Cultivating Resilience – Guest Post

Submitted by Sarah Johnston, BSN, CCRN
Critical Care Float Pool
Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center

As healthcare professionals, we get a firsthand look at how fragile we are as human beings and at the same time just how resilient we can be. We can see how life is a continuous balance of both. Sometimes things unfold as we have planned and other times, we are humbled at how little control we have. If there is anything, we can be sure of from helping people who are sick, it’s that recovery is going to look different for everyone- and the same goes for building resilience. Resilience is defined as one’s capacity to recover, which is a process that takes commitment, practice, and is going to be a unique experience for everyone. As front-line workers during a pandemic, we have had an intimate connection with COVID in that we don’t ever get a break- not at work or at home. We grieve the loss of normal in our personal lives and we come to work scared and unsure of what the future will hold. What an enormous quality of a human – to be made so strong yet so vulnerable.

How can we view this experience as an opportunity to cultivate resilience? Studies show that intentionally shifting our focus and our mindset creates a more positive outlook on life in general. It’s not in a way that doesn’t allow us to feel wholeheartedly pain and suffering, but rather it gives us the ability to choose strength to continue forward. In each of our stories, we get to choose whether we play the victim or the hero.  We could share with each other all our individual methods and approaches to fostering resilience. It might be inspiring to some and it might be a start in the right direction. For others, it might be disheartening, and reaffirm their shame and disappointment in themselves for not doing or feeling better.  I wonder if we might find more value in showing one another compassion for the grief we have all experienced. Learning how to give ourselves and each other permission to feel grief because that is where resilience is planted.  Rather than a list of how we can foster resilience, what if we spend time learning how to be reflective, mindful, intentional, and balanced. What if we spend time being kind to each other, helping others, and putting our focus on the community and people we are surrounded by – lifting each other up and creating a culture that promotes resilience and encouraging one another to persevere through challenges. COVID isn’t likely the first and surely will not be the last opportunity we experience in this life where we are given the choice to give up in despair and hopelessness or to move forward with a new perspective.

So, take a moment to reflect on who you are, what your world looks like, and how you can be kind to yourself and others while you navigate seasons of change. Honor each other for small success and recognize we are all on the same journey to planting resilience and growing together as a community.

Thank you, Sarah!!

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How I can apply my holistic practices to everyday life…

Submitted by Kelly Alandt RN
OHNA Director-at-Large

I remember learning in nursing school about the importance of treating and caring for the whole person; taking into consideration not just the physical aspects of a person, but the emotional, mental, and spiritual portions as well. Over the years as I have moved through my nursing career, the physical aspects of care for patients began to overshadow and steer my focus. The concept of whole-person care often became lost.

In 2009, I started work at a hospital in Asheville, NC, where I was introduced to Holistic Nursing. The hospital had an educational program there for nurses who were interested in learning more about Holistic Nursing. I had never encountered the term Holistic Nurse, nor did I understand what it meant to “be” a holistic nurse. It was through this education that I was reminded of the concept of caring for the whole person. Although my husband had been introduced to several of the modalities included within the realm of holistic nursing, I had not. One of the many holistic practices I learned was making an intention to be present. Giving my undivided attention to the moment that was happening right in front of me with my patient. In doing so I am able to focus on what is needed of me, and for the person in my care, without being distracted by outside thoughts. In giving my entire focus to the “job at hand” I am able to make the best decisions needed in that moment.

As I’ve moved through life and nursing, time and time again I have become overly concerned or worried about future things that I didn’t yet know the answers to. I often found myself mulling over all the potential outcomes for a particular situation I happened to be facing; trying to work out all the possible details of how it might happen. This is exhausting! Trying to anticipate outcomes to events that haven’t happened yet added more stress and was affecting my health in ways I unaware. There had to be a better way to deal with uncertainty and the unknown. I am often reminded to draw on the things I have learned about being present and living in the now.

