How to cope so you can manage the stress of working in healthcare

Are you feeling completely overwhelmed at work?

Are you feeling like you are just barely treading water on your day off?

Are you waiting for that magic meditation that will make it all manageable and not take all of your time to get done?

Too many times when the shit is hitting the fan we lose ourselves in the chaos and stress of it all. We begin to act without intention and we act out in ways that we are not proud of.

How many times do you later think back over a day and regret yelling or snapping at someone? How many times a day do you “cop an attitude” in response to someone’s actions or words?

Have you asked yourself if that is an action that you are proud of, that you want to be known for? Have you excused yourself because of the situation you were in?

Stress can be an all-consuming situation. It can slowly mount up. Like placing a frog in a pot of room temp water and bringing it to a boil, we don’t recognize how the stress slowly builds and in the end, boils us.

That is why it is essential that healthcare workers actively learn techniques to address stress and overwhelm.

These are the steps you MUST take to be resilient in stress:

  1. Self-regulate– get skilled in your ability to shift from a sympathetic (fight or flight) state to a parasympathetic state where you are in control of your body and its processes. (Yes, this is actually achievable!)
  2. Clarify your Intention– get clear on your principles and intentions. What drove you to be in healthcare? How did you dream of helping or empowering people as you chose this field and invested in your education and applied to practice in this field. (this will be how you change how you react to situations and events)
  3. Become self-validated- Recognize that your self-worth is not attached to your patient’s compliance and outcomes. Your success comes from your investment in development and your application of skills. You do not need your patients (or other practitioners) to shower you with praise and awards to KNOW that you are a fucking rockstar and you change lives.
  4. Develop your network- You can’t do this alone. Period. And often, you can’t even see when you are starting to be reactionary and spiral. Establish a network of 2-5 people who will A.) call you out when you are starting to spiral and B.) do what they can to make themselves available to you when need to talk. Finally, train them for what you need. That you are asking them to listen, not offer solutions or fix your problems.
  5. Develop your self-care- This is hard for us as healthcare providers, but it is ESSENTIAL that we take care of our bodies. We must give our bodies the nutrients it needs to properly function,  sleep to process and reboot, movement to strengthen and stretch the body we rely on so heavily so that we can do our works as intended, and the time to hone and strengthen our skills of resilience.


Hormones are like chemical messengers and govern nearly every cellular action in our body.

As healthcare professionals stress is a fact of life. We work long hours; we work under impossible demands and with high volumes of patients. We also absorb our patient’s emotional pains and often reflect those symptoms physically.

While important, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are actually not essential for our survival.

They are responsible for sexual functioning and fertility, as well as in more of a “beauty” capacity – keeping our skin, hair & nails vital and youthful looking.

On the other hand, stress hormones (like cortisol & epinephrine, also known as adrenaline) are critical to our survival because they synthesize proteins, maintain cellular electrolyte balance, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and transport glucose into our cells – essentially feeding our brain.

These hormones are so crucial, that in times of chronic stress, cortisol (the “hormone of stress”) will be made at the expense of sex hormones. No wonder we can start feeling whacked out at certain stages of life!

So what happens when hormones stop playing well together?

We can often experience a ripple effect, even when there is a slight hiccup in hormone function.

Also, due to the interconnected nature of your endocrine system, one hormonal imbalance can lead to an additional one, causing multiple symptoms and overlapping health issues.

The 10 most common signs that you probably have a hormonal imbalance

  1. Poor sleep – not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep
  2. Fatigue that’s not alleviated by sleep
  3. Night sweats and hot flashes
  4. Resistant excess weight and body fat, especially around the belly
  5. Low libido or sexual dysfunction
  6. Acne or other skin issues
  7. PMS symptoms
  8. Foggy thinking (brain fog!) and difficulty concentrating
  9. Mental health issues – depression and anxiety in particular
  10. Mood changes like irritability and anger

Stress and hormonal imbalance affect so much, so what can we do about it?

Simple ways to support and rebalance your hormones naturally

Eat whole foods: processed, packaged foods offering little to no nutritive value will also offer little to no fuel for your hormones.

Be sure to eat fresh over packaged foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and quality sources of free range and grass-fed meats and eggs. Also, if tolerated – nuts, seeds, and legumes in moderation.

Grains and dairy may cause or exacerbate hormonal problems for some people.

Eat more good fats: Good fats are essential for hormonal health because sex hormones need fat as a building block – and your body can only use the ones you give it.

Opt for sources of good fats from whole foods, such as avocados, raw nuts & seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, real butter or ghee (grass fed preferable), wild-caught salmon, and free range eggs – yes, you can eat the yolks!

