Creating Sustainable Weight Loss

Health and fitness have always been main interests of mine. Nonetheless, I can’t say that I’ve always had the healthiest relationship with these interests. I’ve taken drastic measures to lose weight, and at my thinnest, I was still unhappy with my body. It takes a lot of introspection and self love to get to a place where you’re ready to approach weight loss in a mentally healthy way. Before I jump into this post, I want to stress that the end of goal of living a healthy lifestyle does not always have to be weight loss. At this point in my life, my reason for exercising and staying healthy is NOT weight loss, but maintenance of my lean body mass. I know a lot of people who want to gain weight, as well as people who want to stay just the way they are. Whatever your goal is, that’s great! Three years ago, though, my goal was to lose weight. Over the span of a year or two, I lost about 10-15 pounds, and I’ve maintained my weight (give or take a few pounds) since then with non-restrictive intuitive eating and exercising. So, how did I create this sustainable change? Below I’ve listed a few guidelines for starting a sustainable weight loss journey.

  1. Slow and steady. Sustainable weight loss is a slow paced process. Crash diets and cardio binges are not going to create change that will last a lifetime. If you want to get to a healthy goal weight and stay there, you have to do it slowly. A good weight loss goal should not exceed a pound a week. If anything, I would suggest not exceeding .5 pound a week. Taking it slow allows you to feel energized enough to enjoy your healthy lifestyle instead of draining the joy out of your life.

  2. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy. Getting into the habit of exercising starts with the realization that movement is not a punishment for your body but a privilege. I’ve been lucky enough to maintain a healthy body and to find an exercise routine that I enjoy. I love to lift weights and fit in cardio of whatever type I’m feeling. Let your routine be fueled by your favorite type of movement. I have a whole separate post on this, which can be found here.

  3. Don’t buy into fad diets. Taking a pill or cutting out carbs will never get you anywhere if your goal is to maintain a healthy weight. If you restrict yourself to an extreme level and then reintroduce your body to your previous baseline, you’ll quickly re-gain weight. This can start a very dangerous cycle for your body and mind. Crash diets and diet pills are your quickest ticket into a self-loathing cycle. I learned that the hard way, and hope that you can take this advice and stay away.

  4. Track with caution. I have a love hate relationship with food trackers. I‘ve gone back and forth with tracking my food on My Fitness Pal (MFP). Using a tool like MFP can be really helpful because it gives you guidelines to maintain a healthy diet and macronutrient ratio. On the other hand, it can quickly turn into an obsession. If you’re interested in tracking, I would recommend using a food tracker loosely just to make sure you’re eating enough and not losing weight too quickly. Once you’ve learned what kind of nutrition works out for you, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ditch the apps. Because honestly, are you going to track every bite of food for the rest of your life? Once you know what feels right for you, the most sustainable eating pattern would be one that’s intuitive and based on what your gut tells you… no pun intended.

  5. Love your freakin self! Remember that your whole reason for having a healthy lifestyle is because you love yourself. If you ever feel like you’re hating the way you look or getting into a cycle of negativity, you may need to step back and re-evaluate your goals and priorities. Your number one priority should always be your health (mental and physical) and no weight loss goal should ever interfere with that. I’ve now been through enough to know that sustainable weight loss and creation of healthy habits only happens when your mind is in a good place. So, be nice to yourself. A whole lot of self love will get you a lot further than the negative voice inside your head ever could.

I hope that these tips allow you to reach your goals in a healthy way. If you don’t feel as if your relationship with food and exercise is a positive one, please seek professional help from your PCP, therapist, or diet specialist. As always, thank you for reading, and feel free to join in the conversation with your favorite tips in the comments below!

Holiday Gift Quick List

The holidays are a wonderful time for friends, family, and fun. My favorite part of the holidays is picking out gifts for my loved ones. Trying to find the perfect gift for the special people in my life is not always easy, though. In order to help you all with some gift ideas, I’ve created this holiday gift guide! The best part about this quick little guide is that you can buy all these items online via Amazon without having to step foot in a shop! Here are some of my most-loved gifts for the holiday season, with links included for ease of shopping.

  • Tile

    • Do you have someone in your life who is constantly losing track of their stuff? I bought my boyfriend a set of tiles last Christmas because he’s always running around looking for his wallet. The Tile app not only tracks your keys, laptop, wallet (or whatever you put your tile on), but you can also page your phone from your tile. The tile combo pack comes with two keychain tiles and two slim wallet tiles, which are tiny enough to slide into a credit card slot. This gift is a no brainer!

  • Ember mug

    • The ember mug is one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever given. It’s a temperature-regulated mug that cools down or heats your beverage to the perfect temperature. It’s sleek and stylish, and the charger device is a small saucer plate that fits right in with your kitchenware. Disclaimer: the Ember mug is not cheap (for a mug, at least), and it will run you about $70 - $80. I do believe that it’s worth it though, and it’s certainly necessary for a long, chilly winter.

  • Moon Lamp

    • These adorable moon lamps are such a great gift for children, but I also think they make a great surprise for anyone who enjoys a unique gift. You can use it as a children’s nightlight, decoration, or as a cool bedside lamp. It would be the perfect companion for the person in your life who loves to stay up to binge read a good book - except now, they can finish their novel under the moonlight.