This is just one of my “holistic tools” I have to help me reduce stress and anxiety in my everyday life, especially in our current time of COVID 19 and the pandemic. Each day we are faced with plenty of uncertainties which can be troubling and stress-inducing, especially if they become our focus. Left unmanaged, these events can ultimately have negative effects on our wellbeing. I don’t like unknowns.  When faced with a situation where there is an unknown outcome, I become anxious, emotional, and often irritable as I try to determine how events will unfold. It is in these moments that I have a choice. I can stay where I am, lost in the unending potential outcomes; or I can shift my focus to the present. Being able to be present, in both my everyday life and in nursing, has been such a positive change.

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whoever we are with, it all deserves our full attention and presence. I know most have heard the quote by Bill Keane, “Tomorrow is a mystery, yesterday is history, and today is a gift; that is why it is called the present”. It is talking about the gift we can give ourselves by remaining in the moment. If you find yourself getting swept up by stress-inducing “unknowns” or “what ifs”, try focusing on what is happening in the present. Try asking yourself what things are within your control, and what is beyond your control. We are really only in control of ourselves and our actions. Control the things you can and do not dwell on those you cannot. Remembering that can often help to reduce the stress and worry related to unknown outcomes.

As I reflect, I clearly see how much I was missing by not being present in the moment; instead, I was worrying about things that I had no control over. It has taken time, conscious practice, patience, and giving myself the grace to be imperfect as I hone this skill. Trust yourself. Know that when the time comes you will make the best decision you can about the things within your control. There are still plenty of days that I too get swept up, but always find peace, joy, and happiness when I come back to being present.

My recommendation…find joy in the people that you chose to be surrounded by, joy in the places you find yourself, and live each experience in this life to its fullest.

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How Does A Holistic Approach Contribute to Well-Being?

Submitted by Jeanne Thomsen, RN
OHNA Secretary

For me, well-being is that general feeling of contentment and peace when I find the balance between accomplishing the things that need to be done and giving time to the things that I want to do. Accomplishing those must-do-but-don’t-really-want-to tasks usually requires a written list that I can check off with satisfaction as I complete each item. I cannot fully relax when I know there are things that I need to do waiting for me. However, I also cannot let those tasks dominate over my preferred activities that help me to unwind and re-center. Planning the enjoyable activities is sort of the reward for getting the to-do list done. Well-being also includes contributing to physical health, which we all know is connected to our mental health. Again, it is finding that balance.

In order to achieve this balance, I know that I must do something physical each day. In the pre-Covid-19 days, this meant I could use the gym at work or go for a walk outside on my lunch break. During the time of working from home, my partner and I have been walking in our neighborhood almost daily- more than we ever have in the 3 years we’ve lived here! Now that the weather is warmer it is easier to add a variety of activities and friends to the outdoor activities while maintaining safe distancing measures. And on those frequent rainy Oregon days, I utilize a yoga app to do a routine customized to my energy level and desired goal for the day.

I also try to incorporate at least a few minutes of meditation each day. Sometimes this is just sitting quietly and noticing what comes to me. Sometimes it is simply the minutes in the shower with no distractions. Often, it is gardening. (Look up benefits of gardening and even soil microbes for mood and mental health and enjoy an array of studies and articles supporting this!) Sometimes I go hiking or camping alone and bask in the silence and nature around me. Sensory deprivation leads to the most rejuvenation, grounding, and creative inspiration moments. This is where I realize all the chaos around us is just extra, and all that is really necessary is already here organically. It reminds me that no matter what is happening around us, I get to control my actions and reactions which may also have an influence on others. I would rather lead by example than by force, and this knowledge brings me peace as well.

Visualization has always been a strong positive influence in my progression of self and well-being. I am a very goal-driven person, sometimes to a fault, and visualizing the attainment of my goals has absolutely helped me believe I can accomplish the things I dream. Once you envision yourself in that new career, or with that diploma, or traveling to a new place, or creating a new piece, or just being the calmer person you want to be, it becomes a more realistic and attainable target.

And finally, the natural next step once proficient in a skill is to teach others what you know. Transitioning from bedside nurse to nurse educator has reinforced the fulfillment of helping others in any way we can. For example, if you have a holistic healing practice it is beneficial and natural to teach others while practicing your skill. (Remember Erickson’s 7th stage of development: generativity vs. stagnation, where we give back to others and leave a beneficial mark on society. Turns out, it’s real!) Am I certified in a holistic practice? Not yet, but I have envisioned it happening and here I am joining a group of inspirational holistic practitioners so I know I am on my way to accomplishing another step in my journey to well-being. Stay on your path toward your envisioned goals of well-being, and reward yourself when you take steps toward progress. You can do it and the benefit is well worth the effort!


