Mindfulness Meditation for Nurses:  How Do I Start?

Mindfulness Meditation for Nurses: How Do I Start?

*Written by Sarah Darren

Mindfulness Meditation For Nurses

During the coronavirus pandemic, managing nurse stress has become more important now than ever before. COVID has brought with it extra hours on the job, required moves for some, and caused additional stress due to fears of contracting the virus at the workplace. The behind-the-scenes things nurses deal with bring levels of stress that most people cannot begin to relate to.

Fortunately, there are a few stress-relieving modalities that can be done quickly, and from almost anywhere (including a nurse’s break area).  One of the most important being mindfulness meditation.

What is Mindfulness?

After a long, stressful day dealing with a pandemic, nurses still have to go home and do the same daily tasks everyone else does, such as grocery shopping, cooking, raising a family, and taking care of the home.  Like many busy professionals, finding time for self-care as a nurse usually goes on the backburner.  

According to the National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) “meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.”

In other words, the goal of mindfulness is to place your attention on the present.   That is also the only thing we have control of at any given time – not what happened in the past, or what might happen at some point in the future.

By tapping into our selves and being more mindful, we can decrease our own stress and anxiousness to handle each moment as it comes.

Additional Recommended Reading:

Mindfulness Mediation For Nurses

Mindfulness mediation for nurses

Mindfulness Meditation For The Beginner:  How Do I Start?

When someone hears the phrase, “I’m going to practice meditation” a common thought is, “What do they mean by practice?”   

But that is exactly what it is – a practice – even for those who are experienced in meditation.

For nurses who already have a ton on their plates, a practice can be as little 3-5 minutes.  The more you make mediation a regular habit, the longer you will be able to sit in meditation.

Find a space, sit in a comfortable chair, or cross-legged on the ground. As you better your practice, you may start to lose track of time (ultimately a good thing), so be sure to set a timer if you are at work. Start your meditation by taking deep breaths and really focusing on each breath, as each breath epitomizes the “now.” Your mind will almost undoubtedly drift again, but catch yourself without any feelings of negativity, and focus on the breathing again. Find your center for as long as you can during your allotted time.

If you continue to struggle to find that peace, you can also try guided meditations which are available as apps or even on YouTube, and with these, calming music and a soothing voice lead you through the steps of breathing and focus and help with your practice.

It’s important to try to do this every day, but just as important to not get down on yourself if you can’t find the time on a given day, or are just too overwhelmed with stress to maintain focus for any amount of time. Pick it up the next day, and if you do it as often as you can, the world around you will seem more at peace, and more bearable as you continue to take on your stressful-yet-extremely rewarding job as a nurse.

Additional Recommended Reading:

 

About the Author

Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children. When she’s not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Essential Mental Health Strategies for Nurses

Essential Mental Health Strategies for Nurses

Nurses are a critical part of the healthcare system during public health emergencies. They are highly trusted, compassionate, and willing to go to great lengths to protect their patients. However, with no clear endpoint, COVID-19 is not a typical public health crisis and has created a range of mental health challenges for nurses.

Today’s nurses are working under a cloud of fear and stress, which can lead to physical and psychological symptoms. However, there are steps that nurses can take to minimize the effects of high-stress levels and keep themselves and their families balanced.

A Two-Pronged Approach to Managing Stress

Stress levels cannot be managed through mental health strategies alone. Making healthy lifestyle choices can directly affect an individual’s outlook on life, energy levels, and mood. These five tactics can create a positive impact on mental health:

  1. Eat regular meals – focus on whole foods that decrease inflammation and build immunity
  2. Stay hydrated – choose water instead of caffeinated beverages, which can cause headaches and mood swings
  3. Exercise regularly – a simple walk with the dog can keep anxiety and depression symptoms at bay
  4. Limit alcohol consumption and refrain from smoking
  5. Make sleep a priority and practice good sleep hygiene

When it comes to managing stress levels, a nurse’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. Incorporating these self-love strategies into your daily routine can help:

