Raising Awareness of Kidney Disease: Thoughts From A Kidney Nurse

Today is World Kidney Day! In honor of this special day, I thought I would share my thoughts about kidneys and also raise awareness of kidney disease and failure. I worry about my kidneys a lot. Probably more than the average person (the average person might not even know what the kidneys do). This is because I have seen first hand how important they are to our overall health as a Registered Nurse.

Kidney Disease is a serious health problem that most people do not know about until it strikes them. If it weren’t for modern technology, people could not live with kidney failure. It is a very serious problem that most people don’t realize is such a problem until it is too late.

Kidneys are amazing but fragile

Kidneys are super filters of the bloodstream. They filter out toxins from the body. They also remove excess water from the body and ensure that electrolytes are in balance

Kidneys are made up of microscopic units called glomeruli. Because they are so small, they are also very fragile. Large molecules like protein and sugar are hard for them to process for extended amounts of time. High or low blood pressure also affects them. And the list goes on. Nearly every other medical condition affects the kidneys.

What causes kidney failure?

Diabetes and hypertension(high blood pressure) are the leading causes of kidney failure. There are also a lot of other risk factors for kidney failure. Drugs, NSAIDs(like Ibuprofen), cigarettes, drinking cola(really?!), UTI’s, kidney stones, intestinal disorders, advanced age, and the list goes on. As I already mentioned, many other medical conditions can affect the kidneys as well.

There Is NO cure

Yes, there are ways to manage kidney disease before it is “end-stage”, but once it is end stage a person must rely on “artificial kidneys” aka dialysis to survive. While this makes it possible to live, the quality of life of someone on dialysis is far worse than the average person. The kidneys are filtering your blood ALL day long. It is not possible for dialysis to be any match for a real kidney.

What is it like living with kidney failure?

From my experience, taking care of people with kidney failure, it is very hard living with kidney failure. I mean 2 of your vital organs are no longer doing what they are supposed to, and your body is not happy about it.

Their life surrounds upon dialysis

A person must have dialysis regularly in order to live. It is performed either nightly/throughout the day(at home) via the abdomen or 3 times a week for 3-4 hours(at a center) via the bloodstream. This is a time commitment! If they do not have their dialysis treatments regularly they will have serious problems often requiring hospitalization. Even with dialysis a person never feels “normal”.

They are often “fluid overloaded”.

As I mentioned the kidneys remove excess fluid from the body. When your kidneys aren’t working, this fluid instead builds up in your body. Sometimes it is around the lungs, sometimes it is in the feet/ankles and hands. Really, pretty much anywhere. This means that in order to keep the fluid from getting out of control, you may have to drink fewer fluids that a normal person.

Your blood pressure will become a HUGE issue(if it wasn’t already), because of this excess fluid. Your kidneys help regulate blood pressure, but when they aren’t working, it can go haywire.

They must follow a special diet to keep electrolytes in balance

This means low sodium and protein. Often times potassium and phosphorus must be limited as well. Potassium is very significant because when it is high or low, it can affect your heart causing dysrhythmias. What you eat directly affects the electrolytes in your system since you no longer have kidneys to regulate them.

You have an added appendage(sort of)

In order to receive dialysis, you must have some sort of access. I won’t bore you with details but you either have to have some sort of artificial catheter on your stomach or chest, or what called an arteriovenous fistula. Basically, it’s this funny blob on your arm that has its own pulse.

But what about kidney transplants?

Okay, the fact that you can have someone else’s organ in your body and have it work is incredibly cool. It comes with its own set of problems though. Remember your old friend, your immune system? Well, it doesn’t like that other person’s kidney. Once you have a kidney transplant you must take anti-rejection medications. These medications, essentially trick your immune system so that it won’t attack that new kidney. These are nasty medications that have a myriad of side effects. Also, it’s not good to suppress your immune system. It makes you susceptible to a whole host of bad illnesses. While many people go on to live, happy, mostly healthy lives, many are riddled with health problems that are possibly worse than before the kidney transplant. Oh and that transplant can’t last forever. The average is about 20 years, which is awesome, but not a lifetime by any means.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

Be aware of your kidneys! Pay attention to your bathroom habits. Get regular blood work at your doctor’s office. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you need to manage them, and monitor your kidneys more closely! While my worrying may be a bit excessive, it is helping me be more healthy and aware of my body. And yes, there are other, more serious health conditions. But kidney disease seems to be a very common problem that most are not aware of until it is too late. As a nurse, I feel like it is my responsibility to teach people the importance of taking care of our bodies. Stay tuned for another post about how we can keep our kidneys healthy. I am excited to be able to share this message about kidneys on World Kidney Day!

