Do You Use All Twelve Seconds Of Your Lunch Break Effectively?

You peer blurrily at the stupid tiny clock in the corner of your computer screen, watching the last few seconds of your lunch “break” slip away. You continue charting frantically, trying to finish as much as you can before you get bombarded with the workload of your afternoon patients.

You rub your eyes, but the grittiness won’t go away. You know it’s because you have been staring at the screen too long, and that you shouldn’t chart through lunch, but what can you do? You don’t want to be charting at 9pm either, so working through lunch seems like the lesser evil.

You wolf down some food in 60 seconds flat with one hand as you click madly away with your mouse using the other hand, sighing as you are called to go see your first afternoon patient.

Sound frustratingly familiar? Desperate to find a better way? Do you wish you could actually feel rested after lunch and still get more done?

Enter the two-minute power-walk

Your body and mind require time to rest and recharge. Nurse practitioners usually have “little to no” opportunity to relax, even during our “long” break for lunch. However, honoring your need for rest results in increased productivity, creativity, problem-solving social engagement and decreased errors.

Take a two-minute walk outside the building as your first action the instant you are free of patient responsibilities. Your body and brain will thank you.

Walking briefly outside during lunch offers many benefits, such as:

More Creativity

Studies show up to a 60% increase in creativity after a hike, and a short walk outside offers a powerful creativity-booster in the middle of your workday. When you are mentally exhausted, you can’t think of as many creative solutions for your patients’ issues, so you taking a short walk can be the difference between “no solution” and “hey, I know what we can do” for your patients.

Less Errors

Longer work without adequate breaks leads to increased numbers and severity of errors in the clinic just as it does for nurses in the hospital. You simply don’t work at your best when your brain can’t rest. You can reset this timer at least to some degree by getting outside and moving around, even if it’s only for two minutes.

Better Problem Solving

Changing your environment results in clearer thinking and improved problem solving. Yes, you can get these benefits in just a couple of minutes. The key is to get your mind off of the “same old same old” train tracks and onto a fresh set of tracks where you may come up with different solutions to the problems you are trying to solve.

Less Pain

When you chart through lunch, you tend to hunch over your shoulders, scrunch your eyebrows together and stare at the screen even longer than usual because you’re trying to reach a certain goal.

This results in increased stiffness and pain in your neck, wrists, shoulders and back, as well as the “stale” mental feeling that we all know and hate to feel when we have been working too long.

Get up, get out, move around, and you will be less prone to injuries and more able to work effectively.

Increased Productivity

Short rest breaks such as a two-minute walk will increase your productivity, which is why I recommend the power walk as the first thing you do during your lunch time. If you don’t do it right away, there is always “just one more thing” that you absolutely have to do before you can take your walk, and suddenly you run out of time and you are seeing patients again.

After the break, you are more productive thanks to the increased creativity, clearer thinking and the movement inertia you gain through the walking. Despite the loss of charting time to the break, you will get more done, and more effectively.

Increased Social And Emotional Engagement

Many of us nurse practitioners stare at our screen throughout our lunch, ignoring those around us. Taking a walk opens up our energy to connecting with our coworkers in meaningful ways. Positive social and emotional engagement in our workplace leads to increased happiness, job satisfaction, and morale.

So get up and go for a walk the moment your lunch break starts. Even if you end up charting through the rest of your lunch, the walk will help you be more energized, creative and productive, and prevent mental and physical exhaustion.

Try incorporating this two-minute power walk into your daily routine for the next three days. How did you do? Did it help? Let me know in the comments below!

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How To Use Anger Mindfully: A Real Life Example

“STOOOOOOOOOPPPP!!!” I scream, to no avail. I screech my bicycle brakes, but there is no way to avoid the accident. The middle-aged businessman on the motorcycle hadn’t bothered glancing to the left before blowing through the stop sign, directly into my bike’s front wheel.

He stops the motorcycle and gives me a surprised look and then a glare, as if all this is my fault. He smiles patronizingly and says: “you’re fine, right?” My heart pounds in my ears as I rapidly gulp shallow breaths of air, and I reply: “That was scary.” He gives me another condescending look, this time tinged with boredom, and repeats: “you’re fine. Right?”

