Self Care is not Optional


Ever since I started to practice self care, my perspective on life has changed.

Recently a co-worker asked me why I didn’t work any overtime.  She told me that she thought that all travel nurses worked over time.

I explained to her why I chose to be a travel nurse.  I chose to be a travel nurse so that I could live in different areas.  I want to be able to explore the different areas that I go to.  I love to travel and meet different people.

Even if I wasn’t a travel nurse, I would choose not to work over time.  The reason for that is because I am a better person and a better nurse when I take care of myself.  Part of taking care of myself is not working too much and making time for self care and fun.  Eating right and exercising are also parts of my self care.

On my days off, I can do whatever I want to do.  I can go hiking, just sit in the park, yoga, or just stay at home.  Those self care practices help me to stay centered, creative, and in balance.

When I was just working and not taking care of myself, I wasn’t balanced.  I was frustrated and overwhelmed.   I was stressed and I was burnt out.  My patients could tell too.

Now that self care is a priority, I’m happy and I can maintain it.

Unfortunately, the trend that I’m seeing in nursing is to make self care optional.  Its ok to work 6 or 7 days straight, as long as the nurse is getting paid well.  Its ok for the nurse to be really tired coming into work.  The nurse had 12 hours to sleep in between the shifts.

What some people don’t take into account is that the nurse also has a personal life.  When the nurse goes home, they have to take care of that home.  The nurse also may have children to spend time with.  The nurse may have a significant other to spend time with.  The nurse may have aging parents to take care of.  The nurse may have pets.

I’ve seen and heard of nurses working 6 or 7 days a week for months at a time.  They come in to work and they state that they are so tired.  They state that they wish this day would hurry up and be done with.  I have to attribute that to them just wanting and needing a day off.

Too much work and no fun or self care makes a person very stressed.

I recently read an article in Cosmopolitan magazine titled: “The Stress Solution You Haven’t Thought Of”.  The article talks about taking mental health days off from work and how important it is not only for the company but for the employee as well.  One of the quotes that caught my attention was, “Taking time off lowers the stress hormone cortisol.” – Richard Shuster.  Another quote states, “Days off can improve sleep, boost mood, and lessen risks for heart disease and depression.  And being away from work actually makes you better at work.” – Jessica Goodman.

I can attest to these statements.  When I get 4 days off a week, I come into work less tired and stressed.  When I work 4 days in a week, I feel more tired and stressed.  I love being a nurse but I also love having a thriving personal life.  I love spending time with my family and friends.  I love being able to go hiking when the sun is shining.  I love to sit around the lake and write in my journal.   I can give my best self to my patients when I’m operating at 100%.

I understand some nurses need to work more days in a week for financial or personal reasons.  This is when self care becomes even more important.  When working more hours the need for self care rises.  The nurse needs to be able to have some time to relax and to do the things that help with their stress levels.   Even if its something as simple as taking a bubble bath.

Self care is not optional.  Self care is not selfish.  Self care is necessary and important.


Mental Health Issue or Illness?

About 3 years ago, I was renting a townhouse in my hometown.  It was 5 separate townhomes connected together.  My home was in the middle.

About a week after moving in, I was sitting in the living room watching television.  All of a sudden, it sounded like someone kicked the front door.  About 5 minutes before I had taken the trash out.  I looked out the front door and I didn’t see anyone.  I went outside and didn’t see anyone on the street.  I was scared.  I called my dad and he told me to call the police.  So I did.

My parents arrived before the police officer.  When the police officer arrived, he told me some very important information.  I didn’t know who had kicked the door.  The police officer told me about what had happened with the previous renters.  The previous renters had had some problems with the neighbor that lived next to them.  The neighbor was hearing loud music and accusing the other neighbors of doing it.  The police officer told me that this neighbor had been caught throwing rocks at the house at night and yelling for the previous renters to turn down the music.  The previous renters had been asleep at the time that the neighbor started throwing the rocks .

At that point, I had already signed a year long lease and so I just had to hope that that situation wouldn’t happen to me.

The next week, I had gotten home from work at 10:00pm.  I lived an hour away from my job, so I would leave the house at 5:30 am and usually get back home around 9:30pm.  When I got into the house, I was sitting my things down and then my door bell rings.  I go to the front door and its the neighbor that had thrown the rocks at the house with the previous renters.  The neighbor asks me if I had been playing loud music all day.  I told the neighbor no and that I had just gotten home from work.  The neighbor asked me if I had an alarm clock that had been left on.  I told him no.  I used my phone as my alarm clock and I took my phone with me to work.  The neighbor then went to the other town house on the other side and asked them if they had been playing loud music.

The next week, I met some of the other neighbors.  I asked them if they had heard any loud music.  None of the other neighbors had heard any loud music.  One of the neighbors told me about the problems that they had had with the neighbor about loud music.  That neighbor said that they had not been playing any loud music or heard any loud music.

Over the next 2 years, I had a lot of problems with that particular neighbor.  I was woken up at night by loud banging on the wall that connected our town house together.  One night I heard the neighbor yelling to turn down the music from outside.  I couldn’t see the neighbor when I looked outside.  I was woken up one day by loud classical music.

Looking back on the situation, I was meant to be in that town house.  I was actually looking to rent the house to the right of my town house.  I put in my application for that town house and some how my check got lost and returned to me.  When I called the realtor, she stated that since she hadn’t received my check that she had rented the town home to another renter.  The next week, I found out the town house right next to it was up for rent.

Also looking back on that situation, I feel like the neighbor might have had a mental issue or illness.  No one else was hearing loud music.

