Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Raise your hand if you need this season’s first major holiday, Thanksgiving, to give you an extra push to focus on how much you have to be thankful for in your life.

Most nurses do!

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can experience the cozy feeling of gratitude this November by taking a moment each day for a special time of reflection. The warmth generated from mentally saying thanks will spread to your loved ones, and then to your health care colleagues, patients, and their families.

We’re encouraging you to start your Thanksgiving celebration with this three-step gratitude practice. Even the busiest nurse can fit it in and recoup that investment with greater health and happiness:

  1. Starting today, notice and list three things that you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be a major item and it doesn’t have to be new on your list. (If you’re grateful for that first cup of coffee in the morning, go ahead and list that every day.)
  2. Continue noticing and listing for the several days leading up to Thanksgiving. You can get fancy with a special “gratitude journal” or stick to a simple notebook. In a pinch, you can write in the margin of your desk calendar or weekly planner.
  3. At Thanksgiving Day dinner, say a word or two about your gratitude list. Suggest that everyone at the table share what they’re thankful for, if they’re so inclined. The lull between the meal and dessert is a nice, relaxed time to exchange these types of reflections.

A side bonus: who knows, you may have developed a new routine of taking a couple of moments to note your blessings each day. A habit like that has the potential to see you happily into 2019.

How does seeing and appreciating all that is good in your life increase your well-being?

Research suggests that it trains our brains over time to focus on what’s right and good and plentiful—versus what’s wrong or bad or in short supply. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, is a leading authority on the science of gratitude and how it leads to a healthier, happier life.

In one of his studies, health care practitioners kept a gratitude journal (similar to what’s described here) for two weeks and saw a 28% decrease in perceived stress and a 16% drop in depression. Other studies demonstrated physical health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, from a gratitude practice. For more on Emmons’ work, check out “Gratitude is Good Medicine.”

Wherever you are on your journey towards self-care, as long as you’re taking steps forward, like jotting down three things you appreciate, that’s reason to be thankful!

Thanksgiving Is National Family History Day

Thanksgiving Is National Family History Day

As families and friends gather for Thanksgiving Day this year, there will likely be oft-repeated tales about favorite recipes or the family stories that always make everyone laugh. In the midst of these gatherings is an excellent opportunity to learn more about what makes your family unique – in every sense of the word.

In 2004, the Surgeon General, through the Department of Health & Human Services, designated Thanksgiving as National Family History Day. This is an opportunity for all families to learn more about the common and rare diseases that can run through several generations.

As you all reminisce about holidays gone by, it’s a good time to begin documenting the various health conditions family members have. If you have high blood pressure and other relatives do too, it’s a great opportunity to educate the younger family members about the disease in an open, honest, and informed manner. The teens in the family don’t need to be terrified about the potential for heart disease or diabetes, but they should be armed with information about how they can help keep themselves healthy.

National Family History Day gives families a chance to uncover common threads they might not have realized. While the Surgeon General’s office found that most Americans believe in the important of knowing a family history, only about one-third have ever tried to document their own family’s health history.

What should you ask about? Really anything that might help you. Once you know the common threads, you can all learn about how to stay healthy or manage those specific conditions. For instance, are there relatives with breast and ovarian cancer (especially early onset) from generations ago? What about testicular cancer? When everyone is together, you can act as an educated group to make sure family members are getting appropriate testing or monitoring.

Because the Surgeon General considers family history as such an important health indicator and screening approach, the office has created the My Family Health Portrait online monitoring tool to help families document conditions and diseases. This tool means the documented history can be shared among family members and updated as health changes occur. Family members can even bring a copy of the document to healthcare visits to help inform their health team about important information.

Nurses don’t need anyone to tell them what kind of a predictor family history is. Each day, they see families with shared conditions. But if they don’t discuss their own detailed family health histories and if they don’t always ask the right questions, they could be missing some important health information of their own. Many families don’t talk about things like reproductive health problems or of mental health issues. Some might not discuss alcoholism or addiction. But each of these health conditions provides an essential piece of a family’s health picture.

Before you begin this process, the Surgeon General’s office has prepared some tips to help you. You’ll want to be ready to get the information, but realize you might not get everything on the first try. Make sure you are clear about what you are doing and why. Some people don’t like to talk about their health issues, but if they realize it could help save a loved one, they might look at your information gathering in a very different light.

Consider this an ongoing conversation among family members, and that Thanksgiving is just a start. Realize not everyone will be on board. Get as much information as you can without upsetting anyone. Be encouraged by what you can find out – you are helping your family now and for generations to come.

How to Combat Holiday Weight Gain

How to Combat Holiday Weight Gain

Thanksgiving is over; Christmas will soon be upon us and then New Year’s festivities. Fall and winter holidays are celebrated with food…and lots of it. The typical person gains on average 1-2 pounds per holiday season. Working as a nurse during this season makes it even worse with all the sweets lying around the workplace. How do you keep it all in check and avoid the extra poundage this year?

