Moderator Pick
December 5th, 2020

It turns out you actually cannot pour from an empty cup...

Every nurse, doctor, and health care worker on this Earth has heard the terms "self-care", "resilience", and "mindfulness" more in the last nine months than - I would argue - ever before. As it turns out, there's really something to it!

As a bedside hospice nurse, death is no stranger to me. Admittedly, I felt invigorated by the "challenge" SARS-CoV-2 presented at the beginning of this pandemic (from a physiological perspective, anyway). However, I quickly sobered up to the realization that the grief and loss patients, families, AND staff are experiencing is next-level.

The sheer fact that I get to be a nurse and care for people at one of the most sacred times in their life has always been enough... to keep me grounded, to get me out of bed each day. But, I hit a breaking point - mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I ultimately gave myself the gift of grace. I took a step back to reflect on all I have been through personally and professionally over the past few months in order to calculate an intentional action plan for moving forward. What I realized? Self-care and mindfulness do not have to be big, glamorous acts like they are often cracked up to be. News flash: we do *not* have to book a full fledged spa day in order to take care of ourselves.

Instead, I have committed to upgrading small, ordinary moments - just a bit - to meet the challenges that come with each passing day. House needs vacuuming? Plug into your favorite podcast while you do it. Have a bunch of errands to run? Bring a yummy mug of tea and blast your favorite tunes in the car. Going for a run? Wear your favorite funky socks.

This all may sound cliche. But, let me tell you - there is such power in making such small shifts in your day. Also, if I'm being honest, it's given me a degree of control back that I felt has been missing since this pandemic has run rampant all over our society.

Sure, the challenges will still be there tomorrow. Patients and families will still be grieving difficult losses. Papers need to be written, and more Zoom meetings must be had. The difference? If I am more intentional, and make things *feel easier*... well, that is a good, solid place to be.

It took a global pandemic for me to realize you actually cannot pour from an empty cup... and how I keep it full is up for me to decide.

Tags: Managing stress, Nature, Resilient, Self-care

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Comments (6)

Comments (6)

"The sheer fact that I get to be a nurse and care for people at one of the most sacred times in their life has always been enough... to keep me grounded, to get me out of bed each day. But, I hit a breaking point - mentally, physically, and emotionally."

This sustains me, too, Katie~ the intimacy and privilege of the exchanges between nurse and patient.... My feedback loop has always been very tight~ without the distraction of extraneous elements~ just the primacy of the nurse/patient relationship.
I, too, have had days this year when I have felt (for the first time in 19-year career) that I was so exhausted that the care that has fueled and sustained me, was dragging me down. It has taken whooo! Sooooo much self-talk to deliberately pull myself back to a place where I am able to genuinely feel that rising to this challenge is even MORE of a privilege than caring for patients during the previous 18 years. And, like you~ it took that introspection; that was NOT what I wanted my days to feel like.

And, I, too sprinkle my days with small moments of focus and adjustment.
Riding the elevator to my unit, I share wishes for a good shift with people who I know, and people who I don't know.
Before entering a patient's room, while cleaning my hands, I savor a moment of ablution~ literally saying to myself "how can I best serve those on the other side of this door?"
When I get into my car at the end of the shift, before I turn the key, I have a gratitude practice~ listing a few things for which I am thankful.
And, yes. I am a bathroom meditator. I frequently take just a minute during the course of a shift to reset in the quiet darkness of the loo.

Thank you so much, Katie. I really appreciate your sharing.
The good nature and insight of that phrase " it turns out you actually cannot pour from an empty cup" will stick with me.

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Beautiful, Laurie! Thank you so much for sharing. I have really found that sprinkling small moments throughout the day for gratitude, meditation, etc. is more sustainable than dedicating a full day off (which is usually dedicated to catching up on sleep, honestly...) to "self-care". Isn't it amazing how powerful self-talk can be?! It makes me remember I can always do more and be better than I think I can by simply shifting my mindset.

Take good care and stay safe.


Katie, thank you! Small steps of grace, gratitude and intentionality are the name of the game.

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Thank you!!


Hi Katie:

Thanks for sharing such an uplifting post!

I'm curious about that moment when you decided to "give myself the gift of grace." What precipitated that aha! moment?

Any of us struggling with stress might benefit from a deeper insight into what happened to you and how you choose that path rather than another.

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It's hard - because I think that threshold is different for every person, and how all of the stress builds up and manifests will vary as well.

For me, I was becoming numb on the job, and outside of work I was irritable, angry, and frustrated all the time (my poor family, I tell you...). I recognized I was becoming a really crummy version of myself. Seeing the latest social media news about groups crowded together not wearing masks made me think of my innocent patients who have died from the virus despite following all the guidelines.

I do not believe in wandering through life on auto-pilot - our days are too short to not find joy in them all. After days of that auto-pilot feeling and so much pent up anger, I just realized that something needed to give. I needed to get back to being me, and ultimately it was going to be up to ME to figure out how to get there.