News of a global public health concern like COVID-19 (Coronavirus) can naturally trigger overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and anxiety that can ultimately impact one’s mental health.
Countless individuals worldwide are dealing with sudden changes to their regular schedules leaving many people unemployed, depressed, and apprehensive about their future.
Due to the unprecedented nature and ever evolving news surrounding COVID-19, it is completely expected and appropriate to experience fear and trepidation during periods like these.
Despite these difficult times however, it is also imperative to know not only how to effectively manage potential anxiety but also mitigate negativistic ruminating thoughts from affecting your overall mental health.
Because of this, here are some useful mindfulness exercises that may be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic:
Breathing is an important component of mindfulness. Whenever you are stressed or overwhelmed, take a moment to relax and simply focus on your breathing.
Slowly inhale and exhale, releasing your tension and stress away with each breath and regain control over how you choose to respond to the situation at hand.
Remember, you are the master of how you choose to interpret the world around you.
Start by closing your eyes and choosing a comfortable position. You can either sit on a chair or lie on your bed.
Once you are breathing comfortably, slowly move your awareness through your body, focusing on one area at a time.
Stop whenever you find an area that is unusually tight or sore and focus your breath on this area until it loosens.
Feel free to use a calm and healing visualization at this point as well (e.g., a ball of white light melting into the sore spot) to help facilitate the healing.
Hold an object that is special or interesting to you.
Focus all of your senses on it and note the information your senses feedback to you, including its shape, size, color, texture, smell, taste, or sounds that it makes when it is manipulated.
Practice this meditation technique daily and feel free to bring this object with you to work or school as this can be an especially helpful tool in grounding you to the present moment.
Like the previous exercise, this exercise can also be completed with all your senses while you focus on eating a particular food that you enjoy, like dark chocolate or a grape.
Eat slowly while utilizing all five senses: smell, taste, touch, sight, and even sound to ease you back to reality.
Lastly, take a leisurely walk at a gentle but familiar pace. Observe how you walk and pay attention to the sights, sounds, and sensations around you as you walk the road ahead of you.
Notice how your shoulders feel, the sensations in your feet as they meet the ground, and the swing of your hips with each stride.
Match your breathing to your footsteps and allow yourself to be immersed with the environment around you and use this time to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.
While the current COVID-19 pandemic can trigger feelings of uncertainty and fear, it is also important to look for opportunities during these especially difficult times to practice patience and kindness.
Use this opportunity to celebrate successes, find things to be grateful about, and take satisfaction in completing tasks regardless of how big or small.
Because in the end, your mental health is important and it needs to be protected.
After successfully completing your nurse practitioner education and passing your certification exam, you’ve finally been granted an interview to work for a prestigious organization in your desired specialty.
The last thing that stands in your way, however, is the dreaded interview.
As a newly minted DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) graduate and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, I understand that the days leading up to an interview can evoke a plethora of emotions ranging from excitement to nervousness.
Luckily for you, I have compiled a list of six steps that may be helpful in preparing you for your first Nurse Practitioner interview.
1. Update your Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
One of the things that many new grad nurse practitioners tend to neglect in their professional development is ensuring that their resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is updated consistently.
When you don’t take the time to update your resume regularly, it becomes very difficult to precisely remember notable achievements or projects that you may have already completed.
Therefore, having an updated resume or CV is extremely important because it demonstrates your commitment in showcasing your experience and accomplishments as accurately as possible to your future potential employer.
2. Do your Research
Just like studying for an exam to get a good grade, doing your research is also good practice prior to participating in an interview.
What is the mission and vision of the company that you’re applying for? What are their core values, and do they align with yours? What are the goals and purpose of the company?
These are all critical questions that you must ask yourself, and more importantly be comfortable answering prior to your interview date.
The more you know about a company and what they stand for, the easier it is for you to determine if it’s truly the right fit for you and your professional aspirations.
3. Dress for Success
Studies have long demonstrated that people make a judgment based on their first impression of you within the first seven seconds of interaction. This means that whether you’re on a job interview, at a business meeting, or attending a networking event, you have just a few seconds to make a good first impression and establish yourself as the successful person you strive to be.
Dressing for success means not only dressing well but also understanding the subtle messages you’re conveying based on your overall appearance.
Dressing well is crucial to the interview process because wearing the right clothes can ultimately make a strong visual statement on how you view yourself and the world around you.
4. Be your Authentic Self
Channeling your authenticity is a trait that many organizations and companies look for when interviewing potential candidates.
Being authentic is not just about what you think or say but also what you do and how you choose to function in the outside world.
As you interview, use this opportunity to really let your personality shine and don’t be afraid to be yourself. In the end, the most successful people are those who can tolerate and absorb criticism, admit their faults, and be accepting of others because they are not threatened by the fear of failure.
5. Ask Questions
When interviewing for a position, it’s important to remember to not be afraid and ask questions.
Asking questions is vital because it not only demonstrates your interest in the position but also your willingness to excel in the role that you’re applying for.
Keep in mind that the best questions to ask are focused, open-ended questions that provide greater insight into the company’s day-to-day operations as well as their culture.
