Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation of Illinois (HNHN-IL) state lead, Molly Moran, MSN, RN, CCRN, has been passionate about healthy and holistic living for the better part of ten years. But major life changes, professional and personal, have often required she adapt her approach. She finds, “Like everybody else, it has been a journey. And that has looked different for me sometimes year to year, sometimes month to month.” 

An avid meal prepper and lover of all things nutrition, Moran has managed to sustain an incredibly healthy, active lifestyle for years. Six weeks before finding out she was pregnant with her firstborn, a daughter, she ran a half marathon. Determined to find a way to still safely work out, she fell in love with group fitness classes.

It wasn’t until being faced with an exceptionally difficult struggle that she fully appreciated the benefits of holistic living. “Following the birth of my son, I had really terrible postpartum depression. I didn’t realize until then how important mental health is to all aspects of health: your physical health, your emotional well-being, your ability to engage in things that you really do love.” 

Moran is grateful to have had a great support system at the time, crediting one nursing colleague in particular with having the courage to say, “Molly, I know you. Something just doesn’t seem right.”

An opportunity to pay it forward

As a firm believer in paying it forward, Moran jumped at the opportunity to be a part of HNHN-IL, seeing it as her chance to do just that. She hopes by sharing her experience she can help others see, “Sometimes health and wellness isn’t going to a fitness class or going for a run. Sometimes, it’s recognizing that you need help, and that’s okay too.”  She finds one of the truly unique things about Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) is that it gives nurses the opportunity to garner support from others who have had similar struggles and experiences. While family and friends are often willing to lend a listening ear and try to understand, “There’s really something about being a fellow nurse and –without explaining things– you just kind of understand.” 

Earlier this month, Moran interviewed Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, who is both a registered nurse and sitting member of Congress. They discussed key issues like healthcare legislation, public health funding, and the #EndNurseAbuse campaign, but Moran was especially excited that the Congresswoman also got personal. “She talked about what she does to keep herself healthy, and the struggle and challenges that come with her role as a nurse, but also as a politician.” The interview is being released in a four-part series on the HNHN-IL Facebook page.

In September, HNHN-IL is holding a town hall themed “Healthy Student Nurses”, wherein a panel of members who have recently graduated will discuss how they stayed healthy during the final years of nursing school, as well as how to manage the stressors of making the transition into a first job. 

Moran’s advice for fellow nurses

Asked what advice she’d give herself as a nursing student, Moran explains she would have incorporated meditation or a time for positive reflection at the end of each shift; a method she uses now to reduce some of the mental toll the job often takes. She attests, “I think we’re so good at focusing on what we would do differently, that we don’t spend a lot of time taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and recognizing what went well.”

Moran and family.

Another strategy Moran finds helpful is finding ways to incorporate her family into her healthy habits. In addition to physical activity, “We have found ways to give the kids age appropriate things they can do to help with meal prepping, so it’s become a full family affair. And that also helps with mental health. When everyone can be together, you know, that’s definitely going to lift your spirits.”

Asked for one point she would like to make to her fellow nurses, Molly responds, “Take the first step. Don’t compare yourself to other people, take the first step for you. Whether that is increasing the number of steps you’re going to take by a thousand, going to your first group fitness class, or setting a goal to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Take that first step.”

She adds, laughing, “And join ANA-Illinois and Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation. It is truly a ‘meet where you are at’ organization, because we’re only going to be as healthy as we are able to inspire and encourage our colleagues to be. And really, by taking those first steps, those become bigger steps. And that’s really when you have a movement.”