Food is Not The Solution

So you arrive on the floor, bright and early in the morning, with your fresh cup of coffee still warm in your hand. Once you get to your unit, you take a look at the assignment and see that you are charge nurse today. You also realize you are short two nurses and that you have to take on a patient. By the way, your current staff are from the float pool and are not familiar with your patient population.

Now what?

In situations like these, I can’t tell you how many times I ran away to the staff lounge to get a bite of whatever was there. It could be a cookie, a donut, a left-over cake from yesterday’s potluck. Whatever it was, I would grab a bite of it to “take the edge off.” And not just one bite. Several bites!


I wanted to eat the food for comfort so I could “handle” my feelings of stress and overwhelm. I wanted to escape and wish that I wasn’t there. But the truth is, the nature of nursing is unpredictable, and these things happen.

And when they do happen, what do you do to cope?

I had NO coping skills at the time except eating sweet foods. But at the end of the day, I would still feel stressed, overwhelmed, and helpless.

But I’m here to tell you there is a solution to handling stressful situations on the unit that do not require eating as an escape button. I’m going to walk you through a quick & easy process that was very helpful for me to manage these situations, which (at one point of my career) came up fairly often! I call this tool “Triple A” (yes, just like the automobile club!) because this is a great tool you can use when you notice that you’re in an “emergency-state mode” in your mind (your mind needs some repair) and you need “AAA” to come to the rescue!


Recognize your personal “signs and symptoms” of overwhelm and how that looks like specifically for you, mentally and physically (e.g. short of breath, heart racing, racing thoughts, etc.).


Why are you feeling overwhelmed? You might say, “Because I have to be charge nurse and do all this stuff, and there’s no time!” Really take a minute to ask yourself that question.

Then pay attention to your answers. Are the answers you came up with immediately helpful for this moment? Yes, or No? If you decided that whatever you were thinking at the moment was not helpful, then you can proceed to the final step:


If you ask your brain a question like “Why am I always charge nurse?” or “Why is it so busy all the time?” your brain will provide evidence for those questions because it actively works to find ways to serve us (not work against us!). It’s just doing it’s job by searching for reasons and validating your questions!

But what if you asked you asked your brain an empowering question?

What if instead of asking yourself why you are in the situation you are in, you could ask your brain something like:

What can I do to make this work?

What can I do to help?

What can I do to take charge and make the best of what we have right now?

Once we start asking our brain these questions and shifting our focus from negative thoughts to empowering thoughts, then our brain will work to find these solutions! Our brain will no longer shift is focus on the negativity, but instead it will try to come up with actual solutions to fix the current problem!

So as a recap — if you find yourself in a stressful situation where your gut reaction is to feel overwhelmed or stressed, do these three simple steps (in case of emergency, call “AAA"!):

  1. Acknowledge that you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed

  2. Ask why you feel this way & if that thought is helpful (IF NOT, go to Step 3)

  3. Ask yourself how you can help

Having a system in place when your brain is in emergency mode will help prep it for future situations that may seem daunting and dreadful. I can never emphasize the importance of planning, which also applies to how you manage stressful situations at work!

Food is never the solution to our problems. Overeating when we are stressed will just lead to more weight gain.

Instead, it’s important to find the solution to the problem (and NOT avoid it with a Pop Tart, cookie, and certainly not left-over potluck cake)!

If you are interested in this material and would like a free coaching session with me, click the button below to schedule your call today!


Charmaine PlatonComment