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The Discomfort of Being a Social Justice Warrior for Health Outcomes

Submitted by Christina Dynamite BSN, RN-BC, NC-BC

The last time I posted a vlog, it was about leaning into discomfort and the need for community support as a means of engaging in self-care. This time, I’d like to talk about how leaning into the self-growth of learning and talking about racism can be uncomfortable, but it is a way to support ourselves and the wellness of our communities.

We are in such intense times right now. We find ourselves caught between the pandemic of COVID-19, a tremendous show of support against the pandemic of racism, and a retraction of the right for transgendered people to not be discriminated against by healthcare providers.

Throughout history, nurses have stepped up as social justice warriors in transforming the health of individuals, their communities, and the culture of healthcare as a whole. As licensed, professional caregivers today, we still have an ethical imperative, even a duty, to help create equity in social and health outcomes for disadvantaged folks, not just today while it is a hot topic, but with every tomorrow.

This change starts within us, and not just outside at protests. We can learn about how implicit bias (our unconscious, learned reactions) impacts the way we interface with others and how social and political factors create more stress and reduce opportunities for our Black and Brown patients, colleagues, and friends. We can support Brown- and Black-owned businesses and restaurants or make donations to non-profits. We can and should educate ourselves about white privilege, learn the language of anti-racist work, call each other out with kindness or naming racist actions when warranted, and be humble when we are called out or called in. It is uncomfortable work, but as white allies, the truth is that our discomfort is nowhere near the stress Black and Brown people live with every day as they engage with society.

As a queer-identified mental health nurse originally from NYC, I thought I was open-minded, accepting of all people, and “not racist.” When I moved to Portland in 2016 it was a culture shock to see how white it was. According to the 2018 American Community Survey, Blacks are 24.3% of the NYC population and white non-Hispanic are 32.1%. In Portland, the white population is 70.5% and the Black population is only 5.8% (2.2% in Oregon overall).  I soon realized that by not taking steps to actively be anti-racist I fell into the category of a “well-meaning white woman.”  That kind of person is complicit, and can actually do more harm than good. I needed to learn to use my voice and white privilege to advocate for and uplift Black and Brown people, not just as a healthcare provider, but as a human.

I feel fortunate to have grown up in NYC and been exposed to a wide variety of cultures. It reduces the tendency to ‘otherize’ people that don’t look like me, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t do it out of unconscious habit.  My experiences also provide me with some evidence of what we are hearing about on media because I have seen subtle discrimination with friends. One night in Brooklyn, NY, I was waiting for a cab (before apps) with my friend Jason, a fellow nursing student who happens to be a Black man. A passing taxi turned off its available light, passed us by, and turned the light back on further down the street before picking up another ride.

I think about Black and Brown friends who moved out of NYC and have experienced shouts to “go back to your country” and other forms of discrimination on a regular basis in other states. Another friend recently shared about how she was approached by a white stranger promoting religion and because she was Asian he assumed she was a doctor, among other things.

My learning doesn’t stop at being a witness, however. Now that I’m more aware of how my knee-jerk biases are wired, I can catch myself in the act.  One time I was browsing for a pet sitter on and caught myself initially only considering white people. To me, this was really shocking since in NYC I rarely looked at white people on dating sites.

I also consider ways in which I am perpetuating microaggressions with coworkers and patients. I have never asked to touch a white coworkers’ hair; why would I ask to touch a Black coworker’s hair? Do I mentally note or comment that my Hispanic patient has a lot of family visiting and that they are loud? Do I draw a different line in the sand when evaluating whether my mental health client is agitated if they are Black or white, even if they are justifiably upset because someone treated them wrongly?

Last year I was able to be part of the Oregon Health Authority’s DELTA program which ultimately was a really intense collective of healthcare workers learning about ways and systems that individuals create to dismantle oppression. It was super uncomfortable every week and I am so grateful for that experience because it gave me the confidence to start talking about racism with others. The burden to create change should not be on the shoulders of Black and Brown people; besides which, when oppressive systems are still in place, they are being set up to fail. Those of us who are white people need to help remove barriers and create bridges for success.