I now have sympathy for that neighbor.  While going through the situation, I was scared.  I was scared that that neighbor would snap and lose it one day.  Since the neighbor thought that I was the one playing the loud music, I was scared that the neighbor would eventually hurt me.

How scary would it be to be hearing loud music that no one else is hearing?

How scary would it be to admit to yourself that you may have a mental issue or illness?

It was probably easier for that neighbor to blame the other neighbors than to admit that something else was going on.  I know that it would be easier for me to blame the other neighbors.

I don’t know if I would have the courage to admit that I was hearing loud music that no one else was hearing.  I would be afraid to take the medication.  I would be scared of the side effects of the medication.  I would be scared that the medication might not work.  I would be scared of having to tell people about my mental illness.  I would be scared of the changes that the mental illness would bring to my life.

Thankfully mental illness can be managed well with help.

There does need to be more mental health hospitals in the country.

When I wanted help for my eating disorder, I wanted to find a therapist that specialized in eating disorders.  At the time, I wasn’t able to find one in the Atlanta area.  I found group meetings for eating disorders but I wanted one on one help.

People who get help for their mental issues or illnesses are courageous.  It takes guts to admit that there is a problem.

I do hope that the people who bought the house after I moved out aren’t having any issues like I had.  I wanted to tell them about the neighbor but the landlord really wanted to sell the house.  So I kept my mouth shut.  I did tell myself if they asked me then I would tell but they never asked.

Its ok to ask for help

Recently some of my Facebook friends posted that no one should be posting their personal problems on Facebook.

To some extent I agree but if a person needs help and that person has no one to turn to, I would like them to post on Facebook.  I don’t want to hear about someone being horny or their sex life.  I almost deleted a family member from Facebook because of that issue.

Most people only post the good things that happen in their lives.  Most people don’t post that they didn’t get the job because of them being late or having a bad attitude.  Most people don’t want to post that they got fired because they weren’t doing the job or they were being lazy.

One of the reasons that I write this blog is to show people that you can overcome your problems and that everyone has problems.

When I was going through my eating disorder, I felt alone.  Yes I had family and friends that I could have talked to but I felt ashamed or that I might be judged by them.  I knew that there were other people that were going through an eating disorder.  I felt that because I was a nurse that I should know better.  Now I love to see and read blogs about people with eating disorders and how they got help with them.

I wish that more people would share their problems so that every one would know that their problems are not unique and that they can get through their own problems.

There was one time that I was glad that a Facebook friend shared their problem.  This friend’s posts were becoming suicidal.  One day this friend posted a date and a time that they were going to kill themselves.  I didn’t know where this friend lived and there were other people on Facebook that were concerned as well.  Finally another of my Facebook friends messaged me and told me that she had sent the police to this friend’s house.  Thankfully that friend didn’t commit suicide because they had posted it on Facebook.

In my opinion it is ok to post the hard times that you are going through.  Maybe one of your friends can help you or maybe they can refer you to some one that can help you.  Maybe one of your family or friends has been through the same problem that you are going through and can tell you how they handled the problem.

I’m glad that I reached out and asked for help for my eating disorder.  If I had not of asked for help, then I would not be where I am at in my life today.  I would not be happy.  I would still be waiting on my husband to make me happy.  I would not have the energy to have a blog, be a travel nurse, and be in school to be a life coach.  I would not love to exercise.  I would not have fallen in love with myself.

On Facebook, I see a lot of people saying that you should keep your next moves silent so that no one will know what you are up to.

I don’t believe that.

One of my best friends told me that when you are ready the teacher will come.  When I was ready to do something about my eating disorder, I sought out a life coach.  I told her my dreams and she is helping me to get to them.

Recently my cousin called me and told me one her of dreams and what she was trying to do.  She asked me some questions because I’m a nurse.  I answered her questions and helped her.  Hopefully she will get the business up and running.  I’m proud that I was able to help her and that she thought of me.

Its ok to tell people what you’re trying to do and to ask for help.  For example, I was talking to another nurse and I told her that I’m in school to be a life coach.  She said she didn’t know what a life coach was and I explained it to her.  I even gave her my life coach’s website.  In the future, she could be a client for my life coach or myself.  I know that if I don’t let anybody know about my business then I won’t get any clients.  My ideal clients are going to be nurses.  So I need to talk to other nurses about my business.

I guess some people are afraid that if they tell any body about their dreams then that person may steal their ideas.  I believe that there is enough room in the world for many ideas and many businesses.

Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, it means that you are strong enough to recognize that you need help.

When my friend posted that Facebook message about harming himself, he was being strong enough to ask for help.  When my cousin called me, she was being strong enough to ask for help.  To turn some of my dreams into reality, I needed some help.

Sometimes it takes some help for your dreams to come true.

In high school, I wasn’t doing so good in math in my senior year.  Math was my favorite subject.  I usually did good in that subject.  I was just telling myself that I would just study harder and do better.  The teacher was concerned because I was doing bad.  She wanted me to get a tutor but I was against the idea.  Getting a tutor felt like failure to me.  I wanted to be able to do it myself.  When I wasn’t able to leave early after the senior picnic because of my math grade, my parents told me to get a tutor.  I ended up getting a tutor and passing math.  Looking back at the situation now, I just wonder why I was so against getting a tutor.  I guess I just wanted to be able to say that I got a good grade on my own, with no help.  I didn’t want some people to know that I needed a tutor or that I needed help.

I don’t know if I would have passed the class if I had not gotten a tutor.  For some reason, I was just not getting trigonometry as easily as all the other math classes that I had taken.

Its ok to ask for help.