Not only during the holiday season, but all year long, we keep being told to be grateful. But did you ever wonder why gratitude is so important?
According to Emma Giordano, MHC-LP, of Empower Your Mind Therapy in New York City, gratitude helps us physically and mentally. “Gratitude can lower your blood pressure and increase happiness, improve interpersonal relationships, and build self-confidence,” she says. “Gratitude also helps you adjust your mindset from one of lacking to one of abundance and thankfulness.”
Sometimes it seems easy to be thankful or grateful around the holidays. But there are reasons to enact this practice all year long. “Gratitude helps practice empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. This skill is important all year long to be able to care for others and show up for them the way they might need us,” says Giordano.
“Be sure to check in with yourself all year long and make sure you are grateful for the positive things in your life. Often times, especially with health, we don’t realize what we have until we see someone else without it. It’s also important to remind yourself to think about the positives in life regularly, because people tend to get caught up in the negative and what ‘needs to change’ to become happier. Those ‘needs’ are probably not important in the grand scheme, and are usually influenced by seeing what others might have.”
If you’re not sure how to practice gratitude, Giordano has some tips:
Keep a gratitude journal or notes in your phone of things you’re grateful for each day
Photo journal – taking photos of things you’re grateful for to scroll through any time
Meditation scripts and podcasts are also helpful for quick moments of reflection
“When we talk about the power of gratitude, we can’t overlook its connection with other important aspects of psychological self-care like empathy, recognition, connection, integrity,” she says. “Start by taking a moment to give yourself gratitude for all you do and how hard you work.”
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!
If you had to choose the place you’d like to be in during the holidays, most likely it wouldn’t be the hospital or a skilled nursing facility/rehab center. But for many patients, that’s exactly where they are.
Nurses are compassionate, so it makes sense that you would try to keep them feeling happy and cheery when they’re with you. We asked nurses for some tips on how to do it best. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say…
“I decorate the Christmas tree and make the patients part of the process by having them make ornaments in their art therapy. By placing the tree in a common area, I hope to give them a feeling of being home.”–Luisa Vega, DNP, PMHNP-BC, AGPCNP-BC, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at River Oaks Treatment Center.
“In most cases, Chanukah and Christmas are extra special times of the year for children. And most adults treasure December holiday childhood memories: dressing up in special clothes, lots of cookies, decorating the house, being in awe of shining lights, and, depending on the family, observing religious traditions. For children with chronic conditions or in hospice care, December can be a lonely, difficult, and anxious time. Many parents of my patients are unsure of what to do: I encourage my families to celebrate and encourage friends to join in. My colleagues and I call it ‘party at the bedside.’ Best of all, you can do it any time of the day or night—whenever the patient feels best, is most alert, and tends to be in the least amount of discomfort.”—Kate Dunphy, RN, Pediatric Hospice Nurse Case Manager, MJHS Health System.
“I talk to patients and ask about their family and any traditions they usually keep for that particular holiday. I also share some traditions my family has during the holidays.”–Maria Camacho, BSN, RN, IU Health West Hospital.
“We should be more kind and positive and lend an ear when they express concerns about not being with their families during the holidays. Just making sure we smile when greeting them or passing them in the hall can make a big difference. Being a patient during the holidays is extra hard because they are doing the right thing by being here, but also feeling bad about not being at home with their children, spouses, family, etc. I think incorporating extra fun activities and bringing special treats during holidays is great, and we do that here at River Oaks.”– Diana Nelson, BSN, RN, Staff Nurse at River Oaks Treatment Center.
“I ask patients about their family and traditions, and if family is coming to visit. I also draw a holiday-themed design on their Styrofoam cups and dry erase boards. Sometimes I’ll even print a holiday sign, color it and hang it in their room.”–Monaca Gentry, RN, IU Health West Hospital.
“For Christmas, I buy a box of cards and candy canes for my tech and me to sign and give to our patients. If a patient is diabetic, I make sure to give him/her sugar-free candy canes.”–Dickie Smith, RN, IU Health West Hospital.
“Nurses often work over the holidays, sacrificing time with family and friends to serve patients and their families. The best way to keep patients in good spirits over the holidays is by making sure the patient care team is in good spirits. At IU Health West Hospital, we offer a complimentary meal to working team members and their families on major holidays to show our appreciation.”–Lisa Sparks, chief nursing officer, IU Health West Hospital.
“I try to make my presence known especially during this time of year, because it goes along way when someone is not able to be with their family. I always try to be a good listener and allow them to plan what they will do differently next year with new sober life, while keeping the thought of being in treatment positive.”–Theresa L. Brown, RN, Director of Nursing at Solutions Recovery Treatment Center.
“For the patients with us over the holidays, we plan a Skype visit with the patient’s family if they were out of the area and unable to visit. On the holiday, one or two members of our Alcathon meeting will deliver gifts to the patients and offer their support.”–Corinne Conlin, RN, Director of Nursing at Sunrise House Treatment Center.
“I find joy in making my patients smile and laugh during times when they may feel stuck in the hospital during the holiday season! Once you start laughing, the healing starts.”– Mertis Shearry, BSN, RN, Director of Nursing at Laguna Treatment Hospital.
“Sometimes the best language between a nurse and a patient is the language of the heart. It makes people feel more loved and have a sense of belonging and purpose. And remember, serenity is an inside job.”– Kimberly Knapp, RN, Staff Nurse at Laguna Treatment Hospital.
Angela Mitchell, BSN, NS, CNML, Center Director, St. Paul’s PACE AKALOA, gave these tips:
Encourage involvement in care as much as possible–loved ones can include neighbors, friends, church members, etc.
Keep familiar items in the room such as favorite blanket/throw from home, pictures of family, etc.
Spend at least five minutes at the bedside, engaging in a “moment of caring.” Research shows that time spent sitting at the bedside promotes trust, which ultimately improves nurse satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and patient outcomes.
Provide a small gift. Even something small shows you are thinking of them and can bring patients joy during the holidays if they are feeling lonely.
Spread some holiday cheer. Pick an appropriate time of day to gather 3 – 4 team members to perform a bedside Christmas carol (20 – 30 seconds top). This can be done periodically throughout the morning and afternoon shifts.
Caroline Park, LVN, Staff Nurse at Laguna Treatment Hospital, likes to remind her patients that: “The best gift you can give to your loved ones this Christmas is YOU.”
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