Spiritual Care & Stress Managment Lectures

I know I have mentioned several times before that when I had my “awakening” (for lack of a better term) a few years ago, I really found who I was, what was most important in life, and most importantly the big picture of life, faith, love, struggle, appreciation, and purpose within the context of my religion and spirituality. It was when I really felt my mind and my heart open, and when I started regular meditation and this blog. I also that remember when I first experienced this, I felt free and alive and full of compassion in each present moment, and I was filled with a very effortless peace and positive energy. Although I try my best to continue to remember these things and carry them with me, sometimes the stress of daily life can get in the way of truly feeling and experiencing all of this to its maximum potential. 

Lately there has been even more than usual going on in my crazy life, and I have felt more and more disconnected from my spirit each day. But it turns out that I am not the only one going through this, because both lectures in class all morning focused on spiritual care and stress management in terms of the big picture, and more importantly, nursing and quality patient care. We started off by making the very important distinction between religion and spirituality. Religion is a set of beliefs within an organized group that guides your way of living; it is what can get one through the day. Spirituality is your inner soul and how you relate to yourself, a higher power, other people, and your environment; this is what can get one through the night. These can overlap or come together to create inner peace that can provide more benefits than I could possibly list here!

After establishing that spirituality does in fact bring an inner happiness that external factors should not disturb, we then discussed the correlations between happiness and health, and happiness and success. As you may have guessed, these have a direct positive correlation; the happier you are, the healthier and more successful you will be. There has been so much research that shows those who take care of their spiritual health claim to be happier, have longer lives, less stress and stress related diseases, more effective coping mechanisms with minimal medical treatment, higher levels of creativity, energy, and success, and significantly lower rates of depression and suicide than those who do not consider themselves spiritual. I have seen firsthand not only in my self, but in my loved ones and my patients, just how true this is. 

There are many ways to care for your spirit other than the obvious techniques such as meditation, journaling as self-reflection, and yoga. Holistic spiritual care consists of a much wider variety of things, a few of which I have listed here: getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, laughter and play time, time spent in nature, appreciation of the small things, hope for the future, inspirational music, travel and new experiences, and perhaps most importantly, compassion for others, love and chocolate. However, most people are so busy and stressed with their every day life, that there is not always enough time to do everything you want (and as a nursing student at Emory, I can vouch for that)! So, the entire second lecture was focused on dealing with stress and stress perception rather than actually lowering worldly stressors, since this is not very realistic to do most of the time. 

We then listened to a very inspirational song in which the main message was that we are all the children of the world and if we don’t try to make a difference then no difference will be made. I have posted a link to the song below on YouTube–I definitely think it is worth a quick listen if you have the time. We also watched a video by Shawn Achor called “The Happy Secret to Better Work”, in which he discusses how happiness is intrinsic and if we are not very likely to ever achieve it if we base it on worldly factors, because these can come and go and change all the time. Although he is a graduate from Harvard University, he also happens to have a wonderful sense of humor and some great stories to tell and five amazing tips to change your mindset into very positive thinking, so a link of his video is also posted below. 

The last video we watched was of Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University in which he defines stress and discusses the physiologic responses; they are the same social and psychological stressors we experience with things such as traffic and taxes as the biological stressors of animals trying to survive via fight or flight mechanisms. The main idea behind this lecture and video was basically the same thing, emphasizing that how we perceive and react to stress is much more important than the actual stressor itself. And of course, I have posted the link to this video below! After the video we got a few stress management tips and techniques that I will definitely to remember and focus on as I move forward in my nursing career and in my personal life. 

Before I end, I would like to quickly mention a few other points that we covered that I feel are often understated. One of these is that perfection is boredom and chaos is stress, and neither one of these is ideal. It is important to remember that some stress is a good thing, because that is what makes us alive and human and able to grow and learn and then eventually help others.This brings me to the other important point we covered, and that is the importance of compassion and kindness towards others as part of our own spiritual care. We heard several touching stories from our guest speaker about those who attained true happiness when they learned how to give, and how they reaped its benefits tenfold.

The final and most important thing I got from today’s lectures, especially in terms of nursing care, was the reminder of the importance of compassion for your self, because if you are not happy then you cannot provide maximum compassion for another. The guided compassion centered meditation exercise focused on breathing in to remember compassion for yourself or from a higher power, and breathing out to release the compassion on others in each moment. In order to provide the best patient care possible, you must become a healing presence, and this comes from an inner peace and energy that must be carried with you constantly in each moment and cannot be turned on and off or taken away by any worldly circumstance. This is what I strongly feel is the main difference between a nurse, and a truly great nurse. I hope to carry this renewed inspiration and motivation with me for the rest of my nursing school career and beyond.

Here are a few quotes and charts/graphs I got from the lecture that I find can be very beneficial, as well as links to the YouTube videos I mentioned and discussed above=) Enjoy!

“Everyone is going through their own journey. You are not responsible for their pain, nor are you expected to completely alleviate their pain, no matter how much you may want to.” -Compassion centered meditation

Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work 

We are the World 25 for Haiti (YouTube Edition) 

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