Six Ways to Avoid Empathy Burnout

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by another’s emotions that it is hard to process your own emotions? Do you lash out at loved ones in your life, and feel like you are spiraling downward into compassion fatigue, or empathy burnout?

At the end of the day, nurses can feel a lot of sadness, exhaustion, detachment, and anger. As time goes on, we might be unable to empathize with others due to our own desensitization. Those of us who spend a lot of our time and energy caring for others can be easily burned out. Here are some key elements of to add to your resilience toolkit:

  • Mindfulness Meditation. This is a great tool and I’ve posted here about it before. The process can be as easy as taking a breath during stressful situations. Practice this technique on a regular basis to see results.
  • Gratefulness Journal. This is a place to write down that for which you are grateful in your life. Everyday, write down three things that you are thankful for, or that make you happy. Then, at the end of the day, write down three good things that happened on you shift. This can help to redirect your attention if it was a particularly bad day.
  • Organizational Support. Form a support group at work and get your employer involved. Talking to other people about the problems you are facing helps you realize that you aren’t alone. Hospitals often provide counseling benefits to their employees through their health insurance.
  • Take Your Breaks. It can be hard to get away sometimes, but make sure you take a break. Leaving the floor for just 15 minutes to do something for yourself can really give you a boost of mental energy.
  • Don’t Shut Out Others. Don’t isolate yourself from others at home. If they ask you about your day, let them hear you out about what’s bothering you. They don’t have to fix it, but just by listening they can help.
  • If You Lash Out, Seek Help. Getting angry with others in your life is a sign that you need to process your emotions in a better way. Help yourself and those in your life by getting some counseling.  

After reading this, do you have some of your own techniques for decompressing? Let me know in the comments what has worked for you and what doesn’t.

Advertisements

Five Benefits of Strength Training

As nurses, we are always moving–lifting, walking, running, bending over–and doing a lot of grunt work. When it comes to moving patients, we want to make sure that we protect our back and joints most of all. The best way to do this is to ensure that we have adequate muscle mass to lift and slide our patients properly. That’s where strength training comes in!

  1. Strength training builds muscle, therefore increasing metabolism

Studies show that strength training increases the resting metabolic rate, so you can burn calories even when you’re sitting down doing some charting.

  1. Strength training builds mental toughness

We all know that bedside nursing can be stressful, and you might feel like you are juggling six balls at once sometimes. Strength training challenges you in a way you might not have been challenged before. This leads to an increased confidence and ability to handle whatever the shift might throw at you.

pexels-photo-416809

  1. Strength training increases bone density

As women, we know it’s important to maintain good bone health. Strength training helps to prevent osteoporosis later in life. When you lift dumbbells and do a curl, the muscles pull on those bones. The cells in your bones react by creating more new bone cells. Your bones become stronger and more dense. Perform strength-training exercises and you’ll be less prone to bone loss as you age.

  1. Stronger muscles lead to better performance, in all areas!

Whatever exercise you engage in, outside of work or during work, you will have more success with a good foundation in strength training. It can also help you burn more calories during cardio workouts, or while running down the hall to a code!

pexels-photo-416754

  1. Strength training increases heart health

In one Appalachian State study, those who performed 45 minutes of moderate intensity resistance exercise lowered their blood pressure by 20 points. That’s as good as most blood pressure pills, and with less expense.

Get out there and start training! I prefer the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme programs. These are great for building muscle and confidence. Start with some light 3 to 5 pound weights and a resistance band. If you are interested in getting started with a 21 Day Fix challenge pack, you can get one Here. Let me know what has worked for you in the comments!

Add More Color to Your Diet

We’ve all heard that we should “eat the rainbow”, and that the more colorful our plate, the better. Recently, my plates have been pretty beige, so I’m looking to add more color to my dinners. Here are some tips for adding color to your diet:

Go to Farmers’ Markets and look for Purples

  • Purple peppers
  • Purple carrots
  • Purple sweet potatoes
  • Purple cauliflower
  • Purple beans

These are actually found in nature, and contain a big dose of vitamins and minerals. You can make the purple sweet potatoes into fries. Season with truffle salt or pink himalayan salt for added flavor. The purple carrots can be used in a stir fry, along with the purple peppers. Use the cauliflower to make a warm purple salad. Cook the cauliflower for 5 to 10 minutes to make it soft, then add olives, breadcrumbs, vinegar, and red onions for more color.