 

 

Cleaning Habits From a Former Slob Turned Neat Freak

Ok, I think I’ve always been a neat freak at heart. My life just got crazy and I stopped caring as much about cleanliness. I have also struggled to have the motivation to get off the couch at times, due to mild depression. Here are some habits I have been working on to overcome my slobiness (I think I just invented a word).

Dish/Kitchen Habits

Nothing stresses me out more than a messy kitchen. It can turn me from a good mood to a foul one. And it’s never appealing to unexpected house guests. Here are some simple things I started doing to help decrease my kitchen stress.

  • Empty the dishwasher each morning.
  • Rinse my dishes when I am done with them and put them in the dishwasher
  • Run the dishwasher every night(if it is full).
  • Wipe down counters, stove, sink, and kitchen table daily

Laundry Habits

I picked a day to do laundry every week. This means that I wash and dry all the clothes that day. Sometimes it takes two days if I get sidetracked and forget to move the load along.

As I pull a load out of the dryer, I sort it into piles and fold what will go in drawers. Sometimes I do this all at once, but it is way more overwhelming to do it that way. I usually end up waiting for the next day to put it all away. It used to sit on my couch for almost a week…until it was time to do laundry again…So, it’s getting better! I love being able to sit on my couch, haha.

Lifestyle Habits

By this, I mean everyday habits to keep your environment clean. This means putting things away as you use them. We are still working on this one. Hang up your coat when you get home, put away your shoes, etc. When you take something out of a wrapper, throw the wrapper away. Put your laundry in the laundry basket when you are done with it.

I think these are all basic skills that our mom’s probably taught us. It is easy to get into bad habits though, and even harder to break out of these bad habits. It takes conscious thought of what you are doing. I learned somewhere that it takes two weeks of doing something every day to establish a new habit. So it is absolutely possible to go from slob to neat freak!

I love having a cleaner house! Making it a priority has been so helpful. It is contributing to my decreased stress and increased happiness lately.

Thanks for reading!

How I Finally Started Meal Planning and Quit Buying Fast Food(Mostly)

Before I started meal planning, we spent $100 dollars a month or more on fast food. We still spent quite a bit on regular groceries too. Since we are trying hard to pay off our student loan debt we needed to stick to a better food budget. I knew that the best way to do this was to start meal planning better. Here are some steps I took to get motivated and organized for meal planning.

Pick a day to go shopping each week.

This may sound like a simple step but for me, it wasn’t. I work a pretty random schedule compared to a lot of other careers. I also work the evening shift, which means I am not home until about midnight. It is a rotation every 2 weeks. It just so happens that I am off every Thursday so I chose my shopping day to be Friday. That way I have the night before to plan my trip.

Keep a list on your fridge of things that you run out of during the week.

Ok, I’ve been doing this for a while. I somehow manage to forget to write something down, which is always a bummer. But it is still more helpful than just trying to remember everything you need the night before.

Meal plan the night before the shopping trip

This is the hardest step for me(even as I’m typing this blog I need to do my meal planning but I don’t feel like it, haha). It is helpful to try to think ahead during the week of what meals you would like to eat. This is why this step is so hard though. I don’t know what I want to eat ahead of time. Saving recipes that I know we like has been helpful.

I try to plan at least 7 meals so that we have something new each day. That way we also have a lot of leftovers for lunches. no-food-154333_1280Commit to not buying fast food.

This has been hard because my husband’s favorite food ever is Taco Bell…Or maybe Costa Vida…We both have a weakness for fast food because it’s so much easier than cooking. It also costs a lot more and isn’t even that good most of the time.