To grow in courage and fortitude as an anti-racist ally is a conscious decision that I have made. I hope my white colleagues will make it with me…

One self-reflection at a time (resource:
one conversation at a time (resource:
one decision to speak up a time (resource:

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New! Introducing the Holistic Mini-Break Virtual Series

Dear OHNA Members and Friends –

The OHNA Board of Directors recently met remotely for its annual strategic planning session. We feel the impact of this global pandemic very keenly and suspect the same is true for you.

In response, and in an effort to support you during these stressful times, we will begin this month by offering short online events free of charge, continuing on a monthly basis. Each one will be hosted by a Board member. We need one another and look forward to being together in person. In the meantime, we are committed to supporting you virtually.

Watch for virtual CE events coming in the future! 

MARK YOUR CALENDARJune 20, 2020 at 11 AM
Join us for our first Mini-Break Online Session with
Christina Dynamite BSN, RN-BC, NC-BC

If you are on our mailing list you’ll receive the login information. If you are not, join our mailing list now (on the front page) and you’ll receive everything you need to access the Mini-Break session.


Cordy Anderson – July 18
deonne wright – August 22
Marina Ormes – September 12
Breeze Powell – October 11
Kelly Alandt – November 15
Jeanne Thomsen – December (TBA)

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How a holistic approach contributes to well-being in any setting

Submitted by Cordy Anderson RN, BSN, CCMHP, QTTT

As I sit to write this post, I cannot imagine my life without the holistic view that I hold. I graduated with my BSN in 1969 and the content of the baccalaureate program talked about “the whole person”, “remember their family”, “don’t just think of the guy in room 240”, etc. I do not remember that my professors spoke of “holism” but for sure I got that it made a difference to see a whole person. My nursing career included pediatrics, public health, geriatrics, home health, and hospice. My experience in Home health and hospice was from 1984 to 2013 and it was in 1984 that I learned Therapeutic Touch (also known as TT).

Therapeutic Touch® is a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being. How magnificent that this holistic modality includes well-being in its definition. The practice of TT incorporates the process of centering, whereby one finds the place of stillness inside, becomes peace, grounds by sending roots to the earth, and connects to source energy, whatever source means to the person. This practice has been not only a way to help others, but the way I fill myself, the way I connect to all that is, and the way I have experienced energetically the holistic state that we swim in.

In 1984 when I became a home health and hospice nurse, TT was helpful in so many ways. From calming and relaxing an anxious patient before a procedure, to decreasing respiratory distress in asthma or lung cancer, to relieving phantom pain for someone with an amputation TT was a tool in my nursing bag. Once proficient with the process of Therapeutic Touch, one can affect a shift in relaxation and reduction of discomfort in less than 5 minutes. I loved the times I would offer TT at the end of a home visit and the patient would be asleep before I left. One of my most precious memories was a call in the middle of the night, a hospice patient short of breath, a husband feeling helpless. There were no meds yet in the home; they were still to be delivered. But I had my hands, I had my intention, and I had my ability to center. As I did TT for the patient I looked over to her husband; he too was caught in the field of support and as she relaxed, he also began to breathe more deeply.

As my journey continued, TT has also allowed me to be a support to family and friends – reducing my grandson’s fever from 103 to 99 in 5 minutes. Yes, we gave the Tylenol, but it takes 20 minutes to work, right? And then offering TT to friends who have faced cancer or surgeries. It was an honor to support their sense of well-being and wholeness after chemo or radiation, and in a couple of cases even through the dying time. These experiences only connect me more deeply to the knowing that we are all connected, all the time, with each other and with all that is.

Today’s times are challenging: when I see individuals that
put greed and power above caring for others, when I see individuals choosing certain people over other people because of skin color or gender – my being, my heart, and my soul cry out in anguish. If it were not for my ability each day to connect with that place of peace inside me, the place that connects to all that is, I feel I would not survive. The sense of well-being is peace – knowing that we as humans are having a spiritual experience that is purposeful and that will awaken us all to the beauty of the life we cherish.

