How I Practice Mindfulness as an Oncology Nurse
The nursing profession both rewards and challenges me: Like many of you, I give so much of myself, but sometimes I’m running on reserve. Over the years, I have been asked how I keep it together and stay calm. As I reflected on such questions, I realized that I unconsciously practice mindfulness throughout my day.
With mindfulness, we focus our awareness in the present (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindfulness) and calmly recognize our physical and emotional feelings in that moment. Although it will not eliminate stressors, incorporating mindfulness into our day can reduce our stress and anxiety levels by changing how we respond to them (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/meo.v20.27924).
It also has a direct effect (https://doi.org/10.1080/02703149.2014.850345) on our acceptance (willingness to see things as they are), compassion for self and others (letting go of negative judgments), and capacity for attention and awareness. Mindfulness can increase our resilience and adaptability to stress (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-017-0713-2), which in turn can decrease our risk for burnout.
Here are some of the ways that I practice mindfulness.
Take a deep breath in, then exhale. Slowly and calmly observe your breath pattern and feel your chest rise and fall. This practice helps me focus on the present and takes my mind away from distractions.
Pay attention to the areas of your body that tense up when you are in a stressful situation. Become familiar with that sensation and gently relax those areas.
What kinds of thoughts saturate your mind? Is it racing all over or focused on what you are doing? Consciously notice your thoughts and bring them back to focus on the present when they wander. Doing this helps me concentrate, be productive, and manage any negative thoughts. Also, accept that no one is immune to negative thoughts, but studies show (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10608-007-9142-1) that we may not experience them as frequently if we have a greater dispositional level of mindfulness.
As you go about your busy day, take moments to slow down and consciously notice the beauty in your surroundings. Look at the sunset, nature, cool breeze, air going in through your nostrils, people playing or laughing, etc. Appreciation, even for the seemingly little things, fills me with a positive energy that helps me manage the stressors that I encounter during the day.
Practicing mindfulness keeps me in tune with my deepest feelings and thought patterns. Awareness of our thought patterns, particularly during stressful situations, can help reinforce our cognitive emphasis on positivity (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4178287/). Find time to pause and take a few moments to be mindful with me today.
Do you use mindfulness or other forms of meditation? Share your pointers for practice (https://communities.ons.org/discussion/do-you-like-to-meditate-ons-voice) with other oncology nurses on the ONS Communities. Your response may be featured in a future ONS Voice article.