No one enjoys having to go to the hospital. It’s a major trigger for many people, who may feel stressed or anxious while waiting for a diagnosis or even receiving treatment. By employing mindfulness practices, nurses are better able to separate a patient’s actual experiences from their interpretations or judgements. There are several benefits to applying mindfulness techniques during patient care, particularly in the form of intervention practice.
Mindfulness can be defined as awareness that is achieved by paying attention on purpose and living in the moment without being judgmental. Nurses deal with many stresses and challenges on a daily basis, mindfulness practices also help nurses to effectively manage their own stress and improve their resiliency.
Let’s explore this topic in a little more detail and how this practice may help to support patients for years to come.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Before exploring how nurses can apply mindfulness to their daily rounds, let’s explore the concept.
Mindfulness refers to various practices, largely revolving around one becoming more aware of their mental and physical states in the moment.
The aim of mindfulness, it’s thought, can help people ground themselves easier when they may be experiencing stressful situations. Mindfulness emphasizes accepting things as they are and meeting all experiences with openness, compassion and curiosity. Crucially, mindfulness strives to help people who are controlled by thoughts or emotions to better control them.
Many mindfulness exercises concentrate on breathing patterns and shutting off noise from all around. As many people practice this in the modern age, the basic foundations of meditation are similar to those we may experience when practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness can help people to tune in to their inner feelings and areas of physical discomfort. While the concept may not help all patients overcome extreme stress, it may at least help to offer a little respite.
Can mindfulness help nurses support patients?
Practicing mindfulness with patients may help nurses lower their stress levels and help to ensure that patients receive the treatment they need without disruption. Depending on whether patients wish to take part in such practice, a nurse may ask them, for example, to close their eyes and breathe deeply.
Patients will then try to focus on their breathing or a simple mantra or phrase to help quiet their minds. A great deal of mindfulness practice builds on the simple idea that “deep breathing and counting to ten” can help to soothe a busy mind. For many people, it can be immensely therapeutic.
Mindfulness can help nurses to encourage patients to step away from negative thoughts and worry spirals that they may experience. In some cases, simple reassurances from medical staff over conditions and cases may not calm a patient.
There are several scenarios in hospitals and clinics where this practice may help nurses ease patients into deeper calm. For example, a specialist psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner may consider their charge’s current mental state and build a flexible mindfulness practice around their profile.
Mindfulness is not always easy to grasp; for some people, it can take time and effort for the results to show. It is not an instant source of calm, but its principles can be useful if patients regularly experience feelings of uneasiness.
For example, a few practice sessions with patients may encourage them to try the same techniques again should they feel worried or stressed for different reasons. In many ways, practicing mindfulness with patients can help to provide useful tools they can autonomously return to in times of crisis.
Can mindfulness help nurses themselves?
Much like mindfulness can help patients refocus their energies in times of crisis, the same practices can also help nurses recenter themselves during stressful and high-intensity situations.
Nursing is a highly challenging profession. While people enter medicine because they want to care for others, they will encounter challenges that require a cool head and a rapid yet measured response.
While many people who enter nursing may start with a solid understanding of calming techniques or may pick up such traits during training, there may still be moments where stepping back is vital. Using mindfulness techniques, nurses may be able to take themselves out of a high-crisis moment with a gentle breathing exercise and quick recentering.
This means they can not only continue to work efficiently and be less affected by the stress of a given situation, but they may regain composure and the confidence to support their patients, and to think clearly again.
The resulting effect here is twofold. Patients benefit from an active listener with a caring attitude as nurses can help to reassure their charges and let them know what to expect next.
Beyond this, calm and focused nurses will, hypothetically, focus more effectively on the tasks at hand. Mindfulness may help them clear their heads so they can find solutions to complex problems and reground themselves in situations that demand their complete attention.
Of course, much as with patients, there are no guarantees nurses will always respond to such techniques positively. As such, an open mind, and a willingness to try, is always going to be helpful!
What are the additional benefits of mindfulness?
Therapists practicing mindfulness with their patients explore the idea that recentering oneself can help improve overall wellbeing. While it may not help to cure disease or reduce physical symptoms, it can help people to react more calmly to stressful events in the future.
This act of refocusing enables people to focus more on living in the moment, and therefore refrain from succumbing to negative thought spirals. A positive attitude can genuinely pave the way for greater confidence and self-esteem, as well as improve communication with others. Freer communication may make it easier for people to socialize, and therefore feel better about themselves.
As mentioned, mindfulness may not help to eradicate severe illness or physical ailments, however, it can help to boost overall physical health. Lower stress and anxiety lead to lower blood pressure, and a reduced risk of developing heart disease. Mindfulness practice may also help to reduce stress to mitigate the chances of strokes occurring.
In particularly sensitive patients, learning such techniques can be immensely beneficial. Coupled with healthy diets and exercise regimens, mindfulness can help bolster the body against a range of potential problems.
In some cases, it’s thought gastrointestinal problems aggravated by stress and worry may also dissipate through regular mindfulness practice. Of course, not everyone will react to these techniques in the same way.
Above all, practitioners recognize that mindfulness is hugely beneficial in supporting mental health concerns. Severe mental health problems such as depression, and disorders spurred on by substance abuse or eating disorders, may benefit hugely from occasional recentering.
Applied to patient care, it’s clear to see the potential benefits it can offer. While mindfulness techniques and meditation may have their place outside of the hospital, there are plenty of strong arguments for bringing such standards into patient care.
Why is mindfulness so popular?
While there may be some patients who wish to opt out of mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises and refocusing techniques have become enormously popular since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
Apps and online communities now allow people to create their own mindfulness plans and techniques from their own homes. It’s become a major facet of the “self-care” revolution, whereby everyday people prioritize their mental health more than ever.
Mindfulness is popular largely because we can all get started without needing special tools or experience. Whether you choose to use an app or follow a guide from a book, there are also ways for you to start recentering for free.
Of course, self-care is nothing new. People have given each other wellness gifts for decades, but mindfulness goes beyond the idea of simple pampering.
Many nurses already use mindfulness techniques to help handle the major stressors of their working lives. It’s little wonder, then, that there is a great deal of talk of implementing mindfulness within patient care. However, exactly when this will occur en masse remains to be seen.
Patients at varying treatment and care stages may struggle to cope with increasing levels of anxiety and stress. It’s entirely understandable. However, simple mindfulness techniques may help some people to “step back” and dissociate themselves from such harmful thought spirals.
By applying mindfulness to nursing, professionals may find their patients are more agreeable and may even show greater signs of recovery, depending on their ailments. For now, however, these techniques remain completely optional from person to person.
Simply taking a few moments to breathe each day can both settle worries and refocus the mind on what matters most. Depending on the care patients need, it’s not always going to be easy to take these steps back.
Mindfulness practices can help nurses immensely in providing more attentive and more effective care throughout their careers.