Mindfulness Tips for Nurses During Coronavirus Pandemic: 5 "Spiritual Stretches" to Help Nurses Stay Connected to the Difference They Make by Rich Bluni, RN
If you’re a nurse, it’s hard not to feel a little hopeless in the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19). Like other frontline workers, you’re running a marathon day in and day out with no finish line in sight. There’s a constant barrage of bad news. Everything seems bleak. In circumstances like these, it’s vital to feel that your work has meaning.
It’s more crucial than ever to proactively tap into the meaning behind what you do. Reconnecting to the sense that you serve a greater purpose is what keeps you going.
As an RN with over 25 years of experience in the ER, Trauma, and ICU, I know staying inspired isn’t easy even in the best of times. Nursing is always hard work. But in times like these, it’s as necessary as breathing and eating. National Nurses Month – an expansion of National Nurses Week, which is traditionally May 6-12 – is the perfect time to reconnect to the why of your work.
Simple exercises can help. Here are five “spiritual stretches” to put into practice right away. I recommend doing at least one of them daily. (For some more inspiration, I’m also currently sharing stories and tactics from my book, Inspired Nurse, in short video segments.)
1. Take 10 Minutes of Purpose
Before leaving your house for work today, allow for 10 extra minutes. Get up earlier, shut off the TV and if you are still living with your family, ask them to give you some “me” time (that in and of itself might be an impressive accomplishment!). Sit someplace peaceful and quiet.
During this time, think about an occasion when you felt that you made a difference as a nurse – an occasion in which you felt connected to your purpose. Perhaps think of this moment as your “most inspiring nursing experience ever.”
Now, close your eyes and relive that experience. Remember the sounds and the sights. Hear the voices. Hear the monitor bells; see the defibrillator reach its charge. Get back there. Your goal is to recreate the whole experience for yourself.
Embrace the feeling of purpose. Feel the sense of pride, of accomplishment. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between it really happening and the memory. Feel that inspiration. Feel all the feelings that you felt. The joy. The spirit. Stay there for several minutes.
When your 10 minutes are up, open your eyes. How do you feel? If you haven’t felt close to your purpose for a while, this is a good way to get started.
2. Thank a Family Member (or Friend) for His or Her Support
What family member, significant other or friend has been a key to your nursing success? More recently, who has supported you during the pandemic? Maybe your neighbor collected funds and sent you and your team a meal at work. Maybe a friend dropped off a week’s worth of groceries so you can limit your exposure to the public.
Few of us take this journey without anyone’s help. Who has offered you support? Does she know how much you appreciate what she does for you? Tell her. Write her, call her, bring her flowers.
By feeding you, or paying your way, or driving you, or being a shoulder to cry on, that person has made it possible for you to save lives. Give credit where credit is due. Let her know that every time you comfort the suffering, teach a new nurse, lead a team, or bring peace to the dying, she is right there with you. This will be an unforgettable experience.
3. Notice the Miraculous
During your time as a nurse, have you experienced something that you can’t explain? An amazing recovery? A healing that left the team scratching their heads in disbelief?
Working in health care, you have no doubt either experienced a COVID-related miracle recovery firsthand or at least have heard about them. If you haven’t yet experienced that personally, do you know of someone who has? What was his or her story?
Today, take notice of the miraculous. Maybe you are a spiritual person and believe in a Higher Power. Or maybe you are more aligned with science and believe that mysterious phenomena could be explained scientifically. It really doesn’t matter.
What is important is that you get in touch with that which is bigger than you. Journal about what a “miracle” is to you. If it is a story that you recall, write it down. If it is something that you are hoping for, whether it be for a patient or a friend, journal about it.
4. Humor Heals
Give yourself permission to laugh. Using your journal, write down what you think is funny. Who is your favorite comedic actor or actress? What movies make you laugh? Who is the funniest person you know? Who makes you laugh at work? Who always has a funny joke to tell, an embarrassing story, or great witty comebacks? Is it you? Ponder what laughter means to you.
We have two choices in life: We laugh or we cry. Sometimes we laugh so hard we cry; sometimes we cry so much we eventually start to laugh at how ridiculous the situation is. This doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge the seriousness of what’s happening in the world right now – of course we do. Sometimes, for the average nurse, we are laughing and crying within a 15-minute time span at work!
Knowing that laughter and tears are often interchangeable, think about how you can choose laughter. Do you take yourself so seriously that you’ve become rigid? How can you make humor a mainstay? Can you or the team you’re on this journey with find a way to make this an “everyday” thing? Laughter heals the soul and resets the mind.
5. Give of Your Time and Knowledge
Even if you can’t do volunteer work right now due to the pandemic, you can plan it, look for it, talk about it with your peers or friends, ask questions, journal about it, inquire about it and put the wheels in motion.
You will be really amazed at what may come up today. Someone may invite you to participate in a webinar on health and hygiene tips that just so happens to fall on your day off. Or once “this” is all over, you may choose to contact your place of worship or community center and find that there’s a need for you to help with free blood pressure screenings or virtual lectures on diabetes.
Giving of your time and expertise serves the dual purpose of inspiring self and inspiring others. The caring heart you possess as a nurse needs to be fed. Not doing so deprives you of the fuel you need to sustain your spirit in this field.
Your inspiration is your superpower. It helps you to persevere under extreme pressure and stay strong for your patients. Don’t give up. Instead, let these “spiritual stretches” keep you in top condition as you meet the challenges of this pandemic head-on and come out stronger on the other side.
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