Molly Moran, MSN, RN, CCRN

Nurse becomes intentional about exercise to improve her mental and physical health

Tending to your own health is not selfish.

That’s the reminder that nurse Molly Moran has gradually engrained into her life. After having two children back-to-back, Molly came to the realization that her own health and self-care needed a complete overhaul compared to her pre-child days.

In the past, Molly’s self-care routine included treating herself to facials and manicures — surface-level improvements. But since having children, she’s spent more time improving internally by finding balance and prioritizing herself in different ways. Her lifestyle choices and where she puts her focus have become more intentional and influential.

For example, Molly has learned that she needs exercise to feel well both mentally and physically. That’s why she’s deliberate about scheduling workouts.

“I’m finding what works in the moment,” said Molly. “It’s OK if that changes, as long as I’m doing something.”

Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic
When COVID-19 reached the United States, gyms and fitness studios shut down. Molly had been an active member of her local exercise studio but found herself scrambling to find a new way to stay active. After she switched to online exercise classes, she realized she didn’t like the virtual format as much as being in-person.

That’s when she turned to a former go-to workout: running. By then it was springtime in Chicago, and Molly loved getting outside in the mornings to go for a brisk jog.

“I’m a person who is motivated by competition,” said Molly. “I’m always looking for a new challenge and versatility.”

When running began to get stale, Molly turned to indoor cycling and weightlifting. She created a routine that worked with her kids’ busy schedules, giving herself flexibility throughout the day. She planned her cardio workouts (like indoor cycling) in the mornings, then strength training (weightlifting) in the evenings. It’s what worked (and still works) for her.

The Impact of Mental Health
One of the reasons exercise is such a central part of Molly’s lifestyle is the effect it has on her emotional and mental health. Before having children, she didn’t realize how critical mental health is to a person’s overall health and wellness. But after suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety — and seeking proper treatment, Molly knew she needed to prioritize it more.

“Mental health has been my biggest struggle, and it has never been more apparent than during the pandemic, how important it is to check in with each other,” said Molly. “We have to start having those conversations that mental health is a part of physical health and wellness.”

Being more purposeful with prioritizing herself is one of the ways Molly keeps her mental health in check. She spends more time on meaningful healthy habits like exercise, meal prepping, and meditation. She sets an alarm on her phone to remind her to take a few minutes to meditate at least 4 times a week.

Exercise, she says, plays a huge role in her mental health.

“I’m better all-around when I’m celebrating what my body can do,” said Molly. “I plan what I’m going to do for the day, even if it’s just 20 minutes. I’ve learned not every workout has to be perfect to be worthwhile. There’s beauty in that.”

It’s all about being conscientious of your choices and remembering that focusing on your own health is not selfish.

Reaching Others Through Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ (HNHN)
Molly takes health and wellness to another level as co-chair of the HNHN Advisory Committee. In this role, she uses her life experiences and passions to strengthen HNHN’s core mission and vision.

“HNHN isn’t about perfection, and for me, it’s not about one set idea of health,” said Molly. “At the end of the day, my goal for HNHN and the Advisory Board is to meet nurses where they are, set the example, and provide the framework for success.”

Molly also helps run Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation-Illinois, which relaunched at the start of the pandemic. Since then, the organization’s Facebook page membership has increased by more than 133%.

How do they keep members engaged? By providing content that members find valuable and tailoring it to meet their needs. For example, in May 2020, the organization partnered with All Community Events to host a virtual “Race Across Illinois” event. Individuals or relay teams could run or bike a total of 210 miles east to west or 390 miles north to south. The Illinois Nursing Foundation received a portion of the proceeds.

HNHN-Illinois also hosts monthly challenges that coincide with the HNHN national challenges.

Molly’s Advice
There’s so much that nurses can do to be more intentional and live healthier, happier lives. Molly suggests:
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses: The first step to any type of healthy living is recognizing the areas where you should pay more attention, then taking action. For example, if you are depressed, talk to a medical professional.
  • Expect the unexpected: If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what’s going to happen. Build healthy habits into your routine so when something unexpected happens, you’ve got a strong foundation.
  • Give yourself grace: Your workouts won’t always be perfect, and your schedule won’t always cooperate. That’s OK. Be flexible.

Molly Moran, MSN, RN, CCRN, is the Director of Ambulatory Clinical Practice at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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Posted by Holly E Carpenter, RN, BSN on Jun 7, 2021 12:36 PM America/Chicago

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