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Nurturing calm

Today’s post is brought to you by the never-ending interruptions of my children whenever I sit down to write these days. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to remain calm when I start to feel like I’m losing my mind.  I’ve recently discovered the power of square breathing (also known as tactical or box breathing). I practice it when…

Today’s post is brought to you by the never-ending interruptions of my children whenever I sit down to write these days. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to remain calm when I start to feel like I’m losing my mind. 

I’ve recently discovered the power of square breathing (also known as tactical or box breathing). I practice it when I find myself becoming impatient or feeling tense, or when I’m simply feeling overwhelmed by the demands of work and parenthood.

Square breathing looks like this:

  1. Breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of four.
  2. Keep that breath in for a count of four.
  3. Gradually exhale through your mouth for a count of four.
  4. Pause breathing for a count of four.

Repeat for 3-5 breaths, whenever needed.

Taking a moment when we’re feeling stressed or worried to focus on our breathing can help us become re-centred, focused and calm.

Sometimes resting between breaths can make all the difference between a quiet mind and racing thoughts.

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What’s okay & what’s not okay

Lately I’ve been struggling to be clear with people about what’s okay and what’s not okay. If I’m being totally honest, boundaries always been a struggle for me. In fact, most of my biggest regrets in life and at work have happened when I’ve failed to establish boundaries. Maintaining boundaries and keeping ourselves and other…

Lately I’ve been struggling to be clear with people about what’s okay and what’s not okay. If I’m being totally honest, boundaries always been a struggle for me. In fact, most of my biggest regrets in life and at work have happened when I’ve failed to establish boundaries.

Maintaining boundaries and keeping ourselves and other people accountable is hard work. Especially when we’re concerned about wanting to be liked by others and when we’re worried about hurting people’s feelings (as a long-standing people-pleaser, I know this feeling well!).

But – as hard as it can be to uphold accountability, being clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay is required for us to be the most compassionate with ourselves and also the people we work with and care for.

Nursing is defined by the limits we set about what we will and won’t do, and what we will and won’t accept. The sensitive, intimate and powerful nature of our work demands this.

We know from unfortunate situations in the media that failing to set boundaries is toxic to clients, families, colleagues, health care institutions, organizations and professions.

When we don’t set boundaries and hold our colleagues and ourselves accountable for our actions, and when we don’t follow through with consequences of crossing boundaries, people can feel hurt, mistreated and disrespected.

Setting boundaries boils down to having the courage to potentially upset other people while simultaneously believing that our self-worth does not hang on other people’s reactions to the decisions we make about what’s okay and what’s not okay.

So what can we do?

Separate people from their behaviours. The key to maintaining boundaries and holding people accountable is to separate people from their behaviours by addressing what they’re doing or how they’re acting, instead of attacking who they are as a person.

Reach out. Whenever I’m struggling with a boundary and unsure what to say or do (or when I know what I should do but I’m afraid of doing it), I try to talk to my good friend Kelsey. She’s got firm roots – she’s clear about her values, she’s empathetic and know’s right from wrong. Just a few weeks ago we role-played an awkward conversation I was afraid of having with someone that was all about boundaries. Chatting with her ahead of time lessened my fears, gave me the confidence to speak up and reminded me that I wasn’t an uncaring, flawed person for holding someone accountable for their actions.

Practice makes progress. Feeling comfortable with saying “no”, “that’s not okay”, “I can’t do this” gets easier with practice.

Worst-case scenario. When I’m on the fence about setting a boundary or calling someone out for crossing one, I think to myself: What’s the worst thing that might happen if I say no? When I actually think about my fears, the thing I’m most afraid of isn’t going to be the end of my life, my career or my relationship with the other person.

Recite a motto. I need written (and sometimes daily) reminders to keep me on the right path. I’ve got two sticky notes on my desk. One says “Discomfort beats resentment and regret”. The other one asks, “Will this behaviour get me where I need to go?”. These sayings remind me that holding people and myself accountable is important. And, that temporary discomfort is an easier pill to swallow than resentment and regret.

