Like Diamonds: Nurses, Anxiety, and Depression

A study published in the National Institute of Health observed that about 1 in 5 nurses suffer from depression, about twice the average rate of the U.S. adult population. Long hours, short-staffing, difficult patients, and constantly being around sickness and stress seem to be contagious, and it takes a certain kind of quiet grace to swim through emotional environments in which others might drown. Unfortunately, the same strength that makes nurses so good at their jobs may prevent them from reaching out for help with depression, anxiety, and other stress-related disorders.

I won’t insult you by calling you weak. In fact, I think you’re among the strongest people we have. The way I see it: Nurses are like Diamonds.

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They’re truly excellent people. I’ve never met a nurse I didn’t like, or at least respect. Each one was beautiful in their own way, and imbued with an extraordinary grace that only comes from doing time and paying dues.

The poetic thing about diamonds is that they start out made of ordinary stuff – dirt, even. It’s their exposure to intense pressure and heat that changes them into something beautiful. And nothing normal will crush them because they’ve experienced times and pressures that normal people wouldn’t ever have to expect. It’s what forged them.

Diamonds wear this toughness like a badge of courage. So they tend to keep taking on more and more to do. They become a shoulder to cry on for their loved ones. They appear to be calm when the world around them is lit up with panic and anxiety. They don’t ever say no, since all they’ve ever known is this pressure that’s built them, given them purpose and made them strong.

But the worst thing about being the strongest is that no one ever asks if you’re okay.

This mythological toughness comes at a cost. Diamonds don’t feel anything, because to feel is to become vulnerable. They’re so unique, that the people around them are awed and intimidated by their sheer presence and don’t ask them to hang out after work. They’re constantly busy and never allow themselves any time off to breathe.

This chaos is normal for the diamond, so it can work for a while. People might even be impressed with how long you can work and how much you can do. This isn’t because they’re doing better than you and being patronizing; it’s just that you make everything look so effortless that no one knows how hard you work when no one is looking.

You know what the tragic part about all this is? Diamonds are undeniably tough – the hardest mineral on the planet – but they’re brittle. It’s not the extraordinary that will break them, but something ugly and ordinary and totally unexpected, like the blow of a hammer.

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I don’t know what you’re going through, and won’t even pretend. I just want you to know that you don’t have to be the diamond all the time.

How about – and this one’s a little strange, but bear with me – you try out being coffee instead? It’s appropriate at pretty much all times, always appreciated, and tastes good warm or cold. It takes the shape of the container that it’s in, and helps people feel less weary. It can be sweet and soothing, or exceedingly bitter and strong. It does lose its potency throughout the day, but that’s okay, because it’s always there fresh and ready to see you in the morning. As a wise person once said, and I’m paraphrasing here: Be coffee, my friend: formless, shapeless. Coffee can flow and it can crash.

The metaphor is getting corny but I’m just saying, try being more adaptable and see what it does for your perspective. Take time for yourself. The holidays are coming up, and you might still have to work or deal with the in-laws, but as hectic as it feels I invite you to go outside into nature and see for yourself how the world outside of work and home slows down around this time of year. Trees lose their leaves, animals rest, and there’s a cold stillness in the air that says, no matter how tough you think you or anyone else might be, nature will always be tougher. And it has the capacity to be so tough because it rests, recuperates, and takes time to grow so it can blossom again in the spring.

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Just remember, no winter lasts forever – even the ice age melted, right?

CDC: Influenza Mutations Hint at Bad Flu Season

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The CDC reports that this year’s flu vaccine may be less effective at fighting new mutations in strains of the influenza virus. The organization warns us that the particular variety of influenza A (H3N2) finding its way around some parts of the U.S. is historically associated with higher hospitalization and mortality rates, especially in young children and older patients with chronic medical conditions.

Usually, a panel of experts meets in February to decide which three or four inactive strains of the flu virus to include in the vaccine. Since it takes about four months to manufacture and ship the vaccine, it’s too late to produce another vaccine to combat the influenza A viruses that seem to be more prevalent this year in some parts of the country. The CDC has therefore advised doctors to consider prescribing antiviral medications like Tamiflu or Relenza to patients in high-risk groups or with more severe symptoms.

However, it’s still a good idea to get a flu shot if you haven’t already. Antibodies created in response to vaccinating for a given strain of influenza could still “cross-protect” you from different but related strains of the virus. Given H3N2’s potential for harm, the CDC especially recommends vaccinations for people with the high-risk groups of children and the elderly, those with certain chronic diseases (such as asthma, obesity, or cardiovascular conditions), pregnant or post-partum women, and persons with immunosuppression from medication or disease. Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities are also encouraged to get vaccinated.

Otherwise, the CDC recommends that persons 2 weeks or older experiencing flu symptoms such as fever, body aches, and sore throat see a doctor to see if antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu or Relenza are appropriate. These treatments can shorten the duration and severity of flu symptoms, and work best when administered within the first few days of illness.

Normal use of preventative health practices will also help discourage the spread of influenza. Remember to cough into your elbow or sleeve instead of your hands, to wash your hands frequently, and stay home from work or school if you have to.

Correct Your “Office Posture” For Health and Confidence!

What’s the first thing you want to do when you get out of a long car or airplane ride?

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I don’t know about you, but I want to stretch and walk around, because sitting down like that is exhausting. Between driving, texting, working from the computer, and catching up on TV shows, it’s crazy that we sit for so long during our waking hours without a break. Over time, sitting down can hunch your posture and put unnecessary stress on your knees, back, and neck.

On the other hand, maintaining good posture will make your movements more efficient, so you’ll find basic movements like walking and picking things up far easier to do. We can improve our posture by stretching out the “texting muscles” of your chest, shoulders, and upper back, and restoring ROM to our lower body by practicing good squat form.

