Ep #2: How to Finally Stop Stress Eating at the Bedside

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Today, I’m talking about the number one challenge I see nurses struggle with on their permanent weight loss journey. Can you guess? Yup, stress. And more specifically, work-related stress.

And how do most of us deal with that stress at work? We eat.

In today’s episode, I’m specifically focusing on how our thoughts about something create our stress and not the thing itself. Stress comes from our thinking, not our situation. All situations are neutral, which is good news for those of us working toward managing our minds to deal with stress!

This is the foundation of everything I teach and the most powerful concept you can grasp when learning to take back your power. Pop in those ear buds and listen in to today’s episode!

To celebrate the launch of the show, I’m going to be giving away Starbucks gift cards to three lucky listeners who subscribe, rate and review the show on iTunes. Find out how to enter here!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • The foundational belief you need to have for things to change.

  • Why typical self-care practices don’t help stress long-term.

  • How CBT is different than the typical therapy you may be used to.

  • Why our thoughts are so powerful in the impact they have over our emotions.

  • What role our brains play in choosing to eat the donut or not.

  • How to neutralize stressful situations.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses, the only podcast that teaches busy, working nurses the practical tools they need to feel better at work and keep the weight off for good. Here’s your host, Registered Nurse and Certified Weight-Loss Coach, Charmaine Platon…

Hello, fellow nurses. Thank you so much for joining me for another episode of Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses. I can’t wait to talk about today’s topic. It’s the number one reason I’ve found why so many nurses are struggling with their permanent weight loss journey. And for me personally, this was the number one reason why I wasn’t at the weight I wanted.

This was the reason why I even started this whole weight loss journey to begin with and I could not figure it out. For the longest time, I could not figure out why I was doing the things I was doing. But now that I finally know exactly what to do, I want to share it with all of you. And this is something I truly want you to bring back to your work and bring back to your hospital or your unit, whatever work setting you’re in, because I think that once you have this tool down, it can literally change everything about your work.

But before I dive in, before I reveal the secret, I want to make a very special announcement. As some of you know, I’m a psychiatric nurse and I’ve been working at the bedside in an acute psychiatric hospital in Los Angeles for seven whole years now. And literally just the other day, I discovered that my psychiatric hospital is now a Magnet recognized hospital.

We are Magnet nurses. And in case you don’t know what Magnet is, if you’ve never heard of it before, Magnet is a certification that recognizes facilities or organizations that provide that highest standard and highest quality of nursing care. And this is so incredible because this has been a journey that we’ve been on for a very, very long time.

I remember my nursing supervisors and nursing leadership talking about Magnet ever since I started my job as a new grad nurse seven years ago. And I’ve heard they’d been working on it even before that. Like, I heard the whole journey was about 12 years. And it’s kind of like one of these things where you’re like, “Is this really going to happen? Are we really going to do this?

And it’s because it just seemed so far away. Like, everything seemed so uncertain. Like, when you’re in the middle of it, you’re just like, gosh, when will this thing actually happen? Is this actually going to be real life? But once I saw, like, we were all in the auditorium together when they announced the call, like, the Magnet staff were on the phone and the phone call was over the speakers in the auditorium and we had the nursing director in the front, we had all our leadership in the front there. And when they announced it that we were officially recognized as a Magnet certified hospital, like, we all were just screaming and cheering with our pompoms and it was like one of the most, I think for me, one of the most magical experiences that I have ever had in my workplace, and it’s been very powerful.

And so, what I want to offer to you all is that if you’re currently feeling miserable in your work or if you feel like things will never change, I want to offer you this possibility that things really can change at work. Whatever is going on in your work right now is temporary. But the dream and the belief that you want to change things in your workplace has to be there in order for things to change.

I just wanted to put that sidebar there because I really believe, when I first started working, I didn’t know if things could happen. I didn’t know if things could change. But being on this Magnet journey proved to me that change can happen in the workplace, and things got so much better and everything really improved for the better.

