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 holiday season is a festive and frantic time for many. With so much that we have to, want to, or just think we should do, those same 24-hour days we normally try to get everything done in seem even shorter.
But this year, you can take a new approach with one question you can ask yourself in so many situations. This holiday season, use these five words – How much do I need? — every day and see the impact they have on saving you time, money, stress, and even a few pounds.
Here are a few ways to get you started with this question.
Manage the Holiday Budget
With your budget, asking “How much do I need?” seems pretty silly. Well, unlimited cash and time would be nice, of course, but the question begs you to reconsider how much you need to spend to feel like you are giving without breaking your own bank or your spirit. Limiting your budget often makes people very creative and that can free them to be more expressive and personal than any expensive gift card they could give. Make gifts like bath bombs or your best chocolate sauce. Sure they take time, but honestly by the time you get to a mall or a store, park, grab a coffee or a dinner, shop, wait in line, and get home, you’ll come out even.
Figure Out Your Holiday Eating Plan
Groaning buffet tables, holiday parties with fantastic food, and cookies that stretch from here to the moon tempt even those with the strongest willpower. Everything is delicious, you’re probably hungry from all the running around, and it makes you feel special to eat something you didn’t have to cook. But if you ask yourself, “How much do I need?” it frees you to enjoy everything in a way that makes you mindful of what you are eating. Do you really need a whole piece of chocolate madness cake or will half a piece satisfy your cravings? Will another plateful of turkey dinner fill your hunger or just stuff your stomach?
Map Out Fitness
“How much do I need?” also lets you go easy on yourself sometimes. While it might help you limit your food intake, it also works in reverse, too. Can’t fit in an hour on the treadmill? How much do you need? If any amount of activity is better than nothing (it is) then take a short stroll and feel how refreshed you are. Don’t have the energy to power through a whole yoga class? If you consider how much do you need right now, you might be okay with a few really deep stretches, some relaxing breathing, a handful of push ups and squats, and the reassurance that you will make time tomorrow.
Opting Out Is Not Being Lazy
How can the magic question help here? Well, how much do you need to make your schedule feel full (and you happy) and not crammed (and you crabby)? How many parties and events can you attend without feeling obligated, overtired, and over the whole season? Find your balance so you can go to the events that are especially meaningful, particularly fun, or involve people you love being around. Saying yes to some and no to others can help you figure out what you need to make the holiday magic present in your life and not just another thing to check off the list. If you can say no to an obligation (that awful neighbor’s overdone show of glitz) so that it gives you time to do something that fills your soul (serving dinner at a soup kitchen or visiting an elderly shut in with your kids), then the trade off is worth it.
Don’t Forget Sleep
Of course, we know this holiday season is short and sometimes you sacrifice sleep for fun. That’s fine, if it’s fine for you and your body. But, realistically, how much do you need? Will four days of staying up late take a toll on your mood, your productivity, and your peace of mind? Are you up late catching up on everything that isn’t getting done in the holiday rush? See where you can cut back. Have eggs, toast, and fruit for dinner – the family will adjust. Don’t worry if you only make one batch of your favorite holiday cookies or if you bring the easiest appetizer in the world to your neighbor’s party (for example, a block of cream cheese, a jar of pepper jelly, and crackers). Getting the rest you need makes the whole season brighter.
Is There Too Much or Not Enough Family Togetherness?
Some of the funniest movies are made about unhappy families at holiday time. If your family time looks like that, then it’s worthwhile to ask yourself how much family togetherness do you need? How much is really good for your soul? On the other hand, you might also crave more time with your family to make the holidays seem complete. If you feel you need more time with your family, see how you can make that happen. Even small ways to connect can make you feel closer, more involved, and more in the spirit of the season.
What are other holiday situations where you can use the question “How much do I need?”
No matter how well prepared you are, the holidays always seem to throw a couple of surprises to catch you off guard. Maybe you got the flu or one of your kids was home with strep for two days. A snowstorm on your day off might have caused a ruffle in your shopping and errand plans. And the nights you planned to get all those holiday cards off your desk (or the kitchen table)? Well, that evaporated in a cloud of school concerts, nursing classes, or just general business.
With just a couple of weeks left in this holiday season, how can you gain control and enjoy this special time of year?
1. Ditch the Perfect
Perfection rules in lots of the nursing profession because lives depend on it. But perfection doesn’t have to carry over to your personal life. You’ve heard it said over and over – excellence doesn’t mean perfection. When it comes to the holiday season, feel free to ditch the idea of perfect and grab hold of good enough. Good enough means letting go of the idea that your perfect party has 10 appetizers and a once-a-year-because-it’s-so-time-consuming main course. Good friends or family and a lasagna (or, yes, even pizza!) is all you really need.
