I have had a great time at the American Nurses Association Membership Assembly in Arlington, Virginia. I met a great holistic nurse, professional speaker and best-selling author named Aila Accad. She has a new book out about how to be soul-centered and open to whatever comes, listening to the spirit to guide us. Check out her website.
I had a lovely time riding an Amtrak train for the first time ever, to get to the Baltimore airport. The ride was scenic and relaxing. When I arrived at the airport feeling optimistic and refreshed, I found out that my flight has been delayed FIVE HOURS. Well I tried to find another flight out but everything is sold out. So now my choice is to whine and complain or just make the best of it. Instead of worrying and complaining I will enjoy the down time. I’m going to get a massage, read a lot, stroll around and be in the present moment. Wish me luck! After all, how often am I given a gift of 5 hours to do whatever I want? This is stress management at its finest. I will remember what Aila said, and follow wherever the spirit guides.
I am in Arlington, Virginia attending the inaugural Membership Assembly meeting of the American Nurses Association. I am meeting wonderful, caring, professional nurses from all over the country. I was privileged go to the Capitol and with the staff of Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch to discuss health issues.We talked about the importance of safe staffing in hospitals, and about expanding the role of nurse practitioners. It was exciting stuff, and I was reminded how vital it is for all of us to get involved with our lawmakers to ensure our best possible health outcomes. Get familiar with your national and local legislators and make a difference in your health and the health of our communities. They won’t know how to vote unless they hear from you. We can do this together!
My 7th grandson was born a few days ago. His name is Lincoln and he is of course a beautiful baby. I let his parents have some alone time in the hospital until I just couldn’t wait any longer and went to meet him. Holding a brand new baby can be a mystical experience. Lincoln’s dad said to me, “Mom, it happens every time. When the baby enters the room for the first time, I just cannot deny that there is a God. How could there not be?” Welcoming a new child into the world provides a perfect opportunity for us to examine our spirituality, and is a wonderful opportunity to take a breath and take a break and just connect. Just gazing into a newborn’s face can release oxytocin into our bloodstream, which helps us relax and connect. A recent article suggests that the simple act of holding hands reduces stress. Holding a sleeping baby also reduces stress. When I hold Lincoln and just look at him, I feel very relaxed. Now perhaps that’s because I am the grandma and not the parent, so I can just see his great potential and feel pure love. I know parents may look at a newborn and think about their responsibilities, and worry about his wellbeing. I suggest whenever we look at or hold a baby we focus on the positive feelings that come up for us. Those feelings will be reflected back to the baby so there is a transformative interaction that is good for everyone.
I just read a research article1 that critiqued positive thinking for patients with cancer. The authors said that there is very little evidence to support positive thinking as a coping strategy to improve survival or coping. They also said that people with cancer might feel pressured to “do” positive thinking just right, which added to their stress instead of helping them cope. Well it got me to thinking about positive thinking and I want to be clear that sometimes I just don’t feel positive. Sometimes I just need to wallow in self-pity for a few minutes or maybe a few days. And I don’t beat myself up about it. It is important to identify and own negative thoughts because we know that holding in negative feelings is not healthy. But once I have taken a good look and really felt the negative stuff, I know it’s time to get back on the positive thinking train. Even if the scientific research isn’t solid on this, I just feel better when I think positively. So here’s a tip if you are ready to switch from negative to positive thinking, especially if you just can’t seem to force yourself into the positive side: Grab a paper and pen or get on your computer and WRITE DOWN YOUR POSITIVE THOUGHTS. This has worked great for me. When I doodle or take notes, I write a positive affirmation. Start out simple – just write YES. When I am feeling blue, I write down something like, “I feel fabulous!” Pretty soon, I am able to say it out loud, and the positive feelings follow those positive thoughts, and guess what? I feel fabulous!
1Tod A et al (2011) A critique of positive thinking for patients with cancer. Nursing Standard. 25, 39, 43-47.
An important stress management skill is the ability to “keep your well filled.” We certainly cannot serve others or ourselves effectively if we are drained and lack enthusiasm and life balance. I attended a wonderful workshop given by David Lee about workplace relationships years ago at the National Wellness Institute conference. David Lee challenged us to answer the following questions:
- What brings me alive? When have I been happiest? What people do I love to be around?
