Mindfulness, according to the University of California, Berkley, is defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” Rooted in Buddhist meditation and popularized in the late 70’s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness teaches us to consciously root ourselves in the present moment – not the past, not the future… The Now.
Why practice? Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can boost the immune system, improve mood, decrease stress, improve memory, and on and on and on. How can mindfulness be applied to nurses? A review of mindfulness studies for nurses in 2013 suggests that mindfulness in the nursing profession can be one possible solution to the high rate of stress and burnout in the profession.
Awareness of Breath
One of the first things we learn in nursing is counting the breath, observing its quality and depth, whether it is labored or not. Take this skill and apply it to your own breath. Notice your breath, especially in the more stressful moments. Connect to your breath. Deepen your breath, expand your rib cage, expand your belly. Breathe in and breathe out of your nose deeply about 10-20 times. Notice the breath now.
Awareness of Thoughts
Notice your thoughts. Pay attention next time that internal voice starts chattering. What does it say? Avoid judgment of your thoughts, just observe. Allow them to move freely in and out of your stream of consciousness. Try to recognize that your thoughts do not define you.
Awareness of Tension
A nurse’s job some days is the definition of tension. How often to you tense up at work? Practice now releasing any tense area using your breath. Take an inhale, bring awareness to that tight or achy area, and exhale that tension out. Practice for a few rounds of breath and notice any difference.
Try taking even five minutes out of every day to dedicate yourself to a mindful practice. You can practice on the way to work, before the start of your shift, or on your break. Take the time to tune in and tune out.
With practice and intention, mindfulness can relieve unnecessary stress. The result might just be less stress on the job, less stress in life. You never know unless you try J
Lori is a travel nurse that has made her way to Sweden. She is also a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher. Follow her adventures working and traveling through Europe in her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.