Your “Cleanup” Journey

 In Nurses Weekly

When we think of spring, one of the first things that come to mind is the vernal equinox. It is the day when the sun is exactly over the equator in the Northern Hemisphere and a sign that summer is soon approaching. There will be more daylight, warmer weather, and the foliage will be blooming in the wonderful colors of the season.

Springtime is also noted for being the time of awakenings, new life, and taking the time to get rid of the clutter–cleaning up!

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “cleanup” can be used as a noun, verb, or adjective (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Let’s look at the three different word usages and apply them to our life situations and nursing profession:

  • Cleanup (noun) – “an act or instance of cleaning” or “an exceptionally large profit.”

This is the most traditional use of the term cleanup. After the winter, there is renewed energy to refresh our homes. We clean the windows and do more than “surface cleaning.” We also reflect on our lives and look to spring as a time to gain something. What can we do to enhance our way of life to reach the best outcomes? The change in weather gives us a chance to get outside and focus on our health. We realize that there is always some form of win if we “cleanup” in the correct manner.

  • Cleanup (adjective) – “being in the fourth position in the batting order of a baseball team.”

This player is in the “cleanup” spot and is strategically placed in the lineup to get a big hit and drive the base runners home. The cleanup is expected to rally the team by increasing the energy and momentum of the game. As we will see, this definition can be related to wellness.

  • Cleanup (verb) – “to become free of drug or alcohol addiction.”

As nurses, we truly know that addictions exist. They might be to drugs or alcohol, although there are many kinds of addictions from which one might need to “cleanup.”

Have you ever stopped to think about how you can relate your spring “cleanup” to the various definitions of the word and how they can help to improve your wellness? Let’s look at this “wellness wheel” and talk about how different uses for the word “cleanup” can be applied. First, a word about wellness.

According to Dr. Don Ardell from the University of Buffalo (n.d.):

Wellness is, first and foremost, a choice to assume responsibility for the quality of your life. It begins with a conscious decision to shape a healthy lifestyle. Wellness is a mindset, a predisposition to adopt a series of key principles in varied life areas that lead to high levels of well-being and life satisfaction. A consequence of this focus is that a wellness mindset will protect you against temptations to blame someone else, make excuses, shrink accountability, whine, or wet your pants in the face of adversity.

We can conceptualize how our “cleanup,” whether used as a noun, adjective, or verb, can affect all aspects of our wellness.

  • (Noun) The full overhaul. From performing a self-assessment of professional and personal circles to cleaning out our closets or deciding to increase our educational repertoire, we move toward a better sense of wellness. And if we really focus on our financial state and financial literacy, we can truly figure out how to “cleanup” our credit and debts to live more comfortable lives. This might take some doing, especially considering the pandemic and inflation, but it’s certainly something we should strive to improve.
  • (Adjective) You are in a special position right now and able to use your knowledge and expertise to not only improve your own wellness but the wellness of those around you (the “team”). To be that “4th batter,” you must believe you are there for a reason. Stop and think about it; what influence do you have to improve your personal wellness and that of your family, colleagues, or community? Being the “cleanup” here doesn’t mean you are focusing on all aspects of wellness, but that you choose to be an influencer or advocate and can enhance and potentially help others. Did you know that doing for others is one of the best ways to feel better and have your own wellness boosted? Think about being that “4th batter” and what power you have!
  • (Verb) This aspect of “cleanup” digs a bit deeper into your own psyche and self-reflection to overcome. As mentioned, addictions extend beyond that of alcoholism and drug use and may be related to events or situations over which you had absolutely no control. Not discounting alcohol and drug use, there is the “cleanup” of looking back at what has transpired in our lives and how it has affected us. Being in the healthcare field, we know that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the social determinants of health (SDOH–sometimes called “drivers” of health) truly shape our being. As adults, we often overlook the influence ACEs and SDOH. We tuck them away deep within our minds and continue life in survival mode, but always knowing that there are triggers out there that bring them to the surface. They might lead us to overeat, drink, take drugs or become depressed, etc. We haven’t taken the time to focus on the “cleanup” of one of the most important aspects of our lives.

From looking at the “Wellness Wheel,” we can see that our life situations have been influenced by our upbringing or SITUATIONS OVER WHICH WE HAD NO CONTROL! This is a key point, as in our self-reflection to improve our wellness and “cleanup,” we need to put it all into perspective. We have to look to the resources available, especially as they concern equity. We know all is not fair and just, but that doesn’t mean we cannot keep striving to “cleanup” ourselves. We have to seek out the tools and resources that surely our colleagues and others within our circles can lead us to. We just have to be ready and willing to look it all in the eye and “cleanup” our act. No one is saying that this will be an easy task, but for your health and well-being it is a necessary one.

I am sure that as a springtime message, you had never likely considered looking at it in this fashion, but I felt it a good representation of what spring cleaning should be about:  new beginnings, the blooming of life, the ability to enjoy the sunshine, air out the house, wash all the windows, clean out the basement, start a new personal goal and so on and so on. The list is endless and one that only you can determine on your spring wellness cleanup journey.

  • Sheila Caldwell, BSN, RN, CSN-NJ for the Healthy Nurse Healthy New Jersey Team


Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Cleanup. Dictionary.

University of Utah School of Medicine. (n.d.). Current MD students wellness: Overview.

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