Submitted by Kelly Alandt RN
I remember learning in nursing school about the importance of treating and caring for the whole person; taking into consideration not just the physical aspects of a person, but the emotional, mental, and spiritual portions as well. Over the years as I have moved through my nursing career, the physical aspects of care for patients began to overshadow and steer my focus. The concept of whole-person care often became lost.
In 2009, I started work at a hospital in Asheville, NC, where I was introduced to Holistic Nursing. The hospital had an educational program there for nurses who were interested in learning more about Holistic Nursing. I had never encountered the term Holistic Nurse, nor did I understand what it meant to “be” a holistic nurse. It was through this education that I was reminded of the concept of caring for the whole person. Although my husband had been introduced to several of the modalities included within the realm of holistic nursing, I had not. One of the many holistic practices I learned was making an intention to be present. Giving my undivided attention to the moment that was happening right in front of me with my patient. In doing so I am able to focus on what is needed of me, and for the person in my care, without being distracted by outside thoughts. In giving my entire focus to the “job at hand” I am able to make the best decisions needed in that moment.
As I’ve moved through life and nursing, time and time again I have become overly concerned or worried about future things that I didn’t yet know the answers to. I often found myself mulling over all the potential outcomes for a particular situation I happened to be facing; trying to work out all the possible details of how it might happen. This is exhausting! Trying to anticipate outcomes to events that haven’t happened yet added more stress and was affecting my health in ways I unaware. There had to be a better way to deal with uncertainty and the unknown. I am often reminded to draw on the things I have learned about being present and living in the now.
This is just one of my “holistic tools” I have to help me reduce stress and anxiety in my everyday life, especially in our current time of COVID 19 and the pandemic. Each day we are faced with plenty of uncertainties which can be troubling and stress-inducing, especially if they become our focus. Left unmanaged, these events can ultimately have negative effects on our wellbeing. I don’t like unknowns. When faced with a situation where there is an unknown outcome, I become anxious, emotional, and often irritable as I try to determine how events will unfold. It is in these moments that I have a choice. I can stay where I am, lost in the unending potential outcomes; or I can shift my focus to the present. Being able to be present, in both my everyday life and in nursing, has been such a positive change.
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whoever we are with, it all deserves our full attention and presence. I know most have heard the quote by Bill Keane, “Tomorrow is a mystery, yesterday is history, and today is a gift; that is why it is called the present”. It is talking about the gift we can give ourselves by remaining in the moment. If you find yourself getting swept up by stress-inducing “unknowns” or “what ifs”, try focusing on what is happening in the present. Try asking yourself what things are within your control, and what is beyond your control. We are really only in control of ourselves and our actions. Control the things you can and do not dwell on those you cannot. Remembering that can often help to reduce the stress and worry related to unknown outcomes.
As I reflect, I clearly see how much I was missing by not being present in the moment; instead, I was worrying about things that I had no control over. It has taken time, conscious practice, patience, and giving myself the grace to be imperfect as I hone this skill. Trust yourself. Know that when the time comes you will make the best decision you can about the things within your control. There are still plenty of days that I too get swept up, but always find peace, joy, and happiness when I come back to being present.
My recommendation…find joy in the people that you chose to be surrounded by, joy in the places you find yourself, and live each experience in this life to its fullest.