coaching vs therapy

The Difference Between a Life Coach and a Therapist

There is often some confusion about what life coaches actually do. People may not know whether they need a life coach or a therapist. There is some overlap between the two but they have different training and a different focus. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s not uncommon for people to seek professional guidance to address various challenges in their lives.

Background and Education of Therapist & Life Coach:

Therapists and life coaches differ significantly in their educational backgrounds and training. Therapists are mental health professionals who hold advanced degrees, in psychology, social work, or a related field. They hold a license and adhere to strict ethical guidelines set by their professional organizations. Therapists are trained to diagnose and treat mental health issues and emotional disorders, using evidence-based techniques.

Life coaches, on the other hand, are not required to have a specific degree or formal education. While there are various certification programs for life coaching, they are not universally standardized or regulated. For example, I have two different coaching certifications (The Life Coach School and Heroic) as well as a Master’s Degree in Nursing Education. Life coaches focus on helping clients set and achieve goals, offering guidance and support to navigate life transitions, and promoting personal growth and self-awareness.

Scope of Practice – Life Coach & Therapist:

The scope of practice for therapists and life coaches varies significantly. Therapists are equipped to address mental health issues, emotional disorders, and relational problems. They may work with individuals, couples, families, or groups and use a range of therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and solution-focused therapy. The primary aim of therapy is to identify and resolve the root causes of emotional distress and improve overall psychological well-being.

Life coaches, conversely, are not equipped to diagnose or treat mental health disorders. Their focus is on helping clients gain clarity, identify values and goals, and develop strategies for success. Life coaches often work with clients who are facing personal or professional challenges or seeking to improve specific areas of their lives, such as career, relationships, or wellness. Coaching is goal-oriented and action-based, with a focus on practical solutions and forward progress.

Sign with handprinted phrase: today is the future I created yesterday, life coach

Approach and Techniques:

Therapy and life coaching also differ in their approaches and techniques. Therapy is an introspective process, where clients explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to gain insights and make meaningful changes. Therapists may employ various techniques, such as active listening, empathy, reflection, and interpretation, to facilitate self-discovery and personal growth.

Life coaching is more directive and solution-focused. Coaches use tools like powerful questioning, active listening, and goal-setting to help clients identify their strengths, values, and objectives. They offer support, encouragement, and accountability, empowering clients to take action and achieve their desired outcomes.

Which One to Choose?

Deciding whether to seek the help of a therapist or a life coach depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you are struggling with mental health issues, emotional distress, or relational problems, a therapist is likely the better choice. They are trained to help you address and resolve the underlying issues contributing to your difficulties.

If you are seeking guidance to navigate life transitions, set and achieve goals, or improve your overall well-being without the presence of mental health concerns, a life coach may be the ideal option. They can provide the support and tools needed to help you create and implement an action plan for success.

Understanding the differences between therapists and life coaches is crucial for choosing the right professional. By considering their respective backgrounds, scopes of practice, and approaches, you can make an informed decision that best aligns with your needs and goals.

Keep in mind that you may find it beneficial to work with both a therapist and a life coach in different contexts or at different stages of your life. For instance, you may initially work with a therapist to address mental health concerns. Later you may engage a life coach to help you maintain progress and continue your personal growth journey.

Remember to carefully research and evaluate the credentials and experience of any professional you consider working with. Seek recommendations from friends, family, or online reviews to ensure that you find the right fit for your unique needs.

In conclusion, understanding the distinctions between therapists and life coaches can help you make the best decision for your personal growth journey. By evaluating your specific needs, goals, and preferences, you can choose the right professional to support you on your path to self-discovery, healing, and personal success.

lot of question marks on white papers -decision fatigue

How to Combat Decision Fatigue and Improve Patient Care

The human brain is capable of making thousands of decisions in a day, but each choice we make comes at a cost. As we move through our day, we are constantly presented with decisions to make, both large and small. From what to eat for breakfast to whether to take on a new responsibility at work, the sheer number of choices we make can be overwhelming. This mental exhaustion caused by decision-making is known as decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is a phenomenon where the quality of decision-making deteriorates as a result of mental exhaustion. It is a real and recognized phenomenon that can have a significant impact on our daily lives. When we experience decision fatigue, our ability to make decisions becomes impaired, leading to poorer choices or even decision paralysis. This is why, by the end of the day, we tend to make poor choices in our nutrition. We ate healthy food all day and suddenly we find ourselves picking up fast food on the way home.