I put this step ahead of the “cook the food” step because I had to be committed to stopping fast food before I had the motivation to actually cook the food I bought.

Commit to cooking one meal a day.

I try to pick meals that are simple and don’t take a lot of prep. On days that I work, I leave that house at around 2 pm. This means that I need a fast meal, or I can throw something in the crockpot for the family for later. This has been working pretty well the last couple of weeks. On days that I am home, I have finally committed to cooking something each night.

Committing to one meal a day has helped me get into the habit of cooking, even when I don’t feel like it. Every once in a while we have enough leftovers that I don’t have to cook. It is a nice break. It is also nice to have lots of extra food in the fridge so that I have meals for work. Meal planning really doesn’t take that long. It is definitely worth the time because of the money we are saving on groceries and not buying fast food as much. Let me know what some of your favorite meals are in the comments. I will be sharing some of mine! Happy meal planning!

How to Fight Depression With Exercise, and Increase Your Happiness

Why Exercise?

People exercise for different reasons. To lose weight. Or build muscle. For fun maybe. But for me, it is essential to my mental well being. It is one of the ways I am trying to fight depression.

I began exercising regularly a little over a month ago and I am loving it. Exercising has helped me have more energy to keep my house clean and play with the kids more. I have been cooking more meals and sticking to routines better. Best of all, I feel happy most of the time, despite some challenges.

Keeping Exercise Simple

Establishing a simple exercise routine is the key to sticking with it. There are tons of apps, work out videos, etc to help you keep things simple. I work in the evening, so I am home in the morning and have ample time to exercise. Others may not be this lucky. It may be necessary to get up early in order to exercise or fit into some other part of your day.

You can either pick a certain time of day and stick with it or fit in the work out whenever possible. Starting a new habit is the hardest part. Once the habit is established it is much easier to stick with it.

Why I love home workouts

I really enjoy home workouts. I love that I can just pull up a video on youtube and start my work out. It is easy to be committed to. It doesn’t take long. Even if I worked in the morning, it would be possible to squeeze in a 20 minute home work out. The videos that I use the most come from Team body project (this is the youtube channel). It is a collection of mostly low impact fun exercises that get you moving. These are great for me because I have bad knees/hip. The best part is that it is FREE. Well, unless you want a personalized plan (which they do).

Her is another post I wrote about home exercise: 6 reasons why home exercise is

awesome

Gyms are cool too

I also enjoy going to the gym with my husband. It is fun to spend time together as a couple while we improve our overall health. I have gotten good at basically tuning out the other people because it is so easy to compare yourself to everyone else. What I like about the gym is that everyone there is working on improving themselves. Each person is on a different level, but the main goal of why we are there is the same. My husband prefers the gym because he uses the weights to work different muscle groups each day. I do some cardio for about 30 minutes and then join him where ever he is at. Going to the gym is a bigger time commitment than my at home exercises but it is nice to spend one on one time with my husband (They have a daycare for the kiddos).

Pick your favorite exercise and go for it!

Now, there a plenty of other ways to exercise if these don’t appeal to you. Pick your favorite sport, go walking or jogging. Buy a cheap elliptical or treadmill(keyword cheap, haha). Buy some DVDs/VHS work out videos if you don’t have internet. Dance! Zumba is a little too complicated for me but it is tons of fun! Swimming, water aerobics(which means you need a gym I guess). There has to be some type of exercise that may sound fun to you. It may be really hard at first but to me doing hard things builds character 😉

Stop making excuses

I used to like jogging, I guess I still do, but my knees and body don’t. I also hate running in the cold. In the past, these were excuses that I would make to not exercise in the winter. I also found it hard to go jogging in the summer too though because both my kids were home and my husband wasn’t always. I finally bought a double jogger but it was still too hard to push two kids in. This obviously lead to more excuses. This is not how exercise has to be. Keeping things simple and enjoyable makes it easier to commit to. So find what makes you happy and stick to it!

Research that supports using exercise as a treatment for depression

There has been a lot of research on the topic of using exercise as a treatment for depression. I found this information by doing a google search using “can exercise help fight depression?” and other variants and came up with lots of results. This was enough for me to give it a try. Now, I’ll be honest, my depression has not been officially diagnosed. I have had counseling on a couple different occasions but didn’t find it super helpful. I wanted to try exercising for a while to see if it would help me. I am not saying that you should quit taking medication if you need it. Or put off seeing a doctor if you are suffering from depression. Here is a screening tool if you need it.

