Well-being Word

December 15, 2023

The Well-being Word

Erin Herrera, CRNA
Erin Herrera, CRNA
Associate Vice-Chair of Well-Being

Hello friends,

My message for this month is simple: this month, make it a priority to slow down, take a breath, and appreciate the many amazing things all around us. 

We are in a busy season, for sure. Whether it’s craziness at work (I see all of you clinicians deep in the dreaded “December deductible season”), holiday parties, and a season full of social obligations (I see you too, introverts!), we are all spent!  

This season can be an exhausting whirlwind.

I’m reading a fantastic book called “The Power of Awe.” The Power of Awe theory suggests that experiencing awe has profound psychological benefits. Awe can elicit positive emotions, such as joy, gratitude, inspiration, and creativity, while reducing negative emotions like stress and anxiety. It also can promote a sense of interconnectedness and cooperation among individuals and encourages empathy, compassion, and acts of kindness. Awe also helps to foster a broader perspective. The theory suggests that we can experience awe in everyday life by cultivating a sense of curiosity and openness. Simple activities, such as appreciating nature, engaging in art, or connecting with others, can evoke feelings of awe. By seeking out these experiences, we can tap into the power of awe! 

This month, I challenge you to take a pause and find moments of awe in your everyday life. Whether it is witnessing the amazing power of modern medicine, a fantastic Christmas lights display, or a magical winter night! 

Take a minute—look around—amazing, awe-inspiring things are everywhere. We just need to look. 

Have an amazing holiday season and a happy new year! 

Yours in wellness, 


Another great resource to help you find peace and mindfulness this season is the Calm app! They have curated a great collection to help during the busy winter season—from breathing exercises, meditations, and sleep stories—these small moments make a big impact. Don’t forget you can also share Calm access with up to 5 friends and family members! 

Ginger Cookies: A Recipe for Holiday Cheer and Stress Relief in the OR!

Recipe & post by: Swarup Varaday, MD

Season’s greetings, esteemed colleagues of the WashU Anesthesiology Department! As the winter winds start to blow and the holiday season approaches, it’s time to warm up our hearts (and our bellies) with a little culinary magic. What better way to spread cheer than with the delightful aroma and taste of freshly baked ginger cookies?

Now, baking might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially amidst the hustle and bustle of the OR. However, fear not! With this simple yet heartwarming ginger cookie recipe, you’ll be spreading holiday joy faster than the speed of an epidural catheter placement.


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • Additional sugar for rolling (optional)


  1. Preheat and Prep: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Cream the Butter and Sugar: In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses.
  3. Mix it Up: Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Mix until well blended.
  4. Roll and Bake: Roll dough into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. If desired, roll the balls in additional sugar for a delightful crunch. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
  5. Bake and Enjoy: Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tops are cracked but the centers are still soft. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

A Dose of Holiday Cheer:

Now, here’s the secret ingredient to infuse these cookies with extra warmth and joy: while the cookies bake, take a moment to imagine the OR filled not with surgical instruments, but with snowflakes and the sound of jingle bells. Visualize yourself effortlessly placing cookies on a plate instead of IV lines. Trust me; it’ll add that extra touch of magic!

So, dear colleagues, whether you’re an anesthesiologist/CRNA extraordinaire or a resident /SRNA honing your skills, take a break from the OR chaos. Bake a batch of these ginger cookies, share them with your team, and watch as stress dissipates faster than propofol-induced sedation.

From all of us at WashU Anesthesiology, may your holiday season be as delightful as the first taste of a warm ginger cookie straight out of the oven. Happy baking, and remember laughter is the best medicine, but cookies are a close second!


Dr. Rola Hallam joined the Department of Anesthesiology in early November for its Grand Rounds on “Hope & Healing: Self-Care & Trauma Recovery on the Frontlines.” Check out the resources she shared below:

The RAIN of Self Compassion
This talk explores three key features of the trance of unworthiness and introduces this guided meditation based on the acronym RAIN that awakens self-compassion and de-conditions the suffering of being at war with ourselves.
Ted Talk: From Clever to Wise
Burnout is rife, yet most of us don’t realize that trauma underlies much of it. In this powerful and wise talk, Dr. Hallam talks about burnout and trauma on the front lines of healthcare and war. She shares her lesson for humanity: to heal the world we need to heal ourselves and compassion is the sacred medicine at the heart of all our therapeutic modalities.

Are you thriving or surviving?

Too many of us are struggling, stuck in firefighting mode – feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and deeply frustrated. 

We often know we need to make changes, but we have no idea where to start, what to focus on, and how to actually create change that transforms us now, and for the long haul. 

Whether it’s more balance, greater energy, deeper connection, improved health, inner peace, more joy, or greater impact, this tool will get you thriving TODAY. 

Empathy and compassion study

As humans, we’re social creatures. We use language to share information and have social skills like empathy to understand how others feel. We also have the ability to figure out what others might be thinking or intending, called mentalizing or theory of mind.

Empathy is when we share and understand the feelings of others. For example, we can feel happy when we see someone else happy, and we can feel sad when we understand someone else’s pain. Importantly, in empathy, we know that the emotions we feel are from someone else, not ourselves.


Fostering connections with others can help us feel centered

With the rise of technology and the ability to connect with others virtually, we should feel more connected… but in reality, that’s not entirely true. Naturally, we are social creatures that crave quality relationships in real life but with global situations such as the pandemic, the feeling of loneliness is more common than ever.

Here are some recommendations from Calm, our mental wellness partner, to help you navigate loneliness and build deeper connections:

Aloneness—Learn the difference between aloneness and loneliness. 

Real Connection—Do a breathwork exercise and learn about the importance of fostering connections with those around you. 

Social Media and Screen Addiction Masterclass—Discover practical steps for managing the rise of social media and screen addiction in our lives.

Give the gift of Calm for the holidays! With your free premium membership (provided by WUDA), you can share access with five other people. Learn more>>

Save the Date for the second annual “Women of WUDA” retreat!

Saturday, March 9
9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Holmes Lounge

The theme of this year’s retreat is “The Art of Balance: Finding Strength, Resilience and Professional Fulfillment.”

More information coming soon!

Take 2 for the Team

Introducing “Take 2 for the Team,” a new initiative and app designed to promote gratitude and positivity among our anesthesiology department’s team members. This digital peer-to-peer gratitude program encourages us all to take just 2 minutes each day to acknowledge and express gratitude towards a fellow team member.

You can find the app on our departmental INTRAnet, making it accessible to everyone in the department. Using the app is a breeze —simply compose a thank-you note, and your heartfelt “Thank You!” will be sent directly to your colleague’s inbox.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate our colleagues and their contributions to our well-being and happiness.

Connecting with Co-Workers