If you, like me, are in quarantine trying to stay safe, it’s likely you feel incredibly humbled at the thought of the bravery of our front-line workers. If clapping at 7:30 every night to show your support has you feeling a little… small… take it from Timea Urban, Orthopedic and Neurology Registered Nurse by day / Reiki Master by night – your actions do play an important part. If you’re staying up to speed with the news, following the rules, and taking care of yourself, you are helping. Keep going. 

“We have to work together and think of what’s best for the community, beyond just how this is affecting us independently… we’re in this together,” she says. 

If you’re following all the rules and are still searching for other small ways you can support and encourage nurses like Timea, read on to find out what a typical day-to-day is like for a front-line worker. Timea also knows a thing or two about holistic self-care and has some sage advice for those who are looking to implement a little more self-care into their isolation routine. 

What does a typical day look like right now?

On work days I wake up at 5:15 AM, set intentions, practice gratitude, create a reiki bubble, chug back coffee while walking my dog, and then take a moment to ground and sit with her before driving to work listening to music or an audiobook. 

If I’m working a day shift, the stress begins right as we line up in single-file and scan in, get our two masks for the day, and go to our units. You never know where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing. Sometimes, depending on the needs of the hospital, you get re-deployed. 

If I’m on my floor (which used to be Orthopedics / Neurology, but is now the COVID under-investigation unit), there’s a lot of pre-planning before going into a room, clustering care and being mindful with the PPE. After coming out of rooms it’s a huge process of cleaning the parts you have to re-use (like the face shield) and disposing as carefully as possible of the parts we don’t. 

You also need to pre-plan your drink breaks and then chug water (with probably another coffee or tea) since you can’t casually sip water and need to be careful when you remove your face mask. On my break, my new go-to is watching either standup comedy or animal documentaries to keep my faith in humanity and keep my spirits high. 

After my shift is done, it’s a process to wipe all your belongings, bag your dirty scrubs and try to leave the hospital without touching anything or seeing anyone. The face mask comes off in the car and you sanitize again. On my way home from work, it’s back to an audiobook, gentle meditation music or calling someone. 

When I get close to home, I call my mom to take the dog out so I can sneak into the bathroom and shower before she greets me with love and kisses, though pups themselves don’t get COVID. The cleaning process continues: Sanitize my hands before entering the garage (it’s the “dirty” entrance not to be used by my grandma), then washing my hands the moment I enter the laundry room to go downstairs and shower in the basement. At this point, I’m so tired I even wash my hands before entering the shower even though I haven’t touched anything. 

It’s a for realsies shower: scrub everything; hair washes after every shift; scrub down your face and ears; neti pot the nose. At this point my body is red and inflamed, partly from the sanitizing, partly from the layers of gear on my face, and the post-shift scrub down. I take my time to apply every serum, cream and ointment then jade roll it hoping to produce some calmness. 

By this time, my fur child, Tigressa, is smelling me and searching the house for me. She has dinner, we cuddle and bed for both of us. Before bed it’s a gratitude practice, quick self reiki and a quick hello from a distance with my family. 

On my days off, I sleep in, have some pup time, take long walks outside, see reiki clients and do reiki certifications (virtually), and practice self-care like journaling, epsom salt baths, FaceTime with my home girls, and naps, and also take care of adulting tasks, etc.

What is giving you hope? 

My family and friends cheering me on, the spontaneous acts of kindness and beautiful messages I receive from complete strangers, and my dog (a new rescue) giving me an abundance of love and affection. Trusting the universe and using reiki to feel safe, protected and well. Nature, grounding, fresh air, and silence. 

What advice do you have for people who want to stay safe, healthy, and positive?

You need more self-care right now so your usual practices might not be enough. You need to rest more, ground more, and check in with yourself more. Be okay with what comes up: it’s okay to feel the big emotions like anger and resentment. Do your best to acknowledge this energy and move it out of you – dance, stomp, shake it out, cry, do what feels good. 

Don’t force yourself to do things that don’t feel aligned, but also stick to a routine. Find time daily to move and stretch your body, meditate, focus on deep breathing and long exhales, get dressed. Reach out to others if you need extra support – it’s not a sign of weakness. We’re all struggling in one way or another. 

How can people support you and other health-care providers during this time? What actually helps? 

Follow the rules the government has created. It’s not to be mean, it’s to protect you. Even though everything is starting to calm down, there is still a risk of another wave or the numbers going up. 

Front line workers are struggling with those basic needs: sleep, cooking, self care. Anything that helps us do more of that or makes it easier for us to do that helps. Kindness, words of encouragement and following the rules are the most important. If you want to donate food, snacks or drinks – think healthy, wholesome, nutrient-dense, not processed, fried or filled with allergens (some nurses like myself are gluten-free!) and… free parking would be nice – hint hint government. 

Follow Timea at @the.urban.healer and learn more about her virtual reiki sessions and certifications offerings at www.theurbanhealer.ca, access her meditations on the insight timer, or her online chakra awakening meditation guide.