  1. Practice meditation and/or mindfulness exercises
  2. Make time for relaxation
  3. Take mini-breaks throughout the workday to practice deep breathing
  4. Keep in touch with friends and family
  5. Limit exposure to media coverage of the pandemic
  6. Lower expectations of yourself and others, reminding yourself that “done” is better than “perfect”
  7. Practice positive self-talk, such as “nurses have a purpose and make a difference”
  8. Talk it out with colleagues or a supervisor, because nurses don’t have to walk this road alone
  9. Accept help when offered, and ask for support when needed

Help Children Manage Stress

Nurses with children at home have a responsibility to help them understand and respond to our changing world. Children may pick up on the stress that a parent is feeling and struggle to understand what is wrong. Children need to receive reassurance and guidance that’s centered around safety, consistency, and love.

Here are some tips to help children manage stress:

  • Maintain a consistent family routine – establish set bedtimes and meal times
  • Include children in conversations about the pandemic, but keep their age in mind and help them navigate their feelings
  • Set family rules for proper hygiene
  • Make routines fun for kids – consider singing during handwashing or developing games for wearing masks
  • Remind children that the situation is temporary
  • Allow children to help out around the house to give them a way to contribute – young children can carry dishes to the sink and help tidy up, while older children can take on bigger chores such as cleaning and yard work
  • Reassure children that the parent is safe in their job

Additional recommending reading:

Symptoms of Excessive Stress

Nurses should self-monitor their mental health status on a regular basis and take action when necessary. Symptoms of depression can include:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Persistent crying or sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Nurses who are forced to make clinical decisions that conflict with their ethical training may experience signs of moral distress, such as feeling guilty or ashamed. Other symptoms to watch for include:

  • Difficulty with decision-making or memory
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Risky behaviors
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, palpitations, and gastrointestinal issues

Nurses experiencing moral distress or consistent symptoms of depression should talk to their supervisor and seek professional help. Early intervention can be critical to working through moral dilemmas and extreme stress. Nurses seeking to connect with a mental health professional can contact their insurance provider for options in their area.

Mental Health Resources

Anyone experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts should call 911.

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association lists the following crisis hotlines:

It’s Okay to Take a Break

Nurses who have decided to step away from bedside nursing amid the pandemic should keep in mind that they are not alone. Taking a break and hitting the reset button can be the difference between a nurse developing serious mental health problems and a nurse maintaining their sanity. Some nurses may use this time to further their education from the comfort of their home by enrolling in an online nursing program. An online program can keep the nurse’s knowledge current while potentially offering a pathway to a better position and higher future earnings.

Self-care is vital to a nurse’s health and well-being, especially in the face of a pandemic. Nurses can fill their mental health “bucket” throughout the day using tools of the trade, and perform regular mental health gut checks to ensure that they get the help they need when they need it.

Cindy Blye, RN

Cindy Blye, RN

Cindy Blye is a nurse-turned-writer with experience in Newborn Intensive Care, Pediatrics, and Case Management. Her works include pediatric nurse certification review materials, policies and procedures, training materials, nursing blog articles, health and wellness articles, and local business reviews. Cindy has three grown children and lives with her husband in North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, and cooking.

The Best Compression Socks For Nurses (2020)

The Best Compression Socks For Nurses (2020)

*This article about the best compression socks for nurses contains affiliate links. 

If there is one profession that needs to be wearing compression socks, its nurses (or anyone who is on their feet for 12+ hours a day). Compression socks are beneficial for leg health for the following reasons:

  • Preventing or reduce varicose veins
  • Improving blood flow and decrease the risk of blood clots
  • Decreasing swelling of the legs and ankles

Since I started wearing compression socks, my legs feel noticeably better and more energized at the end of a shift.  I started wearing them out of necessity when I was pregnant and was able to continue working as an ER nurse until I was almost eight and a half months pregnant.