2. Embrace the Easy
Who says you can’t get the dessert from a bakery? Who says you have to wrap every present with flair? If you can grab a few extra minutes for yourself or to watch a movie with your family, do it. Easy doesn’t mean you’re skipping out on the holidays. Easy means you have more time to enjoy them.
3. Shop Online
I can’t say it enough. Get those presents online and then support your local merchants for smaller, specialized gifts. Shopping online saves gas, time, money (go for the free shipping!), and sanity.
4. Take the time for fun
Did you actually say you couldn’t go sledding with the kids or to a movie with your girlfriends or to dinner with your spouse because you had to go to the mall and get your shopping done? Really? Squeeze in the shopping where you can and put the important people first in line. That’s what makes your holiday season memorable, not the shopping. Doing it the other way around brings on the holiday crankiness faster just about anything.
5. Get Outside
Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s winter for many of us and not exactly beach weather. But getting outside is the best antidote to the holiday overload. A short walk, a trip to a botanical garden, stopping to look at an expanse of lake or beach, a cup of coffee standing by your car on top of a big hill with a view makes you grateful for the day. That’s a perfect mindset for all the holidays are about.
6. Be Good to You
There’s so little time right now, just falling into bed can feel like being good to you. But that’s not really giving yourself what you need. Take the time to rub nice lotion into your work-worn hands and your long-suffering feet. Enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee from the coffee shop when you’re running errands. Call a friend. Send an overdue thank you. Pick up a movie you love or a new CD that will make you feel happy. You don’t have to spend money – you have to treat yourself like you would your best friend every now and then.
7. Honor the Season
Whatever you believe or think about the season, it comes only once a year. You might not be much of a holiday person, you might be struggling mightily this year, or you might just be worn out by now. If so, that’s okay. Find something about the season – the crisp air, the sparkling lights in the windows, the longer nights, the scents – and focus on why they give you joy. Then seek those out whenever you can and appreciate it in the moment. This time of year is unique and doesn’t last very long. You should enjoy it as much as you can – and you can start by taking it easy!
With the hectic holiday season nearly upon us, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the many opportunities for joy hidden amongst all of the planning, travel, gift-giving and obligations. In between opportunities to connect with friends, family, and community, this can be a great time to focus on how we give, as well as what we give. In the medical and health care industry, we give a lot–we do work that matters. It brings us satisfaction, happiness, a sense of purpose. So, why am I suggesting that we look at how to give more of ourselves during a time of the year when we might feel already pulled in so many directions? Because doing good, giving back, and establishing the personal boundaries needed to sustain holiday cheer is a matter of health, first and foremost.
While research shows that giving back or being of service can undoubtedly provide real benefit to others, we also know that there is personal incentive. Giving (under the right circumstances and means) makes us feel better.
It’s simple science, right? Here’s the catch: Defining how you give can make the difference between feeling grateful and feeling grated, full of energy or flat-out exhausted.
Let me offer some food for thought as we approach the coming weeks.
Don’t overfill the cup Leave a little room. Once we’ve reached our limit, going beyond it doesn’t always produce the best results. They say we can only give of ourselves so much before we need a little in return. Utilize early (and confident) communication to establish your own limits to those that count on you, personally and professionally.
Get to know the neighbors Nobody ever gets it all done on their own, all the time. Whether we are able to share the holidays with our families or share a moment with a stranger, don’t discount the value in breaking down old barriers and preconceived notions. Reach out in order to give not in terms of material goods or monetary gain, but in terms of the currency of kindness.
Be all-inclusive The holidays are, by their very nature, examples of meaningful cultural and historical diversity in action. With all of the traditions and significance at play, perhaps we can learn a lesson on the democratizing of good will. Our fellow men and women are sometimes the best source of inspiration. Can you seek out others who share similar goals or like-minded aspirations in order to amplify the benefits of your giving? What can you do to give back to all regardless of race, gender, faith, or economics at the level you’re comfortable with? Contemplating the answers to these questions might well be the start of widening the impact of your generosity.
Don’t get me wrong, these are just a few steps to start the process. As we think more about how we give, these ideas are meant to remind us that the benefit of giving affects our bodies, minds, and hearts equally. The next time you find yourself overwhelmed with the stress of holiday giving, it could be a sign that you need to take a break for you. The season’s best includes your health and well-being at its center.
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