So here we are pretty much a year into this pandemic… many of us treading water (or at least that’s how I feel a lot of days). I’ve taken some time the last couple weeks to just chill (instead of working at doing a million things like I normally do on the weekends) and I’m really thankful that I have. I’ve needed some time to rest, recharge and just get organized (or feel that way anyways!)
It is no secret, that this is NOT one of my strong suits. I’ve talked about it before, but I have a really hard time stepping back and disconnecting from things. People who can do this- I envy you, it is a true skill. Even working at the bedside I struggled with this- I would worry about my patients and all the things that I could have done wrong or done differently for like 6/12 hours between my shifts (I know this sounds crazy but I also know there will be many of my nurse/ healthcare friends reading this nodding their heads realizing how much this applies to them too!)
I’m calling out all my healthcare provider friends right now because we are the worst at it.
Yeah, I know this is a tough pill to swallow but it’s just a genuine fact. Most of us aren’t very good at setting boundaries or looking after ourselves. Nurses are a particularly bad breed of this. I’ve actually thought a lot about this the past year, and I think it’s kind of funny. A lot of the nurses who are not so nice to be around or who I avoid interacting with (for the fear I might have to endure their wrath) are the first ones to demean people putting themselves first… yet they are SO bitter that they have little to no balance in your life. So when you do that, you’re an easy target for them.
I’m here to tell you – if you don’t look after yourself, nobody is going to do it for you.
I always find it funny when people send me a message and say how “good” they think I am at practicing self care, because I am really really terrible at making time for it. The past year though, I have been making a conscious effort to try and practice more of it – part of that whole having more “balance” in my life. But really, when I share posts about self care on Instagram or my own self- care activities, it’s because I am trying to hold myself accountable for following through on these things.
I think it’s also important to recognize that self- care is just as much about protecting your own self & mental health as it is doing activities that make you happy- what do I mean by that? For example, if you’re feeling drained being available and accessible to everyone to help support them and solve their problems, try separating yourself from this for a bit. Give yourself a break! All of these things take up mental energy that you can’t expend on others because you are so depleted.
Something I always used to spend some time on with my students in clinical groups was reinforcing the importance of self- care. Working in healthcare as a whole, but especially as a nurse, and especially in paediatrics- we see some tough things. Often times in the moment the things that you see and encounter don’t affect us right away, but they can ripple through our lives when we least expect it. I’ve found over time, that when it feels like there isn’t closure it can make those feelings more and more difficult.
But we have to fill up our own cup first, and we can’t give to other people when our own cup is empty.
As healthcare providers- as caregivers, we put others before ourselves so often. But what we don’t realize is when we do this constantly we push our own needs and feelings down to the point where things are bound to bubble up to the surface at some point in less than ideal ways… unfortunately a lot of the time taking out some of their frustrations on people in their workplace(s).
I think we have all seen this in one way or another throughout this pandemic- you don’t have to be a healthcare or essential worker to feel this, because as I’ve said before and I will say again- COVID has brought out the best and worst in everyone. But I have seen people become so nasty with each other- so short, so unsupportive with each other (especially their coworkers) as a result of the burnout we’re all feeling. Stepping away from some of the environments I had been working in, I was becoming a nurse and person I didn’t want to be. It is really easy to become jaded and with the exhaustion we’re all feeling, I don’t blame people.. but since I have stepped back and focused on myself more so than how everyone else chooses to act, I have realized how much happier I am. Remember that the way people treat you is often a reflection of themselves- not you.
The way that everyone practices self care can be a little different as well. What works for me may not work for you- and that’s okay! Some of my feel good things are: having a nice bath, going for a walk outside, doing some yoga/ stretching, or curling up under my heated blanket and reading a good book. Some of these are pretty simple, but they also are things I often don’t make a lot of time for so they feel like a treat 🙂
Sometimes it can even be as simple as just totally disconnecting from social media (and this is also definitely something I started to practice more during COVID because I have been so emotionally exhausted by everyone’s posts on social media during this pandemic. Some people like to talk about their feelings, but also some people do not. And we have to be particularly careful that we don’t just “dump” our feelings on to each other (the friends and family around us) when we are all dealing with so much right now.
So to finish up this week, here are some things you can do for you to look after yourself:
- Go for a walk / spend time outside
- Cuddle your dog or cat
- Light a candle and have the drink of your choice (tea, lemonade, wine.. whatever floats your boat!)
- Journal your thoughts & feelings
- Have a bath with lots of bubbles!
- Colour (some great adult colouring books online!)
- Start a crafting project
- Make a new recipe
- Clean/ organize something small!
- Get or give yourself a manicure/ pedicure
- Get a facial/ do a facemask
- Yoga/ meditation
- Exercise/ move your body!
- Watch a funny movie
- Read a good book