Last week, we shared five key strategies for tackling work-related stress. During mental health week, we have been thinking about mindfulness and meditation for nurses. Building resilience and self-awareness. We again ask the question, ‘how do those whose role it is to care for others care for themselves?‘ Nurses may be among the first to forget that self-care should always be high on the priority list when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.
Nurses and other healthcare professionals are faced with stressful situations every day. This is an inevitable part of the job. If left untreated, stress for nurses can lead to nurse burnout and compassion fatigue which can negatively impact patients too.
In light of this, we believe meditation for nurses could be very helpful because it strengthens the nervous system’s response to stressful situations. The goal here is to become more centered, less stressed and in turn better at caring for patients.
The biggest barrier for people getting into meditation is that it takes time to start to feel the benefits. It also takes practice. You’ll often hear people say things like, ‘meditation? tried that – sat there for five minutes – nothing happened! Not for me…’
And so, we’ll start with some key advice for those trying mediation for the first time…
Getting started with meditation for nurses:
Start with small steps
You may have an image of yourself sitting cross-legged on the rock from Lion King in a deep trance. This just isn’t realistic as a beginner, and is a little intimidating! Start by setting yourself a really achievable goal. For example, meditate for 1 minute every day for five days. Build gradually from there.
Use a ‘bell’ or ‘chime’ timer
Ding! With meditation for nurses, the aim is to focus on a single thought or mantra – to avoid your stresses and worries taking over. If you’re meditating with half an eye on your watch the whole time all you’re really doing is adding more stress to the situation. Use your phone’s timer function so you can lose yourself a little more in the meditation.
Find your peace and quiet
Experienced yogi are able to find inner peace wherever they may be. However, as a beginner, you’ll want to find a quiet moment away from coworkers or the unpredictable noises of the television.
Don’t worry about forking out for special yoga mats or meditation pillows early on. You can meditate while sitting on a chair, lying in bed, or even walking. Find whatever form of meditation works and is comfortable for you.
Find your focus
This is perhaps the trickiest part. The part that required gradual practice. (Queue the ‘tried that, got distracted!’ naysayers.) What you choose to focus on is up to you, but it is important to stick to a focal point in your meditation. The most common points of focus are repeated mantras, body relaxation and breath.
- Breathing: Practice a deep, measured breath. Slowly breath in for four counts, hold the breath for seven counts, then breath out slowly for eight counts. Use the counting to help maintain focus, and return to this if you find your thoughts drifting away.
- Repeating Mantras: Pick a word or phrase and repeat it in your mind continuously. “Just be”, “Time for me” or “I choose” are common examples.
- Body relaxation: Center your attention on a particular area of your body, such as the shoulders, legs or neck. Feel yourself relaxing the muscles in those areas as you focus.
Accept your thoughts
We’ve mentioned that distractions will occur and stressful thoughts may enter your mind. This is normal – don’t give up or get annoyed at yourself when this happens. Accept and notice that these thoughts are entering your mind at this time. Practicing this acknowledgment before letting the thoughts go is another key part of successful meditation for nurses. Try to actively bring yourself back to your focus point.
Finish by taking a moment for yourself
Namaste! Once you hear the bell or chime sound from your phone, don’t immediately race on with your day. Take a few seconds to collect your thoughts, perhaps setting an intention for the rest of the day. These moments to yourself are when you will start to feel more positive mindfulness entering your day.
Use an App if you choose to
Apps like Calm or Headspace are great ways to be guided through the meditation. These are excellent options for those who fear they will become easily distracted by themselves.
How can meditation help with stress?
Practicing meditation regularly is known to reduce stress and increase self-compassion. This is because as you improve your practice, you strengthen your nervous system’s response to stressful situations. By becoming more mindful, you begin to acknowledge stressful thoughts and feelings and let them go. You are then more able to maintain inner calm and avoid slipping into feeling alarmed at work. This reduces the mentally draining effect which occurs when you spend every day feeling stressed or alarmed by your patients’ situations.
We hope our post on meditation for nurses today inspires you to give it a go. Remember – start with a small achievable step and give yourself time to notice the benefits to your mental health and wellbeing.
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