During the coronavirus pandemic, managing nurse stress has become more important now than ever before. COVID has brought extra hours on the job, required moves for some, and caused additional stress due to fears of contracting the virus at the workplace. The behind-the-scenes things nurses deal with bring stress levels that most people cannot begin to relate to.
Fortunately, there are a few stress-relieving modalities that can be done quickly and from almost anywhere (including a nurse’s break area). One of the most important being mindfulness meditation.
What is Mindfulness?
After a long, stressful day dealing with a pandemic, nurses still have to go home and do the same daily tasks everyone else does, such as grocery shopping, cooking, raising a family, and taking care of the home. Like many busy professionals, finding time for self-care as a nurse usually goes on the backburner.
In other words, the goal of mindfulness is to place your attention on the present. That is also the only thing we have control of at any given time – not what happened in the past or what might happen at some point in the future.
By tapping into our selves and being more mindful, we can decrease our own stress and anxiousness to handle each moment as it comes.
Mindfulness Meditation For The Beginner: How Do I Start?
When someone hears the phrase, “I’m going to practice meditation,” a common thought is, “What do they mean by practice?”
But that is exactly what it is – a practice – even for those experienced in meditation.
For nurses who already have a ton on their plates, a practice can be as little as 3-5 minutes. The more you make mediation a regular habit, the longer you will be able to sit in meditation.
Find a space, sit in a comfortable chair, or cross-legged on the ground. As you better your practice, you may start to lose track of time (ultimately a good thing), so be sure to set a timer if you are at work. Start your meditation by taking deep breaths and really focusing on each breath, as each breath epitomizes the “now.” Your mind will almost undoubtedly drift again, but catch yourself without any feelings of negativity and focus on the breathing again. Find your center for as long as you can during your allotted time.
If you continue to struggle to find that peace, you can also tryguided meditations, which are available as apps or even on YouTube, and with these, calming music and a soothing voice lead you through the steps of breathing and focus and help with your practice.
It’s important to try to do this every day, but just as important to not get down on yourself if you can’t find the time on a given day, or are just too overwhelmed with stress to maintain focus for any amount of time. Pick it up the next day, and if you do it as often as you can, the world around you will seem more at peace and more bearable as you continue to take on your stressful-yet-extremely rewarding job as a nurse.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries, including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children. When she’s not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.
Here are seven great yoga poses for nurses to start their shifts off on the right foot.
(This post is not a substitution for medical care. Please consult with your physician before starting any exercise routine. This post also contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses
What do you think would happen if every nurse did an energizing 20-minute yoga routine before every shift?
Its likely nurses have a chance to clear their heads, connect with themselves, and give themselves a moment to prepare for the busy 12-hour shift ahead. Not a bad way to start off the day.
Many nurses may underestimate the physical and mental wear-and-tear of long shifts. The start the day fueled on cups of coffee and then they are not getting the rest and recovery they need afterward.
So, as nurses, we must do the best we can to take care of ourselves the best we can (obviously no one else at the hospital is going to help up out with that). This includes giving our bodies the rest, rejuvenation and tender love that we give to our patients each shift! No more self-sacrificing attitudes!
Yoga is a fantastic way for nurses to reconnect with their bodies and make sure they are in a healthy and happy mental state – both before and after a nursing shift.
7 Energizing Yoga Poses For Nurses To Start The Shift Off Right:
#1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain Pose is a great yoga pose for nurses to start within the morning. Ground your feet and press evenly through all four corners of each foot. Stretch your arms towards the floor and draw your abdominals in and up.
Hold for five to eight breaths to get focused and ready to move deeper into your practice.
Benefits of Mountain Pose:
Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
Increases strength and mobility in the feet, legs, and hips
Firms abdomen and buttocks
#2. Upward Salute Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
Upward Salute Pose
This is a great awakening pose for nurses before a shift. From Mountain Pose, lift your arms up overhead and press your palms firmly together. Keep the tops of your shoulders released away from your ears and activate your triceps. Keep the abdominals engaged and the legs firm.
Hold for five to eight breaths.
Benefits of Upward Salute Pose:
Stretches the sides of the body, spine, shoulders, and belly
Tones the thighs
Helps to relieve anxiety and fatigue.
Helps create space in the chest and lungs
#3. Cat-Cow Pose
Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward.
Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling.
Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back. Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don’t force your chin to your chest.
Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose.
Repeat 5-20 times, and then rest by sitting back on your heels with your torso upright.
Benefits of Cat Cow Pose:
Brings flexibility to the spine
Stretches the back torso and neck
Softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs
Open the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep.
Calms the mind
Helps develop postural awareness and balance throughout the body and brings the spine into correct alignment
#4. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho mukha svanasana)
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
From neutral Cat Cow pose, push your hips up into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
Press firmly into your hands and roll your up arms outwards. Lengthen up through your torso and keep your abdominals engaged. Actively use your legs to keep bringing your torso back in space. Bend your knees if needed.
Hold here for eight to ten breaths.
Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog Pose for nurses:
Helps build bone density in the arms
Builds upper body strength
Helps to decrease back pain and stiffness.
Helps boost circulation by putting your heart above your head
#5. Warrior I (Virabhadra I)
Warrior I Pose
Step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (and parallel to each other), and reach your hands actively towards the ceiling. Firm your scapulas against your back and draw them down toward the coccyx.
Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel. Rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis to the front of your mat. As the left hip point turns forward. Lengthen your coccyx toward the floor, and arch your upper torso back slightly.
Exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor Reach strongly through your arms, lifting the rib cage away from the pelvis.
Stay for 30 to 60 seconds and switch sides.
Benefits of Warrior I Pose:
Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck and belly
Strengthens your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles, and back
Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles
Opens your hips, chest, and lungs.
Improves focus, balance, and stability
Energizes the whole body
#6. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Forward Fold Pose
Stand in Mountain Pose with your hands on your hips. Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, lengthening the front of your torso. Bend your elbows and hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Press your heels into the floor and lift your sit bones toward the ceiling. Turn the tops of your thighs slightly inward. Don’t lock your knees.
Engage your quadriceps and draw them up toward the ceiling. Bring your weight to the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned over your ankles. Let your head hang.
Hold the pose for up to one minute. To release, place your hands on your hips. Keep your back flat as you inhale and return to Mountain Pose. Repeat 2-5 times.
Benefits of Forward Fold:
Helps to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia
Stretches and lengthens your hamstrings and calves
Opens the hips and can relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.
#7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose is a beginner’s yoga pose often performed to rest between more difficult poses. The position stretches the thighs, hips and ankles and helps relax the body and mind.
Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. Rest your palms on top of your thighs.
On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in the pose for as long as needed.
Benefits of Child’s Pose:
Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
Reduces stress and fatigue
Relaxes the muscles on the front of the body
Elongates the lower back
Calms the mind
Rests the body
Care for yourself first through yoga, so you can care better for patients after.
Nurses must get into the practice of taking good care of themselves first, so they can continue to take great care of patients as well. After all, nurses serve as role models for our patients. If we don’t take our own health advice, why should our patients listen to us about anything else?
A good way to start is by practicing these energizing pre-shift yoga poses for nurses. And then see how much better you feel heading into your shifts!
Essential yoga props to start your yoga practice:
After 13 years of yoga practice and have tried many yoga props along the way. You don’t need much to get started. Here are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home.
I love this yoga mat. The quality is very good for the price. I have this exact mat in my living room and after 2 years it still looks brand new. It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried. In addition, it has nice grooves that keep the mat in place.
Yoga straps are useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture. In addition, I love the Manduka cork yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new! Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate over time due to sweat and regular use. They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip. It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.