  • Nespresso Machine

    • This is the gift that keeps on giving for the coffee lover in your life. This little machine makes coffee-shop quality beverages like espresso and lattes. The Nespresso pods come in a variety of Italian cafe inspired flavors, and each one makes a drink that tastes like it came straight from the hands of a loving barista. I guarantee this machine won’t disappoint!

  • Foot Massager

    • Last but not least, this is the holy grail of gifts for anyone who works on their feet all day. You don’t need to hit the massage parlor every night to get some relief for your tired soles. It includes heat and pressure settings, as well as a remote control. This foot massager will do the trick for reviving tired feet, and not to mention, it will help anyone unwind after a long shift.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my holiday gift guide and that you’ve gotten some useful ideas out of it! Drop a comment below to let us know your favorite holiday gifts to give!

Quick Tips for Study Motivation

I'm going to make a sweeping assumption here. Every student in every field of study has struggled to get motivated to do schoolwork. Burnout is real, and it leaves the motivation piggybank pretty low at all times.  Especially in accelerated programs that cram 2 years of content into 1, it's often hard to force yourself away from the Netflix to get back to studying. Although I was a part of an accelerated nursing program that taught 4 years of content in 2 years, I still managed to stay on top of my studies. Keep reading to find out how I stayed motivated with a few simple techniques for re-booting when focus runs low.

1. Treat yo' self!

As a wise duo of Parks & Rec characters once said, "Treat yo' self!" If you don't have a reward system in place for completing your studies, then you're missing out big time on some huge motivation. A reward can be big or small. It can cost absolutely nothing, or it can include buying yourself some fancy gift you've been eyeing down at the mall. Throughout nursing school, I motivated myself with rewards all the time. For example, I wouldn't let myself check my texts until I finished one section of notes (treat yo' self). In another example, I told myself that if I could finish 3 chapters of flashcards in one day, then I could buy myself a new pair of shoes (treat yo' self). Your reward can be as simple as going outside for some fresh air, or as silly as putting a gummy bear at the end of each paragraph in your textbook while reading (TREAT. YO. SELF). Or, if you don't get any of these lame attempts at jokes, you can reward yourself by binging Parks & Recreation on Netflix.... as long as you've completed your homework for the day. 😉 Whatever your treat may be, make sure you follow through on rewarding yourself with what you had promised!

2. Get up & move

I know the easiest thing to do while tired is to spend some quality bonding time with your bed. Unfortunately, laying around might only make you more tired and less motivated to get to work. If you're feeling the motivation running low, you should try getting up and getting active, even if it's only for a few minutes. Go for a walk, stretch it out with some yoga, or go ramp up the energy with a weight lifting session. Whatever it may be, it's useful for your energy levels to get your blood pumping! So, get off the couch and give it a try.

3. Study in the most enjoyable way possible

This one seems a bit intuitive, but it should not go without mentioning. If your study routine feels like torture, why would you ever want to go through with it? Try to make your study session as enjoyable as possible. Make sure your study space is comfortable. Play your favorite instrumental music playlist on Spotify. Make some yummy tea or coffee to sip while you're hitting the books. Bring your laptop out into the great outdoors and soak up a bit of Vitamin E while you absorb all that knowledge. If you get lonely while studying, grab a friend so that you're not alone! All of these tips will make studying a lot less dreadful. Heck, you might even look forward to studying if you get creative enough!

4. Stop studying

This tip, on the other hand, is quite counter-intuitive. Hear me out, though. If you've been cramming for hours on end, you need to take a rest. There is no possible way you will feel happy and motivated at all if you are constantly running on fumes. You need to let your brain relax so that you don't drive yourself crazy. Scheduling rest breaks, or just taking them when you feel exhausted, are equally as important as your time spent working. How are you going to retain any information if your brain is overstimulated and overtired? I'll answer that for you. You won't. So, kick your feet up for a minute, go back to point number 1, and take a well-deserved rest with a treat of your choice. Happy studying!

My Skincare Routine

Every beauty guru knows that good skin is the basis of a good beauty routine. Skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it's the focus of our external selves. Our skin reflects our health and has a huge impact on our self-confidence. I've struggled with my skin for years. I've had acne since I was in 5th grade. I'm now in my mid-20s, and it has finally just begun to subside a bit. I'm no beauty guru by any means, but I've tried everything to achieve "perfect" skin. From prescription drugs, creams, gels, to homemade remedies, the over-complication of my skincare routine seemed to only irritate my skin. It's taken a long time, but I've finally settled into a skincare regimen that works for me and keeps my skin feeling fresh, clean, and smooth. In this post, I've outlined my simple skincare routine and shared my favorite products so that you can give them a try, too.

Most of the products I use are very affordable items that you can pick up at your local drugstore or supermarket. I do have a few staples, though, that are on the pricier side. These "splurge" products are ones that I have definitely found to be worth their cost, and they go a long way. Let me know in the comments below if you've tried or loved any of these products!

Daily Routine

My daily skincare routine includes AM and PM care. I use the same products in the same sequence when I wake up and before I go to bed. My daily routine includes wash, hydration, & eye cream.

