The Ugly Christmas Sweater

There is an ugly side to Christmas for many people. For those who lost loved ones, or experience depression, or have a lack of supportive loved ones, this may be a very difficult time of the year. It hangs and weighs on them like a heavy blanket, and they wear it everywhere they go.

This is my first Christmas without my brother, who loved Christmas very much. We would spend hours putting up decorations. The wave of grief I have and am feeling is quite profound. I have never truly understood or had adequate compassion for those who are/have gone through this until now. It is something in your wildest imagination you cannot comprehend. It is also different for everyone and with each grieving experience.

I have sat down so many times to write so many different posts this month, and I have been wanting to keep everything really positive (and I promise to get back to positive posts!) but I don’t think the writer’s block will go away until I get this off my chest.

People in healthcare deal with grieving and loss at much higher rates than anyone else. We get close to our patients and grieve when they pass on. For those reading who work or have worked in healthcare, I know you understand what I’m talking about. For those who are unfamiliar with the trials and tribulations of healthcare, this is a dark reality. To the individuals who have it in them to work hospice, where they are guaranteed to lose their favorite patient every. Single. Time. Hats off to you, because I could not do it.

Grief does not always mean losing a loved one. Grief can come from divorce, losing a job, or anything that you considered part of your identity. Perhaps you just graduated college and you don’t know who you are outside of being a student. Any one of these may cause the holiday blues.

Ways to cope:

Let yourself grieve! Allow the time for you to go through your feelings. Just as I have taken a short sabbatical from blog posting, you may need to slow down for a little while. In order to deal with your grief, you have to allow yourself to move through your emotions, not run from them. Not that there are moments that you may need to numb yourself if the pain is way to great, but hopefully that is not something that needs to occur. If you feel as though you need to numb the pain, be sure to seek medical help.

If someone is grieving around you… the best thing you can do is allow them to express when they need to, but don’t force it either. Support does not mean having to constantly cheer them up, but doing something silly to make them laugh when they are pulling out of a hard moment can be uplifting as well. Read the person and allow them what they need to do. In order for them to work through their grief to get to a point of being able to function and deal, they need to go through these moments.

You can grieve and have fun at the same time. This sounds counter-intuitive BUT sometimes the best thing you can do is laugh and have people around you that make you feel lighter. If you lost a loved one, you know they would want you to have a great life, not drowning in sadness. You can miss a loved one and find your fun again. If you do, it will help your mental health in the long run!

Please remember that although this is a magical time of the year, it does not mean that every single person is able to dwell on the good. Try to remember when you see someone moody in the grocery store, or sad in the clothing store. Maybe smile at them, wish them a merry Christmas/happy holidays, or give them a compliment (only if you mean it, nothing worse than an insincere compliment when you already feel like sh*t). Everyone has their trials. If we could support one another instead of continuing to tear them down, like society teaches us to do, our world would be a much better place.

Are you grieving something this Christmas? Have you ever experienced a Christmas in grief? Tell me about it! Let’s get a conversation going…

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The 12 days of Blogmas…

There is a challenge going around for bloggers to answer a set of 12 questions. Although I was not directly asked, the ladies at http://www.Thevalueofamoment.com and http://www.Geraldinetalks.com both asked for more bloggers to join in the fun. So, here are my answers to the 12 questions of Blogmas!

  1. When are you starting up the Christmas music?

I love Christmas so much, I will sometimes have a moment in summer where I begin playing it, but generally around Thanksgiving time is when I begin. Yes, I already began listening in November!

2. Decorations are a requirement for Christmas, when do you plan on decorating?

I have already begun. I plan to go ALL out with decorations this year! The more the merrier!

3. What’s your favorite Christmas movie to watch?

This one is kind of hard. I have quite a few: White Christmas, the claymation version of Rudolph the Rednosed Raindeer. This year I think I have one in particular I want to watch, I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Jessica Biel), out of nostalgia of watching it with my brother.

4. Any traditions or activities you plan on doing this month?

Definitely decorating! I’m hoping to get a little baking in, but I will be mainly working a lot this month.

5. The holiday season is all about food, or in this case all the desserts.  So, what is your favorite holiday sweet?

I love Egg Nog, gingerbread cookies, pumpkin bread, and shortbread cookies. I’m usually the only one who likes Egg Nog so I buy myself a quart sized Egg Nog and drink it little at a time. If it is only me that is going to drink it, sometimes I will drink it straight from the carton.

6. So, would you rather give gifts, receive gifts, or both?

I like both as long as the gifts given to me do not have expectations tied to them. I rather not receive gifts than to receive ones with conditions. However, I love to give gifts to those closest to me. I do not generally do “Christmas gifts” as I tend to give gifts throughout the year. For me, Christmas is year-round!

  1. Do you have a favorite holiday smell? (Ex. Candles, food, etc.)

Food cooking or things baking in the oven is a wonderful smell. There is also this great scent that has many notes like cinnamon and spices that when I smell it I think of Christmas without fail. I do not know the entire combination to be able to share it on here, sadly.

