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Nursing Self Care

Just Breathe: Strategies for Caregivers

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Working in nursing for more than 25 years, I’ve noticed there are some things that never change - our dedication to our patients and our tendency to put ourselves last. Nursing isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a profession of incredible joy, deep pain, long hours and tremendous rewards.

It’s that passion to provide for others that often gives nurses permission to be at the bottom of their personal list of priorities. This means that in such physically and mentally demanding roles as caregivers we are at risk for burnout.

Put Your Oxygen On First and Breathe

We’ve all sat on a flight waiting for takeoff while the flight attendant goes through the motions for our safety. During this exercise, he or she will remind you that in the case of an emergency to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others. This concept applies to us as caregivers too. In order to truly take the best care of others, we need to first take care of ourselves.

Well-known author Jim Collins wrote, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” As I contemplated those words, I realized every day is a choice. A choice to ensure I'm a little healthier, to find gratitude and fill my own cup just a little. And by renewing my own health I have the energy I need to give to those around me.

Mind Over Matter: Starting Today

Sometimes half the battle with any change is just getting started. Here are some recommended ways that you may consider to find your spirit again. In most cases there are simple apps available to download on your phone if you need regularly scheduled reminders to do these:

  • Breathing- Take a moment to deep breathe for just 60-90 second a couple of times a day will decrease your stress level.
  • Meditating- Envisioning a place or taking time to transport your mind from where you are has great effects on your body’s relaxation and ability to focus.
  • Gratitude- Take time to find seek out the good in what or who you’re thankful for.
  • Physical Activity- A short walk, bike ride, simple stretches or more intense exercise can break up your monotonous or rigorous schedule.
  • Ask for Help- It’s okay to do this this! Have the courage to be vulnerable and open yourself up to support and insight from others.

If we take control of our minds and bodies for just a couple of minutes a day, we can find ourselves again. I can personally attest to the benefits I’ve seen from my own personal changes and in those around me.

I’d encourage everyone to take small steps on the journey to finding what works best for you. With a little encouragement for each other, I know we can be better for those we love and care for each day.

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