Working in healthcare can be extremely stressful and busy.
While we believe that healthcare systems need to better support their therapists, we also understand that you need ways to feel better, right now.
In this post, you’ll find 2 quick ways to reduce stress, even when you’re really busy.
These are mindfulness strategies that are curated for healthcare providers. For more on mindfulness, read How to Use Mindfulness for Pain Management.
And for everything you need to assess, treat, and document, check out the Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack!
How Mindfulness Can Reduce Stress
When you’re stressed, your brain sends out emergency signals to your muscles and organs, readying them for fight or flight. As stress hormones flood your body, your heart rate increases, your immune system is suppressed, and emotions (like fear and anger) intensify.
With so much going on in your body, your executive functioning has less control. So instead of thinking clearly, you’re more likely to react out of automatic habits and fear.
But if you can find a way to decrease the stress, you can shift the balance from fight or flight towards better executive control.
And with practice, you can build new neural pathways and decrease the number of stress hormones released during a triggering event.
Mindfulness & Self-Regulation
Mindfulness is the awareness that comes from paying attention to the present moment.
When you’re stressed, mindfulness can help you shift out of your body’s automatic, emergency responses and make space for clearer thinking. Essentially, mindfulness helps you to self-regulate.
A Word About Trauma
For some with a trauma history, even mindfulness can be too overwhelming. If you experience moderate to severe discomfort or distress, please stop and consult with a qualified mental health provider, physician, or other appropriate professional first.
2 Feet and 1 Breath
2 Feet and 1 Breath is a very simple practice that you can do before greeting each patient.
But don’t confuse simple for ineffective. The space you create in these 10 seconds could make the difference between a stressful session and one where you’re clear-headed and calm.
First, take a moment to pause. Pause outside the patient’s door. Pause before pulling open the curtain. Pause before standing up from your desk to greet your next outpatient.
Next, feel both feet on the floor. Move the energy of your attention from the planning and worrying in your head down to the anchor of your feet on the ground. What can be felt in the feet? Temperature, texture, unpleasant, pleasant? Notice what comes up.
Finally, feel one in-breath then one out-breath. Where can you most easily feel your breath? The nostrils? Larynx? Chest? Notice what sensations come up while breathing.
Now you’re ready to greet your next patient from a more grounded place.
Make 2 Feet and 1 Breath a part of your daily routine. Write it on your clipboard. Stick a note on your computer.
Turning these 10-second anchors into a habit can help you self-regulate in the moment and, over time, be less stressed when triggered.
If you prefer acronyms or have more than 10 seconds to spare, try S.T.O.P.
Stop for a moment. Put your hands in your lap, pause by a window, lean back in your chair.
T: Take A Deep Breath
Take a few deep breaths.
Focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your nose. Or the rise and fall of your chest and stomach.
Move the energy of your attention from thoughts and worries down to the anchor of your breath.
Gently move your attention from your breath to whatever else is going on in your mind and body.
Observe your thoughts, your emotions, and the physical sensations in your body. What can be felt in the body? Just notice what comes up.
In viewing your thoughts and emotions, you are reminded that you are not your thoughts. Or your feelings. They are transient experiences moving through you.
If you’d like, add the following self-compassion practice to anything difficult that comes up:
Self-Compassion Practice Example
“Oh, this is what it feels like to be a human being who’s worried about making a mistake.
Millions of people before me have worried about making a mistake. And millions after me will worry about making a mistake.
May I be patient with my worry.”
Proceed with your day.
If you notice a lot of stress when you STOP, consider proceeding with further action to care for yourself.
Use these 2 quick ways to reduce stress daily. After all, as we remind our patients, consistent practice of small things can lead to significant, lasting results!