Carolyn Huffman

Nurse scientist prioritizes her mental health by learning to say no.

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Surrounding yourself with those who practice a healthy lifestyle is one way to set yourself up for success. Carolyn Huffman, WHNP, PhD, is proof.

She was raised in a family that prioritized health. Her father, who had once been overweight, got healthy after his physician told him lifestyle changes would help get him off his medications. And her mother maintained a nutritious pantry, never having sugar-filled sodas or other high-calorie foods in the house.

Today, her parents are in their 80s and still making healthy choices, like eating a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables.

This is how Carolyn grew up, and it’s what she’s used to. Being raised this way set the bar for Carolyn and motivated her to keep up her fit living — something she’ll probably do for the rest of her life.

Prioritizing Physical Activity
One way Carolyn maintains her wellness is with regular physical activity. She’s not too fond of working out in a gym (in fact she says she hates being inside), but she is a walker.

“After developing asthma in my thirties, I switched from running to walking,” says Carolyn. “I found it’s especially good for stress relief.”

When she can’t get out for a walk, Carolyn takes the stairs (two at a time) during her job as a nurse scientist at Wake Forest Baptist Health System. She makes it a priority to stay active whenever and wherever she can.

Developing Healthy Boundaries
Another priority for Carolyn is setting boundaries, especially in the workplace. Learning to say no doesn’t always come easy, but it’s something she says is essential to her health.

“I’m a huge believer in knowing your boundaries and knowing what’s important,” says Carolyn. “When an opportunity arises, think about why you’re saying ‘yes.’ Can it be done by someone else? Is it important for your development?”

Her father was her inspiration for this approach. When he was younger, he seldom took vacations and was somewhat of a “workaholic.” During a health scare, his doctor told him he needed to leave his work at the office and take more time off.

“I am very cognizant of that,” says Carolyn. “I’ve learned that my brain has to have some time away to recharge and refresh.”

Part of the problem, Carolyn says, is society’s pressure to accumulate a laundry list of accomplishments.

“A lot of people try to have it all: to have a family, work a ton, take care of their family’s needs — and then, they still think they should be doing more,” says Carolyn. “But you can’t have it all at the same time.”

It’s important to be strategic with your priorities when there are many things that need to be done. In some cases, you’ve got to learn to let go and let things pass — for your own well-being.

The Benefits of a Healthy Life
Carolyn has noticed some significant changes to her own health because of her lifestyle choices. For one, she’s able to fall asleep easier and sleep better, giving her more energy when she’s awake. Second, she’s noticed a decrease in the stress she used to feel when she always said yes.

Her advice? Don’t say yes or no to an opportunity right away. Take a moment to think about it and make an informed decision.

“Make time for what’s important,” says Carolyn. “We have to decide and be clear with ourselves about what’s important to us, not the outside world.”

Carolyn Huffman, WHNP, PhD, is a nurse scientist at Wake Forest Baptist Health System.

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Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Jul 9, 2019 1:58 PM America/Chicago

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