Nursing is hard. It’s stressful, intense, and sometimes depressing and exhausting. It can definitely take a toll on not only your physical health, but your mental health. Self care is an important way to protect your mental health from all these negative effects. One self care practice that also has been shown to improve your mental health is meditation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a mindfulness practice. It can simply be described as the practice of sitting in the present being with nothing but the present moment. You are not thinking about the past or the future or your to-do list or patients or anything except for how this present moment feels. It also involves being present in your body. This is usually done by paying attention to your breath or scanning your body and noticing how it feels.
It helps you notice what is going on right now in your body and in your mind and helps to shut off everything else.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
Benefits of meditation include increasing your own self awareness, reducing negative emotions, reducing stress, balancing emotions, increasing focus, reducing pain and anxiety, increasing memory, and reducing depression.
It does this by bringing your awareness completely into the present and not anxious about the past or the future. This alone, decreases anxiety.
All these affect most nurses every day, whether it’s just stress with work, grief over losing a patient, or feelings of anxiety over your own adequacy as a nurse. Meditation really prevents these thoughts from invading your mind and the less often you let yourself experience them, the less often you will experience them without even thinking about it.
How do I do it?
Start slow, with a 2-5 minute meditation every day to truly gain the benefits. Over time, increase the time to 10, 15, maybe even 60 minutes! The more often you do this practice, the more you’ll gain from it, but even just 10 minutes a day provides the benefits listed above.
Now, sit back and relax and try this basic meditation below! You can also try apps and videos on things like youtube and spotify.
Start finding a comfortable seat. Back straight and with your hands relaxing on your knees.
When you’re comfortable, start taking deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice how this feels in your body and watch as your mind and body relax
On your next exhale, close your eyes, and relax your breath, inhaling and exhaling through your nose.
Bring some awareness to those points of contact between you and the floor, the weight of your hands on your legs.
Start to notice the sounds around you, starting in the same room as you then reaching out further, just noticing these sounds and letting them go.
Bring your attention back to your breath. Notice how it feels in your body, watch the rise and fall of your chest.
Keep your awareness on your breathing. If you get distracted, notice it, but then let it go and bring your attention back to your breath.
Start to bring that awareness back to the sounds around you, the weight of your body on the ground. And when you’re ready, you can gently open your eyes again.
Alison Shely is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, and nurse content writer who specializes in articles, guest blogger, and healthcare worker wellness.
Visit her website for coaching details and other writing samples.
Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.