Routine can be a good thing.

I feel like we constantly hear about the importance of mixing up your routine.  In general, I am a major advocate of changing it up.

However, recently a friend drew my attention to some of my weekly routines, that had become an essential part of my self care.  Interestingly enough, I hadn’t even realized it was worth mentioning?!  These routines were as essential to my week, as waking up in the morning!

Almost all of my routines involve co-workers.  This does not surprise me as we are doing emotionally taxing work which can be easier to discuss and process with those who “get it.”

I’m happy to share these routines with you, though I by no means am advocating that any of these are important for YOU.

Monday night– I meet up with an old friend and we act and film a series we are creating. It uses another part of my brain that is not usually tapped at work, and it’s a total blast. We also laugh like hyenas for most of the time.

Tuesday night– Having just finished a double, I take the train back to Brooklyn with one of my colleagues and we have a debriefing/therapy session.  We are super strict about this being OUR time.  If we run into co-workers on the train, we politely explain this is our rare time together and we will catch up with them later.  A couple times we didn’t do this and were resentful the rest of the ride.  So now we are honest with others, and have learned to protect that time.

Wednesday night– Having just worked my second double and I join another one of my colleagues to a bar that we have now frequented for 3 years.  We are also super strict about this being OUR time and have had to navigate this for the past 3 years, unwittingly hurting some feelings along the way.  We each order one margarita (rocks no salt) and share nachos.  The bartenders know us and the drinks are being made the second they spot us, which thrills me every time!

Thursday lunch– I go to lunch with another colleague, to a diner where the waiters always know what we’re going to get.  We pretend every time we’re going to get something different and then don’t.  We eat, talk and then walk a little bit before we have to head back.

The rest of my week is up for grabs, this is where I can be totally spontaneous, make plans or be a hermit depending on my mood.

But my weekly routines?  I don’t mess with those.  They have been implemented into my life for a reason. These interactions keep me from becoming cynical, depressed or stuck in other routines that aren’t healthy.  They are my self-care routines.  You may notice that I am strict on the one-on-one time with these folks.  I realize this may be very uncomfortable for some who don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  BUT, I maintain that I am the best version of my self when I am protective of sacred time rather than trying to make everyone happy at the detriment of my mental health.

Do you also have weekly routines you hadn’t even realized were an essential part of your self-care?  If so I encourage you to appreciate the self-care routines you’ve already established in your day to day life.  And if it looks like you could do with some, take that risk and reach out to someone or make a weekly date with yourself that you don’t break!

Final thought, try to refrain from making the routine an opportunity to complain with someone.  This doesn’t tend to have an effect that feels good for very long, and you may be more apt to cancel or avoid that routine if instead of giving you energy it takes energy away.

Take care of YOU!


Exploring gratitude.

A couple of years ago, I did a daily blog where I wrote about what I was grateful for each day.  Sometimes I really had to reach, and other times it was hard deciding which thing I was going to write about!

I did that project for a couple of reasons.  First, I didn’t think I was capable of maintaining a project for an entire year, as I had a string of unfinished projects haunting me.  And second, I was very aware that I had a lot to be grateful for and yet life was going by so fast I barely took any time to reflect on it and express gratitude.  The blog became my public platform for acknowledging and expressing gratitude.

I learned a lot about the power of gratitude and became better at noticing how even the little things could have a profoundly positive effect on my day.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” -Robert Brault

So today I encourage us both (you and me) to look at the aspects of our lives or jobs where we feel gratitude.  This can be hard to do, especially if your job is a toxic environment, but I do feel that expressing gratitude allows us a little perspective and gets us off the hamster wheel of saying over and over “my life (or) job SUCKS!!!”

Need a little help? Your gratitude can start small (ex: there’s always free coffee/water at work, I got a seat on the subway, I heard a song I love today) until you get on a roll.  Often times there are things all around you, that you take for granted and don’t even notice anymore.  So start noticing. I find its feels more impactful when it’s written down. Perhaps keep a little notebook and write down 5 moments of gratitude each day.  In my experience, this exercise allows you to wake up to life around you.  When you are tempted to just remain numb, your little homework assignment keeps you alert.

