Jimmy Buffett and the Winter Blues

They don't call this time of year "the dead of winter" for nothing. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Jimmy Buffett and the Winter Blues

Some mornings I stand at my picture window, steaming coffee mug in hand, and look out through the bare trees in my back woods, which in warmer seasons are lush with green leaves that shade the property and allow me to feel magnificently isolated here in my Shangri-La on the hill. The grey skies mirror my mood; when I let the dog out for his constitutional, I note the blackened stalks of once-thriving plants lost to the bitter Arctic outbreak of early December, and glumly ponder the cost of replacing them this coming spring.

Even work seems dull and unsatisfying, and these low-energy times make getting through even a normal shift harder than usual. The residents are grumpy and complain about the cold, no matter how high we turn up the thermostat or how many blankets we put on them. The staff grumbles incessantly as well, not because we have actual gripes but because we too are starved for sunshine and fresh air, and the arid, superheated atmosphere of the nursing home makes it more uncomfortable to work in during the winter than during even the hottest of summer days.

Residents are also dropping like flies. Happens every year, right around the same time: if they make it past the early flu season, they'll sail right through the holidays.........then the bottom drops out and we lose at least a dozen of 'em before the crocuses begin to poke their heads above the mud in mid-February. It gets to be pretty depressing, as if all this seasonal-affective-disorder stuff weren't bad enough on its own; and if it weren't for Paxil and the summer music stored on my iPod, I'm not sure how I'd get through this interminable season.

This year, however, I turned to my local tanning salon for help, in the hope that a few "fake and bake" sessions would perk me up and make me stop wishing entire months of my life away just so I can get to the good stuff (meaning July, August, and September). Now, as a nurse and as a human being who has NOT spent her entire life in a cave, I know all the bad news about tanning: how it causes skin cancer (if I don't have it after spending fifty-some summers in the sun, I don't think I'm going to), premature aging (well, THAT ship's already sailed), and dry skin (that's what Eucerin is for). But after fighting SAD for 22 years of grey, gloomy Pacific Northwest winters, I'm ready to do whatever it takes......including lying naked inside a brightly lighted tube with the iPod playing "Cheeseburger in Paradise", and imagining I'm 'chillaxing' on an isolated Caribbean island.

Yeah, yeah, I know: tough life, eh?

Anyway, I've been going now for a couple of weeks, and while I'm not yet as tanned or as energetic as I am during the warmer months, I seem to have made peace with the inarguable fact that it is winter, and indeed will stay winter for weeks to come. I no longer feel like it's going to be that way forever; while there isn't even a prospect of snow to break up the monotony of clouds and chilly, damp days, I know that it won't last forever. I've been able to actually face people, smile, and chat with them instead of ducking into my hoodie and wishing I could go back to sleep. My carbohydrate craving hasn't gone away totally, but it's nowhere near as strong as it was and I've lost most of the eight pounds I gained back during the Halloween-to-New-Year's oinkfest.

Even my residents and staff have noticed that my usually affable manner has returned; in fact, just the other night while I was busting my tail to get caught up, one of my diabetic folks asked me to cut his nails. I don't normally do nails, not because I'm grossed out by them (although I am) but because I'm really not very good at nail care. I have trouble cutting my own---I don't see well enough, even with glasses, to do a good job---and the possibility that I could cause someone to need an amputation because I nipped a toe or cut too deep just terrifies me. So I put him off by telling him I was crazy busy, but would definitely leave a note for the day shift nurse (who actually IS good at nail care) or do it myself the next evening if she couldn't get to it, knowing perfectly well she would.

But then it occurred to me that I was just making excuses. Yes, I was busy, but instead of moving on with my other duties I considered the fact that this particular resident seldom asks for ANYTHING. He is a Vietnam veteran, a double amputee in full control of his faculties who gets his blood sugars done six times a day, goes to dialysis three times per week, and lives out his miserable existence in our nursing home far away from his wife and kids, some of whom are barely out of their teens. He rarely complains, even though he is in constant agony from neuropathy and phantom limb pain, and he asks for medication only when he has sweated through his clothing and can't stand it any longer. So when he requests something---even something as simple as a nail trim---it's a big deal for him, and it needs to be done as swiftly as humanly possible.

I had the treatment cart with me, so it was no hardship at all to grab the nail-care kit. It was simply a matter of changing my attitude. I locked up the cart and popped back into his room with a cheery, "Oh heck, let's just get it done, shall we?"

