The holiday gift buying season is upon us! You’re probably going down your shopping list and trying to find just the right gift for friends and family. You may even have nurse friends and colleagues that you want to gift with fun nurse-themed items you hope they’ll love.
But what about you? Maybe you, like many nurses, have a tendency to forget to take care of yourself. (It’s hard for many caregivers to remember that they need to take care of #1!)
When you’re in the thick of a crazy work shifts and off-duty holiday goings on, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. You need a little break, though you may not know the exact remedy that your mind and body needs in hectic moments.
So, why not find some go-to self-care items for whenever you need a pick me up in 2019? Have fun doing your self-gifting by shopping online (Amazon is the biggest bazaar!) or at local independent shops and craft fairs. You can combine convenience and also support makers on Etsy. It’s like a massive online craft pop-up with thousands of amazing shops from around the world. Not only can you find one of a kind pieces, but you’re also supporting small creative enterprises.
Here are some favorite gift ideas on many nurse wish lists this season.
Socks, footies, and shoe inserts—not glamorous but oh so comfy.
If you’re on your feet all day long, a great gift idea may be a thick pair of warm footie socks for the winter season, or a pair of compression socks (there are some stylish choices out there!), or a foot massager and DIY pedicure kit. Shoes need some cush? Try a comfort insert from a drugstore or specialty shoe store that stocks the Birkenstock brand.
Warm, snuggly blanket for hygge comfort, or a weighted blanket for stress-relief.
Enjoy your days off under a perfectly knitted wool throw, chunky or light as a cloud—the type of knit that invites you to snuggle in with a good book. Or try one of the new weighted blankets that are gaining popularity for their health benefits. They help many people reduce workplace stress and improve sleep, especially nurses on shift work suffering from off-kilter circadian rhythms.
Healthy snacks for the active nurse, or artisan food and drink for foodies.
Being a nurse means being on the go, so nurses may not have extra time to pack a lunch or snack to bring to work. That often means relying on a vending machine or cafeteria to fuel up for long shifts. Disaster! A gourmet gift basket of healthy treats like nuts and dried fruit may help you hold out until you can enjoy a nutritious meal. On your days off, sip on a favorite at-home drink, such as a matcha green tea latte. And savor it in an encouraging mug, with a witty or wise nurse-life quote and graphic.
Manicure, pedicure, massage, or other spa treatment!
Hand lotion gift sets make great gifts to help sooth away skin that gets dry from a grueling hand-hygiene regimen. (Harsh hand cleansers and sanitizers are murder on delicate, weather-beaten skin!) Bubble bath products and spa baskets filled with bath products in a keepsake basket will give you a night of much deserved pampering.
Or better yet, treat yourself to a mani/pedi or an all out body care pampering session at a spa. Men make up a fast growing percentage of spa goers, so don’t let gender stereotypes stop you from getting or giving a gift certificate for spa services.
A journal, some gel pens, and washi tape.
If you equate journal with diary, and you haven’t kept one since middle school, you may be surprised at the popularity of new journaling methods. Bullet journals are one way to goal-set, and keep yourself motivated and organized. Many nurses also love to express themselves in a “bujo” through doodles, watercolor, fancy lettering, or stickers and washi tape.
You can treat journaling as a time to explore your inner life, a form of meditation, if you like. In that case, the Nurse’s Journal from the Josie King Foundation is wonderful. Create an introspective ambience by lighting a couple of candles. Artisan candles—with sparkles, soy waxes, exotic oils, or delicate flower petals— add some magic.
I hope that seeing some of these ideas will inspire you to treat yourself to some self-care. We all need reminders to take time to relax and do what makes us happy!
The Josie King Foundation believes that nurses are leading the charge for a safer, more compassionate health care system. But they realize that in addition to the joys of healing, nurses face many emotional upheavals related to patient suffering, a complex workplace, new technologies, and fear of clinical errors. When personal pressures from everyday living are added to the already heavy load, the weight can lead to nurse stress, anxiety, depression, or burnout.
The Josie King Foundation developed the Nurse’s Journal in 2004, to help alleviate stress through expressive writing. (The journal was a response to results from a research project, Care for the Caregiver, that indicated it was sorely needed.) Created with the help of experts on the topic and specifically for nurses, it is offered by the nonprofit as a tool for self-directed writing or through facilitated journaling workshops.
