Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Kirsten Knaebel, RN, BN, CPHQ 4306

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Kirsten Knaebel, RN, BN, CPHQ


Nurse finds balance with Ayurveda and yoga.

9a7993b46c511ae4c82a600536ffecf7-huge-kiNo one likes to feel unbalanced — physically or emotionally. But achieving balance in life isn’t always easy. It often requires hard choices and lifestyle adjustments along the way. But the first step is recognizing the need for change.

For #healthynurse Kirsten Knaebel, that recognition came in 2018. “I was probably in the worst spot I’ve been in my life,” she says. “Everything in my life, except my job, was just wrong.”

Kirsten knew she needed a change and enrolled in a 6-week mindfulness course. On the first day, the instructor promised that by the end of the program, Kirsten would be able to remove whatever block was holding her back. She was doubtful, but Kirsten completed the 6-week course. Then she immediately retook it. Four months later, Kirsten left her unhealthy life and marriage behind. She moved from Indiana to New Hampshire. And she has never looked back.

“I acknowledged where I was in life and realized I don’t have to accept my life as it is,” Kirsten says. “I learned to stop, breathe, and take my life back, so it’s more fulfilling.”

Now, 4 years later, Kirsten lives her life based on Ayurveda — an ancient system of medicine (originating in India) that uses a natural approach to create a balance between the body, mind, spirit, and environment.

The Road to Balance
Kirsten’s move to New Hampshire signaled the beginning of her wellness journey. But it took slow and steady steps to bring her where she is today. She incorporated yoga and meditation. She took a closer look at her diet, ditched processed food and soda, learned to eat healthy, and lost 60 pounds in a year’s time. When she discovered Ayurveda, it all clicked.

“Ayurveda is often called the sister science to yoga,” Kirsten says. “It uses diet and other wellness practices to find balance naturally.”

Ayurveda places great emphasis on balance being our natural state. But many external (such as season and weather) and internal stresses can disturb that balance, including a person’s:
  • Emotional state
  • Diet
  • Physical trauma
  • Relationships

Kirsten has several habits she’s formed to help her minimize the effects of stressors and maintain balance in her life:

              Practicing Mindfulness
Kirsten meditates and practices yoga (often twice a day) to stay in touch with her body and protect her mental health. She attends yoga retreats four times a year. Kirsten also sets a daily intention each morning. She’s used the same intention (created by Vietnamese monk and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh) every day for the past couple of years:
“Every morning when I wake, I smile.
24 new hours before me lie.
I plan to live fully in each moment
And view beings with eyes of compassion.”

Kirsten believes that saying the intention aloud puts the day in perspective and encourages gratitude for the new day.

              Eating a Healthy Diet
Before Ayurveda, Kirsten’s diet included several 12-packs of diet soda a week and a lot of meat and processed food. But now she prefers a primarily plant-based diet and whole foods. Ayurveda focuses on finding balance with the seasons, which involves eating in-season foods. “We eat carrots in colder months because they’re a root vegetable. That’s not the time for strawberries,” Kirsten says. “Eating this way helps me feel like I’m in harmony with nature.”

              Prioritizing Sleep
Ayurveda looks at how our bodies change throughout the day, much like the circadian rhythm. An Ayurvedic lifestyle stresses going to sleep before 10:00 pm, the natural time your body is tired and ready to rest. Now that Kirsten prioritizes bedtime, she’s waking up early, even without an alarm. “Now I have time for all the wellness practices I’ve added to my life,” she says. “I do them before my workday begins.”

              Asking for Help
Kirsten recognizes that maintaining balance is a constant challenge. She continues to consult with her Ayurvedic health counselor regularly. She also works closely with her healthcare provider to make sure her health is heading in the right direction — and it is. Since she’s made lifestyle changes, Kirsten has eliminated pain medication and no longer needs prescription drugs for her restless legs syndrome (RLS) and fibromyalgia.

Sharing Wellness With Others
Finding balance didn’t just change Kirsten’s home life. It affected her work as well. “I’ve always enjoyed work, but now I bring an energy to my work that I haven’t had for a while,” she says. “Suddenly, I have the energy to make positive changes in my work environment, and I’m excited for any opportunity to do that.”

Kirsten’s been given that opportunity at Humana and is an active leader in their Mindfulness and Compassion Community. The group provides opportunities for Humana associates to learn and practice mindfulness. The community members share their experiences through presentations, podcasts, and open forum discussions.

Outside of work, Kirsten continues to learn about Ayurveda and is working toward her Ayurvedic health counselor certification. She’s hoping to guide others in finding balance.

“It almost feels like I was reborn,” Kirsten says. “I have never felt like I could do everything I want to do without feeling like I’m dragging myself through it.”

Kirsten’s Advice
Kirsten believes that we are all capable of change, and it begins within. She recommends:
  • Loving yourself as you would love a friend or family member.
  • Forgiving yourself as you would forgive a friend or family member.
  • Knowing you are good enough and you have all the skills you need.
  • Listening to your intuition because it will never lie to you.
Kirsten Knaebel, RN, BN, CPHQ, is a senior quality compliance professional at Humana.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 01/19/2023 4:30pm 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.