Screenshot 2017-11-08 09.47.44

Get Creative with Greens

Add celery hearts to your Caesar salad. Drizzle the celery hearts with olive oil, then char them on a very hot grill. Make the dressing in a food processor with 1 egg yolk, 1 diced celery stalk, 1 smashed garlic clove, a 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Process while pouring in 2 cups of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Pour this over the celery hearts and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Yum!

Screenshot 2017-11-08 09.51.48

Eat Some Pink Power Snacks

Find some smoked salmon and make a twist on a bagel with lox. Top a Wasa cracker with some cream cheese, smoked salmon, and red onions. The salmon is a great dose of protein and will help you stay fuller longer. Also, look for new fruit cups that have Chia seeds in them. The chia seeds provide extra vitamin C and fiber so you can power through your day.

Screenshot 2017-11-08 09.53.13

Add colorful items to your shopping list and see how creative you can get. This is a fun way to cook healthy!

4 Ways to Maximize Your Workout — At Work

Most of us see exercise as a separate time commitment, like we have to go the gym for so long and sweat so much. The truth is that there are a lot of ways to move during the day that count as exercise, and anything that keeps you active and moving is a great way to drop some pounds. Here are some ways to maximize the amount of movement you get during the day.

Take the Stairs

Pretend like the elevator doesn’t exist! If you work on the 20th floor this could be difficult, but start off slow and work your way up. Including this healthy habit will lead to increased flexibility and resilience, not to mention increased muscle mass and endurance.

Park Far Away from the Entrance

The farther away you park from the door, the more steps it takes to get there. Keep this in mind wherever you go–the grocery store, the mall–to get in some more movements. Walking just a quarter mile a day can help improve a sedentary lifestyle.

Take Five for Exercise

Take a five-minute break at work for some energy-building movements. It’s best during those afternoon hours when you feel like taking a nap. Instead of reaching for more coffee, do some active reps, stand up at your desk, or take a lap around the floor. Who cares if you look strange doing lunges down the hallway, you’re staying active!!

Challenge a Friend

If you stay active with your co-workers, you’re more likely to commit to being healthy. I once worked at a place where we would race each other down 12 flights of stairs. This helped keep us awake and was also fun to do with a buddy. You could also wear a pedometer and compete with each other to see who has the most steps. Friendly competition keeps it interesting and fun!

What are some other ways to move and improve at work? Let me know what you think in the comments!

 

Ways to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

Today I’m sharing some ways to reduce your risk of getting breast cancer, since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s important for women to get a mammogram screening as early as age 35, so your doctor can have a baseline image of your breast tissue. Early detection is still so important.

To reduce your risk of breast cancer:

  1. Get vigorous exercise twice a week. High-intensity workouts can cut your risk of breast cancer, and help you stay at a healthy weight. The American Cancer Society recommends that the average adult get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Vigorous exercise should increase your heart rate, make you sweat, and make it harder for you to catch your breath. Don’t pass out, though! The vigorous activity also reduces inflammation and activates natural killer cells, two things that may protect you from cancer.
  2. Choose your water bottles and containers carefully. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in hard plastics like reusable water bottles and other containers. This chemical has been linked to a higher breast cancer risk because it simulates the effects of the female sex hormone estrogen, which can fuel breast cancer. Choose stainless steel and glass containers instead, or look for those that are labeled BPA-free.
  3. Choose the right dairy. Studies from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute showed that women who ate yogurt regularly had a lower risk of breast cancer. However, those who ate more hard cheeses, like American and cheddar, had a 53 percent higher risk of getting breast cancer. Cheese is high in fat, so those women who consumed a lot of cheese may have had less healthy diets and been heavier, which may have led to them getting cancer. Eat your cheese in moderation!
  4. Don’t feel guilty about soy. Some studies claimed that soy was bad for women and could increase the risk of breast cancer, because it was an estrogen-mimicker. However, the majority of research indicates that soy is safe to eat. A Tufts University study showed that women who ate soy actually increased their chances of survival. Soy is found in tofu, soy milk, and edamame.
  5. Don’t be dense. Ask your doctor about the denseness of your breast tissue. Younger women have more dense breasts due to having milk glands and ducts for breastfeeding. If the breast tissue continues to be dense after age 45 or so, then that’s a risk factor for breast cancer. If your breasts are more than 75 percent dense, you may need to do a breast MRI or 3-D mammogram to get screened. These methods are better at detecting tumors in dense breast tissue.

