By: Jennifer Thew, RN, Former National Nurse Editor at Nurse.com
“Just take a deep breath.”
Nurses have been doling out that advice to their patients for years. Why? Because we know it works. We see how a deep breath can help patients cope with anxiety, get through painful procedures or wrap their minds around a new diagnosis.
Yet, when it comes to calming the mind and body, we often fail to follow our own advice.
Fantastic at caring for others, nurses often fail miserably at caring for themselves. Nurses push their needs aside and focus their energy on patients and their families, their own spouses and children and their communities to the detriment of their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
Yes, being selfless is seen as a virtue, but how helpful can nurses be if they are sleep deprived, stressed out or in physical pain?
Finding time for self-care during a busy work shift is not as impossible as it sounds. So here are a few tips from three of my nursing counterparts to make self-care a daily routine by providing quick, simple techniques that can help you relax, renew and center in just a few minutes – without even leaving the unit.
Staying Calm in a Storm
My friend Toni Scott, RN, CYT, CEO of Yogatones in Chicago, suggests nurses find a quiet place, pause and become aware of grounding all four corners of your feet into the floor. First mentally scan your body for signs of stress or tension, stand up tall, bring your shoulders back and down toward the ground and take some slow, deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose. After a few breaths, try folding forward at the hip crease, take a few more deep breaths and slowly return to an upright position, ending with a few more deep breaths in and out. This should take about five minutes and it will help relieve stress.
Can’t find a quiet place or you don’t have five minutes to spare? Try neck rolls at the nurses’ station or taking a few deep breaths while waiting for the next call.
Pause and Effect
To help rein in stress and clear your mind, try practicing pause breathing says Bonnie Berk, RN, MS, E-RYT, president and founder of Bonnie Berk Inc. in Carlisle, Pa. To perform this technique, inhale imagining you’re filling up your whole torso like a balloon. Pause for a few seconds and notice how you are feeling, then exhale pulling your abdomen in toward the spine, pausing again on the out breath. Follow this cycle for about seven breaths. Pause breathing can easily be practiced throughout the day, and, although it’s simple, nurses can reap loads of benefits from this practice.
Pause breathing can help you with increased mental clarity and it can lower your heart rate.
Mindfulness: Mind Over Matters
Betsy S. Murphy, RN, BSN, HN-BC, E-RYT, owner of Integrated Pathways to Healing in Northfield, Ill. says using the simple power of mindfulness can be very powerful. Practice mindfulness by observing your thoughts, feelings and situations without judging them or labeling them as good or bad.
For example, if an exchange or encounter with a patient or colleague leaves you feeling frustrated, angry or upset, acceptance and mindfulness allow you to process the feelings and experience them so they don’t dominate you.
This allows you to experience your emotions in a productive way rather than being overcome by them. The simple act of getting in tune with your body and mind may reap huge rewards.
Do you have your own techniques for staying calm at work? Share them with me in the comments box – I’d love to hear your thoughts!