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Renewal and Refreshment by Giving More

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The author shares that the secret to renewal and refreshment during this Holiday Season may be giving more!

Renewal and  Refreshment by Giving More

It is the season to think about gift giving: we exchange gifts, food, parties. But as nurses, we sometimes find this a difficult season to work through; not only do we have more opportunities and obligations, nursing doesn't take a break or go on vacation-in fact, the workload can increase as some staff take time off.

Conventional wisdom says that we have to take care of ourselves first, protect our time, plan special things just for us. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that self-care is the way to greater happiness and fulfillment in life. What if that is simply not true? What if we gain more by giving more of ourselves away? What if we find real refreshment and refueling by offering more kindnesses to others? What if conventional wisdom has things backwards-or maybe just overweighted on the idea that it's all about "me?"

Two very different recent home visits got me to thinking about how we ultimately find refreshment and renewal in our personal and professional lives. First was the elderly gentleman who was difficult to visit because of the bitterness he seemed to have stored up in his heart. As he shared his memories of past service at this church, he ruminated on remembered slights from his peers and a lack of gratitude from the recipients of his volunteer work. It seems that although he gave of himself routinely, he begrudged the time and judged those he served to be less than worthy. As he nears the end of his life, he seems defeated, burdened, heavy, less than content. After visiting him, I left feeling sad for him and struggling with how to respond most effectively to help him find peace.

In contrast, a gentleman across town of a similar age, economic status and faith community, has a definite twinkle in his eyes as I visit him in the nursing home. Before sharing his own concerns, he is anxious to find out about how my family is doing. His memories involve humorous stories of his own shortcomings in meeting the needs of those that stopped by his faith community house of worship; he told a tale of volunteering to fix a roof, identifying the problem and repairing it, only to have the resident less than satisfied with his labor. She called the church and told the secretary, "Those two guys that came by here to look at my roof? Don't pay them. They don't know what they are doing!" His laughter and easy going attitude served him well as a younger man and continue to do so now.

What is the difference between these two men? They both volunteered to serve; they were both involved and gave of themselves. But fundamentally, their attitudes couldn't be more different; while one found fault and judgement, the other seems to have encountered life with a more open heart and a sense of humor, seeing others as worthy of his love and care. Fundamentally, the attitude of their hearts was different.

As professional nurses, we meet both of these types of people daily and we ourselves have the opportunity to chose which we will be. The work we do remains unchanged but our attitude about our work is always under our control. We can work with resentful, bitter attitudes or chose more joy.

In practical terms, how can we be more giving and experience refreshment in our careers by giving more of ourselves instead of less? By adjusting how we see our patients and their families instead of focusing on our own needs as much? By valuing others as we value ourselves? By forgiving quickly and letting offenses go?

Here are some ideas of consider as you look forward to this holiday season where work may become more intense instead of less and people may act more like the Grinch or Scrooge than Tiny Tim.

  1. Stay centered. This may sound upside down and backwards but it's not! As we are able to keep ourselves centered on what really matters, letting the little stuff slide off our shoulders, we become the professionals that we want to be and are better able to offer excellent care to our patients. So start the day with a reading, or a moment of yoga, or some music that feeds your soul. Find your way to stay centered.
  2. Do something kind. Go out of your way to practice a kindness; the good deed may help bring refreshment when the well of energy and good will is running low. Going above and beyond may seem impossible, but sometimes it is just what the nurse ordered! Renewal follows.
  3. Say "yes" more. Oddly, as much as we want to protect ourselves and our time by saying no, sometimes it doesn't have the desired effect. Instead of feeling better, we become more self-centered and less giving. Ultimately, our inability to say "yes" to favors or opportunities, can make us more like Gentleman #1 instead of #2.

This Holiday Season, let's all practice giving more instead of less. As Maya Angelou said, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." Happy Holidays!


Joy has been a nurse for 35 years, practicing in a variety of settings. Currently, she is a Faith Community Nurse. She enjoys her grandchildren, cooking for crowds and taking long walks.

16 Likes, 4 Followers, 83 Articles, 144,634 Visitors, and 359 Posts.

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Thank you for the great article. I agree with you that it is up to us as individuals to decide how we want to live, how we want to spend our personal resources of time, money, energy and talents. We must also decide the purpose for doing that, is it for self fulfillment in order to brag about how great we are to others expecting their praises and thank-yous. If this is the reason we will always be disappointed because either those things don't come at all or they don't last long, leaving you bitter. Or is it simply for altruistic reasons with no expectations. IMO, this is the only way to be personally fulfilled, by simply doing what we can, when we can, without expecting anything in return. No expectations means no let downs which means no bitterness for not getting the accolades we hoped for. I am sure we have all gone out of our way to help someone to have them only complain, if we did it simply as one human being helping another then there is no disappointment. I agree, be kind where ever you can, not because of what you will get from someone else, but because it is the right thing to do. I see our society fast devolving and it is just sad. We can all work on being more polite and kind to others.

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