The surprise and pleasure that lit up his face told me everything I needed to know about what that small task meant to him. As for the extra few minutes it took me to do the job, it was well worth it, for during that time he opened up to me like never before in all the fifteen months I've worked there. His eyes, normally guarded, literally danced as we chatted about the Army, kids, even football; he thanked me profusely several times as I finished with a flair by buffing his nails until they shone like glass. And for the first time ever, I got to hear him laugh.

This unforgettable nursing moment has been brought to you by Jimmy Buffett and the makers of Wolff Tanning Beds.:)

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

I'm a Registered Nurse and writer who, in better times, has enjoyed a busy and varied career which includes stints as a Med/Surg floor nurse, a director of nursing, a nurse consultant, and an assistant administrator. And when I'm not working as a nurse, I'm writing about nursing right here at allnurses.com and putting together the chapters for a future book about---what else?---nursing.

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This just got me teary.

I had a resident who really wanted her toenails cut. Everyone kept blowing her off. Retired RN. Diabetic, and I wasn't sure of the policy. She had just come back from a day surgery so I cut her toenails with a wink and nudge that the hospital did them. She was SO HAPPY.

It was noticed. She told them the hospital did it.


And I had Jimmy Buffett on Sirius on the ride home from a hellacious day today.

Jimmy Buffet does wonders for my mood just about any day.

Sniffle... this is your best entry yet Viva.:heartbeat

Specializes in Correctional, QA, Geriatrics.

Just when I think I can't stand one more day, one more interaction, one more task I read something you have written in one of your blogs and it gives me a morale boost. Thank you Marla. It takes a lot of guts to bare your soul to others. It makes a difference.

Specializes in med-surg, psych, ER, school nurse-CRNP.

Works for me, too, but it just seems to affect ME. I came in a couple ago belting out "Margaritaville", and got blasted for my trouble.

Seems I'm "too darn perky" for this early in the morning. I may try a dirge tomorrow morning to see if it has any better reception.

Greta story, Viva!

This was just what I needed to read this am. Thank you Viva. After 4 nights in a row of morbidly obese post CABG pt with tele alarms going off all night, I was losing patience and empathy with the folks. I am off today, it is very cold here in New England gray skies, threat of snow showers, but I feel better having read your post. Think I will break out the Buffett tunes and dance around the house while no one is home to laugh at me!!

Thanks for sharing! I had a boss (non-medical corporate office) that kept a tropical shirt hanging on the back of his office door. When things would get exceptionally stressful, he would turn on the radio and turn up the music and pull on the shirt and start singing as loud and silly as he could. It did wonders for my work group and lifted everyone back up again. :jester:

Jimmy is the best! I live in Colorado and when I'm about ready to go The Shining crazy, I loudly belt out to anyone and everyone, "I shot 6 holes in my freezer, I think I got cabin fever, somebody sound the alarm!"

Oh, and thanks for making your resident's day! What a great nurse!

I am an aide but you still made my day. I really wish that I had more times like that with my residents.

Specializes in Rodeo Nursing (Neuro).

I'm a big believer that the key to a happy life is having the proper soundtrack. I figured this out on my way to a stress-reduction class. I was playing Puccini's "Un bel di," from Madame Butterfly (one of my favorite pieces, usually) in my car on the way to the session, and by the time I got their, I was borderline suicidal. Well, not really, but it did seem like my whole life was just a mess. Told the psychologist (I just typed a "u" instead of a "y". Do you think that was a Freudian typo?) about it, and we agreed to try something cheerier on the way home. And it worked!

So, not long ago, I was driving to work in 6 inches of new snow while playing The Beatles' Twist and Shout. Had just a wonderful time and repeatedly thought to myself, skateboarders do stuff like this on purpose. Made it to work in record time, too.

Haven't tried the tanning bed thing, though. I'm not particularly depressed, but it might be worth a shot. I'm a recently diagnosed diabetic, and I've been craving carbs like crazy.

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

OT: I've noticed that on the days I go to the salon, I don't crave carbs anywhere near as much. Just like in the summer, when I live on salads and seasonal fruits and BBQ fish & chicken, and lose weight without much effort. BTW, I'm also looking healthier........I'm nowhere near my usual summertime dark-caramel color, but I'm no longer that ghastly pale that made me look ill, even when I haven't been sick in years. I've just gotta remember to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

Back on topic: Thanks to all of you who've posted kind words and good stories....those are also wonderful mood-enhancers. :)