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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.
We asked members of Omega NU and the MS, School Psych Program to reflect on self-care practices as they balance school and work.
NU celebrates Public Health Week on April 12-14. Check out the events flyer and register here to attend.
Contributors: Lara T., Stephanie B., Luka J. -MS, School Psych, PPSC Credential.
I doubt my achievements often, and find myself overcompensating by constantly finding new projects and items to work on. This has made me become overcommitted, stressed and unhealthy mentally and emotionally at times. Public Health Week emphasizes making our communities healthier, stronger and safer, and bringing in the perspectives of multiple students to discuss how we prioritize self-care is our goal for this blog.
Hopefully, our discussion of self-care will inspire and motivate readers to focus on their self-care, not just in honor of public health week, but from now on.
Talking to friends brings a sense of belonging. While I have friends in the San Diego area, my best friend is moving to another state soon. I had felt very upset by this and consequently joined a discord server to talk to people, have a support group, and play fun games with. This has helped me significantly with processing my best friend moving, and has helped me problem-solve through my feelings. In general, having a support group, whether that be in person or online (such as a discord server), can help significantly. I try to do something that I enjoy every day. After a long day from work/school, I find joy in watching an episode or two of a Korean drama, playing video games, or reading webtoons. Doing so keeps my mind distracted from work/school, and keeps me from hyperfocusing on what needs to be done.
Additionally, I have shifted my mindset on self-care. Self-care is not something I do when I have time. But rather, self-care is a lifestyle that must be added in order to stay healthy. Never feel guilty for taking a break when there is a lot to do, but rather, focus on how you can relax to be able to recharge for the next event.
Self Care is a completely new concept for me. My journey with self care started at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020. I decided to make the biggest change in my life all in the name of self care. I was stuck at a job I hated with bosses I hated even more, I was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It was then that I decided I needed to quit my job and figure out myself emotionally and physically. I resigned from my job “effective immediately” and started to think about my future, which gave me more anxiety. After about a month of being jobless, I decided to move forward and get my Master’s Degree at National. After making that decision, I had another problem I had to tackle; “How do I not allow school to take over my life again?” Cue in the Self Care.
I started by setting boundaries with my schooling. I set up my desk area to be everything I needed for school stuff, my laptop, books, pencils, pens, a calendar, and a planner. Then, I made it a point to be at my desk only for a certain time, the second I left my desk for the night, the school work was done. This was extremely difficult to do at first. I’m the type to remember things randomly and want to get them done ASAP, but I made sure I was mindful and continuously told myself, “No. This can wait for tomorrow.” When my school day was done, I’d leave my room and go spend time with my family, which for me was my own way of self caring. We’d watch tv and eat dinner together and it was a great way to wind down for me after the stresses of school.
In my personal life, I made a point to take “weekly self care days” on a weekend day. Meaning, no school, no work, no people. I would do whatever I wanted. Some days, I’d take myself on a date, other days I’d pamper, most days I ended up at home reading a book or binge watching “Criminal Minds”… again. This was really important to me, because I tend to be “on” at all times, around family, friends, during school, so it was extremely nice to be “off” and only answer to myself.
The year of 2022 brought to me a “Self Care Calendar” from one of my really good friends. I was given the calendar because, “If you don’t get told what to do, you’ll never do these things.” – My Friend. Every month has a new self care theme that is suggested. January was to try something new. February was to pamper yourself. March was to nest your areas, and this month, April, is to meditate. I took this calendar and ran with it. In January, I went to a Jazz night, tried a spin class, went to a comedy show, and tried new foods! In February, I treated myself to cute workout gear! In March, I “nested” my bedroom, bathroom, desk and car. I deep cleaned everything!
April is Meditation, this one is going to prove very difficult for me, because my mind wanders, and I don’t like to sit still. This is going to take all of my mindfulness, and energy, so I can get into it. All in all, self care is good and a necessity in life, and I’m so happy I’m finally on this journey.
Self-care has been a hard idea for me to solidify and start using in my life. Before entering National, I actually went through a really difficult time, where I had a life-threatening event that caused my physical and mental health to decline rapidly. I had to go on leave from work and put off my plans of applying to grad school as I went through rehabilitation for several months. During that time, I started forcing myself to do things that I thought other people would enjoy, even if I couldn’t find the fun in them at the time. Hiking and birdwatching were some of the activities I picked up- while I had never been a fan of sweating, and didn’t know much about birds, I knew it was an activity that would force me to spend time outside and observing nature in the present moment. I created a tradition for myself of finding a new hiking trail, or nature preserve, or just a park every month. This lasted a long time as I tried out each hiking trail in my area, and it gave me a goal to work towards.
Now that I am working and in grad school, I still make sure to set aside time for myself twice a month to go to a hiking trail- sometimes new, sometimes well-liked, but always a long one that gives me plenty of time to decompress. During my free time back before grad school, I also did a lot of cooking new foods I had never tried before. Some of these turned out great, some not so great, but each time I felt like I had accomplished something. While I now have less time to devote to the culinary arts, I still make it a goal to try cooking something new every month (this month, kofta kebabs!).
While previously in my life I procrastinated and put off work to rest, I felt unsatisfied during these times and never came out of them actually feeling rested. I was consumed with guilt and worry about how these things I had to do were looming over me, and I felt as though I was being ‘lazy’ by not working all the time. By creating structured times for myself to relax- a monthly, weekly, or even daily schedule- I don’t deal with feelings of guilt and worry about putting off work. I know I’ll get to it, just after my self-care time. Additionally, I’ve realized that time resting isn’t ‘lazy’ at all.
The reason I had felt so drained afterwards was because I hadn’t actually been relaxing- the whole time I was laying in bed on my phone, I was worrying and thinking and speculating, which made me feel worse rather than better. Doing something active has helped me clear my head during those times, rather than ruminating on what I have to do. Finding things that are rewarding to me, as well as fun or relaxing, are essential to having a positive mindset about life. Ending the day feeling like I’ve accomplished something, even if that was just seeing a different kind of duck at the park, has helped me look forward to each day.
#NUFam #selfcare #publichealthweek #relax #studentlife #studentsuccess #beloning #discordserver