Always be proactive with your health! Get your yearly OB/GYN checkup and regular mammograms as recommended. Early detection helps to save lives!

 

 

Tips for Adding Holistic Nursing Techniques to Your Practice

Holistic nursing is defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as it’s goal (American Holistic Nurses Association, 1998).”  The holistic nurse uses his or her skills and knowledge to nurture the patient’s wholeness, peace, and healing. The whole person is taken into consideration during each phase of the nursing process. Members of the American Holistic Nurses Association use one or more complementary, alternative, or integrative treatments. Here are five approaches you can use on yourself or with your patients to promote healing.

  1. Meditation. This is a great relaxation tool for emotional well-being. At the workplace, you can meditate anywhere that you can find a quiet space–in the break room, outside during a short walk, or in your car before or after your shift (Schroeder, T., 2017). You can even encourage your patients to meditate to help reduce pain and anxiety.
  2. Therapeutic Touch. This technique was developed in the 1970s. It involves the manipulation of a person’s energy field between the practitioner and receiver. The Therapeutic Touch International Association defines it as “a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being (TTIA, 2017).
  3. Aromatherapy. Nurses can use aromatherapy to bring comfort to their patients and reduce pain. Use a scent that has a positive emotion attached to it. Ask the patient what they would prefer and go from there. Practitioners can use essential oils with citrus, mint, woodsy, or floral scents. Different oils can be mixed together to create a unique blend (Guitierez, C., 2017).
  4. Deep Breathing. This can help to reduce stress in yourself and your patients. It’s easy for everyone to do, as long as you can breath! Take deep breaths from your diaphragm, pushing out your belly with each breath. Once you have mastered diaphragmatic breathing, try some other techniques such as 4-7-8 Breathing, Roll Breathing, and Morning Breathing.
  5. Supplements and/or Probiotics. As a nurse, we can recommend certain supplements to our patients such as fish oil, and other vitamins and minerals. I also recommend a probiotic for patients after they have been on antibiotics. The easiest one to get is some yogurt, if they don’t want to spend a lot of money. Always remind your patients to be mindful of drug interactions if they are on any other medications.

These are some recommendations and of course there are many more. Let me know what you have tried in the comment section!

References:

Gutierrez, C. (2017, June). Holistic Nursing: Engaging the Five Senses for Emotional Health (AHNA). Beginnings, 37(3) 6-7, 24-25.

Schroeder, T. (2017, June). Meditation for emotional well-being. American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). Beginnings; 37(3), 10-11.

Therapeutic Touch International Association, http://www.therapeutictouch.org.

 

 

 

Are Nurses Fueling the Opioid Crisis?

In nursing school we are taught that pain is the fifth vital sign, next to temperature, respirations, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels. We are also taught that pain is what the patient says it is, leading us to constantly ask patients to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10. We are asked to re-evaluate their pain after our interventions, leading us to often tell the physician that a patient’s pain isn’t well-controlled. On top of this, our hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid based on patient’s pain control through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores. With all this focus on pain, combined with the monetary incentives to control pain, is it any wonder that so many people are addicted to pain medications?

Our intense focus of alleviating a patient’s pain in all ways possible has lead to many patients becoming addicted within the hospital system. When they can no longer get opioid prescription medication, they turn to illegal drugs like heroin. Many of my patients come in with abscesses from heroin injections. According to the American Nurses Association:

  • 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose
  • At least half of all opioid overdoses involved a prescribed medicine
  • Sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, but the overall amount of pain Americans report has not changed
  • Heroin-related overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2010

As nurses, we should advocate for more drug-free ways to relieve pain. After all, pain is a part of life, but so many people are afraid to feel it. There are alternative pain treatments out there, such as meditation, acupuncture, guided imagery, hypnosis, exercise, and so many more. Hospital treatments are almost solely focused on medication, and it’s time for that to change if we want to rid ourselves of the opioid epidemic in this country.