- What is not working for me anymore? What deadens me and drains my energy? How do I “should” on myself, silencing the still, small voice?
- What activities fill my well and recharge my batteries?
These are great questions to ask yourself when you feel drained and discouraged. It really is up to you to change your life. Feeling stressed? Ask yourself the challenging questions. Make choices that work for you.
A few years ago I was bullied by a co-worker. Whenever I said anything in a group, she would immediately rebut me. This went on for several months and then she asked me to be a guest speaker to discuss integrative healing in her health science course. I thought maybe she had finally accepted me as a colleague and things would run smoother. But when she introduced me as a holistic nurse she said, “Sometimes I don’t think Glenda is a real nurse.” Yeah, she said that right in front of a classroom full of college students. I was so very tempted to walk out at that point, but felt I owed it to the students to stay. Things got worse and I contemplated quitting my job. I sought the advice of an expert on critical conversations and he advised against confrontation because she had more power than I and it would most likely make things worse. He suggested I talk to our manager about it. I decided to try an unusual approach. Every time I saw the bully in the hallway, I imagined her surrounded by white light and I sent her unconditional love and light. Whenever I thought about her I replaced negative thoughts with positive thoughts. The reduced my stress significantly. But the real miracle was that within just a few days, the bullying stopped. I attribute it to the love and light that I sent to her, causing a change in me that made me a less attractive target. Meanwhile, several other employees lodged a formal complaint and the bully resigned.
Bullying is a major cause of stress in the workplace and contributes to absenteeism and turnover. About 40% of working adults have experienced bullying or witnessed it. Bullying is such a problem in nursing that the American Nurses Association has published a book about bullying, calling for a culture change.
If you are being bullied at work, or anywhere else, I urge you to seek help. The extreme stress caused by bullies is a threat to your health and wellness. There are many options for dealing with bullies, and not everyone agrees on the right approach, so it will take some thoughtful planning before you act. When talking to the bully, and when talking to others about the bullying behavior, remain calm and talk about the facts. Describe the behavior unemotionally. And remember, you are not alone.
I am at the annual conference of the American Holistic Nurses Association in Norfolk, Virginia. As usual, I have learned a lot and had a lot of fun connecting with caring, dedicated holistic nurses. I know that when I or a loved one is ever in need of nursing care, I want a holistic nurse.
Not long ago I read an article about how the placebo effect is now being called “remembered wellness.” Remembered wellness is also called “the relaxation response.” Does that mean the placebo effect is the same as the relaxation response? As has so often happened in the field of integrative healing, terms change through the years. But this is an interesting thought: If the placebo effect is the same as the relaxation response, then it is imperative that we learn to relax in order to heal. Now on another but related note: I have been down with an upper respiratory infection (okay, it’s a “bad cold”) for about 10 days now. A couple of days ago I was whining and trying to remember what it felt like to be well. So I decided to intentionally remember, with all my 5 senses what it felt like to be well. Could this be an new tool to heal from illness? Well I wish I could tell you yes, for sure, but I can’t. I need to do some more exploration of this topic. But like I say about positive thinking in general, it can’t hurt.
My husband and I are in Las Vegas at the AARP Life at 50+ Expo. Very fun and informative. One of my goals was to talk to attendees to see what is stressing people and find out how older people manage their stress. I learned that people over 50 have a lot of stress related to transitions. As we age, we experience job changes, retirement, loss, relocation, and many more events that call for a “reimagining” of our lives. I met Kirk Rademaker, an expert sand sculptor who reimagined his life when he turned 50, during a time of personal turmoil and dissatisfaction with the status quo. I took a picture of a beautiful sand sculpture he created at the expo. He travels the world creating beautiful but temporary artwork. Other people at the Expo who have reimagined their lives include Edie Sundby, who is fighting Cancer, Natalie Cole who has reimagined her life many times, and Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose. So one way that older people manage stress is by using the process of reimagining instead of retiring or retreating or reinventing. Reimaging opens up possibilities and I am going to add it to my positive thinking tool kit. When change comes I will reimagine the possibilities. Sounds liberating!