Nursing is an immensely rewarding career, yet the constant stress and physical strain can take their toll. For some, meditation may be the answer to lowering stress levels and finding a better mental and emotional balance.
How Is Meditation Beneficial?
Transcendental Meditation is a technique for relaxing while eliminating distracting or negative thoughts. According to WebMD, this type of meditation is adapted from an ancient Indian practice that involves sitting in a comfortable position while silently repeating the same phrase or mantra.
Meditation is used to treat a number of health issues that may affect nurses. It is often used to eliminate or minimize the effects of stress and anxiety on the body. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, upon review of data from 36 clinical studies, meditation was found to lead to improved anxiety symptoms in nearly 70 percent of the trials. Further review of research in 2014 indicated that mindfulness meditation programs may help with anxiety and depression as well.
Meditation may also have a positive effect on blood pressure, considering hypertension is a frequent companion to high stress and anxiety levels. While the studies have not been extensive, the potential benefits are impressive. A 2012 study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found that African Americans suffering from heart disease were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or death when they regularly engaged in meditation practices. Participants also experienced reductions in blood pressure and anger.
Furthermore, meditation may help with pain management and insomnia. It can also improve self-awareness and allow you to focus on the present as opposed to dwelling on the past. Purging negative feelings and thoughts can be an additional benefit as well.
Should Nurses Meditate?
Proponents of meditation frequently say that anyone will find the mind-body practice beneficial. For nurses though, meditation really can make a difference in finding a healthy outlet for work-related stress and depression.
Nurses may experience a range of emotions during any given shift. Empathy for sick and injured patients is certainly a positive attribute of a nurse. However, it can also weigh heavily on your mind and body long after you clock out. Nurses may find meditation helpful in working through these feelings, especially since they are twice as likely to suffer from depression when compared to the general public, according to a 2012 study published in the Clinical Nurse Specialist.
A 2012 Nursing Times survey found that more than 60 percent of nurses experienced physical or mental health issues as a result of work-related stress. Two-thirds of the nurses surveyed reported increased performance pressure in the face of staffing shortages. With such a large percentage of nurses reporting negative side effects from stress, meditation may provide the opportunity to regain a healthier outlook on work responsibilities.
Establishing a Meditation Schedule
Nurses typically engage in shift work, which means long hours, alternating schedules, and often overnights. With those kind of hours, it can be difficult to find a time — or even a quiet place — to meditate.
Because of this, healthcare facilities have started to incorporate labyrinths into their campus layouts. Designed for use by both employees and patients, the labyrinths are a non-traditional approach to easing anxiety. Walking a labyrinth may result in a meditative state by encouraging solitude and a chance to reflect on your emotions.
There are dozens of meditation techniques though, with guided imagery and deep breathing as two of the most popular methods. While it may be easier to find solace at home, nurses can employ these tactics virtually anywhere, especially with the proliferation of smartphone meditation apps. At work, an unused patient room or the hospital’s chapel may provide a suitable setting — even sitting in your car, in the restroom, or at the nurse’s station can work, too.
Setting a meditation schedule can be helpful and lead to more frequent participation. For example, you may plan to do two minutes of guided imagery while showering and one minute of deep breathing each time you are logging information in the computer or walking to the restroom. Outside of that schedule, consider implementing your favorite meditation technique any time you feel your stress levels begin to rise.
Worth a Try
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.
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