I start to get angry. This jerk hits me on my bike because he wasn’t looking, and he’s got the gall to make ME feel like an idiot? What can I do, though? The impact was so minimal that I didn’t even fall off my bike, and my wheel appears undamaged. I am not injured, just indignant. I grudgingly admit that I am “fine” while glaring daggers at him. He shrugs and tootles off on his motorcycle.

I become progressively more annoyed as I bike the rest of the way to the coworking cafe where I work. By the time I arrive a couple minutes later, I feel enraged. I feel so resentful I wanted to explode, and I know I have to do something with the anger-induced energy or pay the consequences.

Ironically, I wrote a blog post on Anger Mindfulness yesterday, so the information is fresh in my mind. I decide to channel my anger into writing a follow-up post using this situation as an example of how to use healthy anger effectively.

Step 1 – Recognizing Anger

When the man hit me, my sympathetic nervous system immediately flew into overdrive, and appropriately so. However, the situation was over so fast that the giant dose of adrenaline had nowhere to go.

In addition to feeling my pounding heart and my labored rapid breathing from the fight-or-flight response, I feel a tight sphere of violent, chaotic angry red energy right in the middle of my chest. This baseball-sized ball of crackling hot fury is not a normal part of my sympathetic nervous system response, so I know this is the anger instead. I also notice recurrent righteous angry thoughts and a desire to slap, punch or yell at the guy who hit me.

Step 2 – Feeling Anger

After recognizing my anger, I acknowledged it. I know it is a normal and appropriate response to this situation, as I was indeed “wronged” and treated unjustly. I acknowledge that I used to think I was a “bad person” whenever I got angry, but that now I am comfortable allowing myself to experience anger.

As I reach my destination and lock up my bike, I go inside. Unfortunately, it was over 90 degrees and 90% humidity, and I had no water with me, so exercising off the energy is inadvisable. I decide to simply sit with the anger for a minute.

I stand in front of the air conditioner as I often do when I arrive at the cafe. I connect with my body, and consciously unclench my hands; I hadn’t even realized they were clenched. I also relax my shoulders and take in slow deep even breaths.

I allow myself to have the angry thoughts for a minute without judging them. I know it is hopeless to stop them or even deflect them, so I just let them be, and recognize them as anger.

Step 3 – Expressing Anger

After a minute or two in front of air conditioner’s heavenly blasting of cold air, I begin to feel restless and know that I need to do something active before the anger overwhelms me. I pace around the cafe for about 15 seconds to burn off the sharpest edge of the anger as I decide what to do next.

I call a friend who won’t judge me for being angry and who also commutes by bicycle. She can’t talk, as she is at work, but she is able to text with me, so I send her text after vitriolic text about how much I hate inattentive drivers and how unnerved I feel. She interjects with “yeah that sucks” and similar responses at appropriate intervals, allowing me to vent.

After ten minutes or so of complaining bitterly, I still feel the burning angry chaotic energy in my mid-chest, but it no longer threatens to overwhelm me. I feel calm enough to do something useful.

Step 4 – Using Anger 

I decide to channel the anger-induced energy into writing about how I am dealing with anger right now. I sit down at my computer and ignore my to-do list, my previously made plans and the people around me.

I still feel too infuriated to do normal work, and the few times I get distracted I feel the anger start surging up in me again, so I ignore the world and simply write. After 20 minutes or so the anger fades to a dull irritation, and I focus on the more technical aspects of the writing and tightening the story that I was previously too angry to handle effectively.

Now that the post is done and the anger and the adrenaline rush are gone, I feel drained, exhausted, a bit disorientated, “wrung out” and ready for a nap. These are all normal symptoms for me of recovering from a fright, though, so I am not worried about them. I am grateful for this experience that allows me to share a real-life example of how to handle anger mindfully.

 How do you handle anger in real life? Have you found tips or tricks that allow you to weather the storm in a healthy way? Do you struggle with it? Share your thoughts below!