I want to be clear on something. I am not encouraging you or me to overlook a toxic situation.  Don’t mistake gratitude for rose-colored glasses.  But, sometimes we are stuck and can’t see beyond the daily grind, and perhaps this little exercise will allow you some clarity.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -Melody Beattie

Take care of YOU.

The food we eat…

I just polished off a bag of Haribo sour gummy bears and I feel refreshed and clear headed with energy for days!  Or….I feel disgusting, sluggish and slightly nauseous.

Sour gummies always seem like a good idea to me.  So do slices of pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, waffle fries, and pancakes… and while ALL these things are delicious they have never been known to serve me proudly when there is a long shift looming in front of me.  Jim Gaffigan the comedian has a bit about HOT POCKETS and says “No one ever says after they’ve eaten a HOT POCKET, ‘I’m glad I ate that’ instead they are like ‘I’m gonna die!'”  I can relate to that, especially with my gummy bear binge currently kicking back with a little acid reflux.

There are days when I think ahead and prepare lovely meals for myself and a couple of things DO happen. I end up saving money, enjoying what I’ve prepared, and not feeling the need to curl into a ball under my desk and nap post-meal.

Self-care is about emotional/mental health and physical health.  And if you or I are expecting to be our best caregiving selves after having eaten every item in the vending machine of the staff lounge, we are not paying attention.  It’s not going to cut it.  Just like taking time for yourself and your creativity is crucial to your success as a caregiver, so is taking time to prepare what you are going to eat while at work (and at home).

You know this, I know this.  The trick is doing it.


Take care of YOU.

A little update

Just a little update, for some of my posts I will be interviewing others and getting their insight on how they practice self-care.  As I stated at the beginning of this process, I created this blog more for myself than anyone else.  My hope was that it would force me to become better at practicing self-care if I was more mindful by writing this blog.

With that being said, I am no expert.  So I’m going to ask others to weigh in on the conversation.  I’m constantly learning from the amazing people around me, and their wise words deserve to be shared.  So coming soon, you will see some interviews.

Once I’ve exhausted my group of wise folks, I’d love to get suggestions from you all, regarding people you know of you who impress you with their self-care/self compassion. Perhaps that person is you!  I’ve love to hear your insight and thoughts.

I will leave you today with some quotes to start your week off right!

“Self compassion is practice.  It’s a practice of returning again and again with a softened heart to one’s self, knowing that the ripple effect of that is more mighty than just about anything.”  (author unknown)

“Joy is a practice.  Seek and create extraordinary moments.” -Sherry Richert Belul

And finally….

“Self compassion isn’t honed on what you can do for you in the up times, but on what you can do for you, in spite of set backs, adversity and yeah, eff ups.”  -Nat Lue

Take care of YOU.

Avoid “energy vampires.”

I can’t claim the term “energy vampire” as my own, but I heard it once used to describe those who take all your energy and give nothing back in return.  There isn’t a give and take but more of a take and take.

I imagine there are many reasons why some people have an energy vampire-ish way about them.  But if I’m honest I don’t want to spend any more of my energy trying to understand them.  They exist, and they love nothing more than a good listener or caregiver, even better if you are both!

Let me be clear, I don’t think they are evil people, just maybe not who you need to be spending your decompressing time with.  What is worse than returning to work, more exhausted than when you left it?  It’s infuriating and leads to a constant state of exhaustion!

I’ve been trying to get into the habit of taking inventory at the end of the weekend about how I feel. Did I give myself enough alone time (this is something specific for me, you might need a significant amount of people time)?  Do I feel energized or more exhausted?  Did I see people who give me energy and/or inspire me?  What are the factors that made it a fantastic or less than fantastic weekend?  Learn from what works or doesn’t work for you.