Exercise daily: Working out on a regular basis and engaging in resistance (or strength) training has been proven to be especially beneficial for keeping our bodies AND our hormones fit. For those who work in high-stress environments- such as healthcare workers- it is important that we not workout in a manner that increases our cortisol production. High intensity workouts such as intense and prolonged cardiovascular activity, HIIT workouts, and high-paced group courses all will lend to higher cortisol production. Those in a high-stress field better benefit from moderate-intensity workouts. Think 60-80% of your maximum efforts. A few times a week you want to exercise at an intensity that makes you winded, but yet you can still have a conversation.

Better sleep: getting deeper, more restorative sleep can be the key to supporting your hormones, above all other measures (but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other ones!)

Stress management & self-care: the truth is – stress can be devastating for hormonal health.

We need to equip ourselves to manage the stress and “business” of everyday life through the actions that bring back balance and wellbeing to our bodies AND our minds – like good nutrition, exercise, and sleep!

Learn better coping mechanisms (like breathing techniques), practice mindfulness and be sure to engage in daily self-care.


The Secret to achieving lasting “will Power”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

People often seem to marvel at my “motivation” to maintain a diet. Or climb a mountain, or maintain an exercise routine, or run my own business while working full time.

Some say it’s because I have strong will power. But the truth is, we all have the same will power. I just have an established why. I’m not going to say I have a better why. Because each of our whys are valid. Each of our whys are equally important. I just have mine established.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are whys that are not big enough.  If your why is so that you can fit into a dress for an event in 3 months, cool. But that truthfully isn’t big enough. You know you have found a good why when you can stop asking why and the reason still stands.

So let’s look at an example and learn how to decide if you have a great enough why.

For example:

Why do you want to lose weight? Because I want to fit into this dress for my high school reunion.

Why do you want to fit in that dress? Because if I fit in that dress I will look good.

Why do you care about looking good? Because if I look good, all of the people in high school that I was jealous of will be jealous of me.

Why do you want them to be jealous of you? Because I am still jealous of them.

Eek. That why doesn’t stand. Your why is that you want to look good because you are jealous of people you don’t ever see and jealous of the lives you are imagining them to lead? That might get you to the dress size for the event…but what about after. And do you truly feel good about yourself, or are you feeding into your self-loathing? And really, even if you fit into the dress, will you feel good, like you succeeded? Or will you find something else that makes you feel inferior at the reunion.

How about this?

Why do you want to lose weight? Because I want to fit into this dress for my high school reunion.

Why do you want to fit in that dress? Because the reality of my upcoming reunion helped me recognized that I have not prioritized myself and my heath in the last 20 years since I graduated.

Why do you need to prioritize your health? Because I have been noticing changes in my health, my body, my energy, my attitude, and not for the better.

Why do these changes matter to you? Because I recognize that if I don’t make a change, my health and quality of life will continue to decline.

Why do you care about your health and quality of life declining? Because I want to be able to enjoy my life and be able to participate in my family growing up and the activities and travels that will occur and the nieces and nephews and grandchildren that will be here one day. And if my health continues on this path, I will not be able to participate and enjoy those milestones and events.

Now THAT is a why. It’s not about the dress. Sure, you can set your GOAL as fitting into a dress in 2 or 3 months, but it is the why that gets you there, and the why that helps you set the next goal to keep you on your path. And this why is not about self-loathing, but more about celebrating your life, honoring your body, and being present and active.

Have you established a strong enough why? Share it with us in the comments, or send me a private message if you prefer.

Why Movement is Life

I get it. That couch is so comfy. I actually spend a decent amount of time on mine. I also have cats, and they LOVE lap time. Who can resist that? Every cat person knows that once the cat is there, you are stuck.

But fact of the matter is, our bodies were DESIGNED to move. But sometimes it literally HURTS to get moving. Believe it or not, I get it. I actually have a hip and a knee that bother me quite a bit. Here is the thing though, once you are moving, everything starts to feel better! For so many reasons. And while there are days here and there that these joints bother me so much I opt out of my exercise routine, those days are few and far between. Because I choose to exercise regularly, those joints bother me on a much smaller scale. Here’s why regular movement helps:

  • Improving Circulation: This means so much, but at the minimum, it increases liver and kidney function (flush out those toxins!), brings new nutrients to all parts of your body (hello painful injury, this is how you heal!).
  • Encourages flow of lymphatic system: This is the system that moves all of the fluid in your body not in your vascular system or digestive system. Meaning fluid in between your cells. This helps us filter out toxins, decrease localized swelling, and so much more.
  • Increases Energy: By moving (and increasing circulation and lymphatic work) you increase oxygen levels AND nutrients to every organ in your body. Plus it releases those feel-good hormones that give you a rush of energy.
  • Enhances Mood: Increasing activity actually increases hormone and chemical production. It boosts confidence AND reduces stress levels.
  • Regulate Digestion and Elimination: This really goes as a side benefit of the circulation and lymphatic system. The increased hormones help increase digestive stimulation and overtime, you will increase the tone of your digestive muscles that move waist through your digestive tract.

