If You Can Read it, You Can Achieve it!

If You Can Read it, You Can Achieve it!

How are you doing on those New Year’s resolutions?  Are you persisting and persevering? Do you even remember your promise to…

   Drop those extra 10 pounds – pronto!

   Firm up or fill out in all the right places.

   Pursue additional educational credentials in nursing.

   Finally clear out the clutter in your closets or garage.

   Organize for hyper-productivity at work and at home.

   Be more spontaneous — without calendar control tools.

Those are bold goals, for sure, but the odds are against you whenever you changing behaviors. The first 90 days are especially crucial. Why? Research shows that by the end of this month, more than half of us have already fallen off the self-improvement wagon. Six months later, only 44% are still hanging in there and fighting the good fight.

That’s according to the book Changeology, by author John Norcross, a psychologist at the University of Scranton. It’s a fascinating read for those of us who want to morph into better versions of ourselves.

But that’s not the only book worth reading on your way to your dreams in 2014. You’re bound to find some information, advice, and support in the self-help aisles at your favorite (preferably) independent bookstore.

These are the titles flying off the shelves at my local bookstore this season:

   –Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed, for advice-seekers who enjoyed her best-selling hiking memoir

   –Wreck This Book, by Keri Smith, for those who want advice on being more creative

   –An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Col. Chris Hadfield, for nurses with their heads is in the clouds

   –Daring Greatly, the Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown, for the spiritually inclined

   -Self-help classics, such as Women Who Love Too Much, by Robin Norwood

And in other sections, such as wellness and cooking, there are even more opportunities to get advice. If you can read, you’ve got access to the wisdom of the most intriguing people in the world.

Wow! That’s the power of literacy.

What books are you reading and how are they helping you achieve your dreams? Please share with us.

Jebra Turner is a freelance business and health writer in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at www.jebra.com.

Back to the Past: Recognizing Our Potential in the Moment

Back to the Past: Recognizing Our Potential in the Moment

Every now and again, I find myself thinking about the next routine or task seemingly without any recognition of the present moment. I’m at first a little shocked, then pleased, that all the education and training has paid off–doing that  right thing at just the right time without any unnecessary surprises. Done. On to the next item while still thinking a few steps ahead. We get used to the mechanics of our work and it becomes easier to deal with challenging situations (or, at least the daily responsibilities). Sometimes we’re just in the flow, and that gets us through the shift. I think we’ve all had moments like these, only stopping to ask how‘d we do that? after the fact.

There we are, piecing together the details of a shift that pushed us to the limit and questioning how we managed to pull through without so much as a second thought to our actions. What if we could slow down time to reveal something valuable about ourselves when it mattered the most? The next time you’re confronted with a challenge, try some of the following tips on mindfulness to get the most out each moment. Each of these simple tricks and tips are aimed at helping remind us to focus, recompose, and grow in order to always be on the path to becoming  better nurses, individuals, and contributors to the communities that matter to us.

Learning to Recognize the Wandering Mind
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.” – Shunryu Suzuki
You know that  autopilot mode I was referring to? It’s pretty cool, right? Definitely. There’s a risk, however. All the learning and hard work we’ve put into our jobs affords us the ability to rely on rote memorization or practice, but be careful not to let the moment slip by without taking something valuable from the present. The great difficulty is that our work, like other daily tasks (i.e., dishes, driving, laundry, taking the dogs out, etc.), risks becoming stagnant. When we begin to notice that time is rushing by and we’re oblivious to it, take a deep breath and find your center. Doing this helps keep us on track to find beauty and opportunity in even the most mundane task because we’re being vigilant with our awareness.

Helpful Bonus Tip: As simple as it might seem, one of the best ways to create an understanding of our own psychology and mindfulness is to make it a habit of writing down a short reflection of the day before going to bed. Plan on keeping the task incredibly straight-forward, just writing the essentials and noting any significant moments wherein you had noticed your mind wandering and how you reigned it back again. At the end of a few weeks, find a time to read over your writing to see patterns emerge that can help us identity how to maintain mindful awareness in similar situations or in the midst of familiar difficulties.

Mindfulness Takes Repetition
Think about your day, in detail. What did you do? What was said or overheard? What happened around you? Chances are, you’re probably missing a huge amount of detail because of the natural limitations of the brain. We like to imagine that we are astute and paying attention, even that these characteristics make us the nurses we are on the job. In reality, the brain is only capable of so much before it fills in the gaps of our awareness with mental static–bits of imagery or words or base emotional recognition that fill in the spaces around our significant memories. The trick to harnessing the power of mindfulness is to realize the limitation of the brain and work to circumvent them:

1) Start making more significant memories by working with intent, communicating with presence, and practicing with meaning.

2) Try this for the next week, each time you step through a doorway, pause and acknowledge your gratitude for someone or something precious in your life.