woman eating cookie and saying shhhh

So Many Choices

One of the reasons decision fatigue is so prevalent today is the abundance of choices available to us. In the past, choices were limited, and decisions were simpler. Today, we are presented with an endless array of choices in everything from what to eat, wear, watch, and do. With so many options, it’s no wonder our brains can feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Even just scrolling through social media creates hundreds of decisions – where to focus your attention, what to “like” or “love,” what makes you mad, what you should click on, etc. 

Decision fatigue can also be exacerbated by stress and anxiety. When we are under stress, we tend to become more indecisive and have a harder time making choices. This can lead to a cycle of decision fatigue. The more decisions we have to make, the more stressed we become, and the more difficult it becomes to make good choices.

Unraveling the Impact of Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue can have a significant impact on nurses, who are required to make a large number of decisions every day. Here are three examples of how decision fatigue might affect nurses:

Medication errors
  1. Medication administration involves a complex set of decisions. Nurses need to choose the right medication, the right dose, and the right time to administer it. They need to be aware of possible contraindications. When nurses experience decision fatigue, they may become more prone to errors,
Patient assessment
  1. Assessing patients is an important part of a nurse’s job, It helps to identify any changes in a patient’s condition that may require intervention. However, assessing patients involves a large number of decisions, Nurses make decisions such as which assessments to perform, what the results mean, and what interventions may be required. When nurses experience decision fatigue, they may become less thorough in their assessments. Or they may miss important details that could affect a patient’s care. They can be led astray by distracting findings.
Prioritization of tasks
  1. Nurses are responsible for managing a wide range of tasks, from administering medication to coordinating with other healthcare providers. When nurses experience decision fatigue, they may struggle to prioritize tasks effectively, leading to delays in care or missed opportunities for intervention. For example, a nurse may become overwhelmed by the number of tasks they need to complete and miss a medication administration or forget to follow up on an important lab result.

The good news is that there are tactics we can use to prevent decision fatigue and make better choices.

nurse giving medication to pediatric patient

Strategies to Boost Mental Stamina and Improve Patient Outcomes

Limit the number of decisions you make
  1. One of the simplest ways to avoid decision fatigue is to limit the number of decisions you make each day. For example, you could plan your meals for the week ahead of time so you don’t have to decide what to eat every day. You could also limit the number of choices you make when shopping by sticking to a list and avoiding distractions. Have you ever considered that meal planning could make you better at your nursing job? Crazy to think about!
Make important decisions earlier in the day
  1. Our ability to make good decisions declines as the day goes on, so it’s a good idea to tackle important decisions early in the day when our minds are fresh. This way, you’ll be more likely to make a good decision and avoid decision fatigue later in the day.
Use routines to simplify your day
  1. Routines can help simplify your day and reduce the number of decisions you have to make. For example, you could create a morning routine that includes exercising, showering, and eating breakfast in the same order every day. This way, you don’t have to decide what to do first each morning, and you’ll save your decision-making energy for more important choices later in the day.
Prioritize your decisions
  1. It’s important to prioritize your decisions and focus on the most important ones first. This way, you can avoid decision fatigue by only making the most important choices and delegating or postponing less critical decisions.
Take breaks
  1. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of decisions you have to make, take a break. Taking a break can help you recharge your mental batteries and come back to your decisions with a fresh perspective. Sometimes taking a break can be as simple as sitting down, closing your eyes, and taking a few deep breaths.
Outsource decisions
  1. Finally, consider outsourcing some decisions to others. For example, you could hire an assistant to help with meal prepping or a personal shopper to help you with wardrobe choices (I use StitchFix for this). By delegating some decisions, you can free up mental energy and reduce decision fatigue.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, decision fatigue is a real and recognized phenomenon that can have a significant impact on our daily lives. With the abundance of choices available to us, it’s no wonder our brains can feel overwhelmed and exhausted. However, by implementing tactics such as limiting the number of decisions we make, tackling important decisions earlier in the day, using routines, prioritizing decisions, taking breaks, and outsourcing decisions, we can bring some peace to our lives and decrease the chances of making a mistake.