 

Start the Day with Positive Thoughts

One of the things I’m guilty of is checking all my notifications on my phone when I wake up. I’ll check my news feed and maybe look at Twitter or YouTube notifications first thing in the morning, exposing myself to possible negative news and glaring images. Since most of us keep our smartphones on the nightstand, we have an urge to reach for them when we first wake up. “I’ll just check the time,” I think. But then I keep checking more and more apps and notifications, and before I know it my thoughts are running in different and negative directions.

More than ever before, we are being bombarded with negative messages in the media and in our news feeds first thing in the morning, leading to an increase in depression, stress, and a feeling of being overwhelmed early in the day. This can lead to headaches and anxiety, and make us more likely to say we had a bad day at the end of it.

Instead of starting the day like this, do something you enjoy, such as meditation, exercising, or just relaxing with a cup of coffee. This can help to start your day on a more positive note. It protects you from the gloom-and-doom news of the world, and gives you more space to switch into a positive place in the morning. Get an “old-timey” regular alarm clock that doesn’t come with a bunch of distractions and put that smartphone in another room if you have to.

One of the main reasons for stress in our lives is the feeling of powerlessness we get when faced with things outside of our control. Instead of feeling this way, put yourself in control of the situation by doing something to problem solve. For example, if you see bad news on Facebook about something, think about what you could do about it. You could donate money to an organization that supports a cause you care about instead of feeling helpless against it.

These are a few ideas about how to start you day on a positive note, and how to take control of those stress feelings. Let me know if you have any luck with these in the comments!

Fitness Trend: Water Workouts

Water provides great resistance for a workout, and the newest fitness trends involving water are increasing that resistance even more through spin bikes, kettle bells, and stand-up paddle (SUP) boards. You can even add hand paddles to your workout to increase the resistance of your reps.

Water is a great training tool, and studies show that exercisers who trained in water improved their ab strength more than those who used resistance up on land (European Journal of Applied Physiology). One of my favorite water exercises is stand-up paddle boarding. The newest SUP trend involves resistance bands tethering together boards in a pool, while users do planks and squats, shifting their weight to work out those rarely-used muscles.

For those who hate cycling because of the stress on their joints, why not try it underwater? Aqua cycling is a submerged version of a spin class, where bikes are in waist-high water. You can get all that cardio without the soreness later, and you get a natural massage from the water while you pedal.

There are even new devices to track your water workout, such as the Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer’s Edition tracker band. It can monitor your laps, distance, and time in the pool. And it’s important to have the right shoes to keep your feet in the aqua bikes, such as BodyGlove’s Dynamo Rapid water shoes. Search for water-based classes near you, and let me know in the comments if you like these kinds of workouts.

Balance, Letting Go, and Non-Striving

Balance means different things to everyone. Some people are content where they are in life, and don’t want to achieve anything more. Some people are constantly striving, but don’t seem to get anywhere. When I was studying for my Bachelors in nursing, one professor started off every class with a meditation. Each week we would focus on a different aspect of mindfulness. One of them was “Letting Go.” It’s important to let go of worry, anxiety, fears, and to just be present in the moment. This is one of the ways I’m working to bring balance to my life. Once you realize that all worry is futile, and is nothing but a waste of time, more balance and happiness will come into your life.

There are many videos on YouTube that are all about letting go of worries, fears, and past relationships. I like the guided meditations that can help calm and relax me after a stressful shift. Another aspect of mindfulness that goes along with Letting Go, is Non-Striving. The meditation that we would listen to in class was by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and his non-striving explanation can be found here. There are nine aspects of mindfulness and Jon Kabat-Zinn provides excellent resources.

If you are looking to add balance to your life, I highly recommend some form of meditation.

Screenshot 2017-10-13 09.09.15