Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Sharon Puchalski, DNP, APN-C, WHNP-BC
Nurse runs triathlons to stay healthy and support good causes.
“It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.” - Confucius
This well-known Confucius quote holds true for just about anything in life, especially self-care. You don’t have to do it all, and you can go at your own pace. What matters is that each day, you do something to prioritize the one body you have.
That’s what #healthynurse Sharon Puchalski reminds herself every day as she cooks healthy meals, trains for triathlons, and finds time to wind down.
“I have this one body, and who better to take care of my own health and wellness than me?” asks Sharon.
This sense of ownership empowers Sharon to make healthy choices every day. How does she do it? It’s all about time management.
“We have to be excellent time managers in life,” says Sharon. “I try to schedule ‘me time’ every day, throughout the day if possible.”
Making Time for Self-Care
As a nurse, being busy is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean your wellness should take a backseat. When you make time for yourself, everything else falls into place.
“I want to try to be the best version of myself,” says Sharon. “To do that, I know the importance of taking care of myself and making it a priority.”
Sharon finds time to cook, exercise, and wind down each day. She loves creating nutritious meals like fresh, fun salads and has embraced cooking since COVID-19 forced her to stay home more often. When she doesn’t know what to cook, she’ll Google ingredients she has in her kitchen to find a new recipe.
Sharon prioritizes her mental well-being by setting aside time every morning and evening for meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude. She has several apps that help her breathe, focus, and find clarity.
Carving out time for exercise is another must-do for Sharon. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, she schedules “me time” to get her body moving. Her favorite activities include:
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
She always loves to move, but in 2016 her devotion to exercise transformed into a love of triathlons.
Triathlons Through the Years
Before 2016, Sharon ran in 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. A friend suggested a triathlon, an endurance race consisting of running, cycling, and swimming. Sharon was reluctant since she’d never been a swimmer. After thinking it over, Sharon decided it was time to step out of her comfort zone.
She signed up for a local triathlon and trained with a few friends and colleagues. She followed a training plan she found in a magazine and scheduled time for training every day. Soon it was triathlon day — a day Sharon will never forget.
“The first triathlon I did supported breast cancer research, and many cancer survivors participated,” says Sharon. “Seeing these women cheering each other on and getting across the finish line with them was emotional, inspiring, and uplifting.”
It was such an incredible event that Sharon wanted to do more triathlons. Since then, she has competed in 4 more triathlons, including a couple of virtual races held during the pandemic.
What motivates her to keep doing them?
“I find that all of these races support good causes, and I love that,” says Sharon. “Also, a triathlon is beneficial for everything — physical, mental, and emotional health. And it always pushes me out of my comfort zone.”
Sharon knows that not everyone can (or wants to) complete a triathlon. But her approach to health and wellness is doable for many people. Here’s what she recommends for other nurses:
- Find balance: We all have competing priorities, but you have to find a way to put yourself first sometimes. You matter, too.
- Find the time: We are all busy. Even if you can only squeeze in 10 minutes of exercise, it’s better than nothing. Carve out that much-needed time for your well-being.
- Ditch the guilt: Giving your body and mind what they need isn’t selfish. Don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You can’t be your best if you’re not feeling your best.
Sharon Puchalski, DNP, APN-C, WHNP-BC, is an Associate Professor of Nursing at William Paterson University of New Jersey.
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