Career advice

Mindfulness Part 3: Don’t give up

In the concluding part of a three-part series, Mandy Day-Calder reveals how to overcome the barriers to mindfulness. 

In the concluding part of a three-part series, Mandy Day-Calder reveals how to overcome the barriers to mindfulness

Part of being mindful is taking time to pause. Picture: iStock

In the first two parts of this series, we looked at what mindfulness is and some of the main benefits and identified fundamental mindfulness techniques. In theory, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming a mindfulness guru. In reality, as you face the daily grind of busy wards and increasing demands, it’s likely that your initial enthusiasm will dwindle. So, here we look at common barriers and how you can overcome them.

Internal dialogue

‘I want to see changes at work, not accept it as it is’: Adopting a more mindful approach doesn’t mean that you have to condone the state of the NHS or the world. Nor do you have to stop standing up for what you believe in. However, so often we take our frustrations out on colleagues, friends or even ourselves. Mindfulness teaches you to become more aware of your emotional reactions, ways to focus your energy wisely and be more compassionate to yourself and others.

‘My mind is too busy’: As you start to practise any of the mindfulness exercises, it’s likely that you will find it hard to slow your mind down. Instead you may feel deafened by the constant chatter going on inside your head. Rest assured this is perfectly normal. Andy Puddicombe, founder of the popular Headspace app, describes the mind as a sky: on the days when you feel happy and calm the sky appears blue; when you feel troubled or sad the sky will be full of clouds. Yet even on these dark days the blue sky is still there, you just need to find the space between the clouds. Remember that not judging what you are experiencing is one of the fundamentals of mindfulness. The more you try to stop your thoughts the ‘cloudier’ they will appear. Try to see the increased awareness of your internal dialogue as a part of your mindfulness process.

‘I don’t have time’: Life is busy enough, so if you view mindfulness as yet another chore you have to do, either on the ward or at home, it’s natural to want to avoid it. Similar to starting an exercise programme, the trick with training your mind is to incorporate it into your lifestyle and make it fun. So try not to take it too seriously. It is often said that it takes 21 days to make new habits stick. During this time try to establish a routine that works for you. For example, practising at a similar time each day. At first you may want to sit in a quiet place, but in time you can do the exercises anywhere: the aim is to integrate mindfulness into your day. By using an app on your phone you can practise on public transport, out walking or relaxing at home. Finding a quiet space on the ward is usually unrealistic, and some apps even have short ‘SOS' exercises that you could even use when you nip for a bathroom break – often the only place where nurses are undisturbed.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach

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