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How To Not Swear At The Small Stuff: 4 Steps To Anger Mindfulness

“DAMN IT!!!!” It felt good to let the scream rip, but she instantly regretted it. All she did was stub her toe a little, but she immediately felt so angry a red haze descended in front of her eyes. Her husband pointed out afterward that the toe-stubbing incident was the fourth mildly-irritating thing to happen to her in ten minutes, and that he had cautiously watched her getting more and more annoyed until she exploded.

Does this happen to you? Do you get frustrated, angry, irritated or annoyed at seemingly inconsequential issues? Does it feel like anger or annoyance “just happen” to you? Do you judge yourself when you do get angry and then feel even worse?

In this article, I discuss why anger is not “bad,” and share how to recognize, feel, express and use anger energy.

Anger Is Not “Bad”

We learn from early on to judge anger as “bad.” It causes strife, negative feelings in ourselves and other people, and is frowned upon by society, especially when expressed by women. We judge ourselves and others who become angry, and learn to avoid expressing anger at all costs to “keep the peace.”

However, most social change directly stems from an angry person or group. If it weren’t for folks willing to express anger, women would not have access to birth control, be able to vote, or even work outside the home, let alone be nurse practitioners. We would still have slavery and legally condoned discrimination in the workplace, but would not celebrate the lives of César Chávez or Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Anger is healthy when you are being treated unjustly and you use that anger to help change the situation. Anger is unhealthy when you become out of control and use it to harm yourself and people around you. Anger is not good or bad; it is just energy. It is how you use that energy that causes healing or harm.

Step 1) Recognizing Anger – Mind The Gap

When you recognize anger you can short-circuit the “it just happened” feeling and instead choose to respond mindfully. There is always a gap between trigger and reaction, however small. Pay attention to that gap.

Become aware of the physical component of anger. You may feel tightness in your face, abdomen or shoulders. You may sweat, your skin may tingle or your breathing may become faster and shallower. You may clench your jaw or your fists or shift your posture toward or away from the object of your anger.

Because we spend our lives avoiding it, anger may skillfully hide itself as other emotions such as irritability, numbness, sadness, hopelessness, apathy or fear. Recognize that you may be angry even if you are feeling some other emotion.

Step 2) Feeling Anger

Give yourself permission to feel anger. It is healthy to experience your emotions. Breathe into the physical sensation of the anger. Do you feel it in a specific part of your body? Breathe in calm cool soft energy, and breathe out angry red energy.

Feeling anger mindfully can be overwhelming at first. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself and the anger. If you can’t, think of someone else you feel tenderness and heartful compassion for, such as a frail patient, a small child or a loved one. Stay with the anger sensation as much as you can. Working through it instead of avoiding it can lead to new dimensions of personal growth, calm and self-care.

When allowing yourself to feel anger, be careful to avoid the traps of cognitive distortions that we humans love to indulge in when we are feeling upset. Avoid absolutes like “always” and “never,”catastrophizing, “shoulding,” and making everything about you. Focus on the sensations of the anger, not on what caused it.

Step 3) Expressing Anger

Anger is designed to spur you to action. Right the wrong, stop the painful thing, protect those in need. You must DO something with the energy created or it will come out when you least want it to. Like a water-filled pot on a hot stove, you have to let the steam escape, or you create the potential for an explosion.

Anger creates physical energy via the sympathetic nervous system, so physical activity is ideal for burning off the energy. You can also channel the energy into other physical activities such as cleaning or walking, or non-physical activities such as work, especially if the activity is absorbing and/or relates to the anger source. The goal is to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the energy and doing something hurtful to yourself, your loved ones or your patients.

Step 4) Using Anger

Using anger effectively represents the final step in anger mindfulness. You can either do something to rectify the unjust situation you are angry about, or you can speak your truth about the injustice, even if you can’t change the situation.

Anger motivates us to do things beyond our comfort zone. For example, say a coworker has been mistreating you for months, but you didn’t say anything because you didn’t want to “rock the boat.”

Using that anger-induced energy to march into your boss’ office and calmly explain the hurtful situation and how it is affecting you and your work performance represents using anger effectively. Taking such direct action greatly increases your chances of getting what you need. Even if the situation doesn’t change, you will feel better because you got to speak your truth.