1. Wash: Alba Botanica AcneDote

This is a simple and effective face wash that I've been using for a while now. It costs about $6 and can be found at Target and some drugstores. It's vegetarian, cruelty free, and contains 2% salicylic acid and willow bark extract for that extra acne-fighting boost. The AcneDote face wash doesn't dry out my skin at all, and as an added bonus, it has a nice fresh scent. For less than ten dollars, it's more than worth an addition to your skincare arsenal.

2. Hydration: Cetaphil Pro Moisturizer

This Cetaphil moisturizer has been a staple of mine for over 5 years. I have combination skin, which can get quite oily at times in my t-zone. Prior to finding this product, I was always searching for a moisturizer that didn't leave my skin looking greasy. I was constantly blotting the oil off my face and was often ashamed at how greasy my skin looked. I'm not exaggerating in any way, but ever since I started using this, I've seen a dramatic reduction in the shininess of my skin. My skin is constantly hydrated without being greasy or oily. As a bonus, the moisturizer contains SPF 32 broad spectrum sun protection. You can pick it up at almost any drugstore, and it'll run you about $14. One bottle usually lasts me about 3-4 months. I can't go anywhere without this moisturizer, and I would highly recommend it to anyone with  oily/combination skin.

3. Eye cream: R+F Bright Eye Complex

My AM/PM routine used to only include face wash and lotion. Now that I'm midway through my 20s, I've started to notice some pesky dark circles under my eyes. This R+F serum is a new product I've been using, and it's like a tiny bottle of magic. It's an illuminating and hydrating gel cream that helps diminish the appearance of dark circles and puffiness. A little bit goes a very long way with this one. All you have to do is put a little dot of the serum under each eye, gently pat it in, and go your way as a bright eyed & bushy tailed babe. The effect of this product is cumulative, meaning it's not just a quick fix. Its effect builds over time, and you'll notice your dark circles fading within the first couple of weeks of use. Before I started using it, I was piling on the under-eye concealer before going in to work my night shifts. Once I added this into my routine, I stopped using my concealer for my fresh-faced makeup look. Full transparency: this product is one of my splurge-worthy items. Its retail cost is $70, BUT there are ways to get special discounts and promotions on R+F products. If you are interested in giving it a try and learning more about this one, I'll list my R+F rep's contact info at the end of this post. She let me in on some ways to get free products as well, which I'll share below, too.

As Needed Products

In addition to my daily AM/PM routine, I have a few ride or die PRN products. (PRN is nurse-speak for as needed). These three faves include two affordable products and one splurge-worthy product. All three of them are a VERY highly recommended addition to your skincare routine. It's safe to say I'm obsessed.

Freeman Clay Mask

Face masks. I've probably tried over a hundred different face masks, and of most them don't do anything for me. In a gracious contradiction, this clay mask from Freeman has done wonders for my skin. I've gone through numerous bottles of this stuff because it really is that good. The best thing about it (other than the fact that it'll make your skin feel amazing) is that it's only $4. This magical green mask, made with avocado, oatmeal, and vitamin E, will leave your skin as smooth as a baby's bottom. Whenever my skin is flaring up with acne and redness, I'll use this mask, leave it on for about 5-10 minutes, then wash it off to reveal a much smoother, calmer face. It reduces redness instantly. Did I mention it leaves your skin EXTREMELY SMOOTH? Try this one. You won't regret it.

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

If you haven't heard of this popular product, you're missing out. This little bottle of drying lotion is a spot treatment for pimples. It zaps zits like no other. Some people are a bit confused by its presentation since it doesn't look like your conventional spot treatments. All you have to do with this little elixir is dip a cotton swab into the pink sediment at the bottom, and apply it to your problem areas. This tiny bottle is a borderline splurge, but since it lasts so long, I wouldn't really consider it one. It's $17, but you should only be using a small dot of the product at a time. If I didn't share this bottle with my boyfriend (I got him hooked on this one), it would probably last me about 4 months. You can find this product at Ulta or your local beauty supply store.

Dermalogica Microfoliant

Say hello to the first skincare product I ever threw down major bucks on. This splurge-worthy  exfoliating scrub costs about $60 and can be found at Ulta or your local beauty store. I've been using the same bottle for months, and I'm not even close to running out. I use this once a week to exfoliate and improve the texture of my skin. The product is a fine white rice-based powder, and you pour a tiny amount in your damp hands while in the shower. Once you rub it in, it transforms into an exfoliating paste. I love this product because it truly does leave my skin looking extremely refreshed and feeling ultra smooth. If you're unsure about spending a bunch of money on this, ask an employee at Ulta or Sephora if they have any samples or small bottles so you can give it a try. I have no doubts that you'll love it. Once winter rolls around and my skin starts acting up, I know I won't be going long without this product.

Extra Info/Deals

Rodan + Fields:

For more info on the eye bright serum or what products would work for your skin, contact Erica from R+F. If you mention The Trendy Nurse and become a preferred customer, she'll hook you up with a FREE full size product. Now that's what I'm talking about!

R+F Rep, Erica: ericadeads@gmail.com

Nursing School: How to Prepare for Clinical

I remember my first clinical day of nursing school like it was yesterday. I was so nervous that I was sure I would forget how to simply introduce myself and say hello to my patient. Our clinical instructor was thoughtful enough to pair us up with another student so that we wouldn't feel overwhelmed. It helped a bit, but I still felt anxious and a bit lost. In order to help the up and coming nurses of the world, I've written this blog post on how to prepare for clinical. I even included a link to a few tools you can use at the bottom of the post to help you feel more organized. The tips in this post can be applied to a student at any point in their nursing school journey. This advice is not just for your first clinical rotation ever. There will be useful hints throughout to help any clinical experience go along more smoothly.

