As a pediatric health care provider, how often do you explain to parents / caregivers the importance of taking care of themselves? Self-care, you explain, is like pulling down your own oxygen mask first, to be better equipped to help others. But how many times, as a health care provider, do you practice what you preach?
Trauma informed care not only asks pediatric providers to minimize the traumatic aspects of medical care, but also take care of themselves, monitoring for signs of secondary traumatic stress. Caring for ill and injured children tests the resiliency of physicians, nurses and other health care providers. It’s difficult to see children in pain, be unable to relieve that pain, or even cause more pain through medical treatments. It’s challenging to be the person children and parents fear. It’s tough to be the phone call no wants to receive.
Practicing self-care comes in many sizes and shapes. Some healthcare professionals know what helps renew them, but never seem to find the time. Others need to try out several different activities before finding the right fit. No matter what group you fall into, you can take a few moments of self-care between each patient by practicing mindfulness. How do you do this? Aparna Iyer, a psychiatrist, shares :
Breathe. Either sitting or standing, take a deep breath. Focus on your breathing and on exhaling and inhaling but especially the momentary pause in between. Pay attention to all aspects of the breathing; make note of the feeling of air entering and leaving your nose/mouth and the rise and fall of your belly as your breathe.
Pay attention. Take a moment to listen to the other sounds around you, the ones that you might not have noticed before. For example, listen to the air conditioner switch on and off. Or the cars whizzing by outside your office window. Bringing your attention to that moment draws you into the present.
Accept your emotions. Take inventory of all the emotions you’re feeling at the moment. No matter what you are feeling (anger, sadness, happiness, frustration), accept it openly. Remember that you are not your thoughts (i.e., feeling a moment of anger does not make you an angry person). And then let it go and let your mind clear.
Dr. Iyer also shares the benefits of practicing mindfulness:
Why is mindfulness in these moments important? It’s important for you, because you deserve a moment to take a breath. And for the patient, because she deserves your complete mental presence. Because if you are running on autopilot, meaning not truly being aware or present in any moment, you really aren’t fully able to engage in whatever responsibilities you might have at that moment. Because mindfulness is proven to reduce overall stress. Because when we become mindful, we are far less likely to be easily reactive or overwhelmed. Because once you start to regularly practice mindfulness, you’ll be more easily to be present during other times in your life.