Check in with yourself about how you feel after you’ve been around various acquaintances, friends, colleagues, and family members.  There are going to be people that you cannot avoid, but possibly if you give yourself a heads up that “usually when I’m around this person I feel drained of life” you will better prepare, or know to always schedule a massage post-hangout! (I wish!)

“You are the guardian of your own energetic space.  And to live a healthy, happy, and positive life it is absolutely vital that you surround yourself with people who promote the same way of living.” -Jen Nicomedes Stone

The author of this quote wrote a more in depth look into avoiding energy vampires, see the link below:

Guard your energetic space y’all!

Take care of YOU.

You are not your job.

When I graduated from nursing school, I made a conscious decision whenever asked the favored party question, “What do you do for a living?” to never answer, “I’m a nurse.” But instead, “I work as a nurse.”

The difference between the two sentences is subtle, but ultimately I wanted to acknowledge that who I am and what I do for a living, are different.

I lived in various different places where “what you do” is all that matters.  Isn’t that unbelievably confining?! So what does that say if you hate what you do?  If you hate what you do, and yet your job is your identity…uh-oh.

There is so much freedom in not having your entire identity attached to your career.  It can allow you room for exploring other things that you love to do.  It also helps you process a bad day more easily, as it’s a mere blip in the spectrum of all that is important to you.

But what happens if you have a bad work day/week/year where your identity is soley attached to your career? Existential crisis?  Maybe.  Depression?  Sure. Helplessness?  Most likely. Feelings of inadequacy?  Ouch, you betcha.

If not attaching your identity to your career is a new idea for you, don’t sweat it.  A lot of our careers in the caregiver field, program us to think this way.  They want us “all in.”  Just don’t drink the Kool-Aid, this isn’t all that you are.  You’ve got a ton of amazing qualities that often times your career doesn’t have room for, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still cultivate them.  In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”

I can’t tell you how many creative people I know in the caregiving field.  And while their creativity is sometimes utilized at their job, perhaps not as much as they’d like.  If you can relate to this, and your instinct is to say “Oh well, you can’t have it all,” let’s try a new approach.

Instead, how can you make use of these gifts on your off time. Here’s a sampling of activities that friends of my mine, particularly in the caregiving field embrace when not at their job. They act, DJ, paint, play and write music, write for themselves, write for others, take dance classes, take improv classes, love being a mother, shoot for being the favorite auntie, climb at rock gyms, go on hikes, have catering businesses, train for half marathons, take road trips, make community, travel….

What gifts or natural abilities do you have, that your career doesn’t have room for?  Dare to allow yourself to think outside that box, and explore this other side of yourself. Chances are, it might even make you a better caregiver!

Have fun!

Take care of YOU.

Using your perspective and personal history as a tool!

I went for a run this past Saturday and it was ROUGH.  I felt like my body was made of cement and I was riddled with arthritis.  This is not an uncommon feeling for me.  My body loves to pretend it’s unfamiliar with this running motion and often combats me for a solid twenty minutes.  Then like clockwork it relaxes into the run and we are back on track.  Sometimes I forget that this happens to me (despite this happening for YEARS) and I give up before the twenty minutes are over.  But when I persevere through it and get past the 20 minute mark, I inevitably forget I am running (I’m serious!) and start to enjoy the run.

When that happened this weekend and I struggled through the twenty minutes, I thought about how grateful I was to be an adult and no longer a teenager.  Teenagers are all angst and hormones and can’t think past the present moment or even imagine they won’t feel what they are feeling for the REST OF THEIR LIVES!!!!  But adults have perspective and history.  And man, that’s a beautiful thing.

Perspective reminds you that if you had an awful day at work, it doesn’t mean you will ALWAYS have an awful day at work.  Or if you handled an interaction badly, you will ALWAYS handle ALL interactions badly. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that in your bummer moment, you are above feeling like a total failure or that your life sucks, or that you picked the wrong career and you should probably just run away and start a new life (I can get very dramatic in my bummed out moments).  We still have those moments, or at least I do….because there’s still a little teenager inside all of us.  But unlike actual teenagers, you have the advantage of having history and the knowledge that you can also change things in your life that you don’t want.  And how awesome is that??

