When you work as hard and as much as you do, it’s easy to get stuck on autopilot. And sometimes, it can happen so fast, you don’t even realize you’re just going through the motions. But it’s for that very reason you should take time to check in with yourself and practice mindfulness to maintain your mental wellbeing!
4 Mindfulness Tips to Maintain Your Mental Health as a Professional Traveler
What comes to mind when you think of mindfulness? Is it sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat? Is it guided meditation with a mental health professional? Is it deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth?
No matter what comes to mind when you think of mindfulness, you’re probably right—mindfulness is all of those things. Or rather, you can achieve mindfulness through various mental health techniques like these. But is mindfulness right for you? Let’s find out more about mental health and mindfulness so you can see for yourself!
Mindfulness and mental health
Here’s the million-dollar question: What is mindfulness? And now for the million-dollar answer: Mindfulness is your ability to be “fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.” In short, being mindful is the act of being present in the here and now.
Although mindfulness has been found in several ancient religious practices, it became mainstream in America in 1979 when John Kabat-Zinn created what we know and love today as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Since then, mindfulness has been boomin’ in popularity and researchers have been able to study the mental health and wellbeing benefits that come from being mindful, so now we know that mindfulness can:
Enhance your cognitive ability
Believe it or not, practicing mindfulness can actually slow your brain from aging and enhance your cognitive ability. In 2019, a study was conducted to show the effects of mindfulness on the brain and what researchers found may surprise you. Of first-time meditators who practiced mindfulness every day for 40 days, researchers found significant change in brain structure, including “gray matter volume and cortical thickness,” which are linked to lower depression scores when compared to those who do not practice mindfulness. Then, a 2020 study of 50 long-term meditation practitioners between the ages of 24 and 77 found lower rates of annual brain tissue, specifically in brain regions that play a role in mood regulation, nervous system processing, and emotional/cognitive integration.
Reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression
When it comes down to it, many of us are familiar with the hardships of maintaining your mental health. But did you know that mindfulness is a proven way to increase your wellbeing and job satisfaction, as well as reduce your perceived stress? In fact, a 2020 study found that MBSR helps treat young people with anxiety symptoms and 2018 research found that regular mindfulness practices help individuals with anxiety and depression, even without additional therapeutic treatment added to the mix. How ‘bout that?
Relieve pain and boost quality of life
If you’re looking for a way to relieve body aches and pains and increase your quality of life while you’re at it, well then, mindfulness may be for you! According to a 2019 study, practicing mindfulness techniques can help:
- Reduce pain and fatigue
- Provide relief from digestive disorders
- Symptoms of sleep disorders
- Improve immune response
Furthermore, mindfulness can offer even more benefits for those with cancer by increasing levels of melatonin and reducing cachexia. Sure, mindfulness may not seem like much, but one thing’s for sure—mindfulness is mighty.
Of course, like most things in life, being mindful is easier said than done. Luckily, there are a wide variety of mindfulness exercises that can help you achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation like:
- Daily gratitude
- Eating wisely
- Giving yourself a break
Let’s explore each of these techniques even further to find the ones that may work the best for you while you’re living your best medical traveler life!
No. 1: Experiment with meditation
Ah, meditation. Whether you love it, hate it, or are indifferent to it, chances are you’ve at least heard of it. And if you’re anything like me, then meditation can seem pretty dang intimidating when you think about it. But we’re here to help shed light to the awesomeness that is meditation.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, forget everything you think you know about meditation and prepare to have your mind blown. Contrary to popular belief, the goal of meditation isn’t to magically transform into a whole new, relaxed person. No, meditation is simply observing your thoughts and feelings as they are and without judgement. Ready to give it a try? Follow these steps:
- Find a quiet space
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Close your eyes
- Focus on your breath
- Be patient and kind to yourself
- Rinse and repeat
When you start your meditation journey, it’s natural for your brain to jump all over the place. When that happens, use your breath as your anchor to observe your thoughts without getting sucked into them. Then give it a shot at refocusing your mind and breaths. Meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts, but rather, about training your brain against distractions to build awareness. And with some meditation practice, you can incorporate calmness, focus, compassion, and mindfulness into daily living.
