Take 5 minutes and pause when providing care becomes overwhelming
Monday, July 01, 2019
Whether delivering care at the bedside or ricocheting from one meeting to the next, we as healthcare providers can benefit by putting pauses into our daily professional practice.
Why? Even the hardiest of us get tired, overstimulated or emotionally hooked during our day. We don’t operate at our best when running on empty.
Nor do we bounce back as easily; our resiliency suffers. These reverberations ripple out, impacting everything and everyone around us — including our patients — whether we admit it or not.
So, as a kindness and a responsibility to ourselves and others, let’s consider recognizing when we need to stop and rest — if only for five minutes.
What would such a pause look like? It would not be checking email or watching a video clip on our fancy phone. It wouldn’t even be eating or socializing in this case. While all these activities are fine and good in their own right, what we're talking about is different.
Remember learning about Harvard physician, Herbert Benson, MD, and “The Relaxation Response” (RR)? In 1976, he first described this experience and the four components necessary to elicit it: a comfortable position, a quiet environment, a mental device and a passive attitude.
Upon further study, Dr. Benson renamed the mental device as a “repetition: a sound, word, phrase, prayer or movement.” Likewise, he refined a passive attitude as “the passive setting aside of intruding thoughts and returning to the repetition.”
These two components now comprise the RR and are the keys to evoking it.
The passive attitude part is often the most difficult for us to master. You may find initially that anything but quiet happens mentally when you begin. Our mind can be like a monkey, “monkey mind,” the Buddhists call it — at times unruly and resistant to taming.
It helps for me to think of a passive attitude in image form: it's as if you were lying on a grassy hillside on a warm summer day looking up into a clear blue sky. A little wisp of a white cloud enters your vision. You notice it and then let it go, returning your gaze back to that clear blue sky.
How to practically put such pauses into our already packed days? Here are three quick tips:
While walking the corridors, flip into a passive attitude mode via your carefully chosen repetitions. Repeat again and again and banish intruding thoughts.
Before eating during a 30-minute break, find an empty conference room, lie down on the floor, put your feet up on a chair and set a timer. Stop for just five minutes. You'll be stimulating the baroreflex and helping your brain relax.
Anywhere, anytime, simply exhale. Make your out breath is a little longer, a little slower, a little deeper. By doing so, you activate the parasympathetic part of your autonomic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate and inducing relaxation.
In sum, prioritize pausing to rest and renew. Regularly. Our lives and our patients’ lives depend on it.
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