6. Say “Thank You”
Lastly, once the interview is done, it is important to show your gratitude by sending a thoughtful email or thank you card.
Writing a thank you message is a great way to differentiate yourself from other candidates because it demonstrates your willingness to go the extra mile to show your appreciation for the time the interviewer spent with you.
Writing a good thank you note can be pivotal in demonstrating not only the caliber of your work but also the characteristics you may claim to have, such as: attention to detail, ability to communicate effectively, and professionalism.
It is also important to note that employers tend to view thank you notes as a visual representation of who you are as a potential employee.
Therefore, prior to sending a thank you note, take the time to reread it thoroughly to ensure that it is professional and uses proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
The art of de-escalation is an invaluable tool developed primarily to defuse hostile individuals and situations. In its original usage, the concept of de-escalation implies the existence of both verbal and non-verbal skills and techniques which, if used selectively and appropriately, may reduce the level of an aggressor’s hostility and emotional reactivity.
Although violent incidents may come from a variety of different sources, aggressive and hostile patients appear to be the largest source of workplace violence in the healthcare setting (OSHA, 2015). In 2013, 80 percent of the serious violent incidents reported were primarily caused by interactions with patients in the clinical setting (OHSA, 2015).
Since potential aggressive incidents is an acute behavioral emergency that frequently require immediate intervention, qualified nurses must be prepared to utilize the following de-escalation skills and techniques to promote patient safety and staff protection.
1. Maintain a Calm Demeanor
Maintaining a calm demeanor and intervening early with less restrictive measures, such as verbal and non-verbal communication, reduced stimulation, active listening, diversionary techniques, and limit setting can help relax the patient and promote a culture of structure, calmness, negotiation and collaboration, rather than control. If nurses remain calm and cooperative, the patient will most likely mirror their behavior.
2. Practice Active Listening
While most nurses are often tempted to retaliate when dealing with an aggressive patient, active listening and watching for nonverbal cues may be helpful in the de-escalation process. Active listening is pivotal in pre-empting an angry outburst by looking for, or listening to paraverbal communication that is tone, inflection, and volume.
Since most patients that arrive at the hospital are fearful or anxious, it is not uncommon for some patients to utilize anger or aggression as a coping mechanism. Therefore, nurses should utilize active listening as a tool to help comfort and reassure patients that they are invested in their safety and recovery.
3. Provide Patients an Opportunity to Vent
After actively listening to the patient, nurses must be able to offer thoughtful comments that demonstrate an awareness of the patient’s unique feelings and concerns. By offering patients an opportunity to vent, it allows the nurses and patients to work collaboratively and address underlying issues.
When a patient appears to be upset or is demonstrating early signs of anger, it is imperative for nurses to substantiate what they see or hear, so that the patient feels validated. Often times, nurses are accustomed to telling patients what to do, that they forget to provide patients an opportunity to sufficiently express themselves. Therefore, when nurses provide patients a chance to vent, it not only provides patients an opportunity to voice out their frustrations but also diminishes the likelihood of physical violence to ensue.
4. Display a Non-Defensive Posture
Another important technique that must be considered when de-escalating an aggressive and hostile patient is displaying a non-defensive posture. By keeping the hands in front of the body, open and relaxed, and maintaining appropriate eye contact, it illustrates authenticity and compassion towards the individual. While proper eye contact is subjective however, it is imperative not to stare.
Since a nurse’s reaction can greatly influence the emotional reactivity of highly dysregulated patients, the nurse must maintain a neutral expression at all times. By remaining calm and sustaining a neutral appearance, patients are less likely to overreact allowing nurses to regain control of the situation.
5. Impart Empathy and Compassion
Lastly, nurses should also be able to properly express their concern by conveying empathy and compassion towards the patient. The art of empathy and compassion helps reassure patients that they are not alone. Paraphrasing can be an effective tool in de-escalating a patient because it not only communicates empathy but also demonstrates understanding. By using phrases such as “I understand how difficult this can be for you,” nurses can connect with patients much more effectively which can help facilitate the healing process by re-establishing trust and rapport.
Once the patient is successfully de-escalated, the nurse is then responsible for settling any unresolved feelings or concerns the patient may hold. During the resolution stage, the nurse should identify how the patient would like their anger to be dealt with if and when a similar situation recurs. During this time, the nurse should work collaboratively with the patient to re-establish therapeutic rapport and ensure all feelings and concerns are individually validated.
Overcoming adversity is a demanding task that requires a great deal of emotional resilience and mental toughness. While many people react to such circumstances with a flood of emotions and a sense of uncertainty, others may choose to adapt positively in response to their life-changing situations and stressful conditions. As a medical-surgical nurse, Jamie Davis, RN, understands the meaning of handling adversity both professionally and personally. In this Q&A interview, Davis discusses the importance of emotional resilience and how rising above adversity ultimately shaped her into the nurse that she is today.
Jamie Davis, RN
How did you become a nurse?