1. Get in the right state of mind.

No matter what I tell you, you're going to be nervous. Being a nursing student floating around a unit of experienced nurses and techs is intimidating. It's only natural to be nervous, so embrace that feeling, take the adrenaline, and let it fuel your learning. Your state of mind does not have to be at peace. All you have to do with that excited energy is be open minded and ready to learn, and you'll have a great experience. All the nurses and other staff will know you're a student. They're well aware that you're there to practice and learn. You'll be able to explain to them, "I'm a ____ year nursing student, and this is what I'm comfortable/uncomfortable doing." Nobody expects you to know everything, so don't worry if you have a lot of questions and uncertainties. So, get in that open state of mind and be ready to learn!

2. Know what skills you need to practice.

In order to have a good experience with your nurse-preceptor, you have to know what you're showing up to do. Knowing the skills you need to practice at clinical will make your experience more enriching and goal-directed. You will feel so much more comfortable heading into clinical if you have a list of tasks that you hope to accomplish. Before you go to clinical, you should write down a list of the skills you need to practice that week. You might even have a list provided by your course director. Each clinical week, you can refer to that list by adding skills or marking off skills that you've built competency in. Make sure you bring in a short list of maybe 2 or 3 main skills you'd like to accomplish in the clinical day. That way, you can be focused each day on checking off a few skills from the larger list.

Once you're on the unit, make sure you make your nurse-preceptor aware of the skills you're seeking out. They will be able to ask around the unit to find the learning opportunities you seek. Don't be afraid to do this! If your specific patient doesn't have much going on, this will help to get more hands on experience around the unit with different patients and nurses. You might not be able to practice your more advanced skills until you're working as an RN, so seek out these opportunities to learn while you can. If you want to get way ahead of the game, you can even email your preceptor days before to request patients who may have certain things like drains, wounds, trachs, chest tubes, etc... That way, you can really get the practice you want.

3. Print a report sheet tool.

There are many different report sheets available online to help you organize your patient information. Some examples are included in the links at the bottom of this post. Print a few report sheets and keep them in your clinical folder so that you can write down this information while getting report on your patient(s). This information will help you have a clear picture of what's going on with your patient and what you need to do to care for them. Once you start handing off patients to other nurses later in your nursing school career, you'll find these tools to be especially helpful. If you notice that the nurses on your unit use a different report sheet format, ask them if you can get a few copies so you can give report the way they do it.

4. Prepare the night before.

Prepare everything you need for your clinical days the night before. You don't ever want to be rushed on the way to clinical, so use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need. Make sure you check Google Maps on a similar day of the week at the time of your commute to see what traffic is like at the time you'll be heading out. Iron or steam your uniform the night before so you don't look like you just rolled out of bed in your scrubs. Set however many alarms you need to make sure you wake up on time. It's only going to stress you out and throw you off for the day if you're running late, so give yourself ample time to get ready. Below, you'll find my checklist along with a few links to report sheets and useful clinical tools!

Pre-Clinical Checklist

  • Clinical instructor phone number in your phone

  • Address/location of clinical

  • Double check start & end time

  • Lunch/Snack

  • Water bottle

  • Report sheet

  • Skills checklist (you can jot a brief checklist down on your report sheet)

  • Stethoscope

  • Pen light

  • Watch with a second hand

  • Pen or pencil

  • Notebook or clipboard w/ paper

  • Ponytail holder (never get caught without one in an ISO room)

  • Sweatshirt or scrub jacket (it's usually freezing in hospitals)

  • Any clinical-specific assignments or instructions you may need

  • Anything else I forgot! But don't go overboard... you don't want to bring a giant backpack full of stuff onto your clinical unit.

Report sheets:

Normal values:

5 Tips for Thriving on Night Shift

Night shift.

It's the taboo phrase on the tongue of every daytime worker. Techs tell tales of darkness that could only have come from the graveyard shift. Nursing students fear it. Sundowners anticipate it like the vagabonds of the West await Burning Man. If you say it out loud, your manager might call you and tell you... "Hi, um, we need you to switch to nights."

Night shift. Is it really that bad? Let me be honest and tell you that I wanted to work during the daytime more than anything. Fast forward a few months from that phone call from my manager, and I am thriving on nights. I'm making more money, I'm bonding with my awesome night crew of coworkers, and I'm appreciating the nighttime workflow. I wanted to share this post with you all to help alleviate the fear of nights by giving you 5 tips for thriving on night shift.

1. Prioritize sleep

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is vital to thriving on night shift. It goes without saying that if you don't sleep, you won't be happy, and you won't be able to do your job effectively. Not only will it affect your job, but it may affect your personal relationships and social life as well. So, take a minute realign your priorities and put yourself and your rest at the top of the list. Schedule yourself a time to sleep that works for you before/after night shifts. It may take a little trial and error to get into a groove, but you will find a pattern of sleep that works for you! I'm going to share with you the way I sleep and what has been working wonderfully for me. You can find my personal sleep schedule at the bottom of this post. This is not an evidence-based recommendation, but it's what allows me to get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep and helps me stay balanced and happy.

