3 Yoga Poses to Jumpstart Your Day

3 Yoga Poses to Jumpstart Your Day

Sometimes, you just can’t squeeze an entire exercise session into your hectic schedule. But, if you can carve out five minutes before work, these three yoga poses can ease muscle tension, invigorate you, and jumpstart your day no matter how jam-packed your calendar is.

So, grab your yoga mat and get moving!


1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

From a kneeling position, move your knees apart so that they’re about the width of your mat and keep your toes together underneath you. Next, place your chest on your thighs and lay your forehead on your mat. Then, stretch your arms long in front of you and let your whole body rest in this position.

While you’re in child’s pose, slowly inhale through your nose and fill your lungs with air. Notice how your back widens as you deepen your breath. Slowly exhale through your nose and try to sink deeper into the pose. Repeat this cycle of breaths five to 10 times. For additional ways to tailor this posture to your needs, check out Howcast’s video, How to Do a Child’s Pose.

2. Cat-Cow Pose (Bidalasana)

From child’s pose, press into a tabletop position with your shoulders and wrists in alignment and your hips directly above your knees. Activate your abdominals by drawing them towards your spine to support your back and press your shoulders away from your ears. Inhale as you arch your back, tilt your tailbone to the sky, and lift your head. Then, exhale as you round your spine, point the tailbone towards the ground, and curve your neck. Repeat this sequence of movements five to 10 times. Feel the muscles of your spine release as you flow from one position to the other.

To learn ways you can modify this pose and build core strength, view Howcast’s video, How to Do Cat-Cow Pose for Energy.


3. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

From tabletop, tuck your toes under and raise your hips to the ceiling. Stretch your arms straight, but don’t lock your elbows. Make sure your fingers are spread out wide (like starfish), and evenly distribute your weight between both hands. Aim your chest towards your thighs as you keep your hips lifted; you’re body will create a triangle with the floor as its base. Don’t worry if your heels don’t make it all the way to the mat—your form is more important than how far you can stretch in the pose. Inhale deeply through your nose, and then, exhale through your nose as well. Remain in this pose for five to 10 breaths.

Downward-facing dog is a common pose you’ll encounter in almost every yoga practice. This Downward-Facing Dog Yoga Tutorial by YogaApproved takes you through a series of do’s and don’ts to achieve the maximum benefit from the posture.

After you’ve completed the last pose, come to a standing position. Take three deep breaths and roll your shoulders backward three times (or whatever feels good to you). Now, you’re ready to go about your day with a positive, calm mindset.


Eating Hacks for the Busy Nurse

Eating Hacks for the Busy Nurse

As nurses, and even nursing students, we all know how difficult it can be to balance eating at work. It should be easy to eat, right? You may be a nurse if you relate to any of the following:

  • What’s eating? There is no time to eat. None. Zilch. Zippo.
  • After you cath someone, insert a rectal tube, and empty a fresh wound vac you simply have no desire (or need at this point) to eat.
  • The cafeteria has served the same taco salad for the last four days that you’ve worked. Does anyone else notice that?
  • You wear Invisalign (like me) and have no desire to put your MRSA covered hands in your mouth to remove your retainer or brush your teeth in a hospital bathroom after you eat.
  • The doctors have been next door rounding for an hour and your patient is next (cue the jeopardy jingle).
  • Your favorite hall buddy has been on her 30 minute break for an hour and 10 now. (The jeopardy jingle continues…)
  • Who even has time to pack a lunch when you get home at 8:30 and have to be back the next day?
  • You get full-blown judged by the “normal suit and tie” people when they see you walk in with a cooler containing a breakfast, a lunch, a snack, an afternoon soda, an afternoon sweet, and a partridge in a pear tree.
  • By the time you finally do get to eat at 3 pm you’re as good as drunk and you go for whatever is in sight in the break room: cake, cookies, chips—and topped off with a grilled cheese and tots from the café.
  • Your “normal suit and tie” friends post IG stories eating an Açaí bowl or a fresh Chipotle bowl or a kale salad with their coworkers (who are also wearing the cutest Banana Republic outfits) while you eat applesauce and PB&J in the break room while everyone around you complains about poop.