Go for it! What do you have to lose?

Exercising has been so helpful for me. I have so much more motivation to get things done around the house, despite still being tired. I am generally happier and am less tired than I was before I started exercising. This last month has been so great. I finally feel alive again! I almost feel like an entirely new person. Exercise works for me. Let me know how it has helped you in the comments. Thanks for reading and happy exercising!

5 ways to Overcome Your Negative Thinking

I am a negative thinker. I don’t even know why or how it started. It has been something I have always struggled with. It is not an easy thing to overcome. This has been one of my many goals of late though. To overcome my negative thinking.

As I have mentioned, I am new to the blogging world. I’ve been working on my blog for a little over a month now. The last few weeks have been a fun ride. I have been excited to see people are actually reading my blog. It has also been a very hard few weeks as I have struggled to overcome all of my negative thoughts.

Our success in life depends upon our attitude. It also depends on our self-talk.  If we are constantly telling ourselves that we can’t do something, we are limiting our potential. This has been at the forefront of my mind as I am working on my blog. I don’t want to give up on this like I have given up on so many things in the past. Believing that this will work is so important. Deep down I know that if I keep working, keep writing, keep believing, things will work out.

Here are 5 ways to overcome negative thinking:

1. Take things one step at a time

I have been getting ahead of myself with my progress on my blog. It’s been easy to start focusing on getting followers on different social media platforms. Or to be constantly checking the stats on my blog. I think about how many people I have invited to like my blog and how very few are responding.

What I really need to be focused on is writing. Even if very few are reading right now, I hope to still be able to help those few. This is the most important part of blogging. I can’t worry so much about not getting followers. I will get more followers as I continue to write good content.

I think we often get ahead of ourselves in life. We try to skip ahead in our goals instead of focusing on the basics. When things get hard we give up completely because we never established those small goals.

2.Be aware of self-talk and turn negative thoughts into positive

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with life. This is when the negative thoughts seem to creep in the most. The thoughts seem to be never-ending. It is hard to snap myself out of it.

I have started to be more aware of what I call “self-talk”. When I realize that I am being super negative. I stop myself. I try to change the negative things I was thinking into positive. If I find myself saying “what if this doesn’t work”, I instead think “what if it does?” Or instead of thinking: “what if no-one likes my blog?”  I think, “what if people love my blog?”

3. Stop Comparing yourself to others

I don’t know how many times I have told myself to stop comparing myself to others. It apparently hasn’t worked. It actually may be worse in the blog world. There are thousands of bloggers in the world. Since I am new, pretty much everyone is more successful than me.

It would be easy to say, why bother? Someone else has written better on the topic. Or someone else is more of an expert on the topic.  Or funnier. Someone else is more likable…etc. etc.

That is the beauty of the internet though. Everyone is entitled to their own ideas. And people like to read these ideas. Even if a topic has been written on before, you may have a unique perspective on the topic. One that people may be interested in reading.

If you find yourself comparing yourself to others please try to stop. Focus on you. Focus on the day-to-day. Don’t let those negative thoughts creep in. You are becoming better each day and that is all that matters.

4. Count your blessings

If we really sit down and think about our blessings, they are endless. With my blog, even though it is new, I have had a lot of exciting things happen. Here are a few things I am grateful for so far:

I was able to think of a blog title and run with it. I made my own website(with WordPress‘s help of course) and logo(with Canva’s help). I wrote some blog posts! People read my blog posts! People read my blog that I don’t know in real life. I am putting myself out there more than I ever have before. I am having fun writing!

overcome negative thinking

5. Never, ever give up on yourself!

If you have goals, don’t give up on them! Keep working on them a little at a time. Keep believing in yourself. If you have a bad day, it is ok! But try to stop being so hard on yourself. There is something good that happen’s every day. Even if it is something small. Catch those negative thoughts and do everything you can to stop them. Keep looking for the positive in life and you will find happiness and success!