Give these four steps to anger mindfulness a try over the next 7 days. How did you do? Did it help you feel a little more in control during episodes of anger? Let me know in the comments below!

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How To Revitalize Your Skin In 5 Seconds: Beginner’s Guide

The sharply dressed nurse practitioner opens her eyes. She lets out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding and looks up with a small brave smile. She takes a deep breath in and lets it out again, now feeling centered. She squares and relaxes her shoulders, clears her mind and steps forward to knock on the medical director’s door. She wonders if she will still have a job after this meeting, but feels ready for whatever comes next.

When you are worried or anxious like the nurse practitioner above, you may furrow your brow, sweat profusely, tighten your muscles and have difficulty concentrating on the present moment. Your heart rate and blood pressure both go up, and dramatically decrease blood flow to your skin, masking the radiant glow your skin naturally emanates.

Beautiful Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness powerfully blocks your body’s acute stress response, and the benefits are numerous, wide-reaching and cost nothing to implement.

Mindfulness decreases the effects of chronic stress too, resulting in potentially dramatic benefits in unearthing your skin’s natural beauty, with no products needed. Mindfulness improves circulation, mood, digestion, wound healing, and skin conditions caused by stress such as dry skin, eczema, redness and sensitivity.

One Beautiful Breath

You can access mindfulness’ beauty benefits with a single breath. With one deep conscious breath, you decrease worry lines, frown lines, scrunched-up eyes and sweating, and increase blood flow to your skin, resulting in improved natural glow within five seconds.

One Beautiful Week

Mindfulness reveals your skin’s natural glow throughout the days and weeks as well. Decreased cortisol level from daily mindfulness increases circulation, improving wound healing, skin tone and decreasing breakouts, with noticeable changes possible within a few days.

One Beautiful Month

When you practice mindfulness every day for a month, you begin to access the full benefits to your beauty regimen. Your new skin cells benefit from improved nourishment for their entire epidermal turnover cycle, further enhancing your skin’s natural radiance. Hemoglobin a1c can begin to decrease as well due to decreased cortisol, improving wound healing and decreasing bothersome skin disturbances.

There’s No Such Thing As “Wrong” Mindfulness

Research does show that longer periods of mindfulness result in greater benefits, but mindfulness can be overwhelming to a beginner, and it’s much more important to get started than to get it “right.” If you’ve already got a mindfulness practice, increasing up to at least 45 minutes per day has shown increased health and skin benefits with each time increment.

Mindfulness doesn’t need to be complicated, or scary. Try any of the three techniques described below and see which provide you peace of mind.

Beginner Mindfulness Technique #1 – Just Breathe

Sit or stand up straight and take a slow deep breath in through your nose, breathing all the way down to the bottom of your belly. Close your eyes and pay attention to the sensation of the breath at your nostrils. Does it feel warm? Cold? Strange? Open your mouth and let the breath out, again slowly. Pay attention to the sensation of the breath on your lips. Does it feel different than your nostrils? The same? Does it tickle?

That’s it, you just meditated! Mindfulness meditation isn’t about accomplishing anything, it’s about getting your mind a short break from whatever is occupying it. When you get a little distance from whatever is bothering you, you can deal with it more easily. Also, the deep breath delivers a powerful oxygen boost to your brain, skin and muscles to keep them performing at top levels and keep you looking and feeling your best.

Beginner Mindfulness Technique #2 – Body Awareness

Take a deep breath, close your eyes and pay attention to sensations in your body. Are your muscles tired, tight or even clenched? Do you feel pain anywhere? Are you hungry or thirsty? Are your eyes burning or tired? Are you cold, warm or just right? Don’t judge what you are feeling: just notice it.

Beginner Mindfulness Technique #3 – Find Your Flow

Mindfulness Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting in one place. Anything that puts you into a “flow” state has similar benefits to meditations like the above. For example, if you love to sing, sing something. If you love dancing, then dance. If you love to read fiction, curl up and lose yourself in a good book. Accessing “flow consciousness” with any technique that allows you to lose track of time and just enjoy being in the present moment relaxes your brain and offers nearly identical benefits to sitting thoughtful meditations.