The Nurse’s Journal is an attractive 61-page spiral bound notebook and is filled with helpful content such as evidence-based theories about journaling, before and after stress evaluation forms, and suggested resources to help nurses cope with work-related stress.
The majority of pages are low-content, with just short guided writing exercises to help you reflect on the stresses of your work life and personal life. For instance, the first one is titled “Guided Writing: Signs of Stress,” and includes the following prompt:
“Things to consider. Do you notice stress-related symptoms in your life? Is there a particular time of day or day of the week in which you feel more stress? Do your stress symptoms affect your job performance or your quality of life? What do you do to combat your stress?”
The page ends with a quote from the Dalai Lama about avoiding the burnout associated with witnessing great suffering.
In between the prompt and the quote, the page is empty so that a nurse is free to write out their own personal thoughts and feelings, as an antidote to workplace and life stressors.
Since launching the Nurse’s Journal in 2004, the Josie King Foundation has distributed them to more than 15,000 nurses. Many hospitals buy the journals in bulk as a gift for nurses during the winter holidays, or to mark Nurses Week, or at anytime for staff training and development purposes.In addition, they offer a companion Nurse’s Journal Guidebook for anyone who would like to facilitate journaling workshops for nurses.
For more information about the mission of the Josie King Foundation and their line of specialty journals for nurses, caregivers, and patients, visit http://josieking.org.
Thanksgiving is over, but the spirit of the holiday doesn’t have to end. In fact, the warmth and introspection can help illuminate this season as we plunge into darkness. When you count your blessings you probably list your loved ones, the roof over your head, and every cupful and plateful that nourishes you.
But do you consider your profession and how it supports you financially, and in less tangible ways? You don’t have to wait for National Nurses Week in May to celebrate your role.
At the beginning of this holiday season I wrote blog posts about gratitude for this site. At the same time I was also interviewing nurses for other blog posts and articles so I’d casually ask them what they were thankful for right now. Big, small, and in between—it was fascinating to hear their responses.
They confirm some of what I’ve learned over the years talking to nurses from different backgrounds and in varied health care environments and specialties. Almost always, I hear that nurses are grateful for some, if not most, aspects of their chosen career.
Here are some of the main reasons nurses say they’re thankful:
Nurses make a difference in someone’s life every day. When they go to bed at night they have the gratification of knowing their work matters. A lot of people in other jobs, whether blue collar, pink collar, or white collar, don’t have that satisfaction. Many of this nation’s workers are now employed in “paper shuffling” occupations that don’t seem to have intrinsic meaning.
Nurses are working in a field that’s in high demand and that pays a family wage. Kiplinger magazine recently reported that the best return on investment when it comes to a college major is nursing. Based on the average income that a graduate could anticipate and the average tuition and fees to earn a bachelor’s degree, nursing came out on top. Their next best choice for major is biomedical engineering.
Nursing has so many different specialties and paths, so as a nurse you don’t have to ever get bored. Nurses can also stick to the same specialty but switch to a different health care environment. One nurse said she was thankful that when it was too physically demanding for her to work as a floor nurse in a busy hospital she was able to transfer over to a quieter asthma clinic.
Nurses are also able to add to their skill sets or even go for advanced degrees, and often their employer will cover the tuition. That’s becoming less common as companies refuse to pay for training and development for their existing workforce.
When nurses start families and want to be home more they can often cut their hours to part-time. Or when they get to the point that they want to retire, they can sign on with a travel nursing company that will get them temporary jobs in their preferred locations.
Some semi-retired nurses hit the road in an RV, taking their homes with them. That way they’re comfortable as they travel to assignments. They can also choose to work in resort areas or to pursue outdoor activities, wintering in the mountains and summering at the beach, for snow skiing and water skiing adventures.
Finally, nurses are making a real impact on health care as doctors and administrators have become more bottom-line or left-brain oriented in their approaches. The nursing profession still holds a holistic view of patients and encourages a humane approach to care. Patients (and fellow staff) are fortunate to be surrounded by nurses, genuine people who carry so much kindness and eagerness to do good.