3) Approach a familiar task with renewed awareness by slowing down and finding pleasure in the individual  parts of an experience, as well as the whole.

4) Reach out for a mindfulness buddy who can help you enjoy and commit to mindfulness as a way of life–enjoying more of our life, loves, and work.

The Case for Compassion

The Case for Compassion

One of the astonishing realities of nursing is the inherent exposure to human vulnerability at its extremes. Whether bearing witness to candid joy or profound loss, the role of the nurse as a champion for compassion is essential to the profession’s social benefit. How we interact with patients in these intimate moments is an opportunity to examine our own capacity as caregivers. Developing an awareness of our compassion helps us make a real difference in the lives of others and reinforces our value within the workplace.

Not unlike patience, humility, or diligence, compassion is practiced and refined over time. We can create great change with small but meaningful acts of kindness and understanding. The key is to recognize within ourselves the power of empathic responses. Salus aegroti suprema lex esto–the well-being of the patient shall be the most important law. As we incorporate compassion into our daily tasks, we create an abundant environment for calm and assurance.

How does one remain compassionate despite the stresses and challenges of nursing?

We can start by addressing these fundamental concerns:

1) Who in my life has demonstrated compassion when I needed it?
2) When have I felt it difficult to express compassion?
3) Where do I see compassion fitting in with my current skillset?
4) How have I shown compassion to myself and others?
5) Why is compassion important to me?

Once you have answered these questions, consider the following as a model for understanding compassion:

Exercising compassion is primarily an ability to differentiate between two core ideas–story and character. The “story” refers to the narrative we each create about ourselves separate from the truth of our lives. Assumptions, fear, worry, doubt. These are a few of the associated risks with self-fiction. We aren’t always right and we may not know the full extent of the facts, but that doesn’t stop the mind from creating a false sense of our reality. Compassion arises from understanding this psychological tendency in ourselves and others while being able to respond to it appropriately to reduce unnecessary suffering.

Identifying the narratives our patients have created for themselves can help us better offer our support, but taking the next step in cultivating compassion is all about the character behind the story. After all, recognizing the humanity in another brings us closer to understanding our own lives. The patients we serve can teach us a great deal about compassion by being the mirror that reflects the results of our work and values.

Once we start to perceive the individual as the foundation instead of their story, we can more easily connect with others in a compassionate way because we have taken away the barriers that prevent us from seeing the common bonds we share.

Coping with Seasonal Depression

Coping with Seasonal Depression

Putting aside all of the glittering lights and decorative storefront window displays, there’s something in the winter air that we don’t often talk about. For some, this time of year is a challenging one with a tricky combination of diminishing available light and plentiful stress triggers. Too frequently dismissed or marginalized, seasonal depression is very much a real concern.

The causes of seasonal depression vary, but thankfully so do the options for coping successfully. Prioritizing some of the following tips could make the difference between making the best of the day and letting it get the best of you. By adopting a three-part approach, we can address coping methods for depression in terms of physical, emotional, and mental wellness.

Get moving and get out into the world.

When we talk about seasonal depression, part of that conversation includes a discussion about the physical toll it can take. With the addition of lethargy, irritability, and anxiety, depression can make it difficult to stay motivated or find the strength to set daily goals (exercise, self-care, etc.). Getting the body in motion can help relax the mind while simultaneously encouraging biochemical stability, conscious awareness of yourself and others, and creating opportunity to interact or contribute to the world positively.

Adjust your schedule around the light.

Taking a look at the role of light in seasonal depression, science informs us that our bodies and minds are profoundly affected by light. When the light changes drastically (winter/summer), the body needs time to adjust. There are numerous options, both paid and free, that can help. In recent years, light therapy via electronic devices has proven to be a popular route for some. For others, it may be a matter of scheduling your everyday activities around a new time slot that provides ample ambient light. However you go about it, nothing quite compares to the mood boost we can get by working harmoniously with our own biological needs and rhythms.

Don’t isolate, share your experience with your trusted network.

Depression can affect us all to varying degrees, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to communicate to others. It can be a tempting solution to bottle the stresses of seasonal depression and isolate. The downside to this coping method is that it can further compound existing symptoms. As you feel able and are comfortable doing, trust in your network of mentors, friends, family, or colleagues. They may also be feeling similarly or know someone else who has gone through likewise trying times. Knowing that you are not alone may not be all the comfort you want, but it could be the push you need.

It should be noted that none of these suggestions are definitive solutions to a complex issue, and do not replace the advice of a mental health professional. If you, or anyone you know, is suffering, please reach out for help–no one is ever truly alone, the darkness will always be always be broken by the dawn.

Enjoying a Healthy Holiday Season

Enjoying a Healthy Holiday Season

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.