In a way, I really hate to tell this story, but I also feel that if it helps just one other person, then it is worth it. So, here I go!
First, allow me to provide a bit of background. I have several years of nursing under my belt. I have always wanted to work for myself, and I have, just not as a nurse. My husband and I started a holistic wellness center about a year ago. For my part, I offer health education classes, meditation, and weight loss. My husband offers coaching, mindfulness living, and stress management.
When we started this adventure, I really didn’t know what mindfulness was and had no experience with it, but I go to his classes every week, because it is my company and I should know what we sell.
Now for the part I hate to admit to: starting about 18 months ago, I felt like my career was ending. I hated it, but I still loved it, so I didn’t give up. The day-to-day job was becoming so stressful! I felt anxious on my days off, constantly dreaded going to work, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. However, I still loved caring for patients. That part never gets old to me, I find peace in it, and it is in my heart to do this work.
It was the other stuff: short staffing, near impossible patient ratios, being constantly nagged about whiteboards, being forced to attend interdisciplinary rounds that occur in the middle of med-pass on a step-down unit where we once had 4 patients, but now have 6, and so many other things.
I was overwhelmed and unhappy, and I’m ashamed to say that I became very angry. I’m even more ashamed to admit that my behavior was becoming unacceptable. If I’d been my boss, I would have fired me. I was always negative; that “you’re getting a new patient” call set me off and I spoke quite disrespectfully to my charge nurse more than once; and I used the excuse of “venting” to justify it all.
It was not OK and at some point, I knew that I had to get a grip on it before I got fired, or I had to find a new way to earn money. No other job seemed acceptable: I am a nurse.
This is where my husband’s Mindfulness classes came in (just in time).
There are many ways to define Mindfulness, but my husband likes this definition:
How Does this Apply to Life? To Nursing?
I started paying attention to the thoughts that ran through my mind every day. The chatter sounded something like this:
How am I supposed to have time for all of this?
What do they expect me to do?
I am only one person who can only do one thing at a time!
When is enough enough?
How can I work with my phone ringing all the time?
I just want to walk out of here right now!
This is ridiculous!
I can’t! I just can’t!
This place doesn’t care about nurses or patients – they only care about money!
Why do so many nurses put up with this!
(This is family-friendly website, so I left out the worse stuff and edited a lot for the sake of keeping things clean.)
What Can Mindfulness Teach Us?
Mindfulness taught me to look at these thoughts with acceptance, and without judgment. Just looking at them made me more aware of what my self-talk was doing to my head. The negativity, the complete self-centeredness of it was appalling to me. I didn’t want to be this angry person, stomping around like I was the only one who is busy, or getting admits before my discharges were done. What I found is that I really didn’t like me anymore, I was sort of toxic.
More than that, Mindfulness taught me to be curious about these thoughts.
I Began to Ask ...
Is this helpful?
Does it make anything better?
Did I ask for these thoughts?
What triggers these thoughts?
How do I react to these thoughts?
How do I want to react to these thoughts?
Asking these questions gave me power over the mean voice in my head that was spewing vulgarities about every little inconvenience.
Taming the Beast
It didn’t happen overnight, but I tamed the beast that had taken up residence in my head.
Mindfulness allowed me to examine my thoughts, dissect them, and cut out what was not serving me. It started by helping to see the thought and pause before reacting. This allows for time to decide how you want to react.
Mindfulness is an ongoing practice, and this is just a tiny slice of it. But this little bit was life-changing for me. I feel like the scales are balanced again. Yes, I still feel frustration, I still get busy and need to juggle things, but my brain doesn’t interfere anymore.
It’s been about 6 months and those nasty little thoughts that made my day hell rarely pop up these days, but when they do, I pause and I decide how I will react. No more knee-jerk fits of frustration!
I feel so much less stressed. It’s nice to just take things in stride. Of course, there is a bit more to it than this.
Mindfulness gave me a new mindset of being open and accepting of what comes without judgment and without wanting it to be different (ex: getting a new patient when you are already really busy.) When I mastered this, the unwanted self-talk was hushed.
This also works when being stuck in traffic, with rude encounters at the grocery store, and many other situations. What I found is that my reaction of being angry about these little things that I have no control over, just kept feeding the angry beast. Over time, not getting wrapped up in these thoughts left it to starve.
I’m so thankful my husband teaches this class and my only regret is that I didn’t listen to him sooner!