The more that you recognize the positives of your role as a nurse, the easier it is to put up with the negatives. Because every field has its pros and cons, periodically it’s good to examine what you’re getting out of it. That awareness and sense of gratitude is what makes for a happy and healthy nurse, which makes for a long and sustainable career.
If you’re like most nurses, the demands of the holiday season plus an already challenging career and family life can really take a toll on your health and well-being. Instead of enjoying a season of joy, some of us may equate it to a season of stress. We get so busy we simply don’t pause to enjoy the festivities, like gift shopping, cookie baking, holiday parties, and visits with friends and family.
As nurses well know, stress can tear down your mind, your body, and your spirit. Of course, stress isn’t always a bad thing, but too much of it can certainly be. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you practice self-care during the next several weeks. When you’re more gentle with yourself, you’re able to increase your well-being and to enjoy a calmer entree into the new year.
With stress relief in mind, here’s a look at a multi-pronged strategy that will help you to conquer the chaos and put you in control during the holidays.
Give Yourself Preventative Self-Care
As a nurse you’re aware that diet and fitness are part of a holistic approach to easing your mind and staying healthy. There’s no secret formula to eating healthy, exercising smart, sleeping soundly, and otherwise warding off illness and disease.
Fight the Flu
Start with one obvious tactic: Have you had your flu shot yet? A vaccine can go a long way toward protecting you from minor aches and pains. Or worse, a full-blown case of influenza that keeps you away from the bedside and your patients for two weeks. The worst case scenario, of course, is if you were to become so ill that you had to be hospitalized yourself.
Fit in Fitness
How about making sure to work in a workout everyday to beat stress, boost energy, and burn off extra calories from those holiday cookies? You may have to sneak in exercise if you don’t have 30 minutes in one stretch. Break up your workout into three 10 minute segments—a short walk to work (park at the outer edge of the parking lot), a walk to your car after work, and a strength session using mini-weights while watching TV, perhaps.
Lighten Up Dishes
Comfort food seems to rule when the weather turns chilly, and it’s hard to say “No” when everyone is partaking of once-a-year treats, like eggnog. With some imagination and planning, you can be the diet savior who bring in lighter alternatives that are just as appetizing and festive. Your coworkers will appreciate a featherweight angel food cake with a side of tropical fruit just as much as a calorie-dense pecan pie a la mode. You’ll be glad that you gave a face lift to those heavyweight favorites when you see the scale in January and realized you’ve dodged that all-too-common holiday weight gain.
Lighten Up on Yourself
Taking care of your body is a good thing and it all starts with taking care of your mind. When you practice a gentle attitude towards yourself at meals, when working out, and while you’re at work and at home, you’re taking good care of yourself.
Oftentimes as a nurse, you get so tired that all you want to do is sit down (or lie down) and rest. When you’re mindful about self-care, you’ll be able to discern whether you really need that downtime, or you’re just feeling lazy. If it’s the second case, you can nudge yourself into going for a walk instead, knowing that it will clear your mind and help you feel good again.
The holiday season is a great time to focus on yourself, your health, and your own self-care. Practice prioritizing your health and happiness, and you’re less likely to go back to your old ways. Why not start today?
The term “self-care” is a big umbrella that covers a ton of wellness topics, such as life-balance, stress relief, weight management, fitness, relationships, spirituality, and much more. It’s tough to pinpoint just one life arena you’ll want to make changes to in order to become happier and healthier. But it’s possible and may make your self-care journey easier.
Here’s a tip: Start with sleep.
Why Sleep Is So Important
This is probably the number one area where you can improve your health and well-being. Nurses are notorious for not getting enough sound sleep on a regular basis—odd shifts and rotating schedules don’t help the body to regulate rhythms. Fatigue is one thing but it’s worst when a sleep-deprived nurse actually nods off while at the bedside or on the road after a late shift. Obviously, that’s extremely dangerous—for you, your patients, and everyone near you.
Most American adults don’t meet the guidelines for sufficient sleep (seven to eight hours) and many of us consider it a luxury we can’t afford, or try to “bank” shut-eye by sleeping for 5 hours on work nights and 10 on days off. We like to think that getting along on little sleep is a sign of superhero strength and those who prioritize rest are weaklings. None of those beliefs are accurate. Here’s how you can take care of yourself, in spite of our hyperactive society’s mistaken take on rest and sleep.