I have always appreciated that my job is not sedentary.  But as it turns out, being on my feet for such long hours can be worse for your health than sitting all day. Wearing compression socks is the best way for busy healthcare professionals to prevent some of these insidious, chronic leag health issues.

Medical compression stockings for the treatment of varicose veins.

How do compression socks keep legs healthy?

Compression stockings help increase the circulation of blood flow and oxygen by helping increase the velocity or speed of blood flow. By squeezing on the legs, the veins carrying blood to the heart are compressed.

Think of how when you squeeze a hose; it squirts the water out faster. With compression stockings, the same volume of blood can move up the leg, but it has less area in which to move.

Understanding compression sock levels:

Choosing the right compression socks can be difficult if you do not understand what the levels of compression mean.  Compression socks have a range of numbers to indicate how much graduated compression the garment has. Here is a quick and dirty breakdown:

  • 15-20 mmHg
    • Suitable for everyday wear to help with welling and fatigued legs due to long periods of travel, sitting, or standing.
  • 20-30 mmHg
    • Medical grade compression. Useful for managing swelling, spider veins, travel, sports, and after some surgeries.  Also suitable for pregnant mothers to alleviate swelling and achy legs.
  • 30-40 mmHg
    • Recommended when you have a blood clot, deep vein thrombosis DVT, or lymphedema.
  • 40-50 mmHg
    • robust compression for severe venous stasis, wound management, and lymphedema.

(The unit of measurement (mmHg) is called “millimeters of mercury,” which is a measurement of pressure, also used in blood pressure.  It is a measurement for how tight the compression on your legs is.)

The sweet spot for medical professionals on their feet all day usually falls in the 20-30 mmHg range depending on how much compression you are looking for.  You should discuss compression stockings with your doctor, especially if you have any medical issues.

Keep in mind that you get what you pay for when it comes to good compression stocks.  Generally speaking, with all products, if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  Trust me when I say I learned this the hard way.

Sacrificing your leg health is just not worth it.

Nurses experience enough occupational hazards during a nursing shift as it is.  Make sure you wear compression socks or stockings during every single shift.  You can help to prevent future circulation and venous issues and still have a long, rewarding career as a nurse.

Check out this list of best compression socks for nurses:

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

 

Additional recommended reading:

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Covid-19 Mission For Masks: Where Nurses Can Share Anonymously

Covid-19 Mission For Masks: Where Nurses Can Share Anonymously

COVID-19:  Mission For Masks

We need our nurses to be healthy and safe, now more than ever.  Yet during the COVID-19 pandemic, in the United States, there have been numerous accounts in the media recently that that is not happening.  And some nurses are afraid to speak out.

But Sonja Schwartzback, a critical care nurse and doctoral student from New Jersey, created a Google document called COVID-19: Mission For Masks. Sonja’s objective was to give nurses an outlet to share coronavirus stories anonymously without fear of retaliation from administrators.

“There’s also a history within nursing of retaliation.”

Sonja discussed how she started the Google doc after receiving hundreds of questions from nurses and doctors via her Instagram account, where she has over 49k followers. In her eyes, nurses are feeling desperate, and their issues are not being appropriately addressed in the media.

In this article I wrote for nurse.org, I spoke about how many nurses are feeling out of control and need to prioritize their mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Suggestion #7 for nurses was to talk to other healthcare staff who can understand their unique struggles during the COVID-19 crisis.  COVID-19: Mission For Masks is providing a platform for exactly that.

Some experts also say that healthcare professions are facing an increased risk of anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 outbreak. They need an outlet to communicate frustrations, concerns, and fears with healthcare professionals who understand their struggles.

The COVID-19: Mission For Masks document is an opportunity to serve as a platform for nurses to find strength in numbers, share what is working and what isn’t at their hospitals and give nurses a much-needed mental health outlet.

New York is the epicenter for coronavirus cases in March.  But officials state that COVID-19 cases are expected to explode exponentially, with deaths reaching from 100,000 to 240,000.