Conclusion

Mindfulness meditation techniques directly benefit health and beauty, especially natural skin radiance. Try the above mindfulness techniques for five minutes a day for the next seven days and see how beautiful you look and feel.

Take it one breath at a time and let me know how you do in the comments below!

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5 Mindful Ways You Can Minimize Depression‘s Effects

Depression Mindfulness Tip #1: Embrace The Niggles – Know Your Shit, And Your Fan

My stomach twittered. I immediately wondered: “am I getting sick? Is it something I ate?” Then I checked in with myself and realized that it was my body informing me that I am nervous about releasing this blog post to the world. After realizing that, I still felt the butterflies in my stomach, but it didn’t bother me nearly as much, because I knew why.

Take a few moments right now and notice how your body is feeling. What is it telling you? Are your shoulders tight? Eyes tired? Abdomen clenched? Back hurt? Muscles sore? We often ignore the “niggle” of our body’s intuition, but it can signal us when the shit is about to hit the fan. Recognizing this before it happens gives you a much better chance of weathering the storm mindfully and successfully.

Depression Mindfulness Tip #2: Let Insensitive Responses Com

“What do you mean you see a psychiatrist? You’re a nurse practitioner. Can’t you just treat yourself?”

People say stupid things when “helping” you with your depression. Their responses are insensitive because they simply don’t understand, but want to empathize. Their responses still hurt though, don’t they?

Instead of focusing on their words, be present with their intention: recognize and accept the empathy. Tell yourself you are worthy of love and empathy, even if you don’t believe it. You can just as easily act yourself into a way of thinking as you can think yourself into a way of acting.

Depression Mindfulness Tip #3: Let Negative Self-Thoughts Come

Depression steals your attention and laser-focuses it on your own inadequacies. Just like with physical inflammation after an irritant or injury, emotional pain causes some damage, but what really destroys you is your reaction to it, or what I call emotional inflammation.

Instead of fighting the emotionally inflammatory negative self-thoughts, let them come. Don’t judge them, don’t argue with yourself, just be aware of them. Recognize that your thoughts and feelings are temporary. Even though it feels like they will last forever, and it can be exquisitely uncomfortable, they will go away.

Depression Mindfulness Tip #4: Pay Attention To Your Experience

In addition to noticing your thoughts, feelings and body, pay attention to your experience of depression itself. Are you constantly losing yourself in it, wallowing or brooding? Are you beating yourself up over past or current failures rather than moving forward? Are you lamenting how impossible it is to do anything useful while depressed?

Shining the light of attention on your thoughts and feelings about the depression itself shows you that 90% of your suffering is self-inflicted. Even if you can’t stop the pain of the depression, you can decrease the suffering by not giving it so much power over you.

Stop reacting and feeding the emotional inflammatory cascade. Start noticing and responding instead. Recognize the fleeting nature of your thoughts and feelings. Recognize the cognitive fallacies in your thinking. Stop judging yourself being depressed.

Depression Mindfulness Tip #5: Take Care Of Yourself

Optimize your self-care routine. Sleep. Eat right. Exercise. Socialize. Seek help. It’s so easy to isolate yourself socially and give in to the lethargy and inertia and draw further and further inside, but these actions only feed the depression.

Meditate if you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. For people in the midst of a severe depression, quiet meditation can do more harm than good. If you are dutifully trying to follow your breathing but you can’t stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself, stop breath meditating.

Do something active instead that nurtures your soul, mind or body. Mindfully exercise, sing, socialize, take care of an animal or plant, clean or eat. Whatever activity you choose, pay attention to what you are doing, and recognize in that moment that you are accomplishing something meaningful. Notice what you are seeing, feeling, hearing, experiencing, and just be present with it.

Use the above mindfulness tips for “the blues,” feeling demoralized, “having a bad day,” and full-on clinical depression. Even though I still get depressed, using these tips I drastically reduced how much I “suffer” from it. I hope you will get as much benefit from them as I do.

Do you experience depression? How do you handle it and your practice? Let me know in the comments below.

Take Care Of You!

Samantha

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