So I just really wanted to share that with you all. It was so exciting for me and I’m literally, like, feeling goosebumps as I’m sharing this with you guys. But anyway, back to today’s episode, bringing it all back, today we’re going to talk about something that basically all of my nurse clients, my coworkers, and myself experience on a regular basis at work.

It’s something I coach my patients on too very often, and it is – can you guess – stress; specifically, work-related stress. And what is one of the number one problems that I help my nurse clients with? Stress eating at work. And it’s part of the reason why I created this podcast. We never learned, in nursing school, how to actually manage stress.

And when we do try to manage it, the common self-care techniques and strategies we come to know, the ones that we learn about like exercising, massage, those kinds of things don’t actually help. I mean, they do help temporarily, but not for the long run. And I’m actually going to delve into this more in our next episode, which is about self-care consumption versus self-care creation.

Anyhow, going to today’s episode, I mentioned something in episode one called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. And when we think about therapy, we first think about people on red couched with a therapist holding the clipboard and the therapist is asking about what happened to you in your past, because there’s this idea that what happened to you in the past is what unconsciously drives your current behaviors.

So, this classic type of therapy, which is known as psycho analysis, was established in the 1890s by Sigmund Freud. CBT on the other hand is actually a more recently developed and well-researched form of talk therapy that, in the most simplified way, helps you see that how you think affects how you behave and how any problem that someone might have is based on an unhelpful way of thinking.

So, CBT was invented in the 1960s by a Psychiatrist named Aaron Beck. And I find this so fascinating because I work with psychiatrists all the time. So what he found was that when he was doing psychoanalysis with his patients, he notices that his patients would have this internal dialogue in their heads that they weren’t really reporting to him directly.

And what he learned was that there’s a link between someone’s thoughts and someone’s feelings. For example, if someone was feeling upset in some way, the thoughts were usually negative and neither realistic nor helpful. So, Beck found that identifying these thoughts was the key to understanding the client’s problem and helping that client overcome whatever the problem was. Now, I know this is a bit of a history lesson and it was a lot here, but I thought it was so fascinating to learn more about this and where it all comes from. In my hospital, we teach CBT to our patients all of the time. It’s a regular group activity we implement on the unit. And it’s something I recommend to all my patients.

I’ve seen it help my patients even if they have severe depression or severe anxiety. And as a certified life coach, I teach my own clients about an actual practice, or tool, that we call the Model, that you can implement and apply to your own life. I’ll be talking about this more in future episodes. But for now, what I want to share with you today, which is really powerful, is that I want to teach you this foundational concept, which is the concept behind my coaching, that your thoughts are what create your feelings and your feelings drive your actions.

In today’s episode, we’re specifically focusing on how it’s your thoughts about something that creates your stress and not the thing itself. Stress comes from your thinking, not your situation. Think about work and think about something at work that would create stress for you during the shift. I know, for me, that before, some scenarios where I would immediately feel stressed were things like if I was working short-staffed, if my patient’s coding, if I was working with a staff member who didn’t follow through with what I delegated. One of the big ones for me, which I think a lot of you could relate with is when I was assigned as charge nurse. Oh man, that was a big one for me. And also, when my admission would arrive earlier than I anticipated, which was super fun.

But now I want you to think about this. What makes you feel stressed on the shift, or whatever setting you’re in? If any of the scenarios were relatable to you, any of the ones I listed, or if you could think of something recently where you literally felt like you wanted to scream, think about that for just a minute. Recreate that moment in your mind.

How we think or interpret a situation is what creates a feeling for us, and this is the theory behind CBT, which is why I love it so much. In this case, how we interpret our work situations is what creates stress for us and not the situation itself.

Think about it this way; I’m pretty sure every unit has this, every workplace, but think about that one nurse on the unit that always looks chill, like all the time, and they always seem like they have a lot of time on their hands, like they’re able to literally relax or something, like they’re sitting, they’re going on their break, they’re eating food on their break. They’re just never in a hurry. And for a long time, this was not me. I was always the exact opposite. I was that crazy nurse that was running around constantly all the time and it got to this point literally where the other nurses on the unit were calling me Speedy Gonzales, and that became like my title on the unit, which isn’t the best nickname. So it was because I would run so fast and just never sit still. Like, I would never sit. And I was just wondering, like, what am I doing wrong? Like, I sit my assignment, is it my patients? Is it just this terrible day that’s just happening to me only? Why am I the only one running around?