8. Would you rather have a white Christmas or a Sunny Christmas?

I love white Christmases, but as I will be working I hope if we get snow it is a very small amount so the mountainous hill I live on will be easy driving still.

9. What is your favorite holiday song?

Tough one. I am such a music person I always have favorites depending on my mood. Top five, though, are: The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole, Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s First Snow, Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Michael Buble Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Amy Grant Sleigh Ride.

10. Would you rather have a real Christmas Tree or a fake one?

I like fake ones for a couple great reasons: No needles to clean up, no watering, no fire hazard, and you can keep it up longer! If I am feeling particularly keen to have the scent of a fresh tree, I can either walk outside or use a royal pine-scented tree car freshener. Yes, I said it! No shame in my game.

11. When wrapping present do they look picture perfect or look horrible?  (If they look picture perfect share your secrets at present wrapping.)

I take great care to make them picture perfect. This means I take extra time to wrap each gift. In order to get crisp lines, I crease against the edges. I always use double-sided sticky tape so that my tape is always invisible. I use fancy wired ribbons that I am able to twist and combine other ribbons. I secure them with that double-sided sticky tape and I make sure that every aspect of the gift wrapping is color coordinated and brings multi-textures. I also like to match the style of paper to the person so that it is a style they particularly like.

***EDIT***

Due to requests to see my wrapping, I have added it here. Please be aware I was wrapping these in a time crunch (wrapped all three in 5-10 minutes) with very little options for paper/ribbon/etc.

12. What do you plan to do on Christmas?

I plan on working! After work I plan on having a nice dinner with my Mama and watch TV. I will have every twinkle light on inside and outside of my place and I will shamelessly keep the decorations up as long as possible.

 

Photo credit: Jill Wellington of Michigan, USA.

Self-Care for Healthcare workers

Do you ever find yourself running out the door with little done but a brush through your hair, teeth brushed and coffee in hand? Are you like I am after getting home on Sunday mornings from work and fall flat onto your bed to sleep? How do we, as members of the medical profession, find time to keep ourselves healthy? This seems to be an issue that plagues a lot of the medical profession or a student thereof. If we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we expect our patients to take our advice?

With such mottos as “save first, sleep later” and “I can catch up on sleep when I die” it shows that there is a serious lack of a mentality for self-care in healthcare. We are the pillars of health for our patients, so shouldn’t we take our own advice? Yes! As Gandhi is credited as saying, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Stress is a major catalyst to so many ailments within the body that it is the first thing that should be addressed. For some, stress reduction and exercise go hand and hand together; therefore, they can kill two birds with one stone. However, if you are not one of those people, like me, you must find another venue. This is one of the reasons why I started this blog. Whether your stress is relieved by writing, baking, or TV doesn’t matter, find something that works for you. Be sure that whatever you use to reduce stress does not create more stress, like video games for people who have a strong emotional reaction to losing. Try to include another aspect of your life that requires attention if possible. What do you do to reduce stress? Register to comment below with stories and tips for stress reduction!

Focusing on fitness tends to weakness for a lot of people in healthcare. While it makes sense that we get tired after giving everything we have at our work, then come home to our obligations, it is easy to push our physical health to the back burner. Children, large properties, a loved one you are caring for like a nurse at home, there are many obligations that we have at home to contend with. This does not necessarily mean we look at it with a negative attitude, but sometimes it can become overwhelming.  Some people love going to the gym and have no problem having the motivation to add exercise to their long to-do list, but for those of us who feel more like taking a nap than to entertain that idea, there are ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine without a gym.

Get those steps in! An easy way to start improving your health is to ensure that you are moving around regularly. Get extra steps in by making rounds down the halls, you are able to keep an eye on your patients and get exercise in one. If you are in home health, sometimes stepping in place is a necessary but workable adaptation to get more movement.

Fidget. That’s right, those who fidget burn around 350 extra calories a day! Other unconventional ways to burn extra calories include laughing, drinking more water, squat instead of bending, chewing gum, pacing while on phone calls, tip-toe, to name a few. Do some research on easy ways to affect the areas of your body you would like to see improvement.

Go Play! Everyone is different as to what sounds like fun. I like to start out my morning by putting on a great upbeat song and dancing my heart out to it prior to getting ready for work. I feel invigorated and it helps me start my day in a great mood. Integrate something in your life that you can do in a few minutes that gets you moving and makes you smile.

Be creative! Whatever makes you smile and will burn some calories is a great addition to your day. Don’t stress about the fact you ate that cookie, enjoy every bite of it. Guilt and shame never made anyone healthier, actually the opposite. Instead find a way to let the things you love be the motivation for you to get moving. I am more likely to exercise when I remember that I can eat more when I do (Foodie alert).

Be proactive for mental health. Trauma is a fact of life for most healthcare workers. If there is anything that is causing post-traumatic stress or negatively impacting your mentality, do something about it. See someone, speak to someone about it. Even if it isn’t professionally, be sure to take steps for your mental health. This affects both professional and personal lives, as well as your physical health.

