Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Matthew S. Howard, DNP, RN, CEN, TCRN, CPEN, CPN
Matthew S. Howard, DNP, RN, CEN, TCRN, CPEN, CPN, a staff nurse at Eskenasi Health in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Director of Scholarship & Leadership Resources at Sigma uses moderation to improve his body, mind, and soul.
Knowledge is power. Before anyone can implement healthy lifestyle changes, they must first know and understand what healthy lifestyle choices to make. That’s why nurse Matt Howard made it his mission to use his knowledge to improve his life.
First, Matt got more involved in Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™, which raised his awareness on what he could do to be healthier. He became active in the online community, joined discussion boards, and read articles (like this one).
“As healthcare professionals, we typically don’t take care of ourselves as well as we take care of our patients,” says Matt. “I decided I needed more of a self-care thought process and to take better care of myself.”
Diet and Nutrition
Working long shifts and many hours each week meant Matt was almost always tired. His way to cope was guzzling energy drinks. Knowing they’re full of sugar and not the healthiest option, that’s one of the first things he cut back on to start improving his diet.
Next, Matt recognized his own emotional eating due to stress. He started making different choices by purchasing healthier groceries and packing his lunch. This helped him avoid quick access options (that are often unhealthy) like cafeteria meals and fast food. He also started drinking more water and cut back on drinking sodas.
But that’s not to say he never treats himself.
“It’s all about moderation,” says Matt. “If I try to cut something out completely, I’ll want to go back to it eventually. But if I just cut back, I can still enjoy it once in a while, while living a healthier life.”
Exercise During a Pandemic
Matt also wanted to get more active, but with gyms shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, his options were limited. That’s when he turned to outdoor exercise with man’s best friend.
“I do a lot of walking around the neighborhood with my dog,” says Matt. “I take multiple walks a day, even during winter. Studies show that animal companionship also benefits mental health, so I think that’s helped me, too.”
Matt owes the success of his new, healthier lifestyle to building a routine and staying connected with other people. He does regular virtual meetings with friends and family to stay in touch and strengthen his mental health.
“A healthy mental lifestyle is so important to me right now,” says Matt. “In a clinical setting, you can see the burnout happening to nurses, especially new nurses. We all have to work on improving our mental health, so we don’t lose them.” Matt is a strong mental health advocate. HNHN was honored to have Matt serve on the Strength Through Resiliency Committee and help develop ANA webpages on nurse suicide prevention and resilience.
Especially during the pandemic, both mental and physical health are important to Matt. Here’s what he hopes for other nurses:
- Find resources to help: There are so many educational resources out there like webinars, trainings, articles, and organizations that can help nurses. Find tips and tricks to get ideas of what you can do to better care for yourself.
- Focus on your mental health: If your mental health is hurting, your physical health will feel the effects, too. Especially now, in this ultra-stressful time, take care of your mind, body, and soul.
- Watch out for your friends and coworkers: Learn to be OK with having uncomfortable conversations with those around you about how they’re doing. Make sure your colleagues are taking care of themselves — taking regular breaks and drinking water. Be there for them.
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