Setting boundaries is not only healthy, it’s essential for us to do our work.

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The happiness of pursuit

Chasing happiness was my modus operandi for many years. I had big dreams and high expectations, and believed that happiness was something to be found in the end, after all the hard work. Happiness wasn’t part of the journey. I’ll be happy when I get accepted into school. I’ll be happy when this project is…

Chasing happiness was my modus operandi for many years. I had big dreams and high expectations, and believed that happiness was something to be found in the end, after all the hard work. Happiness wasn’t part of the journey.

I’ll be happy when I get accepted into school.

I’ll be happy when this project is done. 

I’ll be happy when I’m done school. 

I’ll be happy when I’m married.

I’ll be happy when I have kids.

I’ll be happy when I’m an NP.  

I’ll be happy when I’m making better money. 

I’ll be happy when the new boss starts. 

I’ll be happy when I get more vacation time. 

I’ll be happy when I’m doing anything other than what I’m doing now….

Sound familiar?

Flash forward to now and I’ve learned that the reason I chased happiness was that I wasn’t filled from gratitude.

Many of us think that happiness is on the other side of the extraordinary, life-changing moments. We believe we’ll be happy when we’ve achieved something we’ve longed or worked hard for. But we’re not.

If you think about some of the most remarkable moments in your life, do you remember feeling sort of let down afterwards? Or think to yourself – that was it?

We all feel that way if we’re not practicing gratitude.

When we’re not grateful for the small moments, we hustle for the amazing, life-changing moments and end up disappointed.

Happiness lies in quiet moments. It’s right there in front of us, but it’s easy to miss in the daily grind and when life gets hard.

If I can give one piece of advice it would be to start a daily practice of gratitude.

There’s plenty of research showing that consciously thinking or writing about what we’re grateful for is how we feel happy right here, right now.

It’s that simple.

Happiness is there on the hardest, most challenging days and in the frustrating moments, if we’re paying attention to all that we have.

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Working for money

I’ve learned that working primarily for the sake of money is a sure-fire way to feel burnt out and unhappy. Money is a necessary part of life, and it’s a powerful incentive to work, but chasing money is risky. I’m not suggesting we should work for free or get paid less than we’re worth. I…

I’ve learned that working primarily for the sake of money is a sure-fire way to feel burnt out and unhappy. Money is a necessary part of life, and it’s a powerful incentive to work, but chasing money is risky.

I’m not suggesting we should work for free or get paid less than we’re worth. I do think it’s important for us to do work that we care about, work that the world needs and work that pays us.

I can tell you that any time, in fact every time, I’ve prioritized a pay check over my happiness, wellbeing and interests, I’ve ended up worn out, miserable and in regret.

To work solely for money is to believe that money will buy us happiness, that our values and interests don’t matter, that we’ve got nothing else to work for. Just because the ‘money is good’, doesn’t cut it.

In his 2017 commencement speech at the University of Glasgow, Apple CEO Tim Cook had this to say to graduates eager to pursue a pay check:

“My advice to all of you is, don’t work for money — you will wear out fast, or you’ll never make enough and you will never be happy, one or the other. You have to find the intersection of doing something you’re passionate about and at the same time something that is in the service of other people. If you don’t find that intersection, you’re not going to be very happy in life.”

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Leadership isn’t a title

As a student I used to skip over anything that had to do with leadership in the standards of nursing practice. I believed that leadership was about having authority, a fancy title and a big office. Leadership was for those kinds of nurses, not me.  But that’s not true, and I was wrong.  A leader…

As a student I used to skip over anything that had to do with leadership in the standards of nursing practice. I believed that leadership was about having authority, a fancy title and a big office. Leadership was for those kinds of nurses, not me. 

But that’s not true, and I was wrong. 

A leader is someone who sees capacity in other people and possibility in ways of doing and being.

Leadership is for people who see the work that needs to be done, and who decide to take a stand – regardless of the outcome – because it’s worth it to try.

People are waiting for us to show up and lead.

Are you in?

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