Nurses are so busy taking care of patients they sometimes forget to take care of themselves.
Unfortunately, they can’t just turn off the caretaker gene once they get home — especially not during the holidays. But, as the saying goes, “something has got to give.”
Christmas music is playing in the stores. Decorations are up everywhere. Gift lists are getting longer as the days go by. The holiday season tends to place greater stress on all of us. There’s the holiday work schedule, balancing kids’ school events, illness, harsh weather, travel, buying presents. The list goes on!
From my point of view, even though I have such an exhausting list of holiday chores — shopping, cooking, family gatherings to prepare for — I am thankful to have the means and the energy to do them. You may feel the same way. But do you also take care of yourself through all the hustle and bustle?
Relax — or run on the treadmill
During the holiday season, I am reminded of a quote by Florence Nightingale: “The most devoted friend or nurse cannot be always there. Nor is it desirable that she should. And she may give up her health, all her other duties, and yet, for want of a little management, be not one-half so efficient as another who is not one-half so devoted, but who has this art of multiplying herself …”.
Caring for oneself should be something all nurses do on a regular basis, even if it seems impossible to fit in. And breaks from going to work often aren’t really breaks. How many of us have ever needed a vacation after a holiday or a vacation after a vacation?
Stop for a minute and think. Over this holiday season, what are you doing for you? I am a single mom of two young boys. But I know I am a better mom, better nurse, better person, when I take care of myself.
What do I do? I get a pedicure and manicure when I can, while a busy mom/nurse/friend of mine gets a monthly massage. She prefers massages, I prefer nails. Whatever relaxes you and makes you feel pampered can be your thing.
I love to get outdoors and sit in the quiet. Some days, I can get out and hike or walk a nature trail for a brief time. Other days, it might be a walk through my neighborhood during lunch. For other people, it might be a run on the treadmill, reading a book or window shopping. I prefer online shopping, so no window shopping for me, but I do enjoy cooking as a stress reliever. To each their own! The point is to take time to do what you enjoy — without feeling guilty.
For many of us, holidays may not be the exemplar time of year for exercising. Regular exercise tends to go out the window and, let’s face it, it’s tough to pass up certain holiday foods, like frosted sugar cookies.
Food is an important part of holiday celebrations, so go into the season with a personal plan for moderation. I give myself permission to eat some treats; I have noticed when I try to stay 100% away from certain foods, it’s a recipe for disaster. That is when I overeat on the cookies. I plan ahead for the days when I will allow myself to eat more than I should. I might balance eating more vegetables one day while knowing I will eat multiple cookies or a large slice of pie (or both) later on.
Our own expectations are additional stressors during the holidays. We have expectations of making the perfect turkey, giving (or receiving) the perfect gift, enjoying a drama-free family gathering. We watch commercials that show us what the holiday should look like and how happy people should be.
We can even be more susceptible to symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s no wonder that during the holiday season there usually is a rise in crisis hotline calls. Maybe 2017 wasn’t the best and you are struggling to pull this holiday together to end the year on a good note. But try to allow the season to unfold without any expectations. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to give up a vision of what perfect should be. It is what it is. Be present in each moment and enjoy each moment, perfect or imperfect, this season.
I am not perfect, I am not the best at self-care every day. I often set expectations for my life way too high. And I could win a Danish butter cookie eating contest some days! But regardless of the time of the year, I make it a habit to think about my self-care daily and weekly.
Remember, it doesn’t need to be a mini-vacation or hours by yourself (unless that is what you need!). It can be an activity (or inactivity) that fits into a 15- or 30-minute slot each day.
As I plan my schedule for the week, I ask “What time am I giving myself?” I even write my self-care “appointment” on my calendar.
What do you like to do that is simple and can help you focus on yourself? Now think about it weekly and pencil in self-care weekly on your calendar!