Eat, Pray, Wear Gloves

Eat, Pray, Wear Gloves

Nurses have been brought to their knees during the Covid pandemic. Nurses are feeling overworked, understaffed, overwhelmed with non-vaccinated patients, and exhausted. They are dealing with a lack of PPE, trauma and vicarious trauma一you name it一 it’s bad right now. When anyone is experiencing even just one of these feelings or scenarios, a normal human response is to either numb out, shut down, go on auto-pilot, or push harder (hoping that if we just work harder, the trauma will end). All of these understandable responses are some version of disconnecting from ourselves and our bodies so that our psyches can survive.

As nurses, we may put off taking care of ourselves so that we can care for the others who it seems need the care more than we do. This type of black and white/either-or thinking works well when we have a mechanical task at hand such as the act of wearing gloves before starting an IV. But when it comes to making sure we are also ok, the either/or approach, though well-intended, can actually make our situation worse instead of better. It’s important to recognize either/or thinking when it comes to taking care of ourselves because it is a sign of exhaustion and disrupted thinking. Taking care of both ourselves and our patients does not have to be mutually exclusive, and it is essential to do both successfully.

Five Common Things Nurses Do That Signal We Are Disconnecting From Our Bodies:

  1. Delaying bathroom breaks
  2. Skipping meals
  3. Skipping breaks
  4. Volunteering for extra shifts when struggling
  5. Ignoring personal needs that fill up our own cup outside of work (just sleep, eat, work, rinse, lather, repeat)

Hearing the question “what are you doing to take care of yourself through all this?” can be unnervingly annoying and somewhat dismissive when we are stressed out of our minds due to circumstances beyond our control一 but it is still worth considering the answer. Even the best self-care will not magically fix everything going on around us, but it will help keep our psyches intact as we struggle through impossibly hard circumstances.

Dr. Kristin Neff, renowned psychologist and researcher on self-compassion, has taught that self-compassion is not necessarily here to ‘fix’ things. Instead, we practice self-compassion so that we can be with ourselves while we suffer. It is a way of soothing ourselves through the pain, instead of powering through the pain. It is a way of recognizing our own humanity while caring for others. It doesn’t mean going on a spa day to feel better (though that would also be nice). It’s the little things such as being careful with our thoughts (our minds hear everything we say to ourselves), focusing on the breath, eating, hydrating, going to the bathroom, taking moments to power down. Small actions of compassion and kindness toward ourselves can help keep our spirits intact, and minimize the effects of the trauma we are experiencing as Nurses.


Don’t forget to eat. Find three simple, healthy, tasty treats to give yourself a hit of dopamine when you are stress-eating.

My achilles heel is chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Just thinking about it makes me want to eat an entire cake. But after putting on some serious weight during the first eight months of the pandemic, I had to get creative. I knew I didn’t have it in me to stop eating all the cake immediately, but I was willing to experiment with other treats that were satisfying (and maybe not so lethal to my cholesterol levels). I’ve found that choosing one of these options prior to eating chocolate cake makes it much more likely that I will eat less cake (1 slice instead of 3) in one sitting.

  • Date “Snickers” Bars

    Make a mini Snickers bar with a medjool date. Cut it open lengthwise and add peanut butter and chocolate chips before microwaving for 10 seconds. I was skeptical about this at first, but was mightily surprised with the end result. Instead of microwaving, you can also freeze a batch of date snickers bars. Write in the comments below if you tried this, and what you think!

  • Frozen Grape Mini Popsicles

    Freeze multiple kinds of pre-washed grapes in a plastic container. I know, this sounds kinda basic and sad at first glance (frozen grapes instead of chocolate cake? Yeah, no thank you). But the freezing process allows the sugar to be concentrated, and they taste like tiny popsicles! Chef AJ, a plant based chef and guru, recommended this treat more than once. I particularly enjoy freezing green grapes or concord grapes, and always have a stash of them in my freezer ready to go. BONUS: Create a charcuterie board by pairing the grapes with walnuts, a veggie plate and ranch, or celery and peanut butter.

