How to Support the Nurse in Your Family

Nursing is rewarding and challenging in ways that no other job can be. On a daily basis, nurses provide care and comfort to patients during the extreme highs and lows of life. Naturally, this sort of pressure can occasionally affect a nurse’s emotional health.

Because nurses face such unique obstacles, their families may be at a loss for words when trying to help. If you have a nurse in your family, how do you give that person the care they deserve? How can you help a helper?

The first step in caring for a nurse is to know how that individual copes with difficult days. Everyone has a different method for handling stress. Some nurses need to vent about what happened at work that day. On the other hand, some people need to forget about their problems by curling up with a good book. If you don’t know what works for your loved one, just ask. Sometimes, “What can I do to help you?” is all a nurse wants to hear.

If your family member wants to talk about work, actively listen. Soak in every word and ask questions as necessary. If you don’t understand a medical term, ask for a definition. This is a simple and effective way of letting your family member know that you care.

Supporting an introverted nurse is a different process altogether, but the goal remains the same: show compassion. One way to do this is to reduce your family member’s stress. You can offer to take over his or her household duties, draw a nice bath, or turn on a funny movie. The possibilities are endless; you just have to get creative.

In times of distress, it is also important to properly acknowledge your beloved nurse’s emotions. The loss of a patient can cause grief that you may not understand, but that grief is valid and important. Do not imply that these feelings are silly or misguided. Instead, try to understand why your family member might feel this way. You can try to walk a mile in a nurse’s shoes, but we all know they walk a lot more than that.

Finally, love the nurse in your family as fully as possible. Nurses pour themselves into caring for their patients, and it’s important that they are cared for with the same intensity. No matter how you show it, make sure your nurse knows they are loved and cared for deeply.

Nurses, how does your significant other care for you after a long day at work? We would love to hear your stories. You can contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , or through our Contact page.

This Week in Health News

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

health newsImage from Pinterest

Here are a few interesting health and science-related news articles that I’ve found in the past week:

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What Social Status Means For Your Health

We know that having more money generally means greater access to food, healthcare, leisure time, and other amenities that keep people in good shape. But the latest from The New York Times suggests that, regardless of access to resources, your social status within a group can have a tangible effect on your health.

This article reviewed a recent public health journal about the effects of social status on the well being of pre-industrial, indigenous Bolivian people of the Tsimane culture. They found that even in egalitarian societies where money and political power was roughly evenly distributed, power relationships had a tangible effect on the respiratory health of men within the village. The article speculates that it’s the perception of how much control you have over your own life that impacts your health.

“Social status” is one of those soft-science factors that cannot be readily quantified, but this same overarching phenomenon has been observed in other places:

Sociologist Emile Durkheim popularized the term anomie to describe the feeling of dread that comes with living in a large, industrial society that provides “little moral guidance to individuals.” He writes that this sense of alienation and purposelessness leads to a marked reduction in quality of life.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers provides the example of Roseto, Pennsylvania, a town of Italian immigrants with long lifespans and a notable lack of serious illness, despite poor diet and exercise habits. The author attributes the townspeople’s unusually robust health to the supportive, open, and gracious societal structure that keeps its people happy.

What this makes me think about is the idea that humans are social creatures, and will do best when they are part of family, peer, or societal groups that make them feel like valuable contributors. This feeling of self-worth will do much to negate the effects of the stress hormone cortisol, which the NYT article attributes to the significant weakening the immune system in the Tsimane men studied.

Which makes me wonder – could the larger societal epidemics of depression, restlessness, and anxiety be attributed to a lack of some common fiber that makes each of us feel valued and worthwhile within the context of a group? Discovering and celebrating our individuality is a worthwhile pursuit to be sure, but would it actually be healthier for those of us to feel as if we’re part of something larger than ourselves?

So what follows is that we reclaim a sense of agency in our lives, the idea that we have control of who we are and where we’re going. Here are three ideas on how to do so:

  1. Take up a hobby, something you can really get good at. Becoming an expert at something you love will allow you to share your passion with others, and also help you learn how to learn. Be proud of what you love to do, and make it useful in your life.
  2. Meditate. Studies over a mere 8 weeks found increases in self-esteem, logical thinking, and empathy; and also observed an actual shrinking in the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with fear and worry. More than that, this practice will help you feel more at ease with your place in the world – put your life in perspective, as it were. If you need help getting started, check out our earlier blog on meditation for a quick primer.
  3. Giving back to your community by volunteering at a soup kitchen, food bank, or summer camp – like NC president Deborah Loller does every year – is a rewarding experience that you can be proud of. But you don’t need to be part of an organization to give back! We can start with small, simple acts of kindness like opening doors for people, tipping our waiters, and letting people merge into traffic. Next time you’re given the chance to be a mean person – how about you try being a leader instead?

I think it’s incredible that the more science and academia grows, the more it confirms basic truths that we’ve known for practically all our lives – in this case, that money isn’t everything, and that it’s medically good for you to feel in control of your life.

Have a safe, happy holiday. I’ll see you next week!

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!

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