Mindfulness has become a hot topic over the last few years.
At university we were given the option to attend a session in mindfulness aimed at reducing stress within the nursing cohort. Part of the session involved holding a chocolate Rolo in our hand and being ‘in the moment’, focusing on its shape, smell, and texture before slowly savouring it and experiencing the intensity of its taste.
Thanks for the chocolate. Apart from that, so what? As interesting as this opportunity was I came away thinking it was just the latest gimmick.
How the heck would any nurse fit mindfulness into their working day?
Despite evidence to suggest regular exercises in mindfulness helps with stress and mental health problems, most nurses I know would have devoured that Rolo in one second flat - a moment of pleasure before dashing on to the next task.
I would argue that it’s all very well the NHS advocating mindfulness and providing sessions within the workplace but stress within the workforce could be reduced by having an improved working environment such as more staff, better facilities, and medical equipment that actually works. I further question the likeliness of being able to free oneself from the ward to attend a mindfulness session.
Last week I was collared by the matron in my new job and asked if I fancied giving the Trust’s new mindfulness session a go. I begrudgingly obliged, abandoned my huge pile of paperwork and reluctantly headed to the session, dragging my heels like a petulant child. I was going to be late home again.
As I sat down with the mindfulness group my thoughts drifted to all the jobs I could be getting done and I felt more annoyed than chilled out. However, within seconds of following the mindfulness guide on a CD my buzzing mind started to slow down and I became much more aware of sensations, feelings and thoughts. It was a great feeling and as the session came to a close I felt relaxed and focused, if a little sleepy. I went back to work and completed my jobs in a more calm and efficient manner that if I hadn’t been to the mindfulness session - and I got home on time.
In fact, it was such a pleasant feeling that I came to recognise just how uptight and stressed I felt most days. Inspired to revisit this relaxed, calm state I went home and downloaded a couple of mindfulness apps. It’s not always easy to find time during your working day to be mindful but it’s something that can be done at any time. I listen to the app guides before going to sleep but it can be done whilst doing everyday activities such as washing up, brushing your teeth or driving the car. Regular mindfulness exercises can make you more resilient in times of pressure and rising anxiety levels.
Further, many of the patients I work with reported they have benefited from mindfulness meditation. However, its growing popularity means an increased risk of sessions being run by people who aren’t properly trained, so make sure you have a teacher who knows how to deliver the course and support you.
Of course, it’s certainly not a magic pill to cure stress but it is powerful. There are critics out there, sure, but I’d say don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Chloe Alden-Dennis is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for children’s branch