Being a nurse can be stressful, I don’t think that’s a secret. It’s also very rewarding and like no other carer but still… stressful. I’m 14 months registered and something that has helped me throughout my newly registered nurse period is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as: “The practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.” As a Mental Health Nurse I spend much of time discussing mindfulness but how can we apply it to our working lives as nurses?
A misconception I often find is that people think mindfulness is something which takes lots of time or has to be done in a silent room, with your legs crossed and gentle music playing in the background. This can be a form of mindfulness but in reality mindfulness (also known as grounding) can be done in most settings with just our bodies.
We can firstly use our senses, often when we are rushing around; especially in nursing when we are confronted with many different smells, sights, noises etc, our mind can become overwhelmed. Take a moment to stop and focus on five things that you can see. Now use your touch, focus on four things you can feel, maybe your shoes pinching on your toes or your scrubs label on the back of your neck. Think about three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Allow your mind to focus on your own senses to bring you back into the present moment.
Feelings; as nurses we are around others who are frequently in very intense emotional situations. It can be easy to work through a shift without acknowledging our own feelings then when we get home, those feelings demand to be felt. It’s important to take a second every now and then during the shift to focus on ourselves and acknowledge what we feel, name those feelings without judging or criticising ourselves.
When it comes to mindfulness one of the simplest ways we can use it is through breath, when the to do list is increasing and our mind is racing; our breath and body begins to tense and race to. Simply stopping for one minute and taking three deep breaths, focusing on how the body feels as you breathe in and then out can relax our body and mind. If you have your phone on you, you can simply search “mindfulness breath gif” and there’s some great gifs to guide you through three deep breaths.
These are three very simple mindfulness techniques that I use in my day to day working life, each one takes under a few minutes. If you want to learn more mindfulness techniques, the RCN has some great resources on mindfulness in nursing, including The Time and Space Project which includes six videos on mindfulness skills you can use through six stages in your working day.
After doing just a minute of mindfulness, I always feel my mind is clearer. When I was a month into my preceptorship, I had a near miss experience. When I reflected upon the event, I concluded that, my head was too busy which nearly led to me making a mistake. The lesson that I learnt was that stopping and taking three deep breaths could have prevented this near miss. From that near miss I began using mindfulness in my role as a nurse and wanted to share this story and blog with others because I feel mindfulness could really benifit us during those busy shifts.