This month we celebrate Nurses Appreciation Week. Frankly, we need to celebrate nurses, doctors, and other caregivers on a daily basis. In my work, I go to the infusion center to help patients and their families. I also work with Hospice nurses and social workers. What I notice is how busy and frenzied the nurses and case managers are. They are giving much more than medicine to patients. They are on the front line of dealing with sick, fearful, and frustrated, patients and family members. They must always remain cool, calm, and collected. They barely have time to breathe.
This is why I designed a Continuing Education program specifically for nurses, case managers, and social workers on Compassion Fatigue: Help Yourself, Help Your Patients. Professionals, or as I call them the mega-caregivers, need support. If they are not supported, how can they help family member caregivers or patients?
I first designed my programs with family caregivers in mind, and then realized that I was leaving out the most important group. It must begin at the top. As they tell us on the airlines: Put the oxygen mask on yourself before putting it on the person next to you, even it if is a child. I am not sure how many of us would heed that advice, but I can assure you of one thing: You cannot give what you do not have. For most caregivers I find that they put everyone before themselves and then they go home and give some more. I know from working with others along with my personal experience– if you do not fill up, you will burn out.
How do you help yourself when you have no time at all? Ahhh, that is my expertise. Let’s begin with creating a simple ritual the moment you wake up (okay, you can go to the bathroom first and for those who must have a sip of coffee to be civil, go ahead).
Begin with this practice:
- Sit for a moment and focus on the movement of your breath.
- Your breath is like an ocean wave. It is comprised of parts: Inhale, pause; exhale, pause.
- There is a wavelike movement to your breath as well: It begins, rises, pauses, descends, and again pauses.
- I want you to follow your breath and notice the entire wavelike movement.
- Do this for 5 cycles.
- If your mind gets busy (and it will), no worries- that is normal! Simply notice your mind and kindly guide it back to the wave of your breath.
The reason I want you to do this every day is that it will become ingrained. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed you will automatically know to take a moment and follow the wave of your breath. This simple technique is a great beginning in putting the oxygen mask on yourself first so you can give from a full tank.
Remember, you deserve to take a few moments to recharge and calm down. With the utmost respect for both professional and family caregivers out there– I ask you to take care of YOU. I guarantee, everyone around you will benefit.