This is just the beginning of why daily physical activity is so important. Finally, it is the KEY component to weight management. Period. If you are not active you will not keep weight at a manageable level. No matter the detox or “diet” you try, it will not sustain if you do not remain active.

Photo by Lindsey Marott on Unsplash

So here is your challenge. Pick an activity that you can add to each day. Maybe it’s a 15 minute walk after lunch or dinner. Maybe it’s a squat challenge of 25 squats a day. One of my favorites is 5 for 5. Do 5 different exercises for 1 minute each. Everyday change what you do so that you don’t get bored, and don’t get over-sore in one muscle group. So this is great for starters. It can be anything, here’s a list of suggestions that include options for all tolerance levels. Remember, it’s not about how fast you are doing something, just keep doing it for one minute. Rest if you need to before you start the next activity.

  • Stand up and sit down, try not to use your hands if you can
  • Sky reaches, alternate arms, add light weights when you are ready. Go faster for increased heart rate
  • Jump rope
  • Hula-hoop
  • Lay on your back and do “bicycles” with your legs
  • High knee marches
  • Sit ups
  • Burpees- it’s ok to skip the jump or the push-up if you aren’t ready!
  • Mountain climbers
  • Body Squats

This is just a starter list to get you thinking. Add any exercise you can think of. Although personally I am more going for MOVING exercises, versus static exercises, such as planks.

Jump in our the Facebook Group and tell us what your movement challenge for the next week will be! Let’s hold each other accountable and give each other ideas!

Still nervous about starting moving? Jump in the group and we can talk modifications for exercises.

A Case For Water

We’ve all heard our bodies are made up of mostly water (2/3 actually). We all know we should drink more water. But why don’t we?

It’s boring. I forget. I don’t feel thirsty. There is water in the coffee/soda/juice I drink, so I have to be getting enough.

The reasons are endless. But here is the thing, you ARE thirsty. Your body actually is trying to tell you it’s thirsty all day. Your body needs water in order to function. Here as some of the ways your body uses water.

  • Water lubricates your joints: Joint pain anyone? Whether it is Rheumatoid or Osteoarthritis, Gout, joint injury or surgery, water can help lubricate and in some causes reduce pain. It’s a huge component to prevention of many of these issues as well. (1)
  • Water aids in digestion: Don’t tell me you don’t have issues with digestion unless you have a healthy poo after every meal. (2)
  • Water helps regulates your body temperature: Tell me you are not cold right now. Water helps to absorb and transfer your self-made body heat. And yes, it cools you off too (hello sweat!)(3)
  • Water helps aid in weight loss: It’s not just by cutting calories by decreasing sugar intake. It helps to flush out the bad stuff, and helps increase nutrient absorption. (2)
  • Water improves blood oxygen circulation: Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water including our blood and the fluid in and around our cells. It is the transport for oxygen to our tissues! (4)
  • It improves energy and metabolism: By 30% even! Hello again weight support! (5)
  • It improves cognition: Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills, as well as assessment of the subjective state. (6)

Why not other drinks? They contain water right? Isn’t that enough, and what about electrolytes?

  • Sugar: First off, most of the drinks (even sports drinks) that we replace for water are laden with sugar. Sugar addiction is just as, if not more, addictive as cocaine. (7)
  • What about those electrolytes: There is definitely a case for electrolyte replacement….if you are an athlete or participating in significant gym activities. However in general, the average person retains appropriate electrolyte balance through food. Electrolytes after all, are simply minerals such as sodium and magnesium. So the average individual should eat a diet high in minerals and vitamins (read-vegetables) and consume the appropriate amount of water. Otherwise you are added unnecessary calories, sugar, sodium, etc. (8)

When your body tells you it is thirsty, you have already lost 1-2% of your body’s water content.(9) What are some other signs you are thirsty that you may not have realized: (10)

Photo by Julia Zolotova on Unsplash
  • Frequent headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Hunger
  • Disorientation
  • Dry skin, eyes, and lips/mouth
  • Increased cravings for salty foods

How much should you drink? Unfortunately it is not an easy answer. It all varies on your activity levels, body size, medication intake, and so much more. Most professionals recommend to start with

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women (11)

After that is important to work with your doctor and listen to your body. Watch for the signs above and adjust your intake appropriately.