You can read more about What Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew About Decision Fatigue

two nurses in conversation with executive

Empowering Nurses: The Empowerment Dynamic Enhances Patient Care and Workplace Relationships

Introduction: Embracing the Empowerment Dynamic in Nursing

Nursing is a challenging profession that often exposes practitioners to demanding situations and emotional stress. The traditional Drama Triangle, with its victim, persecutor, and rescuer roles, can create disempowerment and burnout, negatively affecting both patient care and workplace relationships. The Empowerment Dynamic (TED) offers an alternative approach to empowering nurses that enables nurses to shift from a victim mindset to a creator mindset, fostering personal growth, professional development, and healthier relationships. In this blog post, we will explore TED and provide practical tips for incorporating it into nursing practice.

Understanding the Drama Triangle and Its Impact on Empowering Nurses

The Drama Triangle, developed by Stephen Karpman in 1968, is a psychological model that describes three dysfunctional roles people tend to assume in relationships: the victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer. In a healthcare setting, these roles may manifest in various ways, such as patients feeling powerless, nurses feeling overwhelmed, or colleagues blaming one another.

In my work I often see the victim role in “us vs. them” situations. For example, nurses vs. physicians, nurses vs. administration, or one department or shift vs. another department or shift. This type of adversarial thinking can actually create safety issues in addition to job dissatisfaction.

Unfortunately, the Drama Triangle perpetuates disempowerment, creating an unhealthy environment that negatively impacts patient care and nurses’ well-being. By recognizing the Drama Triangle and its consequences, nurses can begin to break free from its grasp and transition to a more empowering mindset.

nurse putting on N95 mask

Shifting to the Empowerment Dynamic (TED) in Nursing

The Empowerment Dynamic, developed by David Emerald, provides a positive alternative to the Drama Triangle. TED comprises three roles: the creator, the challenger, and the coach. By adopting these roles, nurses can develop a more empowering mindset, improve patient care, and foster healthier workplace relationships. This is an essential practice in empowering nurses and flourishing.

Creator: As creators, nurses focus on their own abilities and resources, taking responsibility for their actions and choices. They actively seek solutions and opportunities for growth.

Challenger: Challengers confront situations or beliefs that may be limiting or detrimental. In nursing, this role encourages colleagues to question assumptions and seek better practices, promoting continuous improvement.

Coach: The coach role involves providing guidance and support to others, enabling them to find their own solutions and grow. Nurses who act as coaches foster an environment of learning and collaboration.

This dynamic is right in line with High Reliability Organization (HRO) behaviors and patient/staff safety. It also fosters well-being and flourishing for all involved.

Strategies to Break Free from the Drama Triangle

Recognizing and dismantling the Drama Triangle is an essential step towards empowering nurses and embracing the Empowerment Dynamic. Here are some practical strategies for nurses:

Self-awareness: Regularly reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions to identify when you’re slipping into a Drama Triangle role. Acknowledge these patterns and remind yourself of the Empowerment Dynamic roles as healthier alternatives.

Constructive communication: Avoid blaming or criticizing others, and instead focus on expressing your feelings and needs. Use “I” statements and active listening to create an open, non-judgmental atmosphere.

Set boundaries: Establish clear expectations and limits with patients, colleagues, and yourself. This helps prevent rescuer behavior and encourages personal responsibility.

Techniques for Incorporating the Empowerment Dynamic into Nursing Practice

Incorporating the Empowerment Dynamic into daily nursing practice requires conscious effort and practice. Here are some techniques for embracing the creator, challenger, and coach roles:

Enhancing patient care: Foster a creator mindset by taking responsibility for your actions and seeking opportunities to improve patient outcomes. Be proactive in identifying potential problems and finding solutions to enhance patient care.