Nature and observing nature are other important aspects of both my TT practice and my holistic view. When looking at a flower, a sunset, a mountain, or the ocean I notice the balance, intelligence and order within nature. It helps me to understand that balance, intelligence, and order is in the matrix of all and surrounds us, although many are not aware of the energetic ocean we live within.

Since I am retired from full-time work and fill my time with a combination of “GRANDMA TIME” and “TT TIME” I feel that I encourage others to connect to that place of peace that is inside us all. For sure when teaching TT it is one of the components that is emphasized. Teaching TT is what I consider my “work” now, and by either teaching it or giving someone a TT session, I feel I am promoting another’s well-being.

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OHNA Conference Cancellation Notice

Dear OHNA Members and Friends,

We hope this message finds you and your families well and safe in the midst of the stress and uncertainty of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is a challenging but important time for holistic nursing and leadership. The decisions that each of us make must consider our own well-being as well as the safety of the community and the greater good. After much consideration, and although we are sad to do so, the OHNA Board of Directors has decided to cancel the OHNA conference for October 2020.

We don’t know for sure what the future of this particular virus holds; but October seems premature for holding a gathering of health care workers in close quarters given what we are experiencing now, and in light of future projections.

Trying to plan the conference amid uncertainty and constantly shifting factors is challenging at best. Making this decision now allows us to shift gears and put our energies into creative solutions. As you read this, we are working with presenters to bring you online CE presentations this year at an affordable rate.

We would like to encourage everyone to consider scheduling a personal retreat at Breitenbush this year if it is safe and right for you to do so. Scheduling during our original conference dates of October 18-21 could be advantageous for networking when the potential is higher for other OHNA members and holistic practitioners to be there also.

This decision is especially sad for us since we had worked with Breitenbush Hot Springs to reserve the full camp for our group for the first time this year. Fortunately, Breitenbush has graciously reserved this full camp arrangement for us next year, with the dates of October 17-20, 2021. We encourage you to put these dates on your calendar now and plan to join us for next year. We have the highest hopes of fulfilling our dreams for OHNA and holism as we head into the future.

When we set intentions, we never know exactly how things will go. The seeds we have been planting in recent years—our positive, holistic visions for the future—are still there, strong as ever. I believe the universe responds to our intentions for change, although we may not always understand how or why things need to unfold the way they do.

Now, more than ever, we hope you will join us in standing in your intentions and your visions of healing and change. When things become challenging or feel overwhelming, remember that you are only one deep breath away from connecting with the forces that heal. Be present with what you are experiencing, care for yourself, and you will know what to do.

We know that after last year’s conference, many of you committed to beginning or growing a regular meditation practice. Caring for yourself in this way is more important now than ever. If you’ve gotten off track, forgive yourself and start anew. Every present moment is an opportunity for shift.

Keep shining your light. Each of us is a role model for someone else. Each of us is a leader. When we remain aligned with compassionate, creative, and caring ways of being, we show others the way. We, your OHNA Board of Directors, will continue to be present with what is happening, how we can respond in compassionate, creative, and caring ways, and how we can all stay connected and grounded on the holistic path we are committed to helping expand.


As old ways of Being continue breaking down, we have a beautiful opening to keep creating the future. I’m looking forward to doing this work together.

Marina Ormes, Director, and the OHNA Board of Directors

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Creating and Integrating Holistic Rituals for Resilience

Holistic nurses have experienced the impact regular centering practices have on their ability to stay grounded and find a well of calm from which to draw on their ‘normal’ days. During these turbulent times, nothing is that same kind of normal. We are being called to step up and adjust to a ‘new’ normal. Are you struggling with the ‘how’ of making that step-up? We’d love to hear what’s working for you. What helps keep you going from one day to the next? What creates resilience for you? How do you cope? We’d love to hear what your team(s) is doing to keep your workplace as grounded and calm as possible amid the chaos that has erupted all around us.

One of our members shared a poem she authored that describes the way her workplace team integrates a powerful practice into the work setting. There is no question this daily ritual creates a space for grace and healing with effects that ripple out beyond what the imagination can even begin to envision. We thank you and your team for modeling how to be the change we want to see!