Channel your inner Beyoncé for better posture and confidence.

 University studies have shown that assuming more dominant postures for as little as two minutes at a time can boost your testosterone and make you more assertive, relaxed, and confident – so the old adage “fake it ‘til you make it” definitely applies.

If it helps, just think to yourself: how would Beyoncé stand? Hold your head high, pull your shoulders back, and lead with your heart. You are strong, capable, beautiful, and confident. You are Beyoncé.

If you’re sitting down, you can do some stretches from your office chair. The goal is to do reverse the negative effects of hunched posture by opening up your back, shoulders, and chest. Reach up and lean back slightly, floating your gaze towards the ceiling:

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If you’d like a more intense stretch, you can also do shoulder openers with a broomstick or a towel like this:

Start with a very wide grip – wider than you think – and try to reach up and over. Notice how the woman in the video isn’t gripping the stick with a closed fist, but rather allowing it to glide between her pointer finger and thumb (making the “ok” sign with her hand). Don’t force anything; just try to stand tall and get a nice stretch in, even if you can’t move the broomstick all the way behind you.

Have you thought about squats?

The second half of posture is restoring ROM to your lower body, including your lower back, hips, knees, and ankles. You can become more mobile by working on being stable and comfortable in a deep squat, which is still the default mode of sitting in parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

In a proper squat:

  •  Your heels touch the ground.

  • Your back is relatively straight.

  • Your knees aren’t caving in/pointing toward each other.

  • Your knees don’t poke out past your toes.

Every healthy toddler is born with the ability to squat, but a lot of us have lost it due to an inflexible set of ankles, hamstrings, hips, and a tight lower back. Compare the following pictures to see what I mean:

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Your goal is to spend a couple minutes a day in a squat. Squat down to pick up a pencil you dropped – which is what we mean by “lift with your legs and not your back.” Send a text, or watch TV from a squat. Move your chair away from your desk and squat in front of your computer. You aren’t trying to get a black belt in yoga or anything, just work towards being able to stand up without your knees crackling like Rice Crispies.

By the time you’re able to stand up from the floor without using your hands, you’ll have reached a nice level of mobility that will help protect your knees and back for years to come. It might take some time to be able to hold a squat position comfortably, and that’s perfectly fine – just try to look more like the lady on the left rather than the goober on the right (does he even lift?).

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So there you have it – better posture will make you look and feel more confident, with the added benefits of making movement easier and protecting you from injury. Have a happy Monday: stand tall and tackle the rest of your day with some swagger!

Which diet is best for you?

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Thanksgiving’s next week, which means that many of us will probably find ourselves torn between eating clean and having another serving of pumpkin pie.

It’s one thing to have a plan, but sometimes convenience, money, and time get in the way of which kinds of food we have access to. This means that many successful diets are a matter of sticking to general guidelines rather than eating a specific set of foods. For most people at most times, being ultra-strict about a diet is less important paying attention to what we eat and how much we exercise. Those factors will do more for our health and well being than any single factor or superfood will.

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Could Berkeley’s new soda tax save thousands of lives?

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Last week, a stunning 75% of voters in Berkeley, California elected to pass a tax on soda. The measure aims to reduce the rate of sugar consumption in response to nationally rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Similar legislation was proposed but not passed in San Francisco, where soda companies spent millions of dollars lobbying against the measure and even propped up fake protest groups to discourage voters from passing the soda tax.

Sweetened drinks are the primary source of added sugar in the American diet and greatly contribute to health complications related to obesity and diabetes. For the past twenty or so years, soda was actually more popular than water among Americans, and its widespread consumption has caused numerous health complications. A HealthAffairs study suggests that a soda tax of just one cent per ounce (like the one passed in Berkeley) could prevent 95,000 coronary events, 8,000 strokes, and 26,000 premature deaths over a span of just ten years.

Voters and legislators alike hope this tax will open discussions around the country about the health costs of excessive sugar consumption, and perhaps shed light on how soft drink companies use tactics developed by tobacco companies to sell sodas while minimizing their deleterious effects on our health. If anti-soda legislation becomes a trend, it’s likely to run into the same problems posed when trying to reduce smoking in the last half century, including: resentment over federally imposed sin taxes, counter-science funded and published by sugar lobbyists, and a sobering look at the consequences of what we consume.

It seems outlandish to consider that this tax opens the door for further restrictions and even bans on soda, but remember that cigarettes used to be included in military rations until about 30 years ago even though we’d consider such a thing ridiculous today.

Excessive soda drinking can have negative health consequences, but is a tax going too far? Is a ban sure to follow? Let us know how you feel on our Facebook page.

NurseCore kicks off Home Healthcare & Hospice Month

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The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has selected the month of November to honor the nurses, home care aides, therapists, social workers, and other caregivers who touch the lives of homebound patients.

Approximately 12 million Americans receive care from more than 33,000 providers annually, making home healthcare an invaluable part of our health care system. These home care providers help society’s most vulnerable members through medical or nonmedical care, grooming, assisting with activities of daily living, running errands, and providing meals – among other tasks which patients are otherwise unable to perform for themselves.

Hospice workers care for terminally ill patients, providing them with specifically tailored, individualized treatment plans that manage painful symptoms. They also offer the invaluable service of comforting patients and their loved ones during these stages of life, giving them a sense of peace and closure through medical, emotional, and spiritual care. Hospice care reaffirms the human right of patients and their families to fully participate in the final stages of life.

Home healthcare workers give so much of their time and energy in such a selfless and inspiring way. This month is a great chance to appreciate their compassion for others, and to follow their example by using your strengths to care for those less fortunate than yourself.

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