Mindfulness and self-care are essential practices that nurse coaches use. Nurse coaches are grassroots change and care agents who can transform the lives of their patients through a unique, whole-person approach to healing and health. When mindfulness and self-care are integrated into your nurse coaching practices, you can enhance the positive change you are delivering to your patients.
In our modern society, the intersection of “mindfulness” and “compassion” is becoming common, especially in the healthcare and personal care sectors. However, it is not always crystal clear as to what these mean. Nurses need to be mindful, compassionate, and practice self-care to be regarded as nursing professionals. When a nurse is cognizant of themselves, sympathetic towards themself as a human being, and taking care of themselves, they can care for their patients with the same or improved level of care expected of a professional.
What is Mindfulness?
The Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom defines “mindfulness” as an integrative, mind–body-based approach that assists individuals in changing how they think and feel about their experiences, especially incredibly stressful ones. It consists of paying attention to our thoughts and feelings, so we become more aware of them, less entrapped in them, and more equipped to manage them.
Simply put, mindfulness consists of consciously attending to the everyday experience or present moment we are in; this includes our thoughts, feelings, surroundings, and sensations and experiencing them, being aware of them, responding to them with acknowledgment, and then letting them go. Most nurses are on an automated trajectory, rarely recognizing their personal experiences, thoughts, or feelings during the day, impulsively reacting to events and communications, and failing to connect with themselves during their workday.
While the concept of mindfulness is not new, there is a lot of research on the current benefits of mindfulness and how it can be taught correctly and cultivated to maximize one’s physical and mental health. As part of a nurse coaching competency, nurses can teach and practice mindfulness to support necessary lifestyle or behavioral changes in themselves and clients, minimize stress, and live to its fullest potential.
Brief History of Mindfulness
Like we previously discussed, mindfulness is not a new concept; it is quite the opposite. Mindfulness is an ancient concept procured from the Pali word “sati,” translated as “presence of mind.” The term is often reflected in Asian Buddhist practices and secular health applications. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, brought notoriety to the concept in our western society, declares that mindfulness involves being purposefully present in the moment, curious, aware, and open to possibilities and opportunities without judgment.
As opposed to “wakefulness,” mindfulness is much more experiential and non-analytical – and provides an opportunity for an individual to retreat from habits, taxing components of daily life, biases, and ruminations. The mindfulness described here differs from the term’s common usage that may be defined as simply “careful.”
Challenges Involved in Mindfulness Within Nursing and Nurse Coaching
Being and staying mindful and compassionate is not always the easiest of tasks within the healthcare sector. The nursing profession is ever-changing, often understaffed, and bodes enormous pressures which can pick away at a nurse’s patience, kindness, and compassion. These reasons offer more incentive to indulge in self-care, feel supported internally and externally, and simply feel good.
Many obstacles can prevent mindfulness and compassion in the nursing industry. While some are more specific to nursing and healthcare, some apply to every person more generally.
- Lack of time
- Being too open or compassionate may leave some individuals feeling vulnerable to exploitation or harm.
- Constantly staying busy; being still or doing nothing can be challenging or guilt-inducing
- While some nurses are compassionate to others, it can be challenging to reflect on oneself.
- Those who have never experienced mindfulness may be weary of practicing it.
Why Does Mindfulness Matter?
Crafting a sense of mindfulness is crucial to balancing the demands of a stressful profession and busy life as a nurse or nurse coach. There are so many benefits to mindfulness, including but not limited to:
- Stress reduction
- Improved mental clarity
- Minimized symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Deeper sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Relief from ailments and conditions like chronic pain or heart disease
- Building strength (physically, mentally, and emotionally)
Examples of Practices that include Mindfulness
- Deep breathing
- Journaling- feelings, experiences, thoughts
- Mindful Moments throughout the day-acknowledging where you are, breathing deeply and slowly, making a mental note of your thoughts and feelings currently
- Going outside, taking in the fresh air, being in nature
Being in the moment becomes easier with continued practice and over time. It helps to pick moments that are special to you. Some people prefer making mindful moments first thing in the morning, others choose to practice at night, and some in the middle of a busy, stressful day. It is up to you to listen to your body and individual needs.
With any mindfulness practice or exercise, it is essential to be in an environment where you feel no judgment; that includes yourself. Are you experiencing negative, intrusive thoughts when trying to find your peace and stillness? This is natural. However, when you have an open mind and place yourself in a non-judgmental space, it is much easier to let it go, build your skills, and return to the present. You can begin practicing mindfulness for just a few minutes a day and build upon it as you continue in your practice.
How to Integrate Mindfulness into Nurse Coaching Practices
As a nurse coach, it is essential to take an individualized approach to care for your patients and help them create their self-care and mindfulness routines. We actively listen to their needs, desires, and suggestions when adapting to their lifestyles. We help them form healthy habits when they are no longer our active, present patients.
However, one of the best ways to showcase the importance of mindfulness and self-care is by being an example yourself to others or being a role model. Choose techniques that make you happy and appeal to you and lead by example. Make these techniques a part of your daily routine and be vocal about them with your patients. Not surprisingly, being mindful and practicing regular self-care will enhance your career and make you an even more robust, better nurse coach. Within your field and position as a nurse coach, you are already aware that it takes a significant amount of dedication, strength, and energy to care for others, help them restore their health, wellness, balance, and relieve stress, so you should take the time to do these things for yourself too.
Mindfulness is a way of living consisting of greater attention and intention, less impulsive reactions, and minimal judgment. You can learn and train your sense of mindfulness through regular practices. Begin by integrating mindfulness into your daily life and self-care plans and minimizing stress and professional and personal burnout.
Becoming more mindful and honing your receptivity can strengthen and deepen your understanding of your clinical practice, relationships with colleagues, patients, and even yourself. With compassion and understanding comes opportunities to become wiser and offer better care to your patients, loved ones, and yourself.
Learn More About Mindfulness in Your Nurse Coaching Practice
Our Integrative Nurse Coach® Certificate Program (INCCP) was crafted by the founders and pioneers of Nurse Coaching and has been the leading Nurse Coach training program for over a decade. Our program is based on a whole-person model of care that comes to grips with the physical, psychological, social, spiritual, cultural, and environmental aspects of health and wellbeing. We emphasize mindfulness and self-care and how discovering this within yourself and for yourself can benefit not only your patients but you as well.
Louise Bobbitt RN PGDipNurs completed training as an Integrative Nurse Coach® with Cohort 30. Louise has worked in England and more recently in New Zealand. She has worked in a variety of settings as a senior nurse and clinical nurse specialist including general medicine, hematology and more recently oncology. Through a challenging phase, Louise discovered a passion for Mindfulness and Meditation and completed courses including Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Mindful Self Compassion.
Following attendance at a Deepening Meditation retreat run by Dr Ian Gawler she returned to the Gawler Cancer Foundation in Australia 3 more times to train as a Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation Teacher. She is passionate about sharing what she has learnt with her whanau, patients and the greater nursing community.