Building supportive relationships with colleagues: Act as a coach by offering guidance, support, and encouragement to your fellow nurses. When appropriate, take on the challenger role by constructively questioning assumptions and promoting best practices.

Cultivating a positive work environment: Encourage open communication, collaboration, and continuous learning within your nursing team. Share your experiences with the Empowerment Dynamic and inspire others to adopt this mindset.

The Transformative Power of the Empowerment Dynamic

Many nurses have experienced the transformative power of the Empowerment Dynamic in their professional and personal lives.

Susan, an oncology nurse, shifted from a victim mindset to a creator mindset by taking control of her emotions and focusing on what she could do to improve her patients’ experiences. As a result, she noticed a significant increase in her job satisfaction and the quality of care she provided.

Mark, a nurse manager, embraced the coach role and fostered an environment of open communication and collaboration among his team members. This approach improved team dynamics and led to a decrease in staff turnover and an increase in overall patient satisfaction.

Sarah, a pediatric nurse, adopted the challenger role to question outdated practices within her unit. By advocating for evidence-based practices, she helped implement new protocols that significantly improved patient outcomes.

Conclusion: Embracing the Empowerment Dynamic for a Fulfilling Nursing Career

group of 5 healthcare workers smiling

The Empowerment Dynamic offers nurses a powerful framework to shift from a victim mindset to a creator mindset, fostering personal growth, professional development, and healthier workplace relationships. By recognizing the Drama Triangle, adopting the creator, challenger, and coach roles, and incorporating TED into daily nursing practice, nurses can transform their work environment, improve patient care, and enjoy a more fulfilling career. Embrace the Empowerment Dynamic and take the first step towards a more empowered nursing practice today.

You can learn more about the Empowerment Dynamic at or by reading the book (affiliate link).

To read more about mental wellness check out this post.

tiny habits habit tracker

Tiny Habits Book Summary

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg is abook that challenges readers to embrace small changes in their lives to achieve significant results. In this book, Fogg, a renowned behavior scientist, presents his theory on how tiny habits can create long-lasting change. He intersperses the concepts with stories of people who have put the concepts into practice in their lives.

3 Sections

The book is structured into three main parts. The first section introduces the concept of tiny habits and how they can help individuals create lasting change. Fogg explains that the key to creating lasting change is to start small (tiny, really…even smaller than you think) and work on habits that are easy to implement. The second section explores the intricacies of habit formation and how to effectively create tiny habits that stick. The third and final section provides practical advice on how to integrate tiny habits into one’s daily routine.

The essence of Tiny Habits is this: Take a behavior you want, make it tiny, find where it fits naturally in your life, and nurture its growth. If you want to create long-term growth, it’s best to start small.

B..J. Fogg


One of the standout features of this book is the practical nature of the advice. Fogg provides clear and actionable steps for readers to take to implement tiny habits in their lives. He encourages readers to start with small, easy-to-do habits and build from there. He also advises readers to anchor new habits to existing routines, making it easier to remember and incorporate them into daily life.

Keeping changes small and expectations low is how you design around fair-weather friends like motivation and willpower. When something is tiny, it’s easy to do – which means you don’t need to rely on the unreliable nature of motivation.

B..J. Fogg


Another aspect of the book that I found particularly compelling was Fogg’s emphasis on celebrating small wins. He encourages readers to celebrate their successes, no matter how small they may be. This is a way of reinforcing new habits and increasing motivation to continue on the path to change. Celebrating the positive things in our lives, even the tinyest of positive things, let’s your brain know that it’s important to you. The brain learns that celebrating feels good and therefore, it becomes your ally in doing your tiny habit and helping it grow.

Overall, I found Tiny Habits to be a highly engaging and informative book. Fogg’s approach to habit formation is refreshing, and his practical advice is easy to follow and implement. The book is well-researched and draws upon a wealth of scientific evidence to support its claims. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to create lasting change in their lives, no matter how small the change may seem.

