Mindfulness Part 1: How to regain your focus
In the first of a three-part series, Mandy Day-Calder explains the ‘essence’ of mindfulness.
In the first of a three-part series, Mandy Day-Calder explains the ‘essence’ of mindfulness
On a typical shift, do you find that your mind races with everything you have to do? Do you struggle to give anything or anyone your full attention because you are at least one step ahead of yourself? Do you ever wish you could just press a pause button, even for a few minutes?
If you answered yes to the above questions, don’t worry, you are not alone. Many health services are facing unprecedented demand, which means their staff can easily feel overwhelmed and out-of-control. You may find yourself running on auto-pilot, going through the motions but not able to concentrate on anything.
Be fully present
The origins of mindfulness can be traced back thousands of years to Eastern cultures, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the term gained popularity in Western society.
In essence, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and purposely paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness doesn’t involve ‘stopping your thoughts’. Instead, it is about accepting things as they are without judgment and becoming familiar with your mind’s vast landscape. Some days your mind will be busy and you will notice lots of internal chatter, other days it will be quieter – both are okay.
But instead of getting swept along with the chatter, mindfulness teaches you to stay focused. For example, in the middle of a busy shift, you start to feel anxious. All too quickly, your mind fast-forwards, wondering how you will cope and then blaming yourself for feeling this way. This can set off a spiral of negative thinking (‘I should be able to deal with pressure, I’m a hopeless nurse’).
Through practising mindfulness, you can learn to recognise and accept feelings of anxiousness without beating yourself up. After all, anxiety is in fact a normal response to increasing pressure. The good news is that you can control how you respond to it.
By adopting a mindful approach, you can become more focused and increase your ability to offer compassion and empathy, to others as well as to yourself.
As Dave Bertin, mental health nurse and mindfulness teacher, says: ‘If we feel more in control of life we feel stronger and more positive. Mindfulness enables us to make mindful, deliberate choices instead of being swept along by pressures of work/living.’
He also points out that instead of ‘doing mindfulness’ for ten minutes each day, it is good to integrate it into all aspects of your life until it becomes a habit. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started, including courses and apps.
Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance health writer and life/health coach