This week I taught a class called Striking A Balance With Stress In Nursing. Most nurses would agree that a typical day in the life of a nurse is stressful, regardless of the specialty. The advances in technology, electronic charting and hospital mergers may benefit institutions and provide efficiency here and there, but it is often at the expense of pulling nurses from patient care.
We discussed the physiological and psychological impacts of the stress response. Often we feel overwhelmed in the midst of a full-blown stress response. The ability to find a place to rest in the midst of the experience can bring a sense of peace. But how does one do that in the thick of things?
If you are able to break down the experience and feel the sensations in your body, simply “name” or identify what that felt experience in the body is. For example: There may be a conflict with a co-worker or perhaps your patient is receiving news of a terminal diagnosis. You may be overwhelmed and want to flee, yet your role requires you to stay present. Simply note what is happening in your body. I’m feeling heat, I’m feeling an elevation in my heart rate, I’m noticing my mind feeling scattered, I’m noticing a sense of sadness or watery eyes.
What can be helpful at times like this is to connect with your feet on the ground. Even unlocking the knees and creating a slight bend in the knees can shift the energy to the lower body. Often when we are anxious, our energy moves up to our head and it can be helpful to simply feel the feet rooted on the ground. Some people may also find it helpful to simply touch the wall. It may seem silly, but it is an act that changes your sensory input and take you out of your place of overwhelm.
Ultimately, we all need to use discernment to know when caring for ourselves means removing ourselves from a difficult circumstance. If we have the strength and courage to simply stay, bring our full self to the experience, we can find the capacity in our heart to be open to anything. The strength is not found in protecting the heart with a hard shell. It is found in the courage to show up with the vulnerability of an open heart that has the capacity to receive anything.