Nurse smiling at man in wheelchair with gratitude

A Simple Gratitude Practice Can Reduce Stress

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry. There are more than three times more nurses in the US than physicians. Nurses work tirelessly to provide care and support to patients, often at the expense of their own well-being. It’s no secret that the nursing profession can be stressful and emotionally challenging, especially in today’s healthcare climate, but one way nurses can mitigate the stress and burnout is by practicing gratitude. It sounds crazy, but research has shown that simply spending a few minutes each day in gratitude can make a powerful difference.

Gratitude is the act of appreciating and being thankful for the good things in life. It’s a simple concept, but it has profound effects on our mental and physical health. Numerous studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to increased happiness, better sleep, improved relationships, and reduced stress levels.

“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” (Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier)

Here’s how nurses can benefit from a gratitude practice:

Reducing stress and burnout

Nursing is rewarding, but it can also be an incredibly stressful and emotionally taxing job. Long hours, demanding patients, and the pressure to provide high-quality care can take a toll on nurses’ mental health. Practicing gratitude can help nurses cope with stress and prevent burnout. When nurses focus on the positive aspects of their job, such as the gratitude and appreciation they receive from patients, coworkers and their families, it can help them stay motivated and resilient during difficult times. On my worst days I can still find something to be grateful for. Sometimes you can only find micro moments of awesome to be thankful for.

Improving job satisfaction

When nurses focus on the positive aspects of their job and their life, they are more likely to feel satisfied and fulfilled in their work. Gratitude helps nurses appreciate the impact they are making in their patients’ lives, even during challenging times. This can lead to a sense of purpose and meaning in their work, which can translate into higher job satisfaction.

Enhancing patient relationships

Nurses who practice gratitude are more likely to build strong, positive relationships with their patients. When nurses express gratitude towards their patients, it can help patients feel more valued and appreciated, which can improve their overall experience. This can lead to better patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction rates. Both parties benefit.

Boosting mental and physical health

Practicing gratitude has been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved mental health and better sleep quality. Nurses who practice gratitude may experience reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can improve their overall well-being. Additionally, gratitude has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation, which can lead to improved physical health. A gratitude practice can be as simple as writing down 1 to 3 things you are thankful for at the end of the day. Give it a try. I can testify that it works. Even when I was going through my cancer treatment I could always find things to be grateful for.

“In recent years a very large body of evidence has emerged suggesting that gratitude is strongly related to all aspects of well-being…” (Gratitude and Well-being: a review and theoretical integration)

In conclusion, practicing gratitude can have numerous benefits for you as a nurse. By focusing on the positive aspects of your job and expressing gratitude towards patients and colleagues, you can reduce stress, improve job satisfaction, enhance patient relationships, and boost your mental and physical health. As a result, you can continue to provide high-quality care and support to patients while maintaining your own well-being.

photo of woman resting on the couch

Nurse, nurture thyself

As a nurse, you dedicate your life to providing quality care and comfort to others. But in order to be successful in your profession, you must also take the time to nurture yourself. Flourishing as a nurse requires that you find balance in your life and develop the skills to manage the stress and demands of your job. While there are times to pitch in and work extra hard, I see so many nurses working long hours, picking up extra shifts or doing overtime, and not getting good sleep. You can only go so long without making your own health a priority before your health begins to suffer. There are way too many nurses that are stressed, exhausted, and suffering from chronic illnesses. We often don’t take the advice that we dish out to our patients.

Here are some tips to help you flourish as a nurse.

1. Take Time for Self-Care: Self-care is essential for nurses to stay healthy and perform at their best. Make sure to take time for yourself each day to do something that brings you joy. This could be anything from reading a book, exercising, or meditating. Taking time for yourself will help you to recharge and reduce stress. Honestly, I think all 3 of those things are essential parts of a well-rounded day. Having a gratitude practice has been shown to improve happiness.

2. Develop Healthy Habits: Good habits such as eating nutritious meals, getting sufficient sleep, and exercising regularly can help you to stay healthy and energized. These habits can also help you to stay focused and alert during long shifts. Foundational habits for optimal health include fueling your body, moving regulary (formal exercise and other daily movements), and 7-8 hours of sleep.