  • Caramelized Sweet Potatoes

    Roast sweet potatoes and keep them in your refrigerator ready to go when you need something warm and rich-tasting. Be sure to use a fork to poke holes into the potatoes before placing them in the oven. Bake the sweet potatoes in a 425 degree oven for one hour (or until you see caramelization from the fork piercings). To reheat the potatoes, slice the potatoes into rounds and warm them in the microwave. Top them with anything that sounds good such as saigon cinnamon and date syrup, along with pieces of walnuts. Sometimes I cook up apples with cinnamon, and put that on top of the sweet potato, or drizzle with maple syrup. So many options! Go with what you like.


Tap in to whatever spiritual concept grounds you (nature, church, faith, meditation, evolution, mantras, art, singing, etc) and allows you to have serenity for the things we cannot change, and the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This can feel particularly difficult to do when we are under huge amounts of stress. The serenity prayer always reminds me to have good boundaries with myself and the universe (i.e. it’s not my job to take on more than I can do because that’s the universe’s job). Do whatever works best for you that connects you to your own existence, life, body, soul, the larger cosmos, etc.

Regardless of your belief system, this pandemic has taught us that our humanity is closely dependent on the humanity of our neighbors. As nurses, the serenity prayer is particularly helpful for us to remember that we alone can not fix everything. We cannot work 30 days in a row, regardless of the reason, because humans need rest and time to recover. It’s important to understand that nurses have the power to say ‘no’ to taking on more work than we can handle, even when the unit is short staffed. Taking on the manager’s role of hiring enough people to staff a unit is more than we can handle. And the truth is that there are always other options than guilting already exhausted nurses into working even more hours. We have seen this play out in real-time as more states and hospitals are finally utilizing federal resources to help specifically with Staffing, such as in Tennessee (as well as other states). Extreme circumstances call for extreme interventions.

If you imagine that one of your patients said to you “I know I am tired and not able to think straight, but I don’t want to screw over my co-workers by not working extra shifts”, how would you handle their concern? How would you respond to them, knowing they were exhausted and struggling? Would you say, “well they need you, so you have to power through.” Of course not. Whatever the compassionate thing is that you would say to your patient, say it to yourself five times in a row. Our own stressed and tired brains aren’t necessarily used to hearing words of kindness like this, so it may take a while to sink in — but give it a chance. Give yourself a chance to honor your own human existence, as you do for your patients every single day.

Then, when you are not at work, make sure you do something that fills your cup (the things we can control)一call a good friend you haven’t talked to in awhile, go for a walk in your neighborhood or local park, watch a movie with your sister, order food from your favorite restaurant, meditate with a zoom community (many local meditation centers offer online zoom classes right now), try something new that you’ve always wanted to try (join a knitting circle, skydive, etc.), pray, camp, cook, play with kids. Do anything that connects you back to your own existence and joy. And it doesn’t have to be big. The little things are easier to do consistently, and go a long way in the long run. Self-care and connecting to what is bigger than us is a marathon, not a sprint.

Wear Gloves

You down with PPE? (yeah you know me!)

You don’t need reminders from me to wear gloves. We’re just glad we have gloves these days. Wearing gloves is one of the many things we do to keep ourselves safe while we work, yet we put them on without much thought (because we do it all day every day). Try adding a quick silent ritual every time you put on a pair of gloves to connect with your own sense of safety and security (not during an emergency, or course). It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate (that would be weird), but something quick that reminds you that in the moment you are as safe as you can be.

Some examples include a silent mantra, saying “these gloves are here to protect me, and keep me safe.” Try taking two seconds to ground yourself while putting the gloves on一tapping into your senses by paying attention to the feeling of the glove on your fingers, the smell of the material, the color and size of the glove. Maybe start associating putting on gloves with taking one slow, deep breath in and out through your nose as you are putting them on. Whatever you can do to tell your body it is safe in the moment is a way to help keep our nervous systems calm, our thoughts more clear and kind, and our psyches intact.

Do what you need to do to remember your own humanity. Be sure to eat something yummy and healthy when you’re hungry, or if you just can’t remember the last time you ate. Pray or connect to your sense of higher purpose for serenity. Understand which circumstances you can change or can’t change, and put healthy boundaries in place so you can easily remember this wisdom. Choose a ritual for yourself, such as putting on gloves to remind yourself you are safe at work at that moment.

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