New Morning Rituals at a Level I Trauma Center

Submitted by Pamela Brucks, MN, RN

The MASH tent has been erected outside our front door.

Our daily Discharge Team prayer circle

Where, for the last year, and

Up until the last month-

We held hands and gave gratitude for our lives, asked for guidance in our actions, prayed for kindness despite our weariness, and the wisdom to remove barriers to discharge,

This prayer circle has mutated along with the virus.

 “Essential Staff” cannot hug,

Or hold hands

During prayer

But we can still gather.


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Mandalas and Well-Being

submitted by deonne wright, RN – OHNA Communication Coordinator

 totem mandala - 2012

deonne’s personalized totem mandala – 2012 image cred: Eloyria Ra


From the moment I discovered mandalas, I have loved them. Something unexplainable about them pulls me in and takes me into my own center. I feel the ‘magic’ of the sacred geometry they represent. I’m not a mathematician, but I can see the math they exemplify and can feel the power of the golden ratio.

Turmoil has accompanied me much of my life from an early age. Having Uranus play such a big part in my natal chart has challenged me to live the courage of my convictions in the face of disapproval from those I love whose beliefs veer far away from mine. The values of justice and spiritual freedom informed my explorations even at the tender age of five.

I am very curious. As a child and young adult, that presented as questions – many of them! In general, when those questions show up around the topics of justice and spiritual freedom in an extremely conservative Christian family, they tend to be shut down; and the turmoil begins to fester. The concept of ‘well-being’ is incomprehensible in that place for it is born in a state of inner serenity.

The search for serenity and tranquility has been a long one for me. Today I define ‘well-being’ as a state of self not related to external factors. It’s feeling completely at peace within myself no matter what is going on around me or in my personal circumstances. This state comes from a centered place where I can retreat to the safety of neutrality/non-judgment and connect to my divinity – my inner divine sanctuary.

Working as a hospice nurse taught me the most about well-being of all the nursing roles I’ve had the privilege to experience. My patients taught me well-being does not mean ‘cured’, healthy enough, wealthy enough, loved enough, or any of those typical measures. When they faced uncontrollable circumstances with the courage and confidence nurtured in the inner sanctuary, they experienced a radiating serenity.

Mandalas are a tool for helping me find my center. Sometimes I use my personalized mandalas to meditate. Other times just glancing at them when I’m beginning to feel turmoil creeping in is enough to bring me back to center. I’ve also used these same mandalas – created especially for me by healers – as crystal grids for bringing in specific healing energies.

deonne’s personalized mandala used to create a healing crystal grid 2018 image cred: Eloyria Ra


I created an intention eighteen months ago with a crystal grid using one of these personalized mandalas for healing the migraines I’ve experienced since I was nine years old. I kept reactivating it for a number of months before I made the connection between it and the appearance of the only successful intervention that has ever impacted the true healing of that debilitating experience of chronic pain for me. (For the curious, I used clear quartz points, amethyst points and tumbles, a dioptase chunk, lapis tumbles, orgonite, and a lapis Ganesh, and a shungite pyramid to create the healing grid. I also placed a photo of myself under the large amethyst in the center.)

When I worked as a Staff Development Specialist in the acute care setting, I began printing and laminating mandalas for members of different teams I led. I found them posted on the walls of their office, slipped into the front cover of their everyday binders, and hanging from the ceiling in some spaces. Some staff I didn’t even know inquired where they could get theirs! That was a message to me others found as much value in mandalas as I do.

If you’ve never worked with or experienced the power of mandalas, you might consider trying them out. They’re easy to find and download from the internet. There are also adult mandala coloring books that tend to bring relaxation, calm, and a sense of well-being just through the activity of coloring. Buddhists create sand mandalas without attachment, simply for the sense of connection and well-being created within the activity – and then they are destroyed afterward.

The most fascinating mandalas of all I find to be animated ones created from numerology. I’ve linked a one minute example below for you to download and enjoy which was created with healing intention by Keith Allen Kay.


There are many ways mandalas can be used to help achieve a sense of well-being. I encourage you to explore and experiment with them, observing your inner state to discover if they might help you achieve inner serenity.