So, my friends, it’s time to fix this problem. Here’s another list for you, because all blogs are more fun to read in numerical list form, right?

1. Avoid eating in the break room.

Tag team with a buddy and go eat outside. Seriously, it’s amazing what 30 minutes in the fresh air does for your mind. Northern friends: I have no clue what to tell you right now.

2. Meal prep.

Nothing crazy, but keep reading to learn some legit good and easy meals you can make at home and have ready for three in a row.

3. Order takeout once a month.

Not everyone can get on board with the meal prep, so treat yourself to a real meal once in a while if you are eating sandwiches and café food all the time (and even if you are meal prepping!).

4. Plan a potluck.

Best way to celebrate a holiday as a nurse? Potluck, potluck, potluck. All the luck transfers to your patients so it’s a win-win.

5. Plan your breaks ahead of time if you can with your hall mates.

If you have a mate that doesn’t do too great (ah, poet and I didn’t even know it) with coming back on time, suggest that you go first after you finish this and then you’ll be back by xx:xx. Letting your buddy know that you respect her break might awaken her to reciprocating.

Pro tip: Nursing students everywhere, please don’t be afraid to tell your preceptor you need a break. I almost passed out once waiting for my preceptor to finally take a break. You are a student and you are totally allowed to pull that card and take a full 30-minute break. Believe me, you’ll have your days of missing your break and starving.

And finally, some of my favorite “easy to eat” things to meal prep and pack for lunch include:

  • Egg muffins! One of my friends taught me this recipe. Simply mix up some eggs, ham, cheese, tomatoes (or whatever you like), and pour it into a greased muffin pan for a yummy take-with-you breakfast. If I’m bringing breakfast to eat at work, I usually make breakfast burritos and freeze them or simply make a big batch of scrambled eggs, mixed veggies, and sausage to eat! It’s a small enough meal that can be eaten quickly with roughly the same nutrition in some of these super dense granola bars that aren’t always the healthiest.
  • Pasta and veggies. Pasta sauce and mix veggies (spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) go great together and make a super easy lunch. For a healthy mix up, try pairing it with black bean pasta!
  • Sweet potatoes. Every week I make two sweet potatoes, a big bowl of stir fried veggies, and bake two chicken breasts. Mix it up! Shred the chicken and put it over a sweet potato with barbecue sauce and goat cheese…weird, but delicious! Or chop up your chicken breast and make a southwest bowl with mashed sweet potatoes, corn, black beans, salsa, and lettuce. It’s all about finding foods that you can use for multiple things.
  • A salad bar in your fridge is a great way to mix it up as well. Put items like strawberries, blueberries, slivered almonds, pepitas, dried cranberries, hard-boiled eggs, carrot slices, etc. into tupperware and have your lettuce washed and dried in a big container in the fridge. You can pull out the toppings you want and instantly make a delicious salad and save $7. Pro tip: the cafeteria usually has little 2 oz containers you can use to pre-package your salad dressing!

Hope you enjoy these tips! Please share your favorite recipes with us in the comments.

5 Self-Care Activities to Try Today

5 Self-Care Activities to Try Today

It seems like self-care tips and tricks are everywhere these days—blogs, social media, online articles, and more. If you’re pressed for time, it can be challenging to incorporate self-care activities into your daily routine. After all, who needs one more thing to add to an overflowing plate?

But as a nurse, it’s important to nurture yourself, so you can have the emotional and physical capacity to continue to care for others. We’ve gathered up a list of self-care activities that you can easily incorporate into a busy workday, and they give you a minute to breathe, think, or be alone. Below are five self-care activities to try today.