3. Connect with Colleagues: Working in a team environment can be demanding, but it is important to foster positive relationships with your colleagues. Make time to connect with others, share experiences, and support each other. It’s been proven that the healthiest teams support each other with positive feedback. We love it when our bosses give us positive feedback, but we can do the same for each other on a regular basis.

4. Set Boundaries: Setting boundaries is important in order to maintain a healthy life. Set limits on how much time you spend at work and make sure to take breaks during your shift. This will help you to stay focused and keep your stress levels in check. Work hard when it’s time to work, but take your rest seriously as well.

5. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help you stay in the moment and reduce stress. Take a few minutes each day to practice breathing exercises and focus on your thoughts and feelings. Doing a thought download each day can be helpful to gain clarity and reduce stress. Even just 1 minute of stopping and taking some deep breaths are helpful for resetting my stressed out mind.

As a nurse, it is important to take care of yourself in order to be successful in your job. Taking time for self-care, developing healthy habits, connecting with colleagues, setting boundaries, and practicing mindfulness are all ways to help you flourish as a nurse. By following these tips, you can stay healthy and energized, and better manage the demands of your job.

desperate and stressed attractive middle aged Asian woman holding notepad asking for help feeling overworked and exploited working at computer office desk suffering stress and fatigue

Gain Clarity With a Thought Download

I don’t know if this ever happens to you but there are times that my brain just seems to freeze up. I have so many thoughts swirling through my head that I get overwhelmed. We have 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Some just pass right on through without notice and others are more intrusive. Some thoughts are helpful. And others are negative and critical.

A thought download is a way to take the thoughts from your head and get them on paper. It can also be called a brain dump. It’s a helpful habit to do once or twice a day. Doing them in the morning can help you get clarity for the day ahead. Doing it at night can help empty out all the thoughts from the day and allows for a better night’s sleep. I am working on a practice where I also do it when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Three times to do a thought download

  1. First thing in the morning – this is a great way to clean out your mind and gain clarity for you day. You can start with just writing whatever comes to mind – plans for the day, thoughts that you woke up with things you’re working on today, etc. If you get stuck you can start with a journal prompt to get your thoughts rolling. Just write, don’t edit. Let it be messy.
  2. At the end of the day – dump out all the thoughts that have been bombarding your brain all day. Put anything down that’s on your mind. Again, let it be messy. Any successes you had today, anything you learned, anything that’s bothering you.
  3. When feeling overwhelmed – a great way to unravel all the stuff running through your brain to sort out what’s important now and what you can just put down on paper and let go.

Then what?

Many times, simply doing this will be enough. It clears out your head and tells your brain that you’ve “dealt with” many of the thoughts it was trying to remind you of. Sometimes you may be surprised at the things you wrote down. Things that you didn’t even realize you were thinking. It’s like being able to be on the outside and view your own thinking. And you may decide that some of those thoughts are things you want to keep thinking. But some of them are maybe thoughts you want to question. They may be thoughts you want to do some mindset work on. You can do this by putting it through a process like the self-coaching model. You can learn more about doing that on my post The Ultimate Practice to Boost Your Mental Wellness.

suffering, man walking through dark forest

Chosen vs. Unchosen Suffering

What is chosen suffering?

My recent cancer journey coincided with reading a book called Chosen Suffering. It was a book that one of my church pastors quoted from and I was intrigued. It was been a timely read in the midst of what I was going through. The book is written as a leadership book by Tom Ryan who is a college wrestling coach. He talks about chosen suffering as in the suffering an athlete chooses in order to become elite. Unchosen suffering enters his life with the sudden, unexpected death of one of his young children.

What about unchosen suffering?

Reading the book helped me reframe what I was going through. The cancer diagnosis itself is unchosen suffering. I did not choose it or ask for it. But I have choices following that diagnosis. And that has given me a new mindset. My surgeon, oncologist, and radiologist recommend treatments based on their knowledge and I had the option of choosing to take those actions or pursuing other treatments. When I have side effects from treatments, I can dwell on the suffering that I’m currently feeling, or I can remember that I chose this option. I can spend my mental energy on getting through the challenges in the best way possible. Or I can be the best I can be with the circumstances that were outside my control. We can’t control other people or many of the things that happen to us, but we can control our responses to those things.

