Giving Thanks by Giving

By: Jennifer Thew, RN, Former National Nurse Editor at Nurse.com
Jennifer has been a nurse for 13 years. She’s worked countless holidays but hasn’t turned into Ebenezer Scrooge (yet!)

Jennifer Thew, RN

The holiday season is supposed to be a time for sharing, togetherness and thankfulness. But often it ends up being the complete opposite of that.

Sharing is replaced by stress. Togetherness causes hurt feelings and family drama. And instead of feeling thankful for what you do have, you end up feeling like haven’t lived up to expectations. Top it off with spending one or more of the holidays at work and you can kind of see where Ebenezer Scrooge was coming from.

As a matter of profession, nurses are called upon to give. The problem is sometimes we give and give – to the point of exhaustion and experience compassion fatigue and burnout. So my suggestion for rekindling the sense of joy and thanks this holiday season is going to sound counter-intuitive because it involves … more giving.

Hear me out. I’ve tried these suggestions and they really can help.

29 Gifts

I discovered the book 29 Gifts by Cami Walker a few years ago. It’s since become my go-to gift because the story is inspiring and insightful.

Cami was diagnosed with MS when she was 33. She struggled with the physical effects of the disease, which left her barely able to walk, and the emotional effects that MS can cause: anger, fear and uncertainty. Her friend suggested that giving away 29 gifts in 29 days would improve her condition. Cami took on the challenge (at first skeptically) and saw amazing results. Her walking improved, she felt more hopeful and noticed more positive things coming into her life.

At the end of the book she outlines how the reader can take part in the 29 Gifts challenge. I’ve done it more than once and have noticed that it lifts your spirits and changes your outlook. Think about reading the book and trying the challenge and notice what happens to your mood and outlook.

Random acts of kindness

I first I heard the term “random acts of kindness” from a high school friend almost 20 years ago (wow, am I really that old?) She decided to enlist me in one of her random acts that involved putting flowers (instead of brochures) under the windshield wipers of parked cars. She also carried cloth bath mats in the trunk of her hand-me-down car so she could help drivers “unstick” cars stuck in snowy or icy parking lots.

The nice thing about random acts is that they can be big or small, planned or unplanned. Think about how someone holding the door for you or giving you a genuine compliment boosts your day. Doing something like that can brighten someone’s day and make you feel good in the process.

Gratitude journal

I’ve only recently taken to keeping a gratitude journal. I’d thought about it for years and accumulated many beautifully bound, artistically designed journals that I’ve never written in. They seemed too nice to “ruin” with ink. Then I tried the plain, cheap, spiral-bound notebooks. But who has time to write?

I finally figured out I was just making too big of a deal about keeping a journal. Just writing a quick list of five things I am grateful for like nice weather or a good cup of coffee is enough. I keep my list using an app called Attitudes of Gratitudes. It’s easy and definitely helps me see all that I have.

I hope you try some of my tried-and-true practices to help give yourself a boost this season.

Even though you don’t always hear it, know that so many people around the world
are thankful for nurses and the work you do. Happy Thanksgiving!

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