While there are many things we can do to incorporate self-care, I would like to promote that we, as medical professionals, work together to support taking care of ourselves in and out of the workplace. When in nursing school, my class would group up and go for walks during our breaks. We would encourage each other to take moments to care for ourselves. By the end of our program, we had created a patterned behavior to help ensure that we moved even when we spent all day in class. We would promote eating healthy, but also promote doing things that would make us happier. For example, in our morning coffee, we had whip cream to put on top. This is very few calories and sugar but would always start out the day with a smile. For me, this was a great way to counteract some of the stress. Everyone has a different challenge to overcome regarding movement and other aspects of self-care. Create a plan on what would work for you in your workplace. If you have any strategies or ways to keep self-care consistent, please register and leave a comment below! Let’s get the conversation started…

Serving Teas (test that is)

The beginning to most nursing careers begin with the TEAS test. This test can be the make it or break it for entry into a nursing program. I was required to take it as part of my actual nursing program application. Some nursing programs require you to take it prior to applying, but some do not require it at all. The test is supposed to encapsulate what you should have learned from grades 7-12. To be clear about this blog post, I will be discussing my personal experience with the TEAS test and what I did to prepare. What I have found regarding study strategies is that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another, so keep your learning style in mind when contemplating adding study strategies to your individualized study plan.

When I received the notice to be able to take the TEAS test, I had not studied. In fact, I did not study at all until about a week prior to the TEAS, which is NOT something I recommend doing. Although I performed well on the test, having scored 88.7% with a national average of 98th percentile, that is just a recipe for an extraordinary amount of stress, worry and self-doubt. I was a wreck up until I received my grade! In fact, I would recommend beginning to study approximately six months prior to when you plan on taking the test. This allows for the sheer volume of information to be covered in your studies for the test, as well as being able to review that material several times.

The test itself is a proctored test. For those who don’t know what that means, basically you have someone closely watching every student taking the test to ensure that there is no cheating. The test allows nearly three and a half hours overall to take the test, but it is actually divided up into categorical segments that are timed as well (Science, Math, et cetera). When I went into the test I was worried about needing to use the restroom, but it turned out that I was able to use the restroom at any time with notification to the proctor on site. There was no food or drink allowed as it is a computer test, but there was a water fountain by the restroom we were to use. All in all, in wasn’t bad for a three-and-a-half-hour test that determines the outcome of whether or not you will be able to pursue your dream career. No stress, no big deal (only a slight hint of sarcasm) …

I have been asked by a subscriber what I did in order to prepare for the TEAS. What was the most instrumental was having a few sources of study material, so I would have things explained to me in multiple ways. I will be adding links to books that helped me for those who are interested. If you are reading this and they are not there yet, come back later I am still learning how to do it. I also used the ATI website, ATI is who writes the TEAS tests, which has online tests that you can take that are exactly like the TEAS test. Mind you, this does not mean that the questions you get on these tests are what you will receive on the test, but it will time you and have questions very similar to what you will receive on the test.

Beyond these materials, try doing something specific to your learning style.  I am a tactile learner, so I often include creating art as a part of my learning process. The picture attached to this blog post is one example of my study art. If you are a visual learner, using something like YouTube is a great tool. Listening to lectures are a great way to study for those with auditory learning styles. Flashcards work for some people, but not everybody. This is a great time to find the best combination of study strategies that you can take into your nursing program. I would also recommend reading study strategy blogs to get more ideas.

SO, to recap, don’t be a dunce and procrastinate until last second like I did. Study your ass off. Tell yourself every day that you have already passed! Don’t get lost in the stress of the situation, instead see yourself as already in the nursing program you are applying to. Study using multiple methods, and study to your learning style. Read more on study strategies. Lastly, breathe and just get the job done. You got this. For those nurses who have already taken the TEAS test, leave a comment with your tips and experiences with the TEAS for our future RNs! Register to comment and subscribe! Until next time…

Ciao Bellas!!

A short intro. . .

It is time for me to put on my seat belt as I begin this crazy blogging adventure. I am a recent nursing school graduate and am now working as an RN. Throughout the past several years, my life has been taken up with diving into the nursing world with little thought of much else. It has been filled with long nights of studying, lots of coffee, drama, and laughs along the way.

With a great lack of creative outlet for the past many years, I have decided to create this blog. If you have not deduced by now, this will be a very informal blog. It will be a personal reflection of my experiences throughout my schooling to become a nurse, as well a fledgling RN.

I work as in-home care nurse, specializing in patients who are trached and vent dependent. My brother, who passed in June, was trached and vent dependent. He was also the reason why I pursued nursing. Once he passed, I had to come to terms with who I am as a nurse. I have begun to find the joy in nursing again, but it has been an emotional process.

But this post is not about sad stories, it is about getting to know each other! So, comment below and tell me about yourself! Let me know if there are any topics you would like to cover. Feel free to email me with any suggestions, comments or stories.

Disclaimer: Some links on blog posts on this site are ads, but the links will be things I personally love.