And here’s the answer; it was because of how I was thinking. It wasn’t my assignment, it wasn’t who I was working with. It was none of that. It all came back all the time to how I was thinking. I was thinking in those moments that everything’s so busy, I have to do this right now, right away, and oh my gosh, someone’s asking me for a bath towel, I better go get it, or, oh my gosh, somebody’s calling on the phone, I better go answer that.

Like, I responded to every little distraction that came up for me, like I thought it was my responsibility to answer to literally everything. I was everybody’s nurse, you guys. Like, I really think I thought I was at that moment. Like, I felt like I was everybody’s nurse.

Here’s another example; a nurse that I work with on the unit was feeling so frustrated one day and super stressed out. Immediately after we got change of shift report, like, right after she got her report, she began focusing so much on how difficult her assignment was. And she was anticipating, like ahead of time, how awful her day was going to be. And this is just after change of shift report. Like, the day hadn’t even started and she was already predicting and foretelling the future and telling herself that her day was just going to be awful because of her assignment and because of the report.

And how many of us can relate to this, right? I’ve been doing this so much myself too before. But anyway, because she thought that her day was going to be terrible, she was feeling stressed, and then she ate a donut in the break room to feel better. And this was all in the morning.

And then, what she told me after was, “Charmaine, I ended up eating a donut and it didn’t even help me feel better.” And that’s because it was her thinking about the assignment that made her feel stressed, not the assignment itself. And, of course, it’s not something that the donut could fix. The only thing she could have fixed in that moment was her thinking.

So, how do we manage stress then when things come up? And if we know that CBT is based on this idea that our stress comes from our thoughts, from how we interpret situations, then what do we do? Well, first, you have to realize that any impulse you might have to overeat in response to stress is simply our brain’s way of responding to, “Danger.”

There is a primitive part of our brain that’s literally seeking out danger and trying to avoid it in the quickest way possible. Like, we still have this past of our brain that wants to survive and wants to protect us by helping us avoid danger. And yes, nowadays, anything that creates stress for us that our brain has been conditioned to believe is stressful, it will try to avoid that thing.

And so, in order to help the stress feel better, your brain might tell you to eat the donut because your brain knows that eating the donut can, temporarily at least, help you feel better. I also want to tell you that nothing is wrong with you for eating that donut. Noting is wrong with you for doing that. It’s what our brain is wired to do.

If you reach for that cookie or that donut in the break room when you’re stressed, you’re literally doing what your brain was wired to do all our lives. But if you want to lose weight and if you have a weight loss goal, eating whenever you’re stressed on the shift will literally block you from reaching that goal weight because you’re always eating in response to the situations around you. If you can’t effectively manage your stress or other negative emotions within you, you’ll never be able to manage your overeating. You’ll always feel like you’re at the effect of everything around you. But the good news is, I have a tool that can help you with that. And the best tool that can help you with this is to first truly understand and grasp the concept that every single situation is completely neutral; every single situation. And when I mean every situation we’re in, I mean all the situations I just listed, like working short-staffed, maybe even your patient falling, or even your patient having a code blue. We’re looking at the facts of whatever is happening right now.

Like, imagine you’re looking at your patient’s blood pressure, right – if we look at our patient’s blood pressure, what are the facts? Well, we see this number on the machine that’s literally just that, right? It’s a number. If you look at the number and you perceive that it’s a normal number, you don’t stress. But if you look at the number and you perceive that it’s life-threateningly low and your patient’s going into septic shock, then yeah, you’re going to start moving your butt, right? It’s going to feel pretty stressful, right?