“Pain is the feeling. Suffering is the effect the pain inflicts. If one can endure pain, one can live without suffering. If one can withstand pain, one can withstand anything. If one can learn to control pain, one can learn to control oneself. ”
― James Frey, My Friend Leonard

― James Frey, My Friend Leonard

A silhouette of an archer, on the backdrop of a sky with exploding gun powder.

The second arrow

I have a choice in how I walk through unchosen suffering. Choosing to add more suffering on top of that is never going to be the best option. There is a Buddhist parable about this. Imagine walking through a forest and getting hit by an arrow. There is pain and probably fear as a result of getting struck by an arrow. The second arrow refers to your emotional reaction to getting hit by that first arrow.

When I finished my 12 weeks of chemotherapy I was looking forward to 30 days of recovery before having to start radiation. I was looking forward to rebuilding my stamina. I couldn’t wait for food to taste good again. Two weeks into this recovery period I got COVID. I was sick, exhausted, and lost my sense of taste and smell. Unchosen suffering. The first arrow.

And then I added on the second arrow. I got angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I wallowed in, “It’s not fair.” I whined and complained. Thankfully, I didn’t stay in that emotional funk for too long. But I didn’t have to add on all that extra uncessesary chosen suffering. I ultimately focused on the things that I was grateful for, despite my circumstances as in one of my favorite Bible verses:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Phillipians 4:8-9

Why we don't sleep. Image is frustrated woman with insomnia

Why We Don’t Sleep: Simple Ways to Improve Sleep

Sleep is one of the foundational habits for flourishing. It is also one of the things we tend to sacrifice. We often don’t realize the cost of a lack of sleep. More than 17,000 scientific reports show that getting a full night of rest regularly can improve your memory, lower your risk of disease, improve your creativity, decrease risk of depression and anxiety, and increase your sense of happiness. (Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) If you consistently get less than six to seven hours of slumber, you double your risk of cancer. It is estimated that two thirds of Americans don’t get the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Are you one of them?

Tired = Drunk?

One skipped night of sleep has the same effect of being drunk. Not sleeping dramatically diminishes your performance in all areas and also diminishes your psychological well being. I used to work night shift and I know some days I was so tired driving home from work that I probably could have been pulled over for being drunk. My commute is about 35 minutes. I used to have to stop halfway home and take like a 15 minute nap in a parking lot before I could drive the rest of the way home safely. One morning I didn’t make it all the way to my resting point and had an accident. I know I was not the safest driver on the road those days.

Let’s look at why we don’t sleep:

1. We don’t value it. You might think, “oh, I’ll just stay up late and watch one more episode on Netflix,” and you sacrifice that extra hour (or more) of sleep.

2. We are inconsistent. Having a consistent bedtime and a consistent bedtime routine sets the stage for your brain to initiate the sleep process.

3. Too much light. In general, we go to bed we have light from multiple screens like our phones, iPads, or television. Getting all that blue light exposure reduces our melatonin which in turn delays the onset of sleep and also delays the onset of deep sleep. So even once you get to sleep, it takes you longer to get deep sleep. Blue light also stimulates cortisol, your stress hormone due to stimulation from TV shows internet scrolling, etc.

4. Substances. Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco can all impair sleep.

5. We eat too close to bedtime. Your body performs all sorts of vital functions as you sleep. If you are still digesting at bedtime, it can delay the body’s ability to do those functions.

6. We exercise too close to bedtime. Stimulation from exercise can keep you awake longer than you’d like.

7. No sleep sanctuary. Your bedroom should be cool and as dark as possible. Even small lights from electronic devices can impair your sleep. If you are a night shift worker sleeping in the daytime, have blackout curtains on your windows and soundproof your room as much as possible. A sound machine is a great investment to mask the sound of family members or neighbors while you rest.

Numb to the problem

The funny thing is, when we’re sleep deprived, especially if it’s chronic, the less your body is able to sense it. You feel like you’re okay. And until you start getting really good sleep, you don’t realize how not okay, you are. There’s a Greek philosopher, Seneca, that said “The worse a person is the less he feels it,” and that seems to be true when it comes to sleep deprivation.

