Meditation is the act of turning your mind away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment. The practice can involve turning your attention to a single point of reference, focusing on the breath, bodily sensations, or a mantra. Despite being a rewarding career, nurses experience strain and a lot of stress at work. This is because healthcare institutions are different in size and nature, and nurses are confronted with different work tasks and working hours -nightshifts-, working conditions – understaffing, and stress-related situations – the suffering and death of patients.
Stress among Nurses
Nurses also tend to respond to patients’ physical and psychological status. And besides that, increased job demands, because of the use of sophisticated technologies, competition among hospitals, nursing shortage, work overload, and lack of task autonomy and feedback, as well as reduced advancement opportunities, appear to be major determinants of emotional exhaustion.
Therefore, meditation can help nurses handle day-to-day workplace stress in a safe and positive fashion, leading to improvements in physical and mental health. With benefits also related to insomnia, high blood pressure, and depression, this free and simple mind-body technique has much to offer. Below is a guide on how you can start your journey of meditation as a nurse.
How to Start Meditating
When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives: We lower our stress levels, we get to know our pain, we connect better, we improve our focus, and we’re kinder to ourselves. Let us walk you through the basics in our new mindful guide on how to meditate.
One of the biggest barriers to meditation is that people don’t know where to begin. We break it down with these tips below.
Tips on How to Meditate
- Don’t worry about the rules: There are many different types of meditation and although they may have rules or guidelines, the way you decide to practice is up to you. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
- Start small: You may have visions of yourself sitting on a pillow chanting for 30 minutes but that’s not realistic at first. Set a modest goal, such as meditating for one minute every day for a week. Aim for two minutes the next week and continue to build upon your progress.
- Set a timer: The point of meditation is to either focus on a particular thought or mantra or focus on nothing at all and just “be.” That’s tough to do when you’re looking at the clock to see how long you’ve been meditating. Use the timer function on your smartphone so you can focus and keep your eyes closed. Be sure to set the alarm to a low sound that is not too jarring, like a soft gong or chime.
- Go someplace quiet: It’s easier to feel calm and relaxed without the TV blaring in the background or overhearing coworkers’ conversations.
- Get comfortable: You don’t have to buy a special meditation pillow or yoga mat to begin meditating. You can sit, lie down, or even stand. In fact, some types of meditation involve movement, like walking. Do whatever feels best for you and feel free to experiment.
- Find your focus: You can choose to focus on anything, but common focal points are breath, mantras, or the body.
- Breath: Registered nurse suggests the 4:7:8 technique for beginners. Slowly inhale for four counts, hold the breath for a count of seven, then exhale for a count of eight. Repeat the process a minimum of four times and then repeat it as many times as you’d like.
- Mantras: Pick a word or phrase and repeat it in your mind continuously. Try this mantra idea to get started.
- Body: Center your attention on a particular area of your body, such as the belly, neck, or feet.
- Notice your thoughts: A popular misconception about meditation is that the goal is to have a blank mind. This is unrealistic. Thoughts will be popping into your head constantly. Acknowledge them and let them go. The goal of meditation is to keep your focus on one thing only. So, when other thoughts creep in, just keep bringing your awareness back to your focal point.
- Falling asleep is okay: If you get so comfortable and relaxed that you fall asleep, accept it. Fighting the urge to doze off while meditating just creates more stress. If you notice that you consistently fall asleep every time you attempt to meditate, it may mean you need more shut-eye in general. If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, read our tips on how to fall asleep faster.
- Take a moment: After the chime or gong sounds on your phone, take a second to gather your thoughts and regroup before you power forward with the rest of your day. Over time, you’ll begin to notice that the effects of daily meditation will help you bring more mindfulness to all aspects of your life.
Meditation is a way to train the mind. Most of the time, our minds are wandering — we’re thinking about the future, dwelling on the past, worrying, fantasizing, fretting, or daydreaming. Meditation brings us back to the present moment and gives us the tools we need to be less stressed, calmer, and kinder to ourselves and others.
Meditation is a training of our attention. It allows us to step out of distracted thought and helps us arrive at the present moment in a balanced and clear way.
There are lots of different types of meditation. Most religions have contemplative traditions, and there are plenty of secular ways to meditate, too. But in recent years, mindfulness meditation has become increasingly popular.
Basic mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to the present moment with an accepting, nonjudgmental disposition. The goal isn’t to stop thinking or to empty the mind. Rather, the point is to pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions in order to see them more clearly, without making so many assumptions, or making up stories.
It’s a deceptively simple exercise — just be right here, right now, without daydreaming. But with practice, it can yield profound results, giving us greater control of our actions, and making room for more kindness and equanimity, even in difficult situations. With time, mindfulness meditation can even help us better understand what causes us stress, and what we can do to relieve it.
There’s a large and growing body of research identifying the measurable effects of mindfulness on the body and brain, and it is catching on in professional settings including education, sports, business, and even the military.
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
Though the words are sometimes used interchangeably, it’s useful to draw a distinction between mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness is a quality of being — the experience of being open and aware in the present moment, without reflexive judgment, automatic criticism, or mind wandering.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of actually being present in the moment, which in turn trains us to become more mindful throughout the day, particularly during difficult situations.
Why Should you Meditate as a Nurse?
While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide some much-needed space in your life. Sometimes, that’s all we need to make better choices for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And the most important tools you can bring with you to your meditation practice are a little patience, some kindness for yourself, and a comfortable place to sit. When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives. Below are reasons as to why nurses should meditate:
- It helps in understanding their pain
- Lowers stress level
- Helps nurses connect better
- Improves focus
- Reduces brain chatter
How Long Should a Nurse Take to Meditate?
Meditation is no more complicated than what we’ve described above. It is that simple … and that challenging. It’s also powerful and worth it. The key is to commit to sitting every day, even if it’s for five minutes. The most important moment in your meditation practice is the moment you sit down to do it. Because right then you’re saying to yourself that you believe in change, you believe in caring for yourself, and you’re making it real. You’re not just holding some value like mindfulness or compassion in the abstract, but really making it real.
Make a commitment to try meditation this week. Worried about any barriers preventing you from making it happen? Follow the above tips on how to get started.