Kendra McMillan, MPH, RN 3930

Kendra McMillan, MPH, RN

Nurse finds new outlook on life through healthy living

Let go — that’s step one on a health and wellness journey, according to nurse Kendra McMillan. Once you let go of the idea of perfection, you find balance. You let go of the pressures of a perfect body, house, job, and life — and you can see the beauty of imperfection.

Letting go of perfection means you can cut yourself some slack when trying to live a healthy, joy-filled life. For example, it might feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do what you need to do in addition to taking care of yourself. Let go of something. Say “no” more often. Ask for help. Perfection is unattainable, but your wellness isn’t.

Exercise for Wellness
Kendra first learned that letting go of perfection and finding balance could improve her health in college. She was stressed out from taking classes, working significant hours at her job to offset the cost of tuition, and volunteering. But she made the time to take dance and aerobics classes and soon realized it was the perfect outlet for stress relief.

Her college gym had group fitness classes like step aerobics and body pump (weight-lifting to music). Kendra enjoyed all of them.

“The days I worked out turned out to be the days I felt the best,” said Kendra. “Those were the days I was most productive and felt well.”

Incorporating physical activity into her schedule led Kendra down a path toward better nutrition and hydration, too. She learned how to build a healthier plate of food, focusing more on lean proteins, fewer carbs, and the importance of staying hydrated.

The Impact of Parenthood
Even with a healthier lifestyle, Kendra soon faced a high-risk pregnancy and the emergency delivery of her firstborn, a son. She had been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication that can cause high blood pressure and damage to vital organs in the mother. Having pre-eclampsia puts a woman at increased risk of stroke and cardiac problems (like heart disease) following pregnancy, too.

“Thinking of all of those factors made me recommit to health and wellness,” said Kendra. “I drove home from the hospital thinking about the importance of maintaining physical activity, making sure my stress is managed, and eating appropriately.”

While she formerly worked on the floor as a staff nurse, Kendra now works remotely in a more sedentary role. She’s not as active as she used to be during the day, so she makes an extra effort to get moving. She enjoys walks with her family and their dog outside after dinner.

Facing Challenges
While the shift to parenthood motivated Kendra, it also made staying healthy more challenging. As a mother, Kendra often puts her children’s needs before her own, putting her own needs on the backburner. For example, a busy day with the kids might mean little to no time to exercise. Finding balance in caring for children and herself is an ongoing effort.

“I prioritize the time to work out, even if it has to be late at night after the kids go to bed,” said Kendra. “It might not be the ideal time to work out, but I do it. I feel so much better after having that time.”

Kendra believes it’s all about balance. It’s OK to put yourself first once in a while. Remember to look at what you can and can’t do, then learn to let go of what you can’t.

Kendra’s Advice
As a nurse, you’re used to caring for others, but you must also care for yourself. To do so, Kendra gives some advice:
  • Find something to be grateful for: Your life doesn’t have to be perfect to find joy. There’s beauty in imperfection. And part of finding joy is finding something to be grateful for.
  • Don’t feel guilty about putting yourself first sometimes: Being a nurse is a lot like parenthood. You have to care for yourself to care for others.
  • Don’t forget to hydrate: Hydration is so important. If you have one, set a reminder on your smartwatch to ping you to take a drink throughout your shift. Keep track of hydration amounts on the sheets you carry in your pockets at work.

“Being healthy isn’t just for me — it’s for my family,” said Kendra. “I want to be here for them. I want longevity.”

Kendra McMillan, MPH, RN, is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Nursing Practice and Work Environment for the American Nurses Association.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 03/25/2021 12:49pm CDT




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The #healthynurse Spotlight is a shout out to nurses who are making changes in their lives to improve their health and wellness. You can too! Read their stories for inspiration here.