So, what can we do for better sleep?

Here are some tips to improve your sleep based on the challenges above. See which habits you might want to include in your routine.

  • Stop caffeine 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Some people might need to stop even earlier.
  • Exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime. Excercise gives you a 12 hour mood boost so the earlier you can do it, the more benefit you will get from that.
  • Stop eating 4 hours before bedtime. At a minimum, stop 2 hours before.
  • Shut down technology at least 1 hour before bedtime. The stimulation from tech will keep you awake longer.
  • Create a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom.

What will you work on?

Comment below and let me know what you plan to work on first.

If you’re working on new habits this post might interest you next: Morning Routines

If you are in healthcare and want to join the Nurses Getting Healthy Community, we’d love to see you in the group.

flag on the mountain top to represent the goal gap analysis

Rate Yourself: Energy, Work, and Love

I want to share something that was helpful for me in working on some goals over this past year - kind of like a little goal gap analysis. It's a way of looking at who you need to be in order to be the person that can reach your goal.  A lot of people already have their goals set up and if you don't, this can help you kind of focus your goals in a direction that would be helpful. Let me explain.  (You can read the post or listen in the video at the bottom of the page).

We all have a gap. We have a gap between who we are currently being or how we currently show up in the world and who we're capable of being. There's always more growth that we can experience. If we're not growing then we're being stagnant. This gap is what we're trying to close up when we set a goal. 

So why do we want to bridge this gap? Because we want to be the best person that we can be. The best version of ourselves needs to show up consistently in work, health, and home life. I know sometimes you've probably had a day where you just say that was a great day - a masterpiece day. You finish the day saying, "I wish every day was like that." You're feeling good, you have energy. Your relationships at home and at work are good. We want to become the person that can show up that way more often. So this quiz is just a way to help us look at where you currently are. 

The Quiz
I want you to evaluate yourself in 3 categories - energy, work, and love. Rate yourself on a 1-10 scale with 10 being perfect. Then we'll add up the 3 scores. 

Evaluate yourself with respect to energy. Some questions you could ask yourself in the energy category are:
- Do you get good sleep? Are you getting seven to eight hours? 
- Are you eating as well as the best version of you can? Are you getting nutrition that you know is fueling you and not dragging you down or causing disease, etc? 
- Are you exercising?  Are you moving your body? Or are you being too sedentary? 
- Do you have mental clarity? 
- Are you able to focus? 

A score of 10 is the perfection. If you are a 10 in this category, you have nothing more to prove. And a score of 1 would mean you're a total mess in this category.

Before you move on to the next category I want you to do a little bit of journaling on what's going well when it comes to your energy. Give yourself credit for the parts of this category, that you've got under control. 

Then list one thing you could start or stop doing that would bring your rating up a point? 

We're going to grab one thing out of each of these categories and even if you don't set goals or resolutions, you will have three things that you could work on to bridge that gap. The one thing I recommend that you make them a super simple things.

- How do you flow throughout the day in your work? 
- How is your ability to focus without distraction?
- How is your level of productivity?
- How is your ability to prioritize your time management? 
- How do  you feel like you're showing up when you clock in in the morning? And when you clock out? 

Score yourself between 1 and 10 in the work category?

What's going well? 

And then what's one thing you could start or stop doing that would bring your rating up a point?

- How are you showing up in your relationships? 
- How are you showing up as a spouse, as a parent, as a child? 
- How are you with your co workers or with your patients? 
- What kind of relationships do you have? 

Give yourself a score of 1 through 10. 

Again, look at what's going well. 

And what's one thing you could start or stop doing that would bring your rating up one point?

Now you're going to total up those three scores across energy, work and love. 
What is your total score? Let's say you scored yourself as a 15 on a 30. Do you think that the person that is a 15/30 is capable of reaching your goals?You probably have some room for improvement. But if you work on those three categories, you're going to be more likely to hit that big goal.  So build some habits to improve your scores and then come back and rate yourself again on your way to your big goals!