As a nurse, how are you dealing with the COVID-19 crisis?

Does your facility have the proper PPE for healthcare staff to manage this epidemic? Do you feel that you have reasonable equipment to fight this epidemic as a frontline nurse so that you do not get the disease yourself?  Do you need an outlet to talk with other nurses about how COVID-19 is being managed at your facility?

Many nurses have publicly documented quitting their jobs. They were NOT ALLOWED to wear masks because their facilities are unable to provide them, and they were not allowed to wear their own.

Here is the bottom line:   If nurses are unable to reasonably protect themselves from COVID-19, and more importantly, aren’t able to communicate with administrators about not having proper PPE – such as having a face mask on COVID-19 units – how can we expect nurses to continue giving adequate care for the sick?  Ultimately, our country will lose nurses, and patient’s lives in the wake.

As a mother with two small children, one who was born prematurely and could have increased risk of COVID-19 complications, how could I work the front lines as an experienced emergency room nurse without proper PPE?  If I wanted to protect my child from dying, the clear answer is NO WAY!

Nurses need an outlet more than ever.   What do you think?

If you are a nurse working with COVID-19 units, and you have something you want to share about your current work situation, but feel afraid because of retaliation, you can find the COVID-19: Mission For Masks doc here.

Feel free to leave a comment.

Additional recommended reading:

4 Smart Tips To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits (From A Busy Mom, RN)

4 Smart Tips To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits (From A Busy Mom, RN)

We must teach our kids a foundation for healthy eating habits. Unfourtuanelty, this can be challenging for busy nurse moms, who often struggle to eat properly, exercise regularly, or get enough sleep as it is due to our crazy working-mom lifestyles.

So, how do we help our families adopt healthier eating choices when it seems like life is always getting in the way? Here are a few fun suggestions that have worked for my own family.  I hope they help you too!

Involve children in the meal planning process

4 Smart Tips To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits

Teach your kids healthy eating habits by involving them in the meal-planing process.

Kids love to feel like they are a part of things, and they are more likely to want to eat healthy foods if they are included in the food preparation experience. Grant your children some say in which foods you bring into the house.

For example, if I plan to purchase grapes at the store, I will ask my son which color he wants.  When we go to the grocery store together, I let him help me select the produce items that he thinks are the most appealing. Search recipes together for inspiration, so you all can be excited about the meals you will have that week.

I personally love Pinterest and use it as my primary means of saving and organizing recipes. Each child can be allowed to make one or two “special requests” for either a specific food they would like to have or a particular meal they want to eat.

Sometimes it is not realistic to prepare a family meal every single night.  Here is a solution for that:  make double batches when you cook to ensure that you have extra nutritious food that can easily be reheated as leftovers later in the week. When I worked 12-hour day shifts, I would often make a tray of lasagna, enchiladas, or casserole on my days off.  That way, my husband could easily prepare healthy dinners for the family in my absence.

By preparing meals ahead of time, we eliminated the temptation to pick up fast food on the way home when we were exhausted and starving.  

Encourage children to help out in the kitchen

Teaching kids healthy eating habits

Teaching kids healthy eating habits by involving them in the kitchen.

Even young children can make handy kitchen porters. They can help mix, measure, and stir years before they are old enough to be trusted near a hot stove or sharp instruments.

My son picked out a set of miniature set of kitchen tools (a small spatula, whisk, and tongs) for himself, and it makes him feel extra special when he assists me in the kitchen. You may have to do a little extra clean up at the end, but be patient and praise your culinary apprentices for helping! Fond memories and a love of cooking will be ingrained for life.

Additional recommended reading:

Forget the “clean plate club”

empty plate

Teach kids healthy eating habits – don’t encourage them to clean their plates if they are full.

Children are very good at self-regulating their food intake. Telling kids they must finish their food, even if they insist that they are not hungry, can cause them to tune out their innate cues of fullness and may set them up to become chronic overeaters later in life.

