The importance of self care

As follow-up to my last post, which you can read here, I thought I’d talk about some ideas to to help keep ourselves mentally well.  Again, this post isn’t just for First Responders…these are things anyone can (& should do).

We all lead busy lives…and it’s easy to put taking care of ourselves at the bottom of our to-do list.  But there’s only so long that your body will allow this kind of abuse before your physical and mental health start to take a toll

Self care is one of the most important things we need to focus on for both our physical and mental health, and most self care activities have a positive impact on both at the same time.  I’m just going to provide a list of simple things you can do to take care of yourself.  Some require very little time or effort.

  1. Unplug for 5 min, 30 min, 60 min…whatever time you’re able to.  Turn off your phone, TV, computer, everything electronic and just enjoy the break from social media for awhile.
  2. Further to the social media discussion…take out any negative people you “follow” or are “friends” with.  You don’t have to delete them if that’s too harsh, but you can “unfollow” or “mute” them.  There’s enough negativity in our lives without these negative people on social media.
  3. Pause….and take a minute to deep breath.  Yes, a full minute (or more).  It’s amazing how relaxing this is.  I recommend you do this anytime you get that feeling of anxiousness or something overwhelming you.
  4. Walk or run.  I’m not a runner…but people tell me it relaxes them!  For me there’s nothing more relaxing for me than walking my dog at the dog park.  Something about watching the pure joy she has running free there!  The fresh air does me good too!
  5. Laugh!  At anything…a funny comic book, tv show, youtube video, etc.  It’s amazing how good laughter makes you feel.
  6. Perform a random act of kindness.  It doesn’t have to be something huge.  Help someone carry groceries to their car, hold the door for someone, buy someone coffee, the possibilities are endless.
  7. Exercise.  This one is pretty obvious, but much harder to schedule time for.  But it can be anything.  I already mentioned running/walking.  Other ideas…yoga, fitness classes, weightlifting, etc.
  8. Hobbies.  Read a book, play an instrument, knit, paint, etc.  These are great to relax you.

What are some of your go to self care tips?  Please share some of your favourites.

 

 

First Responder Mental Health

Along with 6 of my colleagues and numerous other First Responders from across Canada, I was fortunate to be able to attend a 5 day train-the-trainer workshop called “Road to Mental Readiness” a few weeks ago.  My employer has recognized the mental health of our employees is just as important as their physical health.  Now I am lucky enough to be able to assist my colleagues in both capacities…as a Peer Fitness Trainer and now as a trainer for the Road to Mental Readiness program.

This week of training was outstanding and our team of 7 trainers are so excited to bring this information to our leaders and our coworkers starting in November.

The course focused on recognition of symptoms and noticing changes in our peers.  For example, Jimmy got cut off in traffic on his way to work this morning.  This is something that angers everyone…but a normal response to this would be to be upset for a few minutes and then get over it and continue with your day.  If Jimmy were to respond to this with anger and rage that lasts all day, or longer, this is unusual and potentially a symptom of a larger concern for his mental health.  For us to recognize that this is not a normal response for Jimmy to have in this situation is one of the first steps in helping him!

There are a lot of stressors in a person’s life which results in the accumulation of stressors that puts us over the edge.  Some examples…financial, family issues (divorce, children, etc), organizational & operational (personality conflicts, high call volume, lack of resources, etc).  As much as we try to leave these stressors at the door when we show up for work, or go on a call, they stick with us and affect how we interact with our patients and respond to certain situations.

It is the responsibility of all of us to Shield – Sense – Support our colleagues.  There are some simple ways that we can accomplish this:
Shield – be available to talk, provide support, provide ideas for self-care (exercise, music, reading, etc),
Sense – know a person’s baseline so that you can notice the change, confidentiality is essential, stop the gossip, encourage early access to care, check up/follow up to see how they are coping.
Support – recognize the symptoms of declining mental health, stop gossip, maintain contact with the person, know your limits and who to go to to get help for the person.

I’m so excited to be on the team that will bring this training to my colleagues!  This information can be used for anyone in any setting (not just First Responders).

One last very important thing that I learned in this course…don’t be afraid to ask.  If you know, or can sense, that someone is struggling…please, please, please open the conversation with them before it is potentially too late.  If they will open up to you even a little bit…remember that this is the first stage of getting help!

Holy Zucchini!

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-08-20-32
Giant zucchini from my family member’s garden (that is a large round picnic table to put the size of the zucchini to scale!)

I was fortunate enough to have a friend give me a zucchini last week (not quite as large as the one in the photo!).  I needed to find something to make with it, so I searched Pinterest to try and find some healthier baking recipes.  I found 3 and all 3 turned out delicious!

