3 Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Stress in Healthcare

3 Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Stress in Healthcare
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Healthcare professionals hold one of the most stressful and demanding jobs in our nation. In fact, the medical field is rated among the top 10 most stressful jobs in America, according to ABC News. A recent Medscape report shows that burnout among physicians has increased by 25 percent in just four years. In 2013, the overall rate was 40 percent; today, it has risen to 51 percent. Not only can long-periods of stress and burnout have detrimental effects on employees’ mental health, but in healthcare, experts say it may also increase medical error rates, heighten malpractice risk and other issues such as employee turnover and workplace injury.

Today, many psychology experts consider mindfulness an invaluable practice that can help many people overcome stressors that hinder their ability to live healthy and happy lives. Mindfulness can be defined as a deliberate practice that helps you to become fully present and aware of where you are and what you’re doing at that moment, and not become overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. It enables you to be fully engaged in activities and productive at work, creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events, and even build deeper connections with those around you.

In healthcare, practicing mindfulness can bring significant improvements to a team member’s physical and psychological well-being as well as positive change to their health attitudes and behaviors. Physicians and nurses, for example, deal night and day with high-stress, high-emotion environments. Being mindful can help them form a stronger feeling of connection with their patients, improve patient satisfaction and retention, reduce stress and burnout, and take professional pride in their work.

Here are three ways to implement mindfulness in a busy schedule.

1. Perform Meditation

Meditation is unique in that it’s not directed toward getting us to be different from how we are; instead, it helps us become more aware of what is already true at that moment, says Karen Wegela, Ph.D. in a Psychology Today article. “We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.”

Here are five reasons why experts say you should meditate:

  1. Helps you reshape your relationship with mental and physical pain
  2. Allows you to give people your full attention and connect better
  3. Lowers stress that causes illnesses or make other ailments worse
  4. Increases your ability to focus on the present
  5. Reduces multiple voices in our heads that often derails our attention

2. Exercise Breathing

Deep breathing provides a physical sensation that releases stressors from your mind through your breath. The “Three Minute Breaking Space” is a relatively quick exercise to perform for those with a busy mind and schedule. According to Courtney Ackerman, a contributor on Positive Psychology Program, it is broken into three sections, one per minute, and works as follows:

  1. First minute: Answer the question, “How am I doing right now?”, while focusing on the feelings, thoughts and sensations that arise and define them with words and phrases.
  2. Second minute: Keep your awareness on the breath.
  3. Third minute: Expand your attention from solely focusing on the breath, feeling the ins and outs and how they affect the rest of the body.

It’s a challenging exercise for keeping the quiet mind, as thoughts about work, home, family, friends, etc. often pop up. “The idea is not to block them, but rather just let them come into your mind and disappear back out again. Try to just observe them,” Ackerman says.

3. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is an essential facet of life that enables you to be mindful and appreciate what you have in life, not what you don’t have in life. It can have a significant impact on your overall well-being. For example, grateful people are often not only aware of how their actions affect others, but they are also more conscious about their health and more likely to eat better, exercise, and attend regular visits with their physicians. Moreover, Mayo Clinic has studied positive mindsets and thinking and found that it leads to a longer lifespan, lowers rates of stress and depression, a stronger immune system, better coping skills, increased psychological well-being, and even lower rates of heart disease. Try expressing gratitude by giving simple handwritten “thank you” notes or even compliments on a job well done. You can expect from your team a boost in morale, higher patient satisfaction, reduced turnover and burnout, and more.

Is practicing mindfulness a part of your daily routine? If so, how has it impacted your life? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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