This Guest Blog post is by blogger Keith Carlson, RN, BSN. Nurse Keith, the blogger behind Digital Doorway, is the featured article in our Nurses’ News Resource: Nursing Pulse. To sign up to receive the Nursing Pulse in your inbox once a month, click here!
Self-Renewal for Nurses: A Guest blog by blogger Keith Carlson
Spring is a time of year often associated with the theme of renewal in many cultures. Easter, Passover, Lent, Daylight Savings, the Equinox and other special cultural moments mark the increase in daylight, the flowering of the earth after the long, cold winter, as well as the general notions of rebirth and resurrection.
In the lives of most nurses, not much changes when winter turns to spring. For some, perhaps the commute becomes less icy and the snow gives way to grass (or mud!), but nothing much changes at the hospital, clinic or agency.
If a nurse is involved in home care, visits to patients’ homes may take on a different feeling as fireplaces become dormant and flowers begin to bloom, and these itinerant nurses may notice significantly less dangerous driving conditions as they shuttle between visits.
Outward signs in nature aside, the changes are actually few as winter turns to spring, so the nurse must find his or her own way of manifesting self-renewal at a time of year when change is in the air.
We all know the syndrome. Many of us gain weight over the course of the winter. In fact, some scientists hypothesize that human bodies naturally store fat in the winter based on ancient physiological adaptations in response to the potential for famine. So, as the weather warms, we put on our running shoes, grease up our bicycle chains, and otherwise reactivate our exercise routines.
Exercise is, of course, a great way to “wake up” your body, burn off some of that winter fat, and enjoy the outdoors.
Setting realistic goals for exercise is key to remaining optimistic and empowered in our exercise routines, so make sure you choose goals that are measurable, attainable and realistic. For instance, resolving to walk ninety minutes every day might be setting yourself up for disappointment and self-recrimination, but a goal of walking twenty minutes five days per week might be more attainable.
Food is another place where we can renew ourselves in the spring, especially as fresh, local produce becomes more available. At this time of year, we can make a conscious choice to “lighten up” our diets with more fresh fruits and vegetables, decreasing the intake of carbohydrates that we naturally crave during the colder months. Along with increased exercise, dietary changes help to increase our potential for weight loss, muscle strengthening and improved fitness.
Emotional, Psychological and Social Renewal
Emerging from the relative hibernation of winter, spring can make us feel like we’re bursting at the seams. Friends come out of hiding, we begin to feel a general sense of optimism, and we can feel drawn to come out of our wintry shells and embrace the world.
In Oriental Medicine, the winds of spring are often associated with the liver and the expression of anger, so some people can find early spring challenging on an emotional level.
In Southern France, a spring wind called “Le Mistral” is said to drive people mad, and those of us who live in the desert Southwest of the United States can also feel irritable as the spring winds blow the dusty soil and raise the risk of wildfires.
Meeting with friends, seeking short-term support from a therapist, coach or counselor, or requesting the counsel of a trusted member of the clergy can be helpful in times of transition. Engaging in a therapeutic relationship—whether brief or longer term–can sometimes be just the thing to move forward and galvanize personal growth.
I mentioned the counsel of a trusted member of the clergy in the previous section, and this can, of course, be one aspect of spiritual renewal.
For those of various faiths, spring brings renewal in the form of Easter’s celebration of the Resurrection, Passover’s acknowledgement of the Jews’ escape from imprisonment in Egypt, and “Al Hijra,” the Muslim New Year’s Day in April that celebrates Mohammed’s migration from Mecca to Medina. Pagan holidays and celebrations also abound in springtime.
Spiritual renewal can also be quite personal and non-denominational. Personally, increased time in nature brings me a sense of renewal and reconnection, with the budding of trees and the return of migratory birds signaling rebirth, change and promise.
Apart from the spiritual, physical, psychological and emotional aspects, we can also take a moment to reflect on the notion of professional renewal.
Whatever the season of the year, we’re always free to take stock of our careers, examine our goals, weigh our options, and decide if we’re still heading in a direction that feels growthful and satisfying.
Is your job indeed satisfying? Are you treated like a valuable asset or an expendable cog in a corporate wheel? Does your job feel more mechanical and routine than it used to? Are there professional skills you want to develop? Are there new opportunities to explore?
Questions such as these can spur an inward and outward examination of your career and professional life. Sometimes we can do this on our own, and at other times, a coach, therapist or trusted friend or colleague can assist us in sorting out the professional wheat from the chaff.
You might even decide that, every spring, you’ll take the time to polish up your resume, update your Linked In and social media profiles, and otherwise till the soil of your professional garden so that the ground is ready for the planting of new seeds of opportunity and change.
Spring Forward….and Carpe Diem
Truthfully, spring doesn’t really have to hold any meaning for you at all. In fact, the notion of spring’s renewal may just seem like an artificial construct to you.
Maybe spring is when your allergies are activated and you hole up in your bedroom with the air purifier on full blast as you escape the massive clouds of pollens that fill the air.
Or maybe spring is when you’re busy with your taxes and the last thing you want to do is examine your career or your spiritual standing.
You can find self-renewal at any time of year, and you can choose to seek support or enter a period of self-examination whether there’s snow on the ground or a lawn mower buzzing outside your window.
Self-renewal can occur as discrete events or as ongoing processes. Coaching, psychotherapy and other avenues of exploration are available year-round, but if the energy of spring speaks to you as a time for deeper introspection and personal action, you can certainly seize the day and delve as deeply as you like.
Remember that your life is your own, and the paths you choose to take are personal decisions. Nursing is a career that can bring much promise and professional satisfaction, as well as the possibility of disenchantment and disillusionment. Remain realistic about the course of your life, both personally and professionally, and use the tools and recruit the help that can help you navigate the hard times while celebrating the good.
We each have the opportunity to renew ourselves each day as we awaken from sleep and our feet hit the floor. How will you renew yourself today?
Keith Carlson, or Nurse Keith as he’s known to his blog community, has been in the nursing field since 1996. Keith runs a Nursing Blog called Digital Doorway. A Registered Nurse and Certified Professional Coach, Keith says he has equal passion for both, which he uses “to help nurses live the most healthy, balanced and satisfying lives possible.” When Keith isn’t busy nursing, coaching and blogging, he’s working on “RN.FM Radio: Nursing Unleashed.” Keith co-founded the station, which strives to be “a place where nursing thought leaders, entrepreneurs, writers, bloggers and gifted clinicians can make their voices heard.”
To check out Keith’s blog, click here. More information about his coaching can be found here.
To tune in to RN.FM Radio, click here.
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You can find him on Twitter by clicking here!
Check out our Q& A with Nurse Keith, click here.