1. Sneak exercise into your day.

No time to exercise? No problem! Studies show that three 10-minute workouts can be as effective at helping you achieve your fitness goals as long bouts of exercise. To sneak exercise into your day, park further away from the entrance to the building so that you can enjoy a brisk walk to and from work. During the day, take the stairs whenever possible to burn calories, build muscle, and maintain cardiovascular health. Finally, when you’re home, use an opportunity like cooking dinner or washing dishes to make room for some calf raises, squats, or lunges. Before you know it, exercise will be ingrained in your daily life.

2. Step outside.

Whether you have two minutes or five minutes, stepping outside during the day may be just the self-care activity you need to feel revived. Listen to the sounds around you and feel the sunshine on your face. Even a brief time with nature can help you clear your head and feel calmer.

3. When you receive a compliment, embrace it.

When a colleague offers you a compliment, is your first reaction to reject it? The next time someone pays you a compliment, embrace it. Knowing that your coworkers notice your efforts can go a long way toward boosting your confidence and job satisfaction.

4. Say some positive affirmations to yourself.

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed during the day? Take a moment to say some positive affirmation to yourself. Ronald Alexander, PhD, suggested five ways positive affirmations could work for you in a Psychology Today article.

First, Alexander recommended developing an awareness of the negative thoughts and qualities you believe to be true about yourself. Next, he advised writing down a powerful, positive affirmation about yourself. For example, instead of saying, “I’m a hard worker,” you might choose to say, “I have a compassionate heart towards others, and I’m an excellent listener.” Then, begin to speak this affirmation out loud during the day. In as little as five minutes three times a day, you’ll start to reprogram your mind and bolster a healthy mindset.

5. Breathe deeply.

A quiet moment to yourself to breathe deeply can almost instantaneously reinvigorate you. While there are many styles of breathwork you can implement, one, simple approach is to inhale through your nose to the mental count of five. Then, exhale through your mouth as you silently count to five. Repeat the cycle of breaths eight to 10 times. Notice how your body feels, and try to release any excess tension that might be present in your muscles. With practice, you’ll reduce unwanted muscle tension and feel more relaxed.

The goal for any self-care activity is to sustain your mind, body, and spirit. It’s an opportunity to connect with yourself and feel rejuvenated. Plus, you don’t need to take hours out of your hectic day to see results—short, but consistent self-care activities will improve your overall sense of well-being, lower stress, and help you beat compassion fatigue.

New Safe Staffing Legislation Introduced to Congress

New Safe Staffing Legislation Introduced to Congress

On February 15, 2018, the newest safe nurse staffing bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress. The bill (H.R.5052 and S.2446) has bipartisan support, and is championed by Reps. David Joyce (R-OH), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), as well as Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

In the past, several safe staffing bills have been presented in previous Congresses but have failed to pass committee. This bill, the Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act of 2018, is slightly different than previous iterations. Under this staffing legislation, Medicare-participating hospitals would be required to form committees that would create and implement unit specific, nurse-to-patient ratio staffing plans. At least half of each committee must comprise direct care nurses.

“It is so important for nurses on the front lines to be able to have a say in what they believe is safe staffing,” says Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, the president of the American Nurses Association (ANA). “This bill benefits bedside nurses by giving them decision-making power, control, and the ability to influence the delivery of safe care,” Cipriano continues.

A committee made of staff nurses—who would make staffing decisions that directly affect their own units—is so important because it is nurses who can best assess patient needs and the resources required to provide safe patient care. Staffing committees would be able to address the unique needs of specific units and patient populations by involving specialty nurses in the decisions, and would have the ability to modify the hospital safety plans as needed.

Overwhelmingly, research supports adequate nurse staffing. Over the last several decades, literature has demonstrated a decrease in patient morbidity and mortality and an increase in patient safety when units are well staffed. “With adequate amounts of staffing we see mortality go down and patient complications can be prevented or diminished,” Cipriano says. “It is important for nurses to have sufficient resources to care for patients, because nurses experience moral distress when they cannot provide the care they know a patient needs.”