2. Create a caffeine cutoff time

This tip goes hand in hand with prioritizing sleep. The amount of caffeine you drink overnight will affect your sleep the next day. Although throwing back as many Monsters as possible might sound like a good way to get through the night shift, it doesn't come without drawbacks. As I've discussed in other posts, caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours. So, if you drink coffee at 5 AM before your shift ends, 3/4 of the caffeine will be in your system at 8 AM, and half of it will still be in your system at 11 AM. This is why I cut myself off from caffeinated beverages around 2 AM. That way, at 8 AM when I get home to go to sleep, I won't be kept awake by the caffeine that's hanging out in my system. If you're super sensitive to caffeine, you may want to make that cutoff time a bit earlier depending on when your shift ends. That being said, if you're struggling to keep your eyes open before morning med pass, it might be necessary to refuel past that cutoff time.

3. Advocate for your schedule

Keep schedule as regular as possible with as many rest days you can get between your bundle of shifts. If you're flipping between having a social life during the day and working at night every other day of the week, it's going to be hard for your circadian rhythm to regulate itself. I try to schedule my shifts in bundles of 3 as close together as possible with a break of 4 days between shifts. That way, my body is happy with me staying awake for 4 days in a row then staying up 3 nights in a row. I've been lucky enough to have a job that allows for self-scheduling, and my manager is really great with working with our requested schedules. If you are not so fortunate, and your manager keeps scheduling you for sporadic shifts, be sure to advocate for yourself by meeting with them to talk about your schedule. Your rest is vital to your health and to the care of your patients, so it needs to be taken seriously.

4. Take small snack breaks

Even though we all know we need good food to fuel our hardworking bodies, it can be weird to eat a meal at 2 AM. I've found that it makes my stomach act up, and by the morning change of shift, I'm doubled over in stomach cramps. Because of this, I've had a hard time eating full meals in the middle of the night. What works for me is to make sure I have a few snack breaks so that I have some fuel in me to get me through the night. I've found that my digestive system is a bit happier when I have these small snacks compared to one big ol' dinner at the witching hour. It's really easy to throw together a healthy snack pack with a few things you can munch on. I like to bring a piece of fruit, a protein bar, trail mix, and maybe even a piece of dark chocolate (hi, caffeine!) to fulfill that sweet tooth.

5. Stay busy

If you're the kind of person who finds your eyelids involuntarily closing once night time rolls around, you may need to keep yourself busy during your night shift. With the crazy nights I've been having lately, I have not had a problem with this. Sometimes, though, there is a lull in the work and the unit can become very - dare I say it? - quiet. On quiet nights, team up with your techs and help them get patients changed and cleaned. If one coworker is drowning while you have down time, offer to help complete some of their tasks. If there is a lack of patient care to be completed, get to cleaning. Everyone could always appreciate a nice saniwipe party at the nurses' station. Staying busy with tasks is the best way to keep yourself alert during the night shift. It also won't hurt that your coworkers will love you if you're willing to help them with their work.

My sleep schedule: 

For a bit of background, I work 7 PM to 7 AM and 3 shifts per week. I'm going to split this section up into a few different scenarios of how my typical week looks. Let's pretend like I've just enjoyed a long weekend of daytime activities, and now I have to flip to being a night owl for my shifts at the beginning of the week. My schedule for the hypothetical week includes a Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday shift.

Going back to nights after a weekend. 

If I've just spent a few days off work and I'm going to work the next day (i.e. working Sunday night), I try to stay up late on Saturday night, then I would sleep in as long as possible on Sunday morning. If I accidentally wake up around 9 AM on Sunday or have to get up early for some other reason, I go about my day, and then around 2 PM I get into my room, shut the blackout blinds, and nap for a few hours. I wake up around 5 PM to get ready for work, and I'm on my way into the night shift!

Sleeping after a night shift. 

When I get home from work in the morning, around 8 AM, I go right to sleep, sometimes after eating a small meal. I set my alarm for 4:30 PM so that I can get ready for work, have a meal, and see a bit of the daytime before I go back to work. Although I set my alarm for 4:30, sometimes I only sleep until 3. You'll find that your body sometimes just wakes you up at random hours of the day, and it's best to try to go back to sleep if you can. It doesn't always work though. So, if I physically cannot sleep as long as I had planned, I use that time before work to enjoy some daylight by exercising or running errands. Then, I go to work at night and repeat this pattern until the end of my third shift on Wednesday morning.

Sleeping before flipping back to a daytime schedule

On Wednesday morning when I get back from my third night shift in a row, I go right to sleep and try to wake up around 1 or 2 PM. Yes, this is less sleep than usual, but it's still about 5-6 hours, which isn't bad. I get up a bit earlier like this because I need to sleep at night like a normal human in order to flip back into a weekend full of daytime activities. This might not work for some people, but I've found that I am surprisingly rested by 2, and with a cup of coffee, I'm able to enjoy the day then get back to sleep at night. Then, viola, the next morning I wake up with the rest of the world when the sun comes up! Okay, fine. I usually wake up the next morning at like 11 AM, but the next day after that, it's a bit easier to get up early. After spending a few days with my loved ones, I go back to step one and do it all again!

