How'd it go:
At first it took a lot of concerted effort to reframe my thoughts when I was thinking poorly of myself. For example, body image has been a real struggle for me after having two babies (as with many woman). I just try to focus on what I like, and how I birthed two healthy babies. After awhile I found myself more positive towards myself without much effort.

2. No negative talk of others
I also had found myself getting caught up in gossip, and general negatively talking about others. I realized this was not only a time suck, but also an energy suck.

How'd it go: This was hard. Not that I am huge sh*t talker, but this also required a lot of reframing of my thoughts. If I had critical things to say, I made a concerted effort to make sure it was constructive and not just a lot of venting. If there was no point in about someone negatively, I tried to keep it to a minimum. This was hard, but I did find myself doing less and less of this as the month went by.

3. No social media
I realize the irony that I am writing on a blog about giving up social media. I realized I was checking instagram, twitter, and other sites several times a day, bombarding myself with comparisons, ads, politics, and generally sucking my time up.

How'd it go:
Great! I didn't realize how addicted I was until I gave it up, nor did I realize how anxiety-producing social media could be. With smart phones we can literally check in and up on people 24-7, which is a completely unhealthy level in my opinion. Other than getting on pinterest to look up recipes, workouts, or some ideas for birthday parties a few times I didn't check in on the other social media sites whatsoever. I actually found that I really didn't even want to anymore, and as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I'm not saying there is nothing redeeming about social media, however the pervasiveness and infiltration in our current society can be truly damaging in my opinion. I felt I was more present with my kids and family, less anxious and less negative towards myself without the constant check ins on social media.

4. No stepping on the scale
I had mentioned I had hit a weight plateau, which was most likely a combination of hormones, eating habits (more on that later) lack of sleep and stress. I was weighing myself frequently and when the number wasn't budging would feel so discouraged and hard on myself. The whole 30 diet, which I started a modified version of recommends no weight or body measurement for 30 days, which I thought would take my mind off the numbers and focus on how I was feeling and looking as a better judge of my progress.

How'd it go:
With my weight I was reaching obsessive levels as well. Taking a break from weighing myself let me focus on just "being healthy" by other measures such as how I felt mentally, how my clothes fit, how strong I felt, and how much energy I had.

5. Start every day with 30 minutes of exercise
My husband recently started a fitness kick getting up and working out every morning. Since I was waking up every morning to get the kids ready I thought this would be a good way to start the day while I still had the energy to do it.

How'd it go:
Every morning was a bit too ambitious, especially considering my baby is not sleeping through the night yet. I did make a habit of 3-4 days a week starting with exercise. I had been doing Jillian Michaels 30 day shred for several years, and after getting bored of that and not seeing much change I added some different cardio routines I looked up online and added more resistance with 15 lbs weights. I worked my way up to doing 40 push ups, which i was never able to do before in my life.

6. End every day with meditation or prayer

As I mentioned relaxing and quieting my mind was becoming impossible, and quiet time with two little ones and two dogs even more impossible.

How'd it go: This was probably the hardest of all for me, and I still have a lot of progress to make on this. I did maybe two meditations sessions in total, and some prayer. With my history of anxiety, I know the studies out there show how effective these practices can be, and the times in my life when I have incorporated this practice I have made huge strides in my symptoms. This is something that will be more of a work in progress and I will continue.

7. Cut out refined carbs, creamer, and sweets

After watching Fed Up, (I will post more on this later because it made an impact on me) I really became inspired to eliminate a lot of the processed food and carbs from my diet. I liked the idea behind the Whole30 diet, being that the goal was to change eating habits to more whole foods and less processed foods. As I was still breastfeeding and not up for a super structured diet I did not do this program, but I mentally committed to eliminating the above mentioned foods and changing to more whole foods rather than counting calories.

How'd it go. This went well, with a few slip-ups here and there. I had a good conversation with a coworker recently that really was enlightening to me, although may seem like a very obvious observation to some. My coworker said about diet it's not so much about what you are cutting out, but what you are bringing in, that in regards to more color, more vegetables, etc. I ended up instead of focusing so much on cutting out sugar (which I have done a pretty good job of doing) but trying to up my vegetable intake in place of simple sugars and starches. Trying to model healthy eating habits for my children has also been a huge motivating factor for me.

This "reset" exercise, so to speak, did help me feel more in control and calm and focused. Lack of sleep and time is something in my life I can't really control currently, so this was a way to feel better by doing some small things I can change.

When grief is in the job description

Happy nurse's week to all the hard-working nurses! The theme for this year's nurses week American Nurse Association is balance of mind, body, and spirit so I thought I would write about a relevant topic. Nurses are notorious for being the worst patients, and also for not putting their own health as a priority. I recently read an article about the rates of diabetes and heart disease are alarmingly high among nurses, hence the theme for this year's nurses week. This does not come as a shock to me, as the long and variable shifts, make eating and sleeping adequately difficult. In addition the stress and emotional toll of the job can worsen poor eating and lack of sleep. What I find is often overlooked in the conversation about the health of the nurse, is the emotional toll witnessing trauma and grief can take on nurses. Recently there has been more attention to PTSD and mental health issues surrounding witnessed trauma by military, police, firefighters, and other first responders. It seems nurses, however are left out of this conversation. I can say from firsthand experience nurses do witness trauma and grief frequently as part of the job. As a new nurse I had little experience with trauma, grief or death. Sure, I had experienced loss and had taken psychology courses that discussed the stages of grief and issues around death and dying, but it is a completely different experience first hand. As a nurse, unlike some other professions, you are often the only person at the bedside when a patient dies. You are often the one handling the paperwork, calling the coroner, arranging for organ donation services, and doing post-mortum care all while answering the questions of the deceased's family and expected to be composed and collected. While working as an ER nurse the hardest part was witnessing unexpected deaths, especially of children and infants. As mentioned previously as a nurse you have to keep going about your job, even when there are hysterical grieving family members. Every hospital or healthcare organization has different policies on debriefing and dealing with traumatic situations that occur.  My experience is that most of the debriefing that occurs is informal and between peers in the breakroom or after the shift is over. I remember one particular hard end of the shift when we had the loss of a five month old baby. The image of the grieving mother still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. After the shift the staff went out for drinks together as we often did, as it was a way to be there for each other after this experience. The majority of my bedside nursing was spent in the ER, however nurses in all settings experience loss of patients and grief on many levels. I remember when I was a nursing student doing my clinical rotation at Children's Hospital, my clinical instructor and preceptor who were seasoned pediatric nurses were telling lots of off colored jokes about the children on the wards. My clinical instructor explained to me later that these jokes were a way to deal with the grief. "Sometimes you have to laugh so you don't cry" she explained. I grew to understand that statement more as I saw more sad cases, loss, and death. The emotional toll does wear on you, and there aren't a lot of resources to help you cope, and thus often to deal with it we use humor or just try to block these experiences out. I think we can do better to support our nurses. I think starting a conversation about how we can support our nurses is a start. I also thought I would share this poem written by an ER nurse I read on NPR on her experience with "compassion fatigue"