Varsha Singh DNP, APN, CT-CP, NEA-BC, FAHA, FAANP 4286

Varsha Singh DNP, APN, CT-CP, NEA-BC, FAHA, FAANP

Nurse follows a prescription for self-care and promotes caring for the environment

201774a9448d7f0cdf6430003050d8aa-huge-vaTaking care of patients doesn’t always leave much time to take care of yourself. But for #healthynurse Dr. Varsha Singh, taking care of patients gave her the push she needed to make herself a priority.

“I would advise my patients about finding balance and making time for their health,” says Dr. Singh, a neuroscience nurse practitioner at St. Joseph University Medical Center in NJ. “I finally said, ‘Wait a minute. What about me? How am I finding the time for myself.’”

With her family on board, Dr. Singh began making the necessary changes to prioritize her physical and mental well-being. And she’s been making changes ever since.

It began over a decade ago when her son recommended getting rid of all sugary drinks. The family held a ceremony to remove sodas and sugary drinks from their fridge and their lives. In time, Dr. Singh also eliminated processed food. She’s grown to find cooking therapeutic — preparing traditional Indian food at home and substituting healthy ingredients whenever possible. Then, with the motivation of her family members, Dr. Singh introduced regular exercise into her daily habits — “just like how you brush your teeth,” as her husband says. For the past 5 years, she has started each day with a slow jog and has recently added strength training to her exercise routine. And just 6 months ago, she began intermittent fasting.

But she doesn’t only view self-care as staying physically healthy. Dr. Singh believes there are simple steps you can take to ensure your self-care also includes your mental health.

A Prescription for Self-Care
Dr. Singh says the most effective way to approach self-care is to think of it like a prescription — follow the directions, and it can bring you good health. But unlike a prescription your doctor writes on blue paper, Dr. Singh follows a “purple” prescription she created. It’s a mnemonic representing her daily to-do list for self-care:
  • P: Pause for a moment before you start each day, like the pause you take before entering a patient’s room. Make sure you have everything you need, that you know what to expect, and that you greet what lies ahead with positivity.
  • U: Unwind for 5 to 10 minutes when transitioning from work to home. Try not to jump from one task or part of your day into the next without taking a few moments to yourself.
  • R: Relax for a few minutes each day to bring healing energy to your body. Dr. Singh recommends a calming app or listening to meditation music.
  • P: Play often by finding the child within and indulging in activities and hobbies that bring you happiness. Consider playing an instrument, painting, dancing, or trying a new sport.
  • L: Laugh every day to release endorphins. Finding humor at work can help you connect with your coworkers, and your patient care will reflect the joy you feel.
  • E: Enjoy your life by embracing reality, exercising daily, eating healthy, entertaining yourself and others, and escaping occasionally.

“The purple prescription encourages interventions you do for yourself, but they also benefit the people around you,” Dr. Singh says. Being selfish about your self-care will make you mentally and physically healthier, which can impact your family, patients, and coworkers.

Practicing Self-Care by Caring for the Environment
Dr. Singh believes another form of self-care is living life in a way that protects and nurtures our environment. Small changes can significantly impact the world we live in and will one day pass to future generations.

“As human beings, we have a responsibility to look at and undo the damage we have done so far to our earth and our environment,” she says. “Nurses can share that message and reach thousands of patients. Awareness is a change agent — the more everyone becomes aware, the sooner change will come.”

Dr. Singh raises environmental awareness through the environmentally friendly choices she makes in her own life. She encourages nurses and all those around her to consider small changes such as:
  • Ditching the disposable: Dr. Singh doesn’t use plastic water bottles and carries her own napkin and silverware in her lunchbox.
  • Recycling and reusing: Look beyond the usual recycling of plastic, paper, and cardboard. Dr. Singh advocates for recycling and reusing clothing, which generates high amounts of methane and takes 30 years to biodegrade.

"Nursing is the most trusted profession, and patients will follow the advice we give,” Dr. Singh says. “As nurses, we are naturally altruistic, compassionate, and caring. But Mother Earth is our biggest patient right now, and we all need to do something to take care of her.”

Dr. Singh’s Advice
Dr. Singh hopes all nurses will consider living by the adages that have guided her own life:
  • The sky is not the limit. No one, especially not nurses, should ever underestimate their own power.
  • Be kind to yourself. When you are kind to yourself, you’ll automatically have kindness toward everyone around you — and you’ll begin to see the world differently.

Varsha Singh DNP, APN, CT-CP, NEA-BC, FAHA, FAANP is neuroscience nurse practitioner and manager of the neuroscience and stroke programs at St. Joseph University Medical Center in Paterson, NJ.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 11/22/2022 9:06am CST

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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.