But how do you neutralize a circumstance like that? How can you make something that seems so stressful, so painful, how can you just say it’s neutral? The simplest and quickest way to do that is to separate the thoughts from the facts. Really get into the bare bones facts of the situation, like what are the facts only? Facts have no subjective opinions or judgments. Those are thoughts. Facts are straightforward and to the point and they describe what’s going on. Two or more people can agree that something is factual, just like saying that I’m a nurse who works in a hospital, like, all of us can agree that’s a fact. But some of you might say, “How can you say working short-staffed is neutral, or my patient falling, or my patient coding? How on earth can that be neutral? Those are terrible things.”

Well, it’s neutral because those things that happen, no matter what it is, all of it’s neutral because it’s just reality. It’s literally what’s just happening in the moment. What makes the situation stressful is the judgments and opinions that you attach to it. And it doesn’t mean in any way that I’m not dismissing any of these things as not serious or not painful. We’re just separating the facts from our mind drama.

If my patient fell in the unit, for example, like, what are the facts? Well, we’re actually very good at documenting facts because we do this every single day in our charting. If I were to put in the event report that my patient were to fall, all my event report would say is, the patient was found on the floor at 1100 laying on the right side, no bruises, no bleeding, no cuts, doctor was alerted.

That’s what I mean by separating the facts and thoughts. But the story that I attach to my patient falling is a completely different story. And this is what I used to do all the time. Before, if my patient fell, I would have thoughts like, “Oh my god, my patient fell. She’s going to get a fractured hip, then I’m going to have to talk to the doctor, then the doctor will talk to my manager about how I’m not a good enough nurse, then I’ll get fired, then I’ll get homeless, and then I will die under a bridge in Los Angeles, maybe the one on Wilshire.” Like, I already have the bridge planned out. Anyway, it feels stressful just thinking about the situation in that way, right? I’ve felt stressful even just telling this to you guys. But what if I just chose to only look at the facts? What if the fall happened and all the thought about it was that my patient was found next to the bed laying on her right side? And that was literally the end of it because that’s literally what happened. That’s the reality of the situation.

And obviously it’s not great for the patient that the person fell, and obviously we don’t want our patient to fall, we don’t want our patient to get hurt, but we don’t want to confuse the drama that our brain comes up with as the reality of what happened. We have to be careful of that.

If we confuse the reality of what happened with the drama that we come up with, we’re creating unnecessary stress for ourselves, which will literally drive us to eat all of the donuts in the break room, which I’ve done. Actually, for me, it was more cookies. I was a sucker for cookies in the dayroom, okay.

So, what I’m inviting you all to do is consider the possibility that your thoughts about any stressful situation at work is completely optional to you, and whatever you want to feel about it is optional. So I invite you all to try practicing this and applying this to your own work. I challenge you to do this at your next shift and to try to apply this to a scenario that you think is creating stress for you.

If you don’t apply the tools that I teach, you won’t see the results that you want. And if you want change, it requires practice and it requires trying out the tools in your daily life. I promise you, this tool is one of my favorites that I practice constantly. Up to this day, I do it most likely every single day. And it’s a game-changer because just because something happened on your shift, does not mean you have to feel stressed about it and overeat.

What makes you feel better is managing your thinking. And I’m here to show you exactly how to do that with this podcast. You can start feeling better about your work right now, so try this out. Let me know how it works for you and I’d love to hear your feedback.

By the way, before I go, I’m hosting a launch party for all of you podcast listeners. To celebrate the launch of my show, I’m going to be giving away Starbucks gift cards just for all of you listening to my podcast. But I’m going to be giving away Starbucks gift cards to three listeners only who subscribe to my show and rate and review the show on iTunes.

And it doesn’t have to be a five-star review, though I sure hope you love the show. I want your honest feedback so I can create an amazing and practical and useful show that provides you a ton of value. Visit www.thenurseweightlosscoach.com/itunes to learn more about my contest and how to enter.

I’ll be announcing the winners on the show in an upcoming episode, so tune in. Thank you all for joining me in today’s episode and I’ll see you all next time.

Thanks for listening to Permanent Weight Loss for Busy Nurses. If you like what you heard and want even more, head over to thenurseweightlosscoach.com today!

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