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What Is Self-Care?

submitted by Kathleen Bell, RN, MSN, CNM, MS1-BC, AHNBC

In my roles as a certified Advanced Holistic Nurse, Meditation Specialist, and teaching faculty for AHNA’s Integrative Healing Arts Program (IHAP) I read a LOT. And it seems to me, in the new year 2020, that the “buzzword” within integrative health circles has changed from mindfulness to self-care.  I cannot count the articles I have read recently that reiterate holistic nursing’s foundational truth that caring for yourself not only increases your own well-being, but improves your abilities to relate to and care for others. So what is self-care? Let’s first examine what it is not:

  • Self-care is not one-size-fits-all. Self-care means asking yourself what you need, inviting yourself to listen, then giving yourself an honest answer. Follow-through on that answer is up to you; it means something different for everyone. This reflective inquiry process can be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly or at any interval that seems sensible in your situation. Since the time I got a “diary” as a girl, I have been attached to journaling. If writing resonates with you, check out The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron and look at the practice she calls “morning pages.” IHAP suggests exploring what sort of reflective practice fits your needs: some people meditate on a cushion, others at the beach or in the forest or mountains, others on a running trail or bicycle or at a yoga studio.  Others sing, dance, draw, read inspirational writings – what feeds your soul and makes your heart sing?
  • Self-care is not self-indulgence. It is not just for the privileged, wealthy, or frivolous. For many years I enjoyed “occasional” massage only as a treat when I was on vacation – spending many dollars at a ski resort or some faraway venue. When I discovered holism (admittedly more than ten years into my nursing career) I began to understand that massage was integrally related to healing and health maintenance, and I found talented and affordable practitioners in my own environment. For my birthday one year (one of those with a zero on the end!) my present to myself was a promise to get a regular massage every month as a way to ‘stay well’. (Some of you may have heard my personal health mantra: “It is easier to stay well than to get well”.) I have also been successful at convincing health care practitioners to prescribe massage for a variety of conditions, so the cost is covered by insurance for a time.
  • Self-care is not always fun. Self-inquiry can be difficult if you take an honest look at habits that you have created for yourself and examine their long-term effects: eating, sleeping,  substance use for stimulation/relaxation, how much/what kind of physical movement your life contains, work/life balance, relationship/behavioral habits, media use, etc., etc. If you’ve been doing something that causes you to think “Maybe I need to stop (do less of) this…” then a commitment to self-care can be an invitation to take your own good advice. Prioritization and discipline are needed to stick with decisions that may not be easy right now (like going to bed earlier and/or waking up earlier in order to have personal time, or saying “NO” as a complete sentence and not feeling guilty about it) but will feel really good later on! I once had my nurse-practitioner write me a prescription (to show to my nurse-manager) that said my medical condition could no longer support night shift work. My circadian rhythm was dangerously disrupted by working both days and nights, and my symptoms resolved when I began to sleep when it was dark again.
    Your “Self” is NOT only about you! Your self is truly bigger than just you as an individual. Most of us have been socialized to feel guilty about self-care, because we have been conditioned to believe that putting ourselves first is #1) selfish and wrong as a person, and #2) unprofessional as a nurse. Seen holistically, our view of ourselves expands beyond the individual to include everyone and everything we touch in any way: our families and friends, our workplaces and communities, the whole of the natural world that we share with all beings. Practicing self-care improves our interactions with literally everything around us, which can lead to increased creativity, cooperation and understanding, protection/conservation and even transformation. Can you imagine what would happen if everyone understood caring in this way?

“Self-care is not a virtue…it is a radical act of love.” (Tygielski, S.)

For me, becoming whole again meant dedicating one day a week as a sabbath, a day set apart. I have been doing this for 20 years now (and I have only been retired for 6!) My preference has always been to spend as much of this day outside (and off the grid) as I can. Watching the sun rise on a mountaintop, hiking all day, walking the beach, watching for whales or birds or seashells, skiing, eating outside, meditation at sunset, biking, reading a book, writing in my journal in the sunshine or the forest – these are activities that never cease to renew me.

Cameron, J. (1992). The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Greater Creativity.

Tygielski, S. (1/19/2019) The Five Rules for Self-Care, Mindful Magazine

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