I hope you've all enjoyed this article and that you've found it useful in some way. Feel free to leave your tips for night shift in the comments, and make sure you follow me on my social media accounts to stay connected!

My Fitness Journey

Fitness versus wellness... is there a difference? I think I have always strived for fitness but haven’t always been focused on wellness. To me, wellness includes having a healthy routine that fuels your body AND your mental wellbeing.

For nearly all my life I have been an athlete. I played ice hockey since I was in first grade, and through those years I was also dedicated to softball, cheerleading, and dabbled in soccer, basketball, and volleyball. These sports involved a lot of strength and endurance.

I was a bit more “thick” than other little girls. I had leg muscles from long and intense hockey practices, and I remember one time telling my mom that I thought I was fat. She showed me a picture of Serena Williams on a magazine cover and told me, “look at her. She is so muscular, and she is strong and beautiful, like you!” Looking back, I can’t believe I felt this way about my body when I was a child. Once I got to high school, I began focusing my time on cheerleading. I think after many years of being a tomboy, I wanted to focus my athleticism on something “cuter” and “cooler.” So, I dropped all my other sports, even my childhood favorite, which was being on the ice and kicking the boys’ butts in hockey.

Being a high school cheerleader was physically and mentally crushing. I pushed my body to the limits, all the while consuming less than 1,000 calories a day. Sophomore year, I was one of three girls my age to make the varsity team. The varsity squad was almost all seniors, and I felt intimidated and inferior. The team I was on was all about looking and being perfect, and it took a serious toll on my happiness. It also messed with my body. Our practices focused on tricks and stunts, and I was throwing tumbling passes that I was not fundamentally prepared to do. At the time, I weighed 100 pounds and was lifting senior flyers who were incredible athletes and were heavier than me. They were not happy, to say the least, when I couldn’t keep them up in the air. I developed aches and pains in every joint of my body, and my back was constantly aching. No one ever taught us how to be safe. They only wanted us to look perfect, at all costs. Long story short, I ended up  quitting cheerleading, and this was the unfortunate last experience I had playing sports. I was left with a feeling of defeat and a distaste for the shape and abilities of my own body.

For the rest of the year after I quit, I started hitting the gym to make up for the physical activity I was no longer getting. I strictly focused on cardio, spending excessive amounts of time on the elliptical or treadmill. I counted calories obsessively and restricted my diet in ways that were unhealthy for a growing teenager. This pattern was thankfully interrupted late in my high school career once I became active in the performing arts at my school. I finally began channeling my energy into something positive instead of being narrowed in on finding a way to make my body shrink. Being a part of theatre and competitive speech allowed me to grow into a mentally strong and confident woman. I finally felt that I had value as a person because I felt talented and respected. I belonged to a group of people who were accepting and loving of everyone.

In college, I didn’t continue to take part in the performing arts, but I will forever recognize that it saved my mental health in my late teens. I had a wonderful college experience and didn’t focus much on fitness and exercise, but the negative feelings about my body lingered. I went to the gym and went for runs occasionally, but I wasn’t very consistent. I gained weight throughout college, and graduated at the heaviest weight I have ever been in my life. My body did not look the way I necessarily wanted it to, and I didn't have a way to be active and athletic without falling back into a poor relationship with my self image.

This pattern continued for me until grad school, when I met my boyfriend. He is very into lifting weights, and he does it because he loves it. He has a healthy balanced life and enjoys his fitness routine because it makes him feel good about himself. What a concept! I had never experienced that before. I started lifting weights with him, and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I began to really love it. Exercising finally felt good to me because it meant that I could become stronger. I could gain something from working out instead of always focusing on losing. I could set goals for myself and look at myself in the mirror and see that I was getting stronger! This was so exciting to me, and two years later, it still is. I can honestly say that lifting weights has saved my self esteem. I love walking into the gym and feeling powerful. I love seeing how my body can surprise me with what I'm able to do. And most importantly, I love my body. I love the way I look and I have never felt better in my own skin.

In the two years that I’ve been lifting, I’ve had different phases. Sometimes I go to the gym every day. Sometimes I only make it a few times a week, and sometimes I don’t make it at all. Either way, I’ve learned that it’s okay. Why? Because your body is your HOME, and it’s meant for feeling healthy, safe, and secure. Yes, there is pressure to strive for a certain aesthetic. Yes, I still have moments when I feel a lack of confidence and wished I looked like the fitness models I see on Instagram. I still feel moments of guilt and have bad days, too, but at the end of the day I can say I am thankful. Thankful that I am healthy, strong, and happy. As everything in life goes, finding wellness in fitness is a process. I am a work in progress, and overall, I’m still learning to love myself more with each passing day. 

Heath Trend: What the kombucha?!

Kombucha: you've heard the word. It's all the rage. It's the drink that has a name that makes it sound more like a witch's brew than a curative elixir. I wanted to uncover some facts about kombucha not only to answer my own questions, but to share my findings with you all. I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering why it's recommended that I drink this stuff. So, what exactly is kombucha and why does everyone claim that it's so good for your health? Furthermore, is it possible that this health trend could actually be harmful?



