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Keeping the Sanity

December 1, 2011

Alas! This entry is here. Funny how I finally post this while on the brink of losing my own sanity after working four 12-hour day shifts (7am-7pm) and an 8-hour evening shift (3pm-11pm) in a row, or commonly referred to in nurse lingo, “I just worked four 12s and an 8.”  And no, those shifts are not spent sitting. They are spent literally power walking up and down a hallway, back and forth, side to side, up and down. I’m not trying to single nursing out as being a harder profession than most or by any means discount any other profession, but since I’m always trying to make others understand what nurses do, it’s necessary to explain it this way.

After a lot of time spent reflecting on how I managed to get through the many shifts in a row (I know, dramatic) it quickly became apparent that the food I bought at the Co-op and the meals I cooked during consecutive 12-hour shifts compromised a lot of what did keep “my sanity.” That said a story about food could make up an entire entry alone. So refer to Feeding the Beast to be posted after this entry.

Keeping the Sanity:

Good Music: Creating a good mix for my ipod is essential. As soon as the alarm sounds at 530am, I head strait for my ipod and speakers in the kitchen and put on my mix titled, “inspiritual” which I realize is not a word, but it’s an inside joke with myself.  Listening to the music while making coffee in the French Press, showering and getting ready starts my day off right.

Coffee: I love coffee. I love making coffee in my French Press. The simplicity of it is so satisfying. That said, I can only drink 1 cup per day before feeling all jittery and nutty. I make a really good cup in the morning, put it in my pretty blue ceramic to-go mug and enjoy every sip of that coffee because I know it’s the only one I’m getting for the day.

Good Socks and Shoes: This may seem like a no-brainer, but until I worked as a nurse, I didn’t fully understand. From a lot of trial and error, I’ve found that SmartWool socks have just the right amount of cushion and anti-sweat materials to keep my feet feeling cozy all day long. For shoes, the best I’ve found are Dansko clogs. They allow your feet to arch and bend independently of the shoe and distribute the weight of your feet equally. The only downside to Dansko clogs is walking on grass outside and almost rolling your ankle. People who wear Danskos know exactly what I’m talking about.

Walking to work: I’m really lucky to live close enough to work. I have a 15-minute walk up a big hill in the mornings. I bring my ipod and continue to listen to the “inspiritual” mix, while enjoying the fresh air. This also gives me a chance to wake up fully before arriving at work. There have been a few days when I drove to work and it really affected my day negatively.  Interestingly, it takes me longer to drive to work than walk, so it’s really a win, win situation.

Lunch: Ok, this may sound like an obvious one, but some days I’m so busy at work that I don’t sit down for my lunch break until 2, 2:30. The time that I decide to take my lunch is completely up to me, so really I can go anytime I want, and it’s just a matter of planning my day right. On the days I take lunch by 1pm, I find I work much more efficiently and maintain my energy.

Water and Milk: I drink a ton of water and milk. I always have my Camelback water bottle filled and accessible not only at home, but at the nurse’s station as well. I probably drink about 2.5-3L of water per day. I don’t have juice or soda in my fridge at home because they’re loaded with sugar and always make me crash after drinking them. The only other thing I drink at home or work is milk. I go through almost gallon per week just for me.

Exercise:  I know now that I need to exercise year-round to maintain my well-being. With a busy schedule it can be hard to find the time. Friends of mine have said, “I’m just too tired to exercise, I don’t have time.” I completely understand, but if you can build it into your schedule little by little, the benefits will be worth it. There were a couple weeks when I didn’t exercise while working as a nurse. I noticed I felt more anxious after work, had trouble sleeping and had a hard time settling down for the night. Just going for a light jog 2x per week reduced those unwanted feelings and made me feel like a happier person mentally, physically and spiritually.

Hot Showers: Immediately upon returning home from work, after leaving my germy clogs outside my apartment, and removing my germy scrubs, I take the hottest shower possible. This is not only to wash off the germs I encounter at work all day, but it helps to transition into “home mode.” There have been nights I’ve skipped the shower and therefore have had a hard time settling down into being home. I’ve talked to other nurses about this feeling and they all have similar rituals upon returning home at night.

Good Bedding: I sleep with 3 quilts and mini blankets all around me. There are nights you just want to fall into bed and it’s worth it to have a soft, cozy, and warm bed to come home to at night.

Funny TV shows/Good Book: After work, you need to have a way to unwind and completely distract yourself from the day. I tend to reach for either one of the few books I’m in the middle of, or watch shows like Friends, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Modern Family that are always guaranteed to make me burst out laughing.

Foam Roller:  My dad, a personal trainer gave me a foam roller. A foam roller is used to stretch out tight back muscles or anything else you can think of. It looks exactly how it sounds. It is a long, cylindrical piece of foam that you can lie on and roll your sore back muscles across. Doing this nightly loosens up the tight back muscles that come from moving and lifting patients in bed all day.

Eating in Bed: Ok, this may sound weird. The nights I’ve eaten my dinner in bed while watching tv has been a wonderful treat after spending 12-13 hours on my feet. I’ll eat extremely slow, over an hour and enjoy the feeling of my legs elevated on pillows in my soft, warm bed.

Writing: Writing has always been one of my outlets for stress. Finding an inspirational place to write is the tricky part. I do my best writing in cafés or libraries. Today for instance is my day off so I headed out to my favorite café to write. Because I slept in, I ended up arriving around lunchtime…not a good idea. The café was packed and finding a small table with a computer outlet (since my laptop won’t work if it’s not plugged in) was a challenge. I had to get all vulture-like and prey on customers sitting at tables that appeared to be done, but were still sitting. I’m quite good at this and actually very subtle. In a matter of minutes I managed to snag a table without being pushy or rude. This is a skill and I will teach anyone who wants to learn.

The things that most certainly didn’t Keep the Sanity were:

 Letting my dishes pile up because I was too tired to do them. This only added more work for me in the long run, is gross and definitely made me want to pull my hair out.

Forgetting to wash my French Press in the evening before bed. This may sound silly, but there is nothing grosser than scooping out old, wet coffee grinds out of a French Press (Ok, actually I can think of a few things). But I’ve woken up so many mornings to the previous day’s coffee grinds still in the French Press, which only adds more things to do in the morning before work.

The biggest thing that made me want to run into a wall was letting various mistakes made at work, or difficult patient scenarios get to me. I’ve touched on this before in other entries, but it’s the most important thing to improve upon. The answer should never be to put oneself down for making mistakes or encountering tough situations. Hopefully during my next stint of working four 12s in a row, I will be able to remember this and focus on the things that Kept the Sanity.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 2, 2011 7:45 pm

    Your a gifted writer. Valuable info here for coming nurses!

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