Short-changing patients also contributes to nurse burnout, and low nursing retention is expensive. Additionally, adequate nurse staffing leads to reduced health care costs, as a result of fewer hospital readmissions, hospital-acquired infections, medical errors, and other significant measurable patient outcomes. “Patients deserve to have the right care,” Cipriano says. “They need to be kept safe, and the best way to prevent problems and complications is to have the right nurse staffing.”

Is there hope that this bill will pass, when so many previous iterations have not? “It may be difficult to pass the legislation, even this time around,” Cipriano admits. “But the most important impact is that every time we have an opportunity to have this legislation discussed, it’s another opportunity to educate another decision maker. Whether it is congresspeople, their staff, or other leaders in their communities, it gives us the opportunity to continue to reinforce why it is so important to have the right nursing care.”

It is ethically challenging when a nurse is asked to take staffing assignments that do not feel safe. On many units, nurses are expected to care for several acute and critically ill patients at a time, and are given patient loads that stretch them far beyond their reasonable care delivery capabilities. What should a nurse do when faced with an unsafe assignment? Nurses should raise immediate concerns by following the chain of command, and talking with immediate supervisors to express that they believe the situation is unsafe. “The first obligation is to make sure that no patient is left uncared for,” Cipriano says. “Short term, use the chain of command and do everything you can within in your power to make sure that you’re providing at least the minimum care the patient needs.” Longer-term, if nurses truly believe that their organization is not supporting the right staffing ratios, the ANA encourages an active dialogue with leadership, such as a conversation with responsible nursing leaders, quality directors, or patient care committees or councils to focus attention to the issue.

“Nursing care is like a medication,” Cipriano says. “You wouldn’t withhold a life-saving medication, so why would you withhold the right amount or right dose of nursing care?”

If you are passionate about safe staffing laws, consider calling or writing your congressperson and encourage them to support the Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act of 2018.

5 Tricks to Slash Your Sugar Intake

5 Tricks to Slash Your Sugar Intake

As many of us become more aware of what we should and shouldn’t be doing to improve our health and wellness, we’re continually searching for new ways to improve our diets, eat nutrient-dense foods, and cut out the bad stuff (We’re looking at you, sugar!). We want to maximize our energy so we can sustain our activity levels throughout the day, rather than having the quick surge of energy that sugary snacks or beverages give us, followed by the inevitable crash.

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nixing sugar from your diet and curbing a sweet tooth, there are some tricks to make the process less painful. Read on to find out how to cut back on this sweet substance once and for all.

1. Stay hydrated.

Sure, sugary drinks will temporarily put a little spring in your step, but a few hours later, you’re likely to feel a bit lethargic. Maintaining adequate hydration levels is essential to help your body function; even mild dehydration can leave you feeling sluggish. Rather than reaching for sugary sodas or fruit drinks, consider herbal teas or no-sugar sparkling waters like LaCroix or Polar. This way, you can drink great tasting beverages and stay hydrated without the extra sugar.

2. Watch out for low and nonfat foods.

In many cases, when a manufacturer reduces fat from a product, they increase the amount of sugar in it, so the products remain tasty—but, they’re not doing you any favors to reduce your overall intake of sugar. One example of this type of product is the low or nonfat, fruit-flavored yogurt, which can be a handy snack when you’re pressed for time. Instead, a better option is to buy plain yogurt and add fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits like strawberries and blueberries to it. You’ll have a filling snack, the benefits of anti-inflammatory superfoods, and you’ll forgo the added sugar.

3. Combine protein, healthy fats, and fiber for a power-infused meal.

Simple carbohydrates and sugars cause a surge in your blood sugar, then it plummets. But foods high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber keep your blood sugar steady, so you won’t experience such highs and lows in your energy levels. Plus, eating meals rich in protein, fats, and fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you’ll be less likely to indulge in those donuts in the breakroom.

