Whether you provide hands-on patient care or support other programs and services, a career in health care can be rewarding beyond measure. It can also be mentally and emotionally challenging. Especially for faculty and staff who treat patients. And being at a leading academic health center, we all aspire to the highest standards in every area, striving for ideal outcomes. It’s intellectually exciting, but this perfectionist mindset makes staff burnout a real risk. Staying balanced is key.
“Our own skill, awareness and practice of self-care is the most powerful foundation to help us affect others positively,” said Tammy Bernard, M.Ed., E-RYT, a 20-year yoga therapy, meditation and mindfulness practitioner with the UF Health Integrative Medicine Program.
Self-awareness isn’t selfish: The solution is to live in a more self-aware state, she says. This isn’t selfish self-absorption. Understanding and meeting your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs supports your overall health so you can be an even better resource for the people around you. She recommends mindfulness, which is about being aware of the present moment and tuning in to your physical sensations and thoughts.
Take a mindful moment: A simple method of mindfulness-based stress reduction is to make time for “mindful moments.” Stop for just a few minutes and connect with your breath, which is simply paying attention to the sensation of breathing. It’s a centering practice that forces you to slow down and be present. It’s especially helpful when you’re in a stressful environment or situation — ideally when you recognize tension triggers and before you feel anxiety.
Self-understanding helps build psychological resilience to stressors. Bernard teaches techniques to nurses and care providers in our hospitals, and she and Integrated Medicine Program colleagues offer classes for faculty, staff, patients and the public. Bernard says the more we stop and breathe, release muscular tension and calm our mind, “the more we build the neuropathways to support ourselves with new healthy practices.”
Start your practice: Join me in a more balanced approach to stress management and self-awareness! Commit to just five minutes a day of mindful breathing. As you simply connect with your breath, let your attention sweep through your body, noticing any tension and letting it go each time you exhale. Notice negative thoughts and rather than fight them, try to let go each time you exhale. Try it when you walk from place to place at work, or when you exercise. Make gratitude a practice: Regularly stop to acknowledge the good in your day.
Mindfulness is a great complement to practices you may have, such as prayer or yoga. To learn more, visit UFHealth.org and search “Integrative Medicine,” or search “GatorCare and Wellness” on the Bridge. Find a class by visiting HR on the Bridge, under “Employee Services.”
I hope this awareness about mindfulness helps you stress less and enjoy more!