In 2006, I attended college in Michigan with a major in cosmetology. I met someone who was working as an LVN at the time who asked if I needed a job. During that moment, I did not have any intention of working in the health care industry. But during the interview however, I was asked, “how would you feel if you were unable to help someone you were caring for?” Surprised by this question, I simply responded, “I would feel horrible, but in the end, I would do everything in my power to assist them and make them feel better as a person.” It was at this moment that ultimately began my journey as a future nurse.
Why did you choose the specialty you currently work in now?
In 2007, I received a distressing phone call from my parents informing me that my brother was admitted into the ICU. After hearing the news, I booked a flight to California and headed straight to the hospital where he was staying at. When I walked into the room, I saw my brother lying lifeless in bed with machines hooked up to him. At that moment, so many memories rushed through my head and I began to have all these endless questions – What am I going to do if he doesn’t come out of this bed? How are we going to move on? How are we going to make it through this? Luckily, my doubts and fears went away when he began to improve so I decided to fly back home.
A few months later around Christmas time however, I received another troubling phone call from my mother telling me that my brother got readmitted again to the ICU but this time with worsening complications. As I rushed to the hospital, I distinctly remember seeing all the tubes hooked up to my brother and the nurses working tirelessly to save him.
Unfortunately, the following morning, I received the phone call that nobody ever wants to hear – my brother has passed away. It was a life changing moment that my family and I will never forget, but ultimately inspired me to become the nurse that I am today.
Therefore, although I currently work on the medical surgical unit, my dream is to one day work in either the ER or ICU settings to one day help those patients who are also in critical need.
How has your brother’s passing impacted the care you give for your patients?
Although my brother’s passing continues to affect me each and every day, I’ve learned to keep his memory with me every time I come to work and care for my patients. Despite his unexpected death, I’ve learned to understand that being resilient is learning how to not only live with those painful memories but also deal with it in a positive way.
What kind of advice would you give our readers on how to overcome tragedy as a nurse and develop resiliency?
One piece of advice that I would like to give the readers on how to overcome tragedy as a nurse is understanding that overcoming adversity is a personal journey. It’s okay to grieve from time to time, but it’s also important to take your sadness and create something positive out of it. Because of this, I have learned to become a more vocal advocate for my patients and their loved ones in times of need. By doing this, I am able to honor my brother’s spirit through my work as a nurse.
Do you have any parting words of encouragement for those interested in pursuing a career in nursing?
To anyone else who may be going through a difficult time, please don’t give up. Regardless of how difficult and emotionally challenging life can seem, personal success all depends on how you choose to deal with your given circumstances. Therefore, I am a living example that no matter what life puts you through, your dreams can become possible if you believe it.
The practice of meditation is used in many cultures to reduce stress and anxiety and to maintain optimal psychological and spiritual well-being. Meditation has been extensively studied as a treatment for not only improving cardiovascular health, but also anxiety disorders as well. Since burnout and anxiety are common conditions plaguing health care professionals around the world, nurses must understand the healing power that meditation has in assisting them maintain physical, mental, and emotional balance. By learning how to incorporate the complementary practice of meditation and mindfulness into their lives, nurses have the ability to learn advantageous coping skills to handle potentially stressful situations.
The Art of Meditation and Mindfulness
The ancient art of meditation and mindfulness was derived from ancient Buddhist and yoga practices around 1500 BCE. Mindfulness refers to a process that guides individuals in maintaining a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. The basic premise underlying meditation and mindfulness centers on how experiencing the present moment nonjudgmentally and openly can effectively counter the effects of stressors, because excessive orientation toward the past or future can be related to feelings of depression and anxiety. It is further believed that by teaching nurses to respond to stressful situations more reflectively rather than reflexively, meditation can effectively counter experiential avoidance strategies, which are attempts to alter the intensity or frequency of unwanted internal experiences from the outside realm.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Due to the incredible health benefits that meditation and mindfulness possesses, Kabat-Zinn conceptualized a highly effective and integrative approach for reducing the physical, emotional, and mental consequences of chronic stress and anxiety. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an innovative therapy that blends various elements of different Eastern meditation practices with western psychology. MBSR is a formal eight-week evidence-based program that challenges the patient to cultivate a greater awareness of the unity of the mind and body as well as the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can influence their overall health. During MBSR therapy, the individual learns various coping skills and techniques aimed to reduce the physiological effects of stress, pain, or illness by participating in experiential exploration of stress and distress to develop less emotional reactivity.
Since the mind is known to play an influential role in stress and stress-related disorders, MBSR has been shown to positively affect a range of autonomic physiological processes, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing parasympathetic arousal and emotional reactivity. In addition to mindfulness practices, MBSR also utilizes yoga to help promote wholesome physical activity and prevent unhealthy complications associated with living a sedentary lifestyle.
Due to the many health benefits it possesses, MBSR has been shown to relieve pain and improve psychological well-being across the health care spectrum. Because of this realization, nurses should make a more concerted effort in incorporating mindfulness meditation practices into their daily lives to not only improve their own stress reactivity, but also imbue resiliency to stressful and arduous psychological challenges associated with working in the health care setting.