Caring from the Heart
Imagine yourself entering a room, feeling relaxed and present. You may have many other demands in your life, but right now, the only thing that is important is where you are and the person in front of you. Those other demands will be there when you are finished here. Because you are so aware of what is happening, you are able to connect with your patient, friend, or family member. Trust is built and you are able to effectively hear how they are feeling and understand what they are needing. Real care happens.
Still imagining here…it’s not just you, though. This is integral to your culture. All of your colleagues and co-carers are taking the same approach to patients, situations, and to you. Respect and acceptance is the rule, not the exception. Peace replaces chaos, even when met with incredible challenges. Teamwork is the pleasant norm.
As caregivers, our personal preparation before helping to assess someone’s pain or engaging in teamwork is an essential part of the process. I want to offer you steps to relieve stress and prepare yourself for caring for others in a way that is sustainable.
People in pain are in a vulnerable position. They need our complete attention. They need to know we are listening and that we will take action, to the extent we are able. With the many demands on our life it can be difficult to be fully present for someone else unless we are intentional. (Please see QUEST for Relief for brief guidelines for assessing and relieving pain.)
If we are talking to someone and our mind is somewhere else, we are not effective either place.
Several years ago, I was speaking to a large group of nurses on the topic of pain assessment. I talked about the techniques I adopted as a child life specialist to take a few breaths before entering a patient’s room, mentally laying aside all the other things on my list or people I needed to see, so I could be fully available to that patient and family.
There was a very animated audience member on the front row, nodding enthusiastically to everything I said. I stopped my presentation, asked who she was, and invited her to chat with me after the session. When we sat down, she told me that I was describing HeartMath® techniques and she encouraged me to learn more.
As soon as I was able, I hopped online and learned everything I could about HeartMath. I signed up for the course to be licensed as a One on One Provider and my adventure in HeartMath and my personal transformation began.
Learning the techniques, I quickly understood why my animated friend, a nursing educator at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and HeartMath provider, made the correlation with what I was saying and the HeartMath program. This is a very intentional approach to relieving stress and becoming more resilient, every day. As I practiced, I discovered that my default responses to life’s challenges, and there were some significant personal challenges at that time, were less and less like “Fight or Flight” and becoming more measured and mindful.
One simple, yet powerful tool is the Quick Coherence® Technique. I confess that when I learned this technique I thought it was too simple to make a difference. I tend to think efforts that have an impact have to be difficult. One day during a training session, I was struggling with symptoms of stress that felt like an elephant sitting on my chest. My HeartMath coach helped me see the dramatic difference the Quick Coherence practice can make by guiding me through the technique, then repeating it when the first time didn’t relieve the heavy feeling in my chest. It worked. I have been a believer ever since, and use it daily. I recommend you begin practicing when you are in a low-stress situation, not in the middle of saving someone’s life, but then, with practice, definitely call on your skills when you are feeling stressed. You can practice anywhere and no one needs to know what you are doing. You will eventually find this becomes an automatic response.
There are two steps to the Quick Coherence Technique:
- Focus your attention on the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. Suggestion: Inhale 5 seconds, exhale 5 seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable).
- Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. Suggestion: Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a pet, a special place, an accomplishment, etc., or focus on a feeling of calm or ease.
Another thing, here. Some people think if you use techniques like this, you will be so relaxed you will just nod off. You need your edge when you are working, right? Practicing these techniques, you will discover your performance improves and your energy increases. You can find the research to back this up at www.HeartMath.org.
Now, I practice daily with my Inner Balance™ app on my iPhone® or the emWave® technology on my computer. I get into a comfortable position, attach the sensor to my earlobe and begin the training program on my device. It guides me to take steady, deep breaths while focusing on the area around my heart and positive feelings, while monitoring my heart rate variability. The program lets me know when I am in that coherence zone, when my heart and mind are in sync and communicating. I can even earn points for coherence and record how much time I am in the high coherence zone.
Having one of these devices is not necessary for using the HeartMath techniques, but I have found them to be extremely helpful.
With just a few minutes a day, you can re-train your heart and mind connection, so you can be more present for the people around you.
If this is of interest to you, I invite you to check out more information.
My HeartMath journey has inspired me to become a mentor to others. If you are interested in learning more about HeartMath through coaching, courses, or having someone train your team, please schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation with me.
During this consultation, let me know your particular interests and I can guide you towards the next best steps for your needs. If you are a leader of a group or organization and would like information on how your team can integrate these techniques into your work culture, I can help with that, as well.
I encourage you to practice caring from the heart to be more effective in your caregiving in a way that is sustainable and fulfilling for you.
Heart-centered living is contagious. Let’s spread it.
HeartMath is a registered trademark of Quantum Intech, Inc. For all other HeartMath trademarks go to: www.heartmath.com/trademarks
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