Self-Care for Nurses during the Holidays

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    With December here, we are now in the thick of the holiday season. The holiday season is a time of hope, joy, and celebration, however it is also a peak time for emotional distress and disappointments. Nurses need to take care of themselves during this very busy time of year.

    Nurses face challenges year round, but we all know the extra stresses that the holidays bring with all the special preparations and activities. With many nurses working stressful jobs having to deal with the health challenges of others as well as their own personal stresses and hectic schedules, the added demands of the holidays can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion.

    The workplace usually feels more festive this time of year with added holiday decorations, Christmas cards, parties, etc. However, nurses often feel torn between their responsibilities at work and holiday preparations at home. Many of us feel stretched almost to the limit as the demands on our energy, time, and attention increases.

    We spend several weeks and months of intense preparation for Christmas day. We get caught up in the flurry of decoration, shopping, cooking, and entertainment. But, for other people, feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness stand in sharp contrast to the excitement of parties, gift-giving, and family gatherings. What are some steps we can take to control our stressors. As nurses, how can we take care of ourselves during the holiday season?

    The causes of holiday stress are as varied as the people who experience it. The stresses of trying to cram shopping, social events, and family get-togethers into a schedule already full of day-to-day obligations can leave a person exhausted and overwhelmed.

    But wait a minute..... Take a deep breath, and think....... What is it that all these holiday obligations have in common? The majority of them are self-imposed, and once you learn to identify what stressors are self-imposed you can begin to control the stress.

    Many of these self-imposed obligations are based on expectations that we may have of what holidays are supposed to be like. Sit back, close your eyes, and be still for a few minutes. Let your thoughts return to Christmas past. Let your mind go back to the earliest Christmas you can remember. Childhood memories of holidays are some of the strongest memories we retain.

    We all have Christmas memories, and these memories are the basis for all future Christmas expectations. Some of us want to recapture past holiday moments. We hope to re-create that experience we had with a special person at a memorable place. For others, past Christmases never quite had the joy, intimacy, and spirituality they desired. Their expectations of Christmas are the result of hoping to create a wonderful Christmas memory for the first time.

    All of these memories are standards and expectations we bring with us to the holiday season, and if we can identify them as such, we can modify them. But how do we do that? Only the individual can make the determination if the stress is really worth it.

    Everyone has the right to say no to social events of other obligations. Sometimes changes in our lives (loss of a family member through death or divorce, changes in health, marriage, addition to the family, etc.) may necessitate establishing some new Christmas traditions.

    Traditions offer us comfort, and that is part of the anticipation that we all have for the holidays. Knowing that you are going into a holiday with none of your traditions can be very uncomfortable, and you sometimes have to establish new ones that you can look forward to.

    Being realistic about expectations of ourselves and others is important and challenging. This allows us to enjoy the holiday season rather than simple endure it. realistic expectations allow for human limitations. No one can go non-stop on a daily basis from November 24 to December 25 or January 1 without having some sort of emotional or physical breakdown. Allow time for holiday activities, but also allow time for self and recuperation.

    Use a calendar. Begin planning a few months before Christmas. Brainstorm about what you would like to do during the holidays. Prioritize these ideas before placing them on the calendar. For those of you who will be spending time with family, get input from family members as to what is important to them. You might be surprised by their answers. You might find that you can actually cross off some of the things you were planning to do for them.

    Check for overload by scanning the calendar for back-to-back events. When overload or overlap is identified, adjust your calendar accordingly. Remember, you cannot be two places at the same time. Equally do not have to do and be everywhere.

    REST..... The holiday season can be very tiring. Your body can't tell the difference between good and bad stress. All it knows is that energy was spent. Take a bold red marker and write REST on specific days and evenings in December. This will ensure a more restful and enjoyable holiday season.

    Remember that you are one person and you cannot do it all. Ask for help from others. Delegate responsibilities as much as possible.

    Most importantly, focus on the real reason for the season. Giving of yourself is more valuable than anything you can by. Time spent with others making wonderful memories will be something cherished for years to come. Focus on the spiritual aspects of the holidays versus the commercial ones. What do you want the holidays to mean?
    For me, it is very important to remember to focus on the gift of Jesus Christ and share that wonderful gift with others. There will never be a perfect celebration......but there will always be the perfect gift of love that was given to all of us.

    My wish is that each of you has a wonderful Christmas. And remember to take care of yourself as you create some wonderful holiday memories.

    You might like to read I am Afraid. Please Pray for Me; Munchausen by Internet: The Lying Disease that Preys on the Heart, and other articles in my blog] Body, Mind, and Soul
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 27, '17
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    tnbutterfly has been in nursing for more than 30 years, with experience in med-surg, pediatrics, psychiatrics, and disaster nursing. She is currently a parish nurse.....a position which she has had for the past 15 years.

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  3. by   tnbutterfly
    Just saw this and think it is applicable

    Old Nurse Hubbard
    Went to her cupboard
    To refuel her tired body and brain
    When she got there
    The cupboard was bare
    So poor Nurse Hubbard stayed tired and drained.
  4. by   tnbutterfly
    With Thanksgiving coming later this year, I personally feel a little more pressure. In fact....Christmas is just 3 weeks from today!

    Please feel free to share your tips for enjoying the holidays.
  5. by   FranEMTnurse
    With fibromyalgia I'm tired and sore, and sometimes I get pain
    during my glory days I volunteered, raised 2 girls, fixed my car again and again
    I worked 3 jobs, for income, in order to pay bills, put food on the table, and girls clothed
    Did repairs around my home, had a garden which I irrigated with a hoe
    Fed outside animals, attended my girls' games, and plays
    Took them on trips, to church and they both had chores to do each day
    Their homework was always done before they played, Saturday night was reserved for TV
    I named us, "The 3 Musketeers" I enjoyed them so, sometimes I wish I could do it all over you see
    But as time marches on and we get older, our families grow; new ones come and old ones go
    I am an aged grandma with 6 grandchildren from 3 to 20, all very different with voices, some high and some low
    Who put lots of smiles on my face and fill me with joy, come to think of it, I probably wouldn't change a thing
    Not even my aches and painsgrandmalove_thumb-jpg, even though I have gotten more frail, for I am so grateful for all the blessings they bring.

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