Kombucha is a fermented tea made from yeast and bacteria, plus a flavoring combination such as black tea and sugar. The colony of yeast and bacteria that gives birth to the fermented mixture is often referred to a "the mother." The mother, which kind of looks like a jellyfish (sounds appetizing, right?), sits in a glass bottle with the tea for a period of time, allowing the fermentation process to take place. The process results in the byproducts of alcohol, vinegar, and other chemical compounds. This explains why when you open a bottle of kombucha, you're greeted with the smell of vinegar. The way I've just explained it makes it sound like the least appetizing drink in the universe. As a tea-lover, though, I find that a good kombucha just tastes like a fizzy, slightly sour tea. So, if it's so funky smelling and has a weird blob floating around at the bottom of it, why do people drink this stuff?

The health benefits claimed to be reaped by drinking kombucha range from preventing cancer to curing cardiovascular diseases. It is commonly claimed to promote fat loss, detoxify the blood, and prevent diabetes and hypertension. Wow! Any skeptic would probably look twice at that list. Relieving the human race of some of our most common health ailments is a pretty lofty claim for any health food or drink. The bottom line about the known benefits of kombucha is that they are limited and certainly do not span as far as a surefire cure or prevention for any disease.

The benefits though, are similar to those of the tea that it is often made with (e.g. antioxidant properties may reduce free radical damage, but this conversation can be a whole other post of its own). There also is a small amount of caffeine from the tea in the mixture, which would result in the benefits one might get from any caffeinated beverage, including increased energy, focus, suppressed appetite, and let's be honest, you all know it: relief of mild constipation. There is limited evidence that kombucha provides probiotic benefits. Probiotics promote the health of our gut flora, which helps our digestive system work nicely. Although, again, there is limited evidence that kombucha is an effective probiotic. Aside from these and a few other very chemically-specific benefits that I don't have the capacity to begin to explain, the scientific jury is still out on this topic. Overall, there is a very small if any additional affect of drinking kombucha in the place of plain tea.

It's also worth mentioning that there are some health risks associated with this fizzy drink. If it is not brewed properly, it may become contaminated and unsafe to consume. Therefore, it is not recommended to brew kombucha in the home without doing extensive research and safety checks. In addition, the use of kombucha is contraindicated in pregnant and lactated women. No, you won't get drunk from it, but it does contain alcohol, after all. This may also mean that if you don't consume alcohol for religious or health reasons, you should avoid kombucha.

Bottom line

I'm not going to lie, I kind of believed that this drink was all it was cracked up to be before I did this search. I had a bottle of kombucha this morning, posted it to my Instagram story, and thought to myself, "Wow. I am the image of pure and perfect health." Now I feel kind of duped, yet I am reminded that there is always value in a bit of time spent flipping through the literature on any topic. I think unless I'm specifically craving kombucha, I might just stick to the tea from here on out.

References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/kombucha-tea/faq-20058126

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/kombucha-a-symbiotic-mix-of-yeast-bacteria-and-the-naturalistic-fallacy/


Jayabalan, R. , Malbaša, R. V., Lončar, E. S., Vitas, J. S. and Sathishkumar, M. (2014), A Review on Kombucha Tea—Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 13: 538-550. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12073

My Journey to MSN, RN

Lately I've had a lot of hilarious high school photos pop up on my Facebook memories, and when I see them I am shocked at the amount of time that has passed. It's been over 7 years since I finished high school and 3 years since I graduated from college. What kind of madness is that!? Like most young people, throughout those years I changed my mind a lot about what direction my future would take me. Throughout grade school and at the beginning of high school, I was sure that I wanted to be a doctor or a forensic crime scene analyst (don't ask). Once I got really involved in speech team and theater toward the end of my high school career, I thought I wanted to become a news anchor. So, as any young aspiring news anchor does, I went into college as a broadcast journalism major.



When I started college at the University of Miami, I auditioned for a spot on UMTV, the university's local cable channel. I actually secured a position as a reporter, which I was super pumped about at the time. All my dreams were coming true... until I learned that the reporting life isn't all I imagined it to be. Part of my job as a reporter was to learn how to work all the cameras and microphone equipment, lug it around campus in a giant cart to the shooting location, create a video "package," and cut and edit my report. I was confused and unprepared for all of this, seeing as I was a freshman with very little background in broadcasting. Then, my first day on the job I had to help an upperclassman reporter film a package. It was a disaster. I pushed my cart full of heavy camera equipment across campus on a 90 degree day, and I couldn't find the girl I was supposed to meet up with. So, I brought the equipment back to the studio and just kind of quit the whole thing on the spot. In retrospect, it's kind of a hilarious failed attempt, but it goes to show that broadcasting just wasn't my passion. It was way too easy to give up and not look back.

At the time all of this was going on, I was enrolled in Psych 101. It was my favorite class, and it was the only one that felt right to me. I knew that broadcast journalism wasn't going to work out, so I talked to my counselor about switching my major. I knew right away when she asked that I wanted to study psychology. Throughout my college career as a psych major, I loved my courses and my professors. So many of them were super inspiring and intelligent women who I aspired to be like. With the help of their advice and mentorship, I started to get the idea that I wanted to get a Psy.D so that I could become a clinically-based psychologist.