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-07-57-32Zucchini Muffins

These muffins are made with whole wheat flour and sweetened with maple syrup.  In my opinion they have the perfect about of sweetness.

 

 

 

 

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-07-57-51

 

Zucchini Cookies

I probably won’t eat these for breakfast (as the recipe suggests), but they are so delicious!
You can add nuts, chocolate chips, or dried fruit to these cookies as well.

 

 

 

 

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-07-58-38

Banana Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

These are for my gluten free friends!  Lots of yummy ingredients in these muffins including peanut butter (any nut butter would work), banana, and maple syrup.
Next time I make them I would probably squeeze out some of the zucchini juices (this was the only recipe of the 3 that I think I need to do this).

 

I know there are thousands of zucchini recipes out there…please share some healthy zucchini recipes that you love!

Meal Planning for Success

Have you ever tried to meal plan?  If you haven’t, you need to!  It makes your life so much easier, makes your grocery trips less frequent and likely cheaper, and is just waaaaaay less stress each night.

For a full time shift worker I suggest you plan out your meals for your entire rotation 2 days before you go back to work (make sure you plan for leftovers).  Even cook some in advance if it works for you (freeze or refrigerate the leftovers).  Make a grocery list while you’re planning the meals to ensure you have all ingredients you need.  Get all your groceries the day before you go back to work because I don’t know anyone who wants to spend any time in a grocery store after a 12h shift.

If you shop at a place like Costco it’s a little more work the day you shop just because of the volume of food, but it is so worth it later in the week/month.  You’ll need to freeze in portions (depending on the size of your family you’ll need to cut things up and freeze them in smaller or individual portions).  Wash and cut up ALL veggies you buy (this is the least fun part about me shopping at Costco!)…makes it way easier to choose these as a snack, and also way quicker to pack in your lunch.  If you’re making something that week that requires them to be cut up a certain way, do that on this day as well.  You’ll be so happy you did this when you get home from that 12h shift.

Look at your meal plan each day to see what is planned for tomorrow.  Take out the appropriate stuff from the freezer (usually meat) so it is thawed by tomorrow night.  If you’re energetic the day before prep some of the stuff ahead of time if you didn’t do it the day you bought groceries (chop up veggies, etc).

It’s a bit of work off the hop trying to think of meal ideas for 5-7 days at a time, but I promise it gets easier as you go.  And if you’re following a recipe or trying something new you’ll know that you have all the ingredients for it because you bought them earlier in the week!

And when you’re stuck thinking of something to eat the next week, look back on your meal plans from the weeks prior….you’ll find you rotate though meals a little bit (unless you only know how to make 7 meals HA HA!) and hopefully won’t get sick of eating the same thing all the time.

Happy meal planning!

So you want to be a healthier shift worker?

Of course we all want to be healthier!  Anyone who works shift work knows that we have a higher risk of almost everything (disease, earlier death, etc).  So why would anyone choose a job where shift work is the norm?!  Because we LOVE it and are passionate about it!  So, what can you do to try and minimize the risks?  I have a few ideas, some of which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts but are worth mentioning again because they are just that important!

  1. SLEEP!  Sleep is so so so important!  Not just after your day shifts and night shifts, but every single time you sleep!  You need to strive for 8 hours or as close to it as possible.  I discussed some nights shift sleep tips in this blog post.
  2. FOOD!  You need to eat real, whole foods and stay away from packaged foods that are full of sugar and other garbage!  See this blog post about sugar, and this blog post about reading food labels.
  3. WATER!  Everyone needs to drink lots and lots of water in a day.  I know you’ll need to pee lots, and that sometimes this is not a great thing on a busy shift as a Paramedic (unless you want to have to use your patient’s bathroom!).  So, just drink as much as you can!  No, Red Bull and coffee and pop don’t count!  Here’s a few tips to help you drink more water.
  4. STRETCH!  Even just for 5-10 minutes a day.  Before shift, during shift, after shift, at home, whenever!  I wrote about a few on duty stretches that are easy to do in uniform here.
  5. EXERCISE!  I don’t care what you do, just get out and move!  Run, walk, ride your bike, go to a class at a gym, sign up for a community association program (bonus…these are usually cheaper than at a gym!), anything!  Find something you enjoy doing and/or find a buddy to do it with you!  You’ll help keep each other accountable!
  6. LAUGH!  I hope you work somewhere as fun as I do and can laugh a TON with your fabulous co-workers!  Find some fun friends outside of work that you can have a blast with as well!  Go to a funny movie, anything that will make you laugh!  It truly is the best medicine!

None of these are new ideas, and I know you’ve all heard them before.  But maybe this is the one time you’ll take one of the suggestions to heart and change something in your lifestyle.

Feel free to share any tips you have to become a healthier Medic!