Lead by example

Kids are always observing, and you need to practice what you preach.  The nutrition standards you set for them as a parent will go further than anything you say. However, don’t always expect perfection of yourself. Parenting is hard, and some days just getting the kids fed is an accomplishment.

Holiday get-togethers, family dinners, and parties with cake and candy are perfectly fine in moderation.   The point is that if you eat a variety of wholesome foods each day, your children will develop an appreciation for fresh, healthy eating as well.

Additional Information to help teach children healthy eating habits

The American Academy at Pediatrics has an archive of articles with evidence-based advice on healthy eating for children that you can find hereConsult with your children’s pediatrician or primary care provider if you have questions regarding your children’s specific dietary needs.

Cyra-Lea Drummond is a registered nurse with 15 years experience in telemetry, cardiac ICU, cardiac rehab, and home health. She currently lives near Louisville, KY, and enjoys spending her free time playing outside with her husband, son, and their dog Daisy.Content goes here

Additional recommended reading:

The 2 Best Diet Plans For Nurses With A Hectic Schedule

The 2 Best Diet Plans For Nurses With A Hectic Schedule

*This post about diet plans for nurses contains affiliate links.  

Written by Adela Ellis, RN, BSN

In theory, dieting is an easy concept.  After all, it’s merely a process of eating less and exercising more to achieve a calorie deficit that allows us to reduce body fat, right?

Anyone who has dieted, however, will tell you just how challenging it is to stick to that seemingly simple plan, and for nurses, adhering to a diet on a hectic schedule can seem nearly impossible.

For nurses, finding the time for regular meals on alternating night and day shifts can be a hassle.

With 12-hour shifts, you get busy, end up exhausted, and eat whatever is available whenever there is a chance. This can be a reality that is seemingly impossible to overcome.

But it doesn’t have to be! When many of us think of dieting, we think of harsh, impossible to follow restrictions that are doomed to fail, leading to yo-yo dieting and repeated unsuccessful attempts.

So how do nurses lose weight and get proper nutrition to fuel even the most hectic schedule?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to make radical changes to begin losing weight: You simply need to stick to a series of small ones. A healthy diet plan can teach you to reconsider how you eat, not only what you eat. The following diet plans can help nurses develop a new lifestyle while boosting metabolism, energy, and weight loss for overall well-being and a longer, happier, and healthier life.

#1.  Plant-Based Diet

There are many plant-based diets to choose from, and all emphasize consuming foods that are known for their heart-health benefits, including veggies, whole grains, fruits, legumes, nuts, and oils. Based on the consumption of foods that are found in Italy and Greece, such as fish and seafood, extra virgin olive oil and olives, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, the Mediterranean Diet is renowned as heart-healthy and waistline-friendly lifestyle, and is another healthy choice, though not entirely plant-based. It is one of several types of flexitarian diets you could try.

Plant-based diets are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

They are also known for their ability to reduce the risk of diabetes and help an individual maintain a healthy weight. Diets that are based on consuming nutrient-rich plant-based foods are particularly suited to the hectic lifestyle of nurses because they are based on a relatively simple concept of eating that encourages lifelong healthy eating habits.

plant based diet - vegetables and tofu in a bowl

An example of a plant-based diet meal.  Adopting a plant-based diet offers an excellent nutritional benefit for nurses with a hectic schedule.

To follow a plant-based diet, adopt more plants, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats into your diet and lower your consumption or eliminate any animal foods, including red meat, cold cuts and processed meats, poultry, fish and seafood, and animal-based milks and cheeses. Look for plant-based milks and cheeses in your supermarket or health-food store.

When composing a plant-based meal, half of your plate should be covered in colorful fruits and a variety of veggies. The other half should be divided between healthy proteins, such as nuts and seeds and beans and whole grains, including brown rice and whole-grain bread. There are many plant-based protein products available in most supermarkets, and more on the way, so be on the lookout for them. Remember, the types of plant foods you choose matter. 

