Spring is at its finest today. The daisies and yellowbells are in full bloom, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and a gentle breeze is blowing the curtains at my window. And most importantly? It’s my day off! I rose with the morning sun–as always, the Oklahoma sunrise is breathtaking, and it gives fresh inspiration for the day. Today is state testing for my youngest in middle school. He has requested hash browns for breakfast. So I make a quick but delicious breakfast of hashbrowns, farm fresh eggs, and juice. Trust me, I don’t do this every morning, but it’s my day off and he has made a special request. I pop in VeggieTales for our foster child to watch while everyone readies for school and work. I then kiss and hug everyone and watch them go out the door. After the door closes behind the last one, I throw my hands up in the air and twirl around in a circle -“Woo-hoo! What do I do now?” I have a whole day to myself with no commitments, only minimal housework, and a beautiful spring day to rejuvenate my soul. So I proceed to do exactly that.
Because that’s what it’s all about. Health and well-being are not solely physical in nature. Our mental state of health is as much a part of our overall wellbeing as the physical aspect. What is one of the number one causes of nursing shortages? Burnout. Has been for years. We as nurses often take care of everyone else first and ourselves last. This goes directly against everything we’ve been taught–we all know the drill on an airplane–“Put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on those around you.” And yet in real life, we often do the opposite. We pour all our energy, to the point of ongoing fatigue, into those around us. We rarely leave time left over just for ourselves to pursue our own hobbies, quests and quiet times. It is in that environment that burnout creeps in. Where our mental health lags as our mind and soul cry “Enough! What about me?!”
So, on this rare luxurious day off, I spend my time meandering through several projects, working in the garden, taking a quick nap, reading a book, giving treats to my chickens…you get my drift. Whatever I felt like doing, I did. And my soul inside of me stretched and went “Ahhh…This is more like it.” And I could feel myself relaxing and destressing the longer the day went on. And now school is out and my 17 year old’s grinning face pops up in the front door window. He opens the front door carefully to show me what he is holding. A wiggly, squirmy, fluffy bundle of floppy puppy ears, pink tongue, and a short, wagging tail. Dixie has arrived! Its his birthday this week, and he has been waiting on this puppy for six weeks. He is ecstatic. He’s my quiet, dependable child, so his ear-to-ear grin speaks volumes to my heart. So he plays with Dixie and shows her around her new home while I cook supper for the incoming masses. Which would only be my sweet hubby, my daughter who is home from college for the weekend, my middle-schooler, and our adorable foster child. But they can put away a lot of food! 🙂 Soon everyone arrives and it’s almost time to eat. But first, introductions must be made. Everyone quickly falls in love with Dixie, but the squeals of joy and laughter from our 19 month-old foster baby help rejuvenate my soul a little more. For he is simply enchanted with the wiggly wonders of a small puppy. The look on his face is priceless as he hugs her as hard as he can before she wiggles loose and escapes. Finally, we sit down to eat together around the table, another rarity in today’s fast-paced world. We eat fried fish that was caught on a fishing trip by the boys last year, steamed veggies and a large garden salad. It tastes delicious, made more so by our precious family time. We talk, we laugh, we tell old jokes and stories, we giggle over earlier memories of when the kids were growing up. My mother’s heart is thankful for the bounty at my table this evening–all my family is present, the food is good, and the memories are even better. Soon however, as do all good things, our evening draws to an end. The puppy is placed in her kennel, the foster baby in his crib, and my other kiddos do a few other odds and ends chores. Soon I will ready for bed, knowing I have another long 12 hour day ahead of me in the ER tomorrow. But I don’t dread it like I sometimes do. I have worked out many emotional knots and kinks today while I took time to unwind. I feel much more content and less stressed in general. Did I accomplish great things today on my day off? Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it. Achieving and maintaining good mental health is definitely a goal for everyone to strive towards. Today, I took time out of my busy schedule to do just that. And I even found a new friend in the process. Welcome to our world, little Dixie!
Nurse Ames, RN