No. 2: Practice daily gratitude
In the hustle and bustle of life, it can be tough to remember to slow down to take it all in and give thanks. So, to help you do that, try incorporating a daily gratitude practice into your routine!
Now, you might be wondering, “What does it mean to practice gratitude?” When you practice gratitude, you focus on expressions of thanks or appreciation for something and recognize the positive things in your life, as well as how they impact you. For example, you could notice and appreciate a beautiful flower as you pass by or feel thankful to have the knowledge and skills to help a patient recover from an illness or injury.
Keep in mind that practicing gratitude looks different to everyone so something that works for you may not be what works for someone else, and vice versa. If you’re interested in giving it a go, these are some common ways to practice gratitude—try them out and see what feels right for you:
- Noticing and enjoying the little things in life, like a singing bird
- Sharing with someone that you’re grateful for them
- Doing something kind to express gratitude for someone
- Giving thanks through prayer
Once you find your gratitude groove, it’ll become natural for you to engage in giving thanks throughout the day. And after regular practice, you could reap all the benefits such as:
- A boosted immune system
- Improved mental health
- Strengthened relationships
- Increased optimism
Like anything, the more you practice, the better you’re going to get at giving thanks, and the more impact you’re going to feel from this practice. Give it your best shot and see if it makes a difference for you!
No. 3: Fuel your body with nutrients
You know how Snickers says, “You’re not you when you’re hungry”? Well, they have a point. Part of mindfulness is tuning inwards to notice and acknowledge how your body feels and what you put in it. And when you feel hungry, you can continue your mindfulness practice into mindful eating to fuel your body with nutrients.
Now, I don’t know about you, but eating can feel like a chore sometimes. But that’s where mindful eating comes in handy. Mindful eating is the act of paying attention to what we’re eating, without judgement, to fully experience the joys of food. Here are some ways to incorporate mindful eating into your life:
- Eat the rainbow and recognize how the colors in your meal engage your senses
- Learn to love the repetition—aka the “wax on, wax off” of cooking—and appreciate the little wonders it takes to prepare a meal
- Be one with your body and notice how your tummy grumbles or your mouth waters as you anxiously wait to devour your culinary creation
- Find your flow in the kitchen and enjoy the process of skill-building in the kitchen
- Take time to enjoy your meal—chew slowly, smell the aromas, taste the nuances of the flavors
Eating mindfully helps take some of the chore out of cooking and allows you to appreciate every step of the process. Plus, mindful eating can also help promote better digestion, keep you full by eating less, and influence wiser food choices for the future!
No. 4: Take a break between assignments
As a travel nurse or allied health traveler, you’re constantly on the move, ready for your next travel adventure. That’s why it’s so crucial for you to schedule breaks in between assignments to check in with yourself, relax, and recharge before your next travel job. Taking time off and giving yourself a break helps increase mindfulness because it helps reset your mind and allows you to turn off autopilot. As Donna and Tom from “Parks and Rec” say, “Treat yo’self.”
You spend a lot, if not most, of your time tending to others. So now it’s your turn to give yourself some TLC! Of course, what that looks like depends on you—maybe you want to go back home to visit family, travel for funsies, or treat yourself to a staycation. Whatever you do, just make sure you do it for you.
The best part is as a Fusion Medical Staffing traveler, you’re entitled to 40 hours of paid time-off (PTO) for every 1,560 hours worked! That means your finances don’t need to suffer because you had to take an unpaid vacation. Plus, as you know, if you take too much time off as a traveler, you could forfeit benefits like health insurance, depending on the health insurance plan. However, Fusion travelers have 26 glorious days of freedom before you have to get back to the grind or suffer the consequences of losing benefits. So, what are you waiting for? Give yourself a break and enjoy some you time. You earned it.
Living mindfully requires practice, so don’t expect to see major changes overnight. Instead, by practicing mindfulness techniques, you may notice gradual changes over time to your mental health, mood regulation, and more. To measure how many times a day you’re in a mindful state, use the Mindful Attention Awareness Score (MAAS) and see where you stand—the higher the score, the greater your ability to be mindful. If you didn’t score as high as you would’ve liked, use this helpful guide to be more intentional and mindful in your everyday life!