Care providers give. All. Day. Long. They give of their time, of their physical and emotional strength, and of their hearts. All of which can lead to crushing stress in the form of sleep disruption, depression, anxiety, increased blood pressure, fatigue, attention deficits, and inflammation when they don’t take time to care for themselves. Science shows meditation improves or removes the manifestations of stress, and its simplicity makes it especially suitable for busy care providers.
When you think about meditation, you might see a dimly lit room closed off from other spaces and a stiff figure sitting for long periods with limbs folded and eyes closed. While that vision might fit the bill for meditation goals, it isn’t required to reap benefits like increased patience and tolerance, reduced negative emotions, more creativity, and better memory.
So, now that the whys have convinced you it’s necessary, you’re probably wondering about the hows. Exactly how are you supposed to make it happen when your days are packed with patient needs? We have some suggestions!
- Don’t stress about it. The point is to reduce stress, so definitely don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right or get frustrated when your focus drifts. The more you practice, the faster you’ll be able to achieve the calm and focus you need.
- Wait wisely. Do you pull your phone out for a quick scan of social media or text your kids while you are waiting for lab results or a call back from a doctor? Try doing some controlled breathing or visualization instead. You’ll deflect the stress that busy people can get from just waiting, and benefits will continue even after you jump back into your tasks.
- Journal your gratitude. Writing is a powerful form of meditation that channels the active mind. Journaling your thoughts about the things that bring you happiness breeds a more positive life outlook, reducing anxiety in the process. There are all kinds of gratitude journals on the market, many with prompts in the form of questions to guide your writing. Your entries can be as long or as short as time allows. Just ten minutes before bed or five minutes in your car before you go into the hospital or office can give you a quick hit of positivity to boost your outlook.
- Find your comfortable position. You can forget the familiar cross-legged pose because you’re too busy! The good news is you can meditate while sitting, standing, and even walking. The key is to find a posture that helps you achieve the focus and relaxation that is vital to realize the stress-relieving benefits.
- Try different types of meditation to find the one or ones that deliver results. Metta, the loving kindness meditation, might fit your spiritual needs more than mantra, and mindfulness might deliver calmness better than visualization. The more you meditate, the more tuned in to your own needs you’ll be and the better you’ll be at finding the type of meditation that best fits the situation.
- Commit to working a more formal session into your life. Meditation and the benefits it offers are as important to your health as a cardio workout, and making time for it in your day should carry the same priority. Start with just a few minutes at a time, something that feels relatively easy to do. Stick with that for a week and then add one or two more minutes for the next week. Increase your minutes weekly until you’re able to comfortably meditate for up to 15 minutes a few times each week. Create a space that is quiet and free of distractions. You’ll find your mini-meditations are easier to do and have more lasting effects when you’re incorporating longer sessions into your routine.
- There’s an app for that. Some people prefer to be led through the process, and instruction can be especially helpful for beginners. When time prohibits attending a class or meeting with an instructor, there are options! Check out Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm, and 10% Happier (designed for skeptics), to compare features. These are some of the highest-rated apps with guided meditations of all kinds and durations.
It can be seemingly impossible to take a moment for yourself when you are running from patient to patient tending to their needs. But, that’s exactly what you have to do. You don’t need a special location or a long break, just take a few minutes to breathe. The Mayo Clinic suggests concentrating on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale deeply and slowly through your nostrils. Try out some of the other tips we’ve provided to realize the health benefits meditation can bring you. Namaste.