So when you are hit with some tough moments, I encourage you to move past your initial teenage angst (feel free to have a total meltdown first) and tap into your history and get some perspective.  Quiet your teenage mind, and leave some room for your adult self that knows whatever you are grappling with may be a thing of the past in a week.  Keep running.

Take care of YOU.

Standing up to street harassment is an act of self care.

I’m going to deviate from the “caregiver theme” today and instead reflect on something that happened yesterday.

I recently moved to a new apartment, and I was showing a friend of mine around my new neighborhood.  At one point as we were talking, I could feel someone walking way too close to us, and sure enough when I turned towards him he proceeded to get in our faces and say, (quite drunkenly I might add) “Hey baby, come here baby” or some other Neanderthal mutterings.  To be honest, I didn’t give him much time to say much else because I immediately yelled, “STOP.  STOP.  Leave us ALONE.”  I was loud and I put my arm out in front of me so he would keep his distance from us.  He slunk away like a scolded child, and attempted to walk away in a straight line (bless his heart, he could not).  My friend and I started sharing our street harassment stories.  But here’s the point I really want to acknowledge, within 5 minutes of the incident, I had forgotten all about it.  And for me that’s significant.  Allow me to explain….

In 2005, I lived in Romania serving as a volunteer in the Peace Corps.  That experience within itself was life-changing in many ways and the incredible people I met along the way made it that much more rich.  Unfortunately, the street harassment became too much for me.  On a daily basis, I was grabbed and touched by random men, cat called, followed, so in a nut shell, harassed.  I should also state that this was often during the day, around many people.  Except for my group of fearless mostly female Romanian and ex-pat friends, strangers never helped me.  No one ever said anything.  My reactions varied, sometimes I’d scream, sometimes I’d run away, I was taught Romanian phrases that were supposed to shame the men, but nothing worked.  Without fail, these experiences would plague my mind.  I kept trying to figure out (by asking everyone who would listen) what I could do or say that would stop the harassment. As if I was causing this, instead of seeing it for what it was…creepy men, being allowed and encouraged to be creepy men.

As time went on I could feel myself starting to lose my “me-ness.”  I didn’t recognize myself, I was losing my quirky independent spirit.  My Romanian tutor, who was also a dear friend, remembers during one of our tutoring sessions where I just cried and cried.  I couldn’t take it any more, I felt so helpless and less bright.  (She has since told me that was a turning point for her, she realized it didn’t have to be like this and WASN’T like this everywhere.)

After putting up with regular harassment for a little under 2 years, I finally decided I had to leave.  I remember speaking to my dear friend Mary, who was also in my town, and she gave me permission to go.  Of course I never actually needed permission but I needed someone who saw what I had been going through to release me.  I wanted to be told I had put up the good fight but enough was enough.  The country director for Peace Corps Romania feared I would regret the decision to leave early, but I knew I was right.  I had to get back to a place, where I could be my self again.  I’ve never regretted that decision.  In fact, it remains one of the most profound self-care decisions of my life.

This past year as I’ve watched women grow more and more bold with street harassers, and harassers in general, it’s brought up a lot for me.  These fearless women/people are no longer keeping their experiences hidden.  Instead, they post the pictures of their harassers on Facebook, they scream at them on the subway and shame THEM instead of the other way around.  They are making others listen.  It’s awesome.  Their boldness is contagious.

So yesterday, I didn’t even hesitate to yell at that man.  And instead of beating myself up about what I didn’t say or do, I walked away from that idiot feeling STRONG.  I forgot about what happened 5 minutes later, because I had handled it.  I hadn’t second guessed my actions, or wondered what I was doing or wearing to “encourage” harassment.