4. Bring healthy snacks with you.

When you’re in a hurry, but you’re hungry, vending machines are a quick and accessible way to satisfy an immediate need for food. However, with just a few minutes of preparation each day, you can bring healthier snack alternatives to work that will truly feed your body.

Not sure what to bring? Consider protein-packed hard boiled eggs, healthy fats like nuts and avocados, or vegetables with hummus. With time, you’ll begin to notice your tendency to reach for the sweets lessens, and your sugar cravings start to subside.

5. Take small steps towards change.

Going full throttle into a new diet is tempting. But, if things don’t go smoothly (which they often don’t), you may find yourself slipping back into old patterns. As a substitute for banning sugar from your diet all at once, pick one meal a day and make it a sugar-free meal—like a breakfast omelet loaded with fresh veggies. This nutritious meal will fuel your body and start your day off on the right foot.

If you fall back into old your old routine—no big deal! We all do it from time to time. Just restart your healthy habits the next day, and don’t be too hard on yourself. If sugar has been a mainstay in your diet for a long time, it’s going to take several weeks to months to get used to a diet without it.

4 Ways to Set Work Boundaries

4 Ways to Set Work Boundaries

Do you find that it’s difficult to separate your work life from your home life? Are you more accustomed to saying yes to people rather than no? Have you noticed that you often bring your work home with you in some capacity? If you feel like your work life is becoming indistinguishable from your personal life, maybe it’s time to rethink your boundaries.

Here are four ways to do just that.

1. Establish boundaries at work.

When you’re at work, what things make you feel frustrated, anxious, or overtaxed? Maybe you said you’d come in early, stay late, or take an extra shift when you didn’t want to? Take note of when negative feelings arise and the circumstances that may have caused them.

Next, think about the parameters you need to do your best work. These “parameters” are potential areas to consider for boundaries, and the feelings you experience when you disregard them are likely your body’s way of telling you to set some limits.

Then, examine how you’d feel if you’d made a different choice. Perhaps you’d have more time with your family or participate in the activities you enjoy. The boundaries you create for yourself in the workplace will make your job more enjoyable—give yourself permission to stick to them!

2. Acknowledge your limits.

When your profession involves caring for people, it’s easy to put others before yourself. But your abilities, whether emotional, mental, or physical, have limits. Acknowledge those limits, and don’t shy away from saying no if you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable with something.

One way to know you’ve reached your maximum capacity is to think of your feelings on a spectrum, according to Dana Gionta and Dan Guerra, authors of From Stressed to Centered. The authors suggest rating your level of discomfort about a situation on a scale of one to ten. A rating of one to three tends to have a minimal effect on you, while ratings of four to six cause a medium impact on your emotions. Furthermore, a circumstance with a score of seven to ten will likely cause a high degree of distress. The authors recommend taking inventory of interactions or situations that produce a medium to high degree of distress and setting a boundary so that you can preserve your well-being.

3. If someone tries to push past your boundaries, discuss it as soon as possible.

Eventually, someone will push past the boundary—the safeguard—you’ve put in place for yourself. When that happens, try to address the interaction or circumstance at that moment, rather than waiting until a later time. If too much time passes, the person may not get the complete picture of your level of discomfort. But if you confront the situation as soon as possible, it can help you avoid unnecessary job drama and feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or resentful down the road.

4. Be mindful of your boundaries at home.

Sometimes, you may not be able to avoid bringing work home with you. But if that’s the case, try to stick to a planned schedule. For example, designate a specific amount of time to address work issues, then, stop when that time frame is up. While it may be tempting to ignore the timer, doing so can leave you feeling exhausted and drained.

As a health care professional, it’s essential that you honor the boundaries you’ve established for your home life as well, so you can feel refreshed and be at your best when you’re helping others.

Creating healthy boundaries doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and practice. And, if your boundaries get a little off track now and then, you can always refocus your attention and reaffirm your commitment to the limits you set to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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