One-third of Australian nurses are considering leaving the profession as a result of stress and burnout (Monash University, 2016).
Are you going to be a burnout statistic? What are you doing to manage your stress and anxiety? How much thought and action have you put into your self-care?
Nursing is a high stress, high demand and high-risk vocation when it comes to sustainability, retention, illness and burnout. Nurses need self-care practices and tools to allow their specific demands to be dealt with in ease.
Does it have to be complicated?
NO. What if one solution was to simply become more…mindful.
Mindfulness is attention to the action without judgement; your attention to the experience with all senses. It is ‘being’ in the moment and opening your mind to what is in front of you, no matter what it is. Mindfulness is allowing the mind to rant, but not paying attention to what it has to say.
However, just like you have rehearsed so well to listening to your minds rant, it does take some practice to change this. The good news is that once you are there, you will have the ability to embrace the fundamentals of being human, goodness, compassion, joy and happiness (Giovanni, n/d)
The practice of mindfulness has been scientifically proven to develop thickening of grey matter, which develops self-awareness, self-regulation, connection and compassion (Hozel et al, 2011). The growth in these abilities leads to improved competencies in communication, emotional intelligence (EQ), team play and leaderships skills – supporting collaborative and growth mindsets.
There are four core elements to EQ:
- Self-awareness: The ability to recognise your own emotions for what they are and understand their origins. Self-awareness means knowing your strengths and limitations.
- Self-management: The ability to delay gratification, balance your needs with those of others, take initiative and to pull back on impulsivity. Self-management means being able to cope with change and to stay committed.
- Social awareness: The ability to be attuned to other people’s emotions and concerns, as well as being able to notice and adapt to social cues. Being socially aware means being able to see the power dynamics at play within any group or in an organisational context.
- Relationship management: The ability to get along well with others, manage conflict, inspire and influence people, and to communicate clearly.
Life as a nurse can be very stressful. We know stress affects our health and increases the likelihood of reacting to situations, rather than responding to them. Many nurses are living with constant stress and anxiety; worrying about their patient’s, relationships, work schedules, home schedules and the endless to-do lists. Where and how can you create time for more?
You don’t have to. Mindfulness is about less doing and more being. One popular form of mindfulness is meditation. Meditation practices support being mindful. There are many forms of meditation, some of the most commonly known are: guided, mantra, visual, breath count, silence, walking, mindful and tree gazing.
MRI scans show that meditation decreases activity in the brain regions associated with stress. A reduction in levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the brain allows for a responsive state, rather than a reactive state (Eco Institute, n/d). With a regular meditation practice, stress and anxiety can be reduced.
In addition to a reduction in stress, there are other health benefits, including stronger immune systems. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine researchers found that meditation lessons the effects of colds (Tsabary, 2010) – something every nurse and health practitioner would welcome…especially during the lead up to Winter!
If you’re new to the concept of mindfulness, I invite you to be curious, explore and play. Start with just 5 – 10 minutes of meditation a day, before your shift, in the car after school drop off, before gym class, on the bus, in the park, before bed or on your tea break – grab a headset and your phone, and do a quick guided meditation. It is a tool for anytime, anywhere and for anyone. Guided meditation is a great kick-starter. Try one of my favourite 10-minute meditations below:
Right now, take a moment and …
CLOSE YOUR EYES
Feel the breeze in your hair.
Keep your eyes closed.
Squeeze your body – every part even your eyelids.
Relax and take 10 slow, mindful breaths through your nose and out your mouth.
Notice your abdomen rise and fall.
Notice your breath.
Notice the breeze on your skin and in your hair.
YOU JUST MEDITATED
Mindfulness is one of the world’s fastest growing health and wellness spaces. It’s use in business, trauma, sport, education and illness (just to name a few) are accumulating and the power of the practice is being heard.
The evidence is in the experience.
“Mindfulness can be used in nurses daily lives, the workplace, and in assisting patients,” said Kerrie Otto de Grancy, Evolve Yourself Institute Founder.
“Work-related stress has increased, and is a growing challenge for health care workers, managers, organisations and the community generally.
“Unmanaged stress is known to have a detrimental effect on staff wellbeing, with increased absenteeism, staff turnover, and reduced performance, all of which affect working relationships, staff-to-staff and nurse-to-patient interactions.”
EYI facilitates an ACN accredited online program How fit is your brain? SOS for Nurses and a practical workshop for nurses. EYI education delivers practical tools and strategies to develop self-awareness, emotional intelligence and manage stress and anxiety. Visit the EYI website for more information.
References :Eco Institute n/d, How Meditation Boosts Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA, DHEA, Endorphins, Growth Hormone, & More, accessed 28 April 2017, <http://eocinstitute.org/meditation/dhea_gaba_cortisol_hgh_melatonin_serotonin_endorphins/> Giovanni n/d, Scientific benefits of meditation – 76 things you might be missing out on, accessed 28 April 2017, <http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation-2/> Holzel, Britta K, Carmody James, Vangel Mark, Congleton Christine, Yerrasetti Sita M, Gard Tim, Lazar Sara W 2011, ‘Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density’, Psychiatry Res, 191(1) Monash University 2016, Findings from the national survey on workplace climate and wellbeing, accessed 28 April 2017, < https://business.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/624127/What-Nurses-And-Midwives-Want-Findings-from-the-National-Survey-on-Workplace-Climate-and-Well-being-2016.pdf> Tsabary Shefali 2010, The Conscious Parent, Namaste Publishing Inc, Vancouver
Photo credit: Veronica Wood, Evolve Yourself Institute