By: Chad C., MSCJ, LSW
President, National University Student Nurses’ Association, San Diego
In this post, Chad C. discusses self-care and authenticity. As a pillar of student support, NU offers Timely Care, an app that gives our students access to mental health professionals.
There’s a wonderful book in psychology field called, “The Body Keeps the Score,” by Bessel van der Kolk. In this book, Mr. van der Kolk discusses the science behind how the body physically manifests unprocessed trauma and emotions. More importantly, he highlights the simple, yet sometimes hard, solutions for those struggling with mental health. These include being vulnerable to face your fears and processing your emotions to become stronger. A solution that allows us to move from life happening to you to life happening for you.
I owe where I am today to Mr. van der Kolk and the concepts laid out in Tim Ferris’ Ted talk on fear setting.
If you haven’t seen it, I double dog dare you to watch it.
As I stand here, having had the honor to serve as the president of NUSNA and go through the nursing program with a cohort of amazing students on the brink of graduating in January 2023, I can look back and say it is because of the tools that I have learned along the way that have brought me here.
It was just a few years ago that I was working in a stable job with exceptional benefits but struggled to get up each morning.
The kicker on is this had been going for four years, but it finally reached a point where I felt I needed to seek help. When I did, I was told that I was suffering from my own mental health issues stemming from unprocessed emotions and feelings of secondhand trauma.
My trauma accrued from working in a field that exposed me to some of life’s harder things to see, as well as some of my own childhood trauma. Emotions and feelings I thought I was alone in feeling. It wasn’t until I started to talk and read about them that I came to learn I was not unique in having these feelings that I didn’t want to feel. In fact, one article I read found that across cultures, the cause of seven basic emotions (sadness, happiness, disgust, surprise, anger, contempt, and fear) may differ they are all experienced similarly on a cellular level.
When I finally got vulnerable and sought outside help, the prescription from my doctor was straight forward and obvious. First, start by processing those unprocessed emotions of my past to allow me to be present in the here and now. Second, reintegrate an ongoing self-care routine that allows me to process my emotions and stress both physically and energetically.
There are many options that have shown to be resourceful in this area, from meditation and breathing, to putting pen to paper and journaling, or good old fashion getting active and exercising. The list goes on and on and the important thing is you identify with the method that works for you. The last prescription, and possibly the most important, was to utilize all the tools I obtained from the first two prescriptions to maintain my own self-care, remain current with my emotions, and share those feelings as they come up moving forward. I think the most impactful aspect of this last prescription is through speaking our story and truth and I encourage others on the same journey to speak their truth.
As January 2023 and Cohort 65’s graduation approaches quickly, I am reminded of the quote, “If it excites you and scares you at the same time, it probably means you should do it”.
A simple quote that I believe challenges us to lean into life, to experience our emotions, and to grow from what life has to offer.
I can’t help but seeing parallels in my journey of self-discovery and our future responsibilities as a nurse. As individuals entering the field of nursing, or any other field where you are service to others, I believe it is easy for us to get lost in service to others and forget our own needs.
Let me tell you in my experience, self-care is the highest yield thing we can do for our future patients and the ones we love. I say this because it allows us to be our best self and impact more individuals. More importantly, research shows that positive patient provider relationships result in improved health outcomes, and there’s no easier way to develop relationships then by showing up as your best and most authentic self.
I am excited for myself and other to continue to grow emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and intellectually both as individuals and nurses in this next chapter of our life stories.