Recently, I have found myself feeling profoundly overwhelmed. We just experienced the coldest temperatures and the most snow my Texas town has seen in decades. This part of the country was not prepared for the ripple effect of cold temperatures, icy conditions, and increased energy needs. I was amongst millions without electricity and water. The university canceled all classes. Students emailed me to let me know they had spotty internet as we went through rolling blackouts. I posted announcements, when I could, to let students know we would be extending the due dates for all assignments. I reminded them that I, too, was having intermittent connectivity. I started to think about this past year and all these unforeseen circumstances we’ve been facing and thought, how can I be an effective nurse educator and work to nurture my students during this crazy time.
I have said this before, as a nurse educator I take it upon myself to watch over my students. I email them to check on them. I chat with them in the halls. I try to “catch” them before they fall. Am I doing enough to monitor their well-being? I constantly post announcements in my courses stating that I am always available to answer questions and offer support. I realized during the winter blast that I needed to be looking out not only for the needs of my students but for my needs and those of my neighbors. I need to be aware of when I am “falling” and not be afraid to ask for help. I have to say that my neighborhood did a fantastic job of helping one another through a really difficult two weeks. People shared potable water, bottled water, firewood, eggs, tips on how to keep pipes from bursting and a camaraderie that really helped me get through the dark and cold.
Tips for improving study focus
What do you do when you’re struggling to focus? In these moments it can trigger a spiral or shutting down. How can you climb out of that? The art of deep breathing is one thing that I have frequently taught my students, patients, and co-workers. We don’t think about how helpful breathing can be when we are feeling stressed. Getting oxygen to our brains is essential in order for our brains to be at optimal functioning. One easy way to do this, in addition to deep breathing exercises, is by taking short walks throughout the day. This helps to increase our circulation and get more oxygen to the brain.
Another thing that helps increase our focus is getting adequate sleep. I urge you to look at how many hours of actual sleep you are getting each night. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Participating in regular exercise not only helps to reduce stress but improves brain connections and improves sleep . Other considerations for getting adequate sleep are:
- Putting away all electronics before going to bed
- Establishing a regular bedtime
- Stop drinking caffeinated beverages by late afternoon
The Sleep Foundation is a great source for information about sleep hygiene and ways you can help yourself get a better night’s sleep.
We all know that healthy eating is good for overall health, but it too increases our brain functioning and focus. A diet that helps the brain function includes foods rich in B vitamins, antioxidants, omega fatty acids and healthful fats. Examples of these foods include oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), dark chocolate, berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries), nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts), whole grains (brown rice, whole grain bread, oatmeal), coffee, avocados, peanuts, eggs, broccoli, kale and soy products. Think about the times when you grab that late afternoon candy bar. You get an initial spike of energy and then crash and burn at your desk. Switching that snack to a handful of sunflower seeds or peanuts and a piece of fruit is a much healthier option that will give you the energy to make it through the afternoon without the crash that occurs after eating a sugary snack.