Brain Overload? Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Nursing Practice | Salter School of Allied Health and Nursing
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Brain Overload? Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Nursing Practice

mindfulnessIn the busy nursing profession, mindfulness can help you focus

If you pay attention to self-care advice, you may have heard people talk about mindfulness. You might be wondering: What is mindfulness? Mindfulness means paying active attention to exactly what you are doing at present. You are living in the moment and observing what your mind is feeling, rather than thinking about the past or future.

In this day of constant connectedness, many people find that mindfulness helps to combat stress and to increase the ability to focus and pay attention. Some simple advice on helping to get into a state of mindfulness is to try these tips:

1. Mindful eating.
Do you find that you gobble your food as you sit at the computer, and barely realize you ate it? Next time you eat a meal, turn off the computer and slow down. Savor the chewing process. Think about the flavors that are in your mouth and the texture of the food. Focusing on your eating will make it a more calming and enjoyable experience.

2. Enjoy your senses.
We all learned about our 5 senses in grade school, but how often do you think about them? Take a walk and focus on each sense, one sense at a time. What are you hearing? Birds? Trash trucks? Traffic? Dogs barking? Next, move to your sense of smell. Can you guess what season it is based on smell alone? Go through all 5 senses, and you will be amazed at how much you notice.

3. Practice mindful breathing.
One of the core practices of meditation is mindful breathing, where you try to shut your mind to everything around you other than the feeling of inhaling and exhaling. This helps you to step away from your worries and fears and focus on just the breath.

4. Be an attentive listener.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where your own mind is racing a mile a minute and you don’t really absorb what the other person has said? Instead of this approach, make an effort to be a true listener. Drop other thoughts from your head and focus on what the other person is saying.

5. Observe your thoughts.
If you are a constant worrier and feel like your mind never gets turned off, try a different perspective. Try to observe your thoughts as an outsider. Don’t judge them or try to change them. Just observe them and let them pass by. Pretend they are clouds passing by in the sky. This exercise can help remove yourself from the worry and accept your thoughts without judgment.

6. Pause before you act.
Many of us jump from one activity to the next, barely stopping for a minute before we change gears. If you learn to take just a brief pause before moving to the next activity, this can make you more mindful of what you are doing. Just take a pause, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to observe that you are finished with one task and moving to the next.

Mindfulness and nursing practice

How can these tips apply to the busy life of a nursing or allied health professional? Nursing jobs can get pretty demanding, with requests from patients and doctors piling up. Taking a more mindful approach to your day can help you to focus your thoughts more clearly and ultimately be more effective at your job. Try these tips:

  • Before starting your shift, give yourself just 2 minutes to practice mindful breathing, perhaps in your car before you clock in. This way you may be more relaxed when you begin.
  • Take a deep breath before you enter each patient’s room. Feel your breath go in and out of your lungs. Just one inhale and exhale can improve your focus during your work with the patient.
  • Deliver your nursing services more mindfully. If you are, for instance, measuring a patient’s blood pressure, but find you are already thinking about the next step, which is changing their IV bag, then you are not being mindful about the blood pressure process. Instead, try to focus your mind on the task at hand. This may help you complete your procedures more carefully and completely.
  • Listen to patients and coworkers more carefully without letting your mind reel off in different directions. Look them in the eye and stop what you are doing so that you can truly listen. See if this makes you a better employee and a more compassionate caregiver.
  • Eat your lunch outside on a bench (if available), or inside at a quiet table if you can find one. Take longer to chew than usual and think about each bite. You’ll be amazed how good your lunch tastes!
  • During your breaks, do body stretches and mindful breathing. Let the work worries wash away as you are refocusing your mind.

If you feel frazzled all the time, maybe it’s time to try to practice mindfulness. A word of caution: You may not be good at it right away. Learning how to practice mindfulness can take a long time. There may be online videos and other resources that can help you develop your mindfulness practice. It may take some time to make an impact, but if you are suffering from mind overload, this could what you are looking for!