The Basics of Sleep Hygiene
Chronic sleep deprivation and sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea, can be improved by following good sleep hygiene protocols. Try these tips:
- Cut out caffeine later on in the day. (That includes certain soft drinks and chocolate, as well as coffee and tea.)
- Drink alcohol in moderation, or not at all, because it’s more likely you’ll wake at night after a drink or two.
- Another reason to stop smoking cigarettes: nicotine interferes with sound sleep.
- Finish your last meal of the day a few hours before bedtime so you’re done digesting.
- Don’t do heavy exercise late at night, though gentle stretching or yoga can be a restful entrée to sleep.
Setting the Right Environment for Rest
Digital sights and sounds make it harder to slow down and get ready for bed. Younger nurses, being social media natives, are especially prone to texting, tweeting, Pinteresting, and streaming movies in their bedrooms. Make it a rule to keep your smartphone, iPad, or other devices out of your bed. That way, you won’t be tempted by social media, news, or entertainment right up to the time you turn off the lights. Some nurses even set a digital curfew and power down devices two to three hours before bedtime.
When Your Mind is Too Busy to Turn Off
Some nurses find that the simple act of journaling before bed helps them quiet the worry, anxiety, and fears that may be keeping them awake. Nursing is an emotional occupation and there isn’t always an opportunity to process what happens during the day while on the job. That’s when a notebook and pen by the bed can be a curative. One of the principal researchers in the area of journaling and health is James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin and author of “Writing to Heal.” His studies have shown that expressive writing (journaling) is a simple and effective way to relieve stress while boosting both mental and physical health.
A recent study linking diets heavy in junk food and cancer likely gave nurses everywhere pause. Although nurses see the health problems brought on by poor diet choices every day, educating patients and changing their habits is tough.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed PLOS journal found that a diet heavy in junk food was linked with increased cancer rates. Using Nutri-Score, a food labeling system used in parts of Britain and Europe, researchers were able to identify that diets with an overall lower score for nutritional value was associated with increased cancer and other health problems.
Nutri-Score uses different scores and color labels depending on the nutritional quality of foods. At a glance, consumers can identify how nutritious a food is. According to the study, those who consumed the most junk food had “higher risks of cancers of the colon-rectum, upper aerodigestive tract and stomach, lung for men, and liver and postmenopausal breast for women.”
How can nurses use this study to help their patients? While many patients know the risks of a poor diet, they don’t often identify certain foods as less nutritious as others. What’s the difference between stopping for a fast-food burger than making one at home? The difference can be significant based on the choices, but sometimes it has to be explained.
Nurses are in an excellent position to help patients understand that even small tweaks to their food choices and preparation can make a significant difference in their health. Just on the most basic level, meals made at home tend to have less fat and sodium. A burger at home can be made with a leaner ground beef and accompanied by a salad (bagged salads are easy), a piece of fruit, and oven baked fries. It takes some preparation and planning, but even if the swap is made a couple of times a month, the health benefits will add up.
The study was able to adjust for other factors such as family history, lower physical activity, and higher BMI that can also influence cancer rates. Food choices are such an important part of health and one that can be adapted in small doses. Nurses can help patients assess their food intake and show them where small swaps like popcorn for chips, flavored seltzer and juice for soda, or salsa for onion dip can add up.
Patients might also benefit from hearing about fitting more nutritional foods into their diets. Junk food and cancer might be associated, but intake of junk food is controllable. No one has to give up pizza night, but adding vegetables (either on the pizza or as a side salad) will boost the overall nutrition for the meal. A breakfast of cereal gets a boost from a handful of berries. Even using a store-bought prepared chicken as the basis for an at-home meal will give you more control over the total portion, calories, and flavors.
And as a busy nurse, it can help to take some of the ideas to heart. Consider your eating habits and how you might be able to add and subtract to get more bang for your buck. Bring foods to work that are easy and fast to eat, but offer as much nutrition as possible. You’ll find doing so gives you more energy, keeps you feeling full longer, and might even help regulate your fatigue levels, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, or stress.
If you’re able to notice a few positive changes, you’ll be the best champion of making nutritional changes for your patients. And if they are trying to eat better to gain control over their health now and in the future, each small boost in nutritional food is worthwhile.