My first step to pursuing that career involved seeking out a position as an undergraduate research assistant. I got a position at UMiami's PASO (the Program on Anxiety, Stress, and OC-Spectrum Disorders). This research program had the coolest faculty director, and all the graduate students were extremely knowledgable. My job involved running studies for the graduate students and collecting  evidence from databases. I was really lucky to get to be involved with such an intelligent group of researchers, but I learned through that position that I didn't want to go to graduate school for psychology. It would have involved a very heavy focus on research, which is great, but I'm the kind of person who has a short attention span and needs to get my hands dirty (so to speak).

Now that I was again unsure of my career path, I turned to the person who every young woman turns to when she needs a little help: my mom! My mom is a registered nurse and a clinical nurse leader, but her first career was as a school teacher. When I was in high school, she went to Rush University for nursing school, where she earned her Master of Science in Nursing and CNL certification. She gave me a lot of guidance regarding nursing and the many directions it can take you in. I considered that even though I would start as a bedside RN, I could have endless opportunities from there on out, even the possibility of becoming a psychiatric nurse practitioner. After picking her brain and considering all the possibilities of nursing, I got the sense that this active, fast-paced patient-focused career path was a good fit for me.

Upon graduation from the University of Miami, I applied and was accepted to the Rush University generalist entry level MSN-RN program. This is a 2-year accelerated Masters program that also prepares you to sit for your CNL certification upon graduation. It is specifically designed for people with a bachelor's degree in anything except nursing, as long as you have the proper prerequisites under your belt (ex: A&P, psychology, microbiology, chemistry, etc...). It was an intense 2 years that flew by faster than I could have imagined. My clinical placements took me through all different areas of nursing, and taught me that a career in nursing could take you so many different places. My final immersion placement of nursing school was on a cardiac/telemetry unit that has a special medical/ behavioral designation. That meant that my psych background would tie into my work on the unit. The nurses and the techs on this unit were so welcoming and open to teaching and helping students, new grads, and each other. So, after graduation, I applied for a position there... and the rest is history!

I am currently working on this unit as a new grad RN and will be a part of the RN Residency program once the educational sessions start in August. It's been a great experience so far, and all of my preceptors have been extremely helpful in teaching me but also allowing me to learn and practice independently. I look forward to the near future in which I plan to hone my skills as a bedside RN, and I sometimes think about where the far-off future might take me. I have interest in working as a CNL, but I also sometimes think about going back to school to become an NP or possibly a CRNA. For now, I'm happy where I'm at.

A Letter to Me

I’ve always been a sucker for old photos. As I was growing up, my mom made these beautiful photo albums of our family photos, and I still flip through them to this day. When I look at these old pictures, sometimes I put myself back in the shoes of who I was in that moment of time and can’t believe that in those moments I had no idea who I was going to become. Sometimes I think about what I would say to myself in the past if I had the opportunity.
This whole thought process has inspired me to write this post that's a bit of a sentimental self reflection. I challenge you all to take a minute out of your day and do the same, even if you just think about it instead of writing about it. It's really lovely to think about how far you've come and to reflect on different times in your life. If you do write your own letter, feel free to share it with me in the comments!

To my 6 year old self,
I know that school is your FAVORITE thing in the world. Well, I mean, I’m glad you realized this after crying the whole first day of preschool and not allowing your mom to leave the class.  Your love of school is going to set you up for a lifetime of learning and exploring, so never lose that hunger for knowledge! Play outside every chance you get and never say no to a water balloon fight. As much as you want to be a big kid, don't forget that being a little kid is the best thing ever! Give your grandpas lots and lots of hugs for me. Also, stay away from the scissors unless you’re cutting paper and crafts. Cutting your own bangs is never a good idea.

To my 10 year old self,
Look at you go! I'm so proud of you for never being afraid to do what you love, even if that means you gotta hang out with the boys sometimes. You'll find that not everyone thinks a girl should play every sport under the sun, but you'll also find that you're better than a lot of boys and you shouldn't be ashamed of that. Don't let anyone tell you what a girl can and can't do, because you can do whatever you want in this world. You'll accomplish anything you set your mind to and be an unstoppable woman one day! Be fearless and never give up on your passion just because someone says it's not right.

To my 14 year old self,
Hey there. If you would have listened to my advice when you were 6, you wouldn't have to wear your hair in a "poof" until your emo self-cut side bangs grow out... Anyway, freshman year of high school is here. I know that you're nervous for what the next 4 years will bring, but believe me when I say that you are going to transform in ways you can't even imagine possible. Always have the courage to do what your heart says is the right thing to do. Know your worth and your beauty. Be kind to yourself, and allow your body and mind to grow and be healthy! In high school, you will make friends who you will share countless laughs and memories with, and you will set yourself up to get into a great college (which is even more fun than high school)! By the way, if you ever feel like you want to quit cheerleading and do speech and theater instead, it's worth it. Trust me.

To my 20 year old self,
Having a good time in Miami? I bet. College brings a lot of ups and downs, and I'm fully aware that everything that is happening to you at this moment seems like the biggest deal in the world. I want to remind you to take a deep breath, chill out, and let fate take hold of your future and where it goes. Every single person who walks in your life is there for a reason, and the ones who walk out of it leave for a reason as well. Spend all the time you can with your friends. They're really amazing people, and you'll miss them dearly in a few years! And finally, get pumped... cause what you have 5 years down the road is pretty freaking awesome if I do say so myself.