  1. Learn to say no. Say no to the constant smorgasbord of holiday goodies on every shift. Sure the major eating holidays only come around once a year, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat continuously from Halloween to New Year’s. Turn down that cookie every once in awhile. You will survive if you let the gingerbread man stay put with all his gingerbread man buddies.
  2. Take a brisk walk. Instead of hanging out at the nurse’s station (where all the goodies usually are) walk the halls when you get a chance. This way you’ll burn calories instead of accumulating them and be available to co-workers when they need help.
  3. Remember your regular exercise routine. Some people let their workout routine go when the weather is chilly and this in itself can contribute to weight gain.  Make it a point to stay on your routine as much as possible during the season.
  4. Drink up! Water that is! Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to keep the munchies away. Staying hydrated keeps you from thinking you’re hungry when you are actually thirsty.
  5. Decrease stress. Many focus on family and friends during the holiday season, but sometimes focusing too much on others can stress you out. Remember to take care of yourself during this season by doing what you enjoy; read a book, take a bubble bath get a massage… you get the picture.

In addition to working as a FNP, Nachole Johnson is a freelance copywriter and an author with her first book, You’re a Nurse and Want to Start Your Own Business? The Complete Guide, available on Amazon. Visit her ReNursing blog at for more ideas on how to reinvent your career. 




Count Your Blessings at Thanksgiving

Count Your Blessings at Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! What are you doing for the holiday? I’m spending the 30 days around Thanksgiving taking an online course called Gratitude, Grace and a Month of Self-reflection.

It’s based on Naikan, a Japanese psychological system that encourages us to count our blessings. It takes about me about 30 minutes a day to complete the assignments, which are pretty eye-opening.

For instance, traditional daily Naikan practice asks us to examine these three areas of living:

  1. What have I received?
  2. What did I give?
  3. What troubles and difficulties did I cause?

So, here’s an excerpt of what a common list would look like (it’s not mine), but yours will probably be longer.

What I received

A warm house in the morning

Friends to run with

A healthy lunch

A fast computer/web access

A coffee shop to hang out in


What I gave

Money for coffee and a good tip

Started work on my financial plan

Made BLT sandwich 

Made babysitter recommendation to neighbor

Gave a ride home to friend whose car is in the shop

Cooked dinner


Troubles and difficulties I caused

Didn’t send a check to a supplier,  even though I said I would

Participated in gossip at lunch about a fellow nurse

Wouldn’t let my youngest child play computer games

Interrupted my wife while she was speaking at dinner

Used time at the clinic for two personal calls

Ignored my dog when he wanted  to play after dinner

Wasted half my salad at lunch

Some of these Naikan exercises are serious and some silly, like yesterday when I did Garbage Naikan. I tried to think about what service I got out of everything that I threw away or recycled, like floss and coffee filters and bus tickets …and the list is endless because I’m supported by the whole universe.

As a nurse you have many opportunites to bless the lives of others. Making a difference while making a living is one of the most common reasons for entering the nursing profession. Doing Naikan will remind you of what you give, was well as what you get.

Remember to be specific and look for the details and be specific — the devil is in the details but so are angels 🙂 Write down the answers or type them or sketch them or speak them into a tape recorder and listen later.

Spend three times as long on the third question as the other two because that’s the most difficult one. (We like to think that other people are bothersome but we’re blameless!)

I plan to spend 45 minutes or so tomorrow doing Daily Naikan and answering those three questions. In my family we go around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and each person says what they’re grateful for. I’m always stumped but this year I’ll be ready.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jebra Turner is a writer in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Part #2

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Part #2

Thanksgiving is only seven days away! Whether you’re an old pro at hosting dinner or this is your first time out, getting a traditional meal on the table — and on-time — is a challenge. Here’s a handy One Week Checklist to help make preparations for the big day a bit less stressful.

Last week we got started on the menu, shopping list, decor, flowers, music, seating, kitchen equipment, dishes, and serving pieces. This week we’ll cover everything else you need for a delicous celebration.

One Week Ahead

1. Menu finalized and recipes indexed, shop for non-perishables, including wines, spirits or non-alcoholic drinks noq. Buy perishables only two days in advance.

2. Sketch out a cooking timeline based on your work schedule. Some dishes can be cooked days in advance (cranberry sauce will keep for a week in the fridge) while others, such as gravy, are best prepared at the last minute.

3. Deep clean and organize your kitchen and house (possibly making up beds for overnight guests).

4. De-clutter your cupboards and fridge, and double-check that you’re stocked up on necessary ingredients and supplies.

5. Make sure your turkey, if frozen, has plenty of time to defrost. Figure about five hours per pound to thaw out; you can keep it in the fridge a couple of days afterwards, too, with no ill effects. (For a big turkey, you might need to start defrosting it – in the coldest part of the fridge ­– as early as Monday.)

6. Baking pies? They can be prepared in stages. Make the crust (but don’t bake yet) and freeze on Monday. On Wednesday you can bake; then you only have to warm and garnish pies on the big day.

7. On Tuesday, chop all the veggies and store in fridge until needed. Prepare table settings (dishes, silverware, glasses), serving pieces, napkins, table cloth, and floral arrangements.

8. On Wednesday, bake veggies and sides that require that now (turkey will crowd out other dishes) to reheat later. Set the table, put out candles, hang wreathes and other decorations.

Thanksgiving Day – it’s showtime!

9. Start on your turkey five to seven hours ahead of dinner time, depending on the size of your bird. Follow your recipe or family traditions; cook turkey and let it “rest” before carving to maintain juices.

10. Practice kitchen safety. Stuff the turkey right before roasting it, for instance. (It’s dangerous to leave a stuffed turkey in the fridge overnight.) Use a cooking thermometer to make sure the turkey is fully cooked. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate knives and cutting boards for raw turkey and veggies.

11. Finish or reheat gravy, vegetables, side dishes, rolls, and after dinner, pies. Set out beverages.

12. Enjoy!