Working in healthcare can be stressful due to its fast-paced nature and unpredictability of day-to-day happenings.
Stress is the body and mind’s reaction to challenging circumstances that manifests in feelings of emotional turmoil and physical tension.
Unfortunately, if this is left unaddressed, you could experience a snowball effect of negative health impacts from not being able to cope with anxieties of the job.
In a hospital environment, stressful situations are often unavoidable.
But there are ways to alleviate built-up stress so that it doesn’t become overwhelming or debilitating.
One of the easiest and simplest ways is meditation.
Some of the benefits of relying on meditation to cope with stress is that it’s free, can be done anywhere, and you don’t need to invest in equipment or tools to practice it.
You just need to bring yourself.
While you may believe you need to be spiritual to meditate, this isn’t necessarily the case.
You can simply use your practice as a way to reconnect with yourself.
Much like yoga, there are several types of meditation you can try that serve different purposes.
Ultimately, when using meditation as a coping mechanism for stress, you can approach it as a self-care method to enhance your well-being.
In this sense, meditation is meant to help with clearing your mind.
Think of it as actively thinking about nothing while simultaneously taking deep breaths.
As simple as it sounds, thinking about nothing actually takes a bit of effort.
And that is, in part, why the practice is so effective in improving focus, mindfulness, and reducing anxiety.
The best part is that some practices can only take a few minutes, so it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
You can define whether to keep practices short in these instances, or sometimes commit longer periods when at home at the beginning or end of your day.
You are in control of your meditation scheduling.
Approaching Your Meditation Practice
To start, get yourself into a quiet place, even if you’re at work.
It could be the janitor’s closet, an unused room, or your vehicle.
It doesn't really matter.
Next, close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose, filling your lungs.
Then slowly exhale.
Remain focused on your breath as you do this.
Think only of the inhale and the exhale.
Thoughts will, inevitably, enter your mind, and that’s okay.
It’s quite natural.
When this happens, just refocus on your breath.
Continue to take these deep breaths for a few minutes, being mindful of your breath while not thinking about anything else.
When used as a stress relief technique, there’s no right or wrong way for the standards of your practice, nor is there any success or failure.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t get to a point of thinking about nothing or having a completely clear mind.
Just breathe and you’ll start feeling better.
Benefits of Breathing in Meditation
The benefits of meditation can be quite surprising.
While you may be just sitting still during this activity, the effects on your body and mind are quite impactful.
The deep breathing, also referred to as abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, is what’s doing the hard work here.
For the full benefits of your breathing during your meditation, you’ll want to make sure your belly fills with air when you breathe in rather than your chest cavity.
Deep breathing does several things for your body.
It increases oxygen flow, lowers your heart rate, and regulates your blood pressure.
In other words, it reverses the effects that stress inflicts on your body.
It’s worth noting that there is some scrutiny around how to optimize these benefits with your inhale and exhale patterns during meditation.
Some sources claim that the big-inhale-then-exhale method is flawed, and instead propose a long exhale followed by a shorter slow inhale.
This method relies on research that finds the stress alleviating benefits of breathing are found in the exhale, with a focus on slow exhales for maximum benefit.
As someone in a high-stress, fast-paced job role, it may be reassuring to know that these sorts of breathing and meditation exercises are used by military units.
They use a method called square breathing, with a four second exhale, four second pause, four second inhale, then another 4 second pause.
Repeat as necessary.
Breathing exercises are enough to bring a moment of calm to your day and work well to quell rising stress levels.
However, introducing some mental exercises will allow you to increase these benefits, and can help you with the coping requirements that will help you prevent or manage stressful situations that you may experience in healthcare.
Meditation for Finding Peace
The benefits of meditation include bringing a sense of calm and peace, in part through the aforementioned breathing exercises along with the efforts to clear your mind of negative or stressful thoughts.
There are several forms of meditation.
For those who find initial success with breathing exercises and efforts to clear the mind, it can be worth looking into the various types of meditation practices to find one that works best for you.
This approach is about observing and acknowledging your thoughts as they enter your mind, but not dwelling on them.
Let them pass, without further thought, and continue to focus on your breathing.
In the transcendental meditation approach, a mantra is used.
It can be a word, sound or phrase to promote positive, empowering, calming thinking to build your mental resilience and cope with stress or emotional triggers.
The mantra is repeated as you focus inward to relax.
You can also carry your mantra as a reminder to remain focused on it throughout your day.
This form of meditation involves actively thinking of something you find relaxing.
This could be a mental image or a memory of a relaxing place.
Often, as the name suggests, these sessions are led, or guided, by someone else.
For those interested in this form of meditation, there are iOS and Android apps for personal, solo guided meditation.
Depending on your location, there may also be nearby classes or sessions you could also attend.
The next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed at work, step aside for a few minutes, focus on your breathing as you take controlled inhales and exhales, and allow yourself to let go of your thoughts.
Chances are you’ll feel better, and in a few minutes you’ll again be ready to deal with an often stressful workplace.
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