I fully recognize that I will still have triggers, and moments when I freeze up.  But it’s my hope that I will be kinder to myself if this happens.  It’s also my hope that the courage so many are taking to loudly stand up for themselves, will give the harassers far less “courage.”

This is the first time I’ve ever written about this specific experience.  But it felt like it was time when my experience of yesterday popped back into my head during my run.  I’m not sure if I’m being articulate but I guess that’s not really my point.  Back in 2005, I didn’t have a smart phone and I don’t think I was on Facebook.  So this is my version of exposing the harassers.

Take care of YOU.

Take your sick days!

How many times have you heard someone say with pride, “I’ve never taken a sick day.” At every place I’ve worked, in various different fields, inevitably someone announces this fact with a sense of accomplishment.  Listen, I’m all about high fiving people for going above and beyond, but not taking a sick day when you are legitimately sick, is silly.

In the healthcare field, we are constantly encouraging/berating our patients to take better care of themselves.  But are we being good examples?  When you don’t take that sick day and arrive into work feeling crappy, how do you expect your patients/clients to listen to you, if you aren’t practicing good self care?

Sick days are a GIFT.  You are getting paid to feel better, to be your best self at work.  If your instinct is to feel guilt about calling out, unpack that a little bit and see what that’s all about for you.  What image of yourself are you trying to uphold? Do you think your coworkers will think less of you? Will you? Are you afraid they’ll view you as weak? Chances are you aren’t even on their radar, boo boo.  If they do judge you however, that really is more about them than you.  “What other people think of you, is not your business.”- Deepak Chopra

It’s never convenient when you get sick.  There are so many things you planned on doing, and then suddenly you are sick.  At the same time, listen to that body of yours. Perhaps it’s telling you to slow down or to just STOP.  Would you tell a loved one to go into work anyway, if they were feeling sick?  No.  Allow yourself the same courtesy.

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes that have resonated with me when I am putting my own health on the back burner.

(I’m feeling the quotes today, bear with me!)

“I have come to believe that taking care of myself is not self indulgent.  Caring for myself is an act of survival.”  -Audre Lorde

“Givers need to set limits, because takers rarely do.” -Rachel Wolchin

Alright folks, take care of you!

Embrace your commute…it can be an essential part of decompressing.

What if having a long commute or any commute was a good thing?  I know, I know this sounds cuckoo bananas, but just go with me on this.  Every day, regardless of how you are feeling, you have to be “on.”  Right?  You have to be an empathetic listener, you must be present for others, you must be caring and loving and… the list goes on.  In the caregiving field you are working with people ALL DAY LONG.  And so that means that you are constantly interacting.  You are interacting with so many people throughout the day you may not even be aware of how much of your energy is being given over to others.

(I recently did an exercise at work where I started counting how many people I interacted with during one shift.  I actually lost count because I couldn’t keep up, but I really want to complete that exercise at the very least out of curiosity.  I encourage you to try it, and get ready for an a-ha moment…”That’s why I’m so exhausted!!”)

So when it’s time to go home, after being “on” all day/night, are you still operating on all cylinders?  I know I’m not!  I’ve usually had little to no time to myself, which in my case usually means I might not be my best self when I get back home or go out with friends etc.  I need time to replenish my energy. (And p.s. please don’t compare your need for decompression with anyone else, let alone those whose career allows them to have ear buds in all day working independently on projects)

Check in with yourself after work.  If you find that you are still buzzing after the day you’ve had and replaying everything that happened over and over, maybe you could benefit from singing one of your favorite songs at the top of your lungs, in your car.  (Subway riders, this does not apply to you, unless you are Aretha Franklin.  She can do whatever she wants.)  Or stop at a little shop and look around, or a cafe and just have a moment to yourself or listen to some calming music.  Or just do nothing at all, except exist.  Or turn off your phone.

Regardless of how you choose to decompress on your commute home, it’s worth investigating if this opportunity to reconnect with yourself, helps you feel closer to your best self by the time you arrive home.

Take care of YOU.