Screeeechhh!!! Wait, 2.7 liters??? That is about 91 ounces of water! You want me to drink that much each day!?

Hold on, it’s not that bad. You actually get about 20% of your fluid intake from food. (11) The rest needs to come from drinking. That leaves about 73 ounces. Still sounds like a lot, but if you have a 16 ounce bottle, that is only about 4.5 bottles of water. Two in the morning, two in the evening, and another 8 ounces total over lunch and dinner. Easy peasy once you have done it for a couple of days and get used to taking a swig every now and then. They also have those fancy water bottles nowadays that have a reminder for you to take a drink if you are not keeping up.

Check out the short video on this page (about halfway down) on water in the body.













Self-care isn’t about the bubble bath

We have all heard it, you can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. It’s true. So why don’t we do it? It’s hard to find the time. Maybe you don’t have the energy. Or maybe you just think it’s selfish or indulgent.

Taking care of yourself is absolutely not selfish. If you don’t take the time to rejuvenate, you are never working at full capacity. When you take care of yourself you have more internal capacity to better handle stress, to better cope, to better execute.

Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

“Self-care” is different for everyone else. True, sometimes it is wine and bubble baths or a massage. But most often it is something much more simple. A quiet 30 minutes to drink your morning coffee and read the news. 45 minutes spent at the gym. Even sometimes clearing out a closet so you can actually find things. Completing a task so that your daily stress level is decreased and life is just a bit easier is taking care of yourself. (Plus, sorting for some people is the definition of stress-relief!)

Taking a few minutes a day to do something simple is vital for mental health. If you are not in a good mindset personally, you are not in a good place to help other people. Most often when we are not taking care of ourselves we are full of anxiety, tension and stress. That sort of energy not only radiates to other people, but lessens our ability to really hear what they need and what they are saying. You are not able to nurture your relationships with those at work, let alone your family.

Most people fall into the trap of prioritizing others needs before our own. We begin to confuse rescuing people with caring. We are trying to help others and solve their issues, make their lives easier. People have to learn their own lessons and solve their own problems. It’s not your job to take care of everything and, despite what you think, you do not know what is right for each of them! Is that not selfish? Their outcomes are their own decision that they must execute themselves. Your desired outcome for them should not be projected onto them.

 It’s time to begin to value yourself, your time, and your energy like your clients, patients and colleagues do. It is time to commit to your own personal self-care practices.

So what are some “big picture” ways you can take care of yourself?

  • Take out the trash: Get rid of what does not serve you or is not helping you improve. Stop wasting time and energy on things that don’t work or don’t matter. Not everything that brought you happiness in the past continues to bring you happiness. Stop doing it. Throw out what needs thrown out. Change rules and roles that don’t make sense anymore. Everything should serve a clear purpose.
  • Be consistent: Figure out what is working and keep doing it! Habits and systems that work decrease stress and save time! If you need to establish new habits, do so. Find ways to manage, systematize and prioritize what gives you more time. Implement these strategies and watch your world get easier!
  • Manage your stress: Stop and take note of what is making you stressed. When you know what is making you stressed, you can figure out what to do about it and how to manage it. It’s true that we cannot change people and many times cannot change situations, so any change has to come from you. Think about how much time you spend around certain people. If the chatter in the break room stresses you out, then find another option for break time. Yes, you have to initiate the change. You have to take responsibility for your stress. Stress is not the fault of others, it is your reaction to situation and your ability to handle, change or avoid situations. Stress is cumulative and makes physiological changes on our bodies. You can not always be your best when your stress is at its max. What good are you then, when you are supposed to be taking care of others?

Self-care is different for others. Whether it is a little time everyday, or a few hours every week, make that commitment. Below is a list of several of my own self-care practices. I hope it gives you some inspiration.

I encourage you to commit to a handful of small easy to achieve “self-care” tasks. Make them easy to achieve, yet will make a difference in your days. Here are a few examples of commitments I have made as I transformed my actions and stress levels.

I commit to:

  • Morning tea with must me and my cats
  • A minimum of 3 days of 45-60 minutes of workouts per week
  • Monthly massages
  • 30 minutes at lunch time where I step away from work tasks and stop answering questions
  • Weekly cat videos (seriously, got some good ones? Send them my way!)
  • Weekly food prep night so that making good food choices is easy and I don’t have to stress each weeknight about making dinner.

Share in the comments your favorite way to take care of yourself. What self-care practice do you commit to?