Nurse De-Stressing Tips
Part 4 - The Spirit

by Aila Accad, RN, MSN

As nurses, we know that health and healing are not only about the body. When a person looses their zest, their purpose for living or their perceived identity healing is not possible, unless we first address these challenges.

When I worked with nurses who had their license revoked or suspended, the first issue we addressed was not the loss of job, but the loss of identity and purpose.

Nurse is not what we do; it becomes who we are, how we see ourselves and how we define ourselves to others. If you are not a nurse, who are you and what is your purpose.

How you define who you are, and the meaning and purpose of your life is at the core of your Being. When these definitions are challenged or unclear, you experience spiritual stress. The questions of the Spirit are “Who am I”, “What is life about” and “What is my purpose”?

These questions are prominent several times in our lives. In adolescence as our bodies change and in mid-life often experienced as the mid-life crisis or reassessment. Significant loss can challenge identity as loss of a child, a spouse, a job or a body part.

When you attach your identity and purpose to external variables that are out of your control, you are vulnerable to spiritual stress. The conditions under which nurses work today, stress not only the body, mind and emotions, they stress the very core of a nurse’s purpose to serve people in meaningful ways. This is the most severe stress, the stress that leads to burnout.

Here are some tips to prevent and address spiritual stress

Tip # 1 ~ Connect with Self
Look in the mirror. Look deep into your eyes. Contemplate. Who is there? Who is looking? You realize the same awareness inside of you today has been there from the beginning of your life. Your body changes, your emotions and thoughts change, yet there is someone inside of you that abides. It is unchanging and invulnerable to outside forces. Connecting with this invulnerable center is a source of strength and support in changing times.

Why it works ~
When you realize that you are not dependent on outer conditions to define yourself, you are free. Even though the outer world is constantly changing and undependable, your inner being is solid, grounded in reality and invulnerable to attack by others. An excellent book about this is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.

Tip # 2 ~ Connect with the moment
Take a deep breath. Feel the breath as it fills your chest. Notice how the chest falls when you exhale. Feel the water on your hands as you wash them between patients. Notice the specific way you wash them, the slipperiness of the soap, the temperature of the water. Feel your feet on the ground, notice the sights, sounds and smells around you.

When you touch your patient, feel their skin, its temperature and texture. Notice the feel of the bed linens, the coolness and hardness of the side rails. Observe yourself and your connection to the experience of the moment. This is a practice in being present. It helps you to tune in to life in a deep and meaningful way. Set an intention at the beginning of your day to stop and be present in this way several times in the day. Perhaps every time you wash your hands, or every time you hear a call bell. You will find that this practice helps you to stress less because you have more awareness and meaning in each moment.

Why it works ~
When you connect to the here and now, you center, relax and connect to everything in your environment in a powerful and accurate way. You are not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, which are stressful. You are here, now. All of the insight, knowledge and experience of this moment are available to you. You have a sense of control within your self, which reduces stress.

Tip # 3 ~ Connect with your purpose
How do you know what is important to you? You feel it. Notice the small voice or feeling in your gut, or just knowing inside of you when something is attracting you. We have cues in our body that alert us to what is dangerous or attractive long before our minds can explain why. Did you ever see a patient and just know there is something not quite right, even though the machines are not registering a problem? Pay attention to those cues. This is what we call intuition, or sixth sense. Did you feel called to be a nurse? How did the call come to you; how did you notice it? Our deepest values and purpose are inside of us, not in our heads, but in our hearts. What does your heart respond to; what touches your heart? Purpose energizes you. It makes you want to get up in the morning. What excites this passion or energy in you?

Why it works ~
When our inner promptings guide us, we cannot make a mistake. These are signs that lead to our truest desires and lasting happiness. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist says, “Follow your bliss”. When you follow your true path or calling, you are invigorated rather than stressed. You are in a state of bliss.

Tip # 4 ~ Connect with nature
You are part of a larger cosmos. You are not as isolated as the boundaries of your body would suggest. Whether you look at life from a religious, spiritual or scientific perspective, what you think and feel affects the environment and the environment affects you. At the most basic level, spending time in nature helps you to reconnect to your truest vibrations and helps you return to center. When what you have to do next, attend to other people, television, computer, shopping, and so on constantly captures your attention, it is easy to lose that center. Taking time every day to be quiet in a natural setting, reflecting, journaling, or just being present can bring you back to yourself. Take a moment to smell a flower, watch the river flow by, or appreciate a tree when you are on a break or before you go home at the end of your day.

Why it works~
Nature and the earth vibrate at a certain frequency. When we spend time in nature, we re-synchronize our vibrations to the natural healthy vibrations of the nature that supports us. Closed up in hermetically sealed buildings with florescent lighting and re-circulating air all day, can cause a loss of balance and connection with our self and our natural rhythms.

Pulling it together
Spiritual stress is a result of losing your connection to your self, your values, purpose and nature. Taking time every day to re-connect with these aspects of your life reduces stress and gifts you with happiness, security and connection.

© 2008 Aila Accad

Next – Nurse De-Stressing Tips – Part Five – Relationships

Click to Read Nurse De-Stressing Tips - Parts 1-3

Aila Accad, RN, MSN, known as the 'De-Stress Expert, is a professional Speaker , Trainer , Author , Well-Being Coach , and expert in De-Stressing

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