Plant-based diet tips:

Limit Avoid Choose instead
Butter Trans Fats Olive oil, canola oil, plant-milk-based butters
Animal-produced milk, Juice Soda Water, tea, plant-based milks like soy, oat, or almond
White rice, white bread Sugary bread Whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta
All meats, animal milk cheese Bacon, cold cuts, processed meats Beans, nuts, seeds, nut cheeses, vegetable-based protein products

 

Meal Prep Tip: For an easy plant-based diet meal, try your hand at Vietnamese spring rolls with tofu. Traditional spring rolls are made of rice roll skins and filled with mint leaves, lettuce, prawns, rice noodles, strips of carrot and cucumber and accompanied with a peanut dipping sauce, but the above recipe substitutes crispy tofu for the prawns.

However, you can try any variation of veggies, lean vegetable-based proteins, whole grain rice, spices, and herbs for an easy make-ahead meal that is healthy, refreshing, and delicious and will have your favorite pair of scrubs fitting a little more comfortably.

Additional recommended reading: 

#2.  Carb Cycling

Carbohydrate cycling diet plans have been used in the bodybuilding world for years as an easy way to monitor carbohydrate intake to build muscle while shedding fat. The basic principle behind carb cycling involves altering your carbohydrate intake according to your needs that week, month, or year. This revolves around the concept that, when your body consumes a limited number of carbs, it uses the body’s stored fat as its fuel source, which can boost fat loss and revamp the metabolism.

carb cycling meal paln for nurses with a hectic schedule

Carb cycling can help nurses meet their nutritional goals and help with weight loss on a busy schedule

By strategically eating carbs according to when you need them, you can more efficiently use them rather than storing them on your body as fat.

Carb cycling is an excellent choice for nurses because, just like a professional weight trainer, your schedule and energy needs vary throughout the week. For “on days,” your body requires more carbs for energy, and for “off days,” it requires less.

The beauty of carb cycling for nurses is that it is entirely customizable according to your schedule. For example, say you work three-night shifts per week. Your meals for those three days should be high in healthy carbohydrates, while your calories on the four remaining days should come from plant and other protein sources.

On high carb days, try to ensure you are getting about 60% of your calories from complex carbs. With carb cycling, it is essential to remember that quality matters: high-carb does not equate to pizza and French fries. In fact, on low-carb days, it is particularly important to choose fiber-packed carbohydrate sources, as achieving adequate fiber consumption every day is still essential.

Carb Cycling:  High Carb Days

Avoid Choose instead
French fries Sweet potatoes
Sugary cereals Oatmeal
White rice, white bread Whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa
Soda drinks, sports drinks Fruits

 

Carb Cycling:  Low Carb Days

Avoid Choose instead
Fruits Lean proteins
Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn Leafy greens, eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, avocadoes
Trans fats Olive oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fishes

 

Meal Prep Tip: For an easy, high-carb breakfast in the morning, prepare some overnight oats in a mason jar containing oats, almond milk, cinnamon, flax seeds, honey, and apples.

Conversely, for low-carb breakfasts, make muffin pan egg omelets that can be reheated in the morning containing eggs, peppers, shredded chicken, avocadoes, and a sprinkling of cheese.

Final thoughts

Don’t be afraid to change things up if your diet is not working for you. Part of finding a healthy and sustainable diet is finding the right mix of both habits and foods that contribute to your overall health and well-being, and that process is sure to involve trial and error. Developing a healthy lifestyle as a nurse may seem challenging, but it can be done. In a few months, your new diet will be so routine that you’ll only wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

Additional recommended reading:  

About the author:   Adela Ellis is a full-time nurse and part-time ambassador for Infinity Scrubs. Adela attended the University of Arizona and has been a travel nurse for the last six years. She enjoys working with different doctors, nurses, and patients from all over the country and blogging about her experiences. In her free time, she loves true-crime podcasts and cooking for friends and family. 

The 2 best diet plans for nurses with a busy schedule