Practicing Presence

Anxiety - Stress ... Time management vital for...

Anxiety – Stress … Time management vital for finals — cancel your Netflix subscription (7:45 PM, Nov. 28, 2012) …item 2b.. Muddy Waters – After The Rain – Full Album (1969) … (Photo credit: marsmet481)

Ever get that anxious feeling the night before work/day of work or even more so driving in? What am I walking into? Is the sh*t gonna hit the fan?


Especially those times when you have been off for a couple of days. Or coming back from vacation. Or when you’ve been there just hours before (because 12 1/2 hours on means only 11 1/2 hours off…oh wait then you have to factor driving…and before you know it it’s time to turn around and head right back in).

Working day shift, there were surely nights I spent all night dreaming about my extremely sick patient/patients that by the time I woke up, I felt like I was working all night long. Only to be heading back into work in the morning. Hold on, no one ever told me I’d be working 36 hour shifts.

Working night shift, I came home in the morning to try to go to sleep, but WAIT. The sun is shining, I can hear life going on outside me right outside my window (grass cut, children playing, construction work), and I’m back in tonight for another 12! But…I could take the time to run errands, sneak in some ME time, or work on that project I’ve been putting off for forever which suddenly seems extremely important to be done right NOW. This past winter was especially painful with boardwalk construction to rebuild what Hurricane Sandy swept away leaving my house shaking for most hours of the day. Oh yeah, and the house directly behind mine that they have been building for what seems like eternity.

In a nutshell, I’ve been sleep deprived. Being a single mom with a 3 1/2 year old who is always go, go, go…I try to catch the zzzz’s when I can. But there is always SOMETHING more to do. Sleep deprivation undoubtably leads to anxiety. But do you want to know what else can cause anxiety? Being too focused on the FUTURE.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve thought about how I could really use a little something to chill me out. Pick your poison…alcohol, the latest anti-anxiety meds (Xanax anyone?), shopping, eating. Want to know what I chose? Taking a deep breath. A BIG, deep cleansing breath. I chose to force myself to get to a yoga class. Dragged my butt out for a run. If that doesn’t FORCE you to breathe, what will?

Breathing is what connects the mind to the physical body. It is what brings you back to the present. The times I found myself verging on meltdown, breath. The times I found myself with tears welling up in my eyes while at work, deep breath. Was I bringing my work home? Sure. Was I bringing my home to work? Abso-freaking-lutely.

You know what it’s done for me? Wonders. It’s forced me to be PRESENT. It’s made me an active participant in my own life. Because numbing yourself from all the junk leaves you numbing yourself from all the good stuff too, like joy and happiness. Want to know how I feel? ALIVE!

It’s made me a better nurse for sure, because I can stand in the room with my patient, or even sit down to have a conversation, and I can tune out everything else going on outside of that room. I can take a breath and realize maybe the best gift I can give my patient is the gift of presence. To be fully THERE. To really CARE. It’s caused me to totally change the way I view going into work.

It’s made me a better mom. Because a meltdown isn’t going to last forever (though some times it undoubtably seems like it will). And the good times don’t last forever either. I can totally soak in all the happy times and engage in every moment.

It’s made me a better friend and sister. Really listening. Taking a deep breath when I can only think of what I’m going to say next. I’ve probably learned more about some of my best friends in the last few months than I have in years of knowing them. And it’s caused me to stop giving out so much advice. Because people really have a way of fixing themselves if you just stop to listen and ask just a few open ended questions.

So the next time you just feel in your own head, stop and breathe. All the way down into the base of your lungs. Then, tell me how it feels.

Sending love, love, love. XOXO

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