News from UT InterProfessional Education

Dr. Bauer-Wu's Lecture in Holistic Healing: Mind Full or Mindful?

One of the most pervasive conditions of the 21st century is stress; Americans are living in a culture where multi-tasking is essential and being stressed out is one of the chronic side effects. At the UT School of Nursing’s Helen L. Erickson PhD, RN, FAAN Lecture in Holistic Healing last Thursday, Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu spoke on “Resilience for Patients and Professionals through Mindfulness: Research and Practical Application.”

Dr. Bauer-Wu likened modern day stress to a storm at sea –choppy water, strong winds, and an ominous sky exist at the surface. But in the depths of the sea beneath the surface, the waters are calm and clear. Dr. Bauer-Wu spoke on the need for us to take moments throughout our day to ‘drop an anchor’ and become grounded to the calm that exists in our bodies, even in spite of all that is happening around us.  She stressed the importance of ‘stopping autopilot’ and creating a practice of mindfulness so that, in both our professional and personal lives, we can more skillfully respond to patients and stressful situations.

Dr. Bauer-Wu defines mindfulness as “our capacity to intentionally bring awareness to present moment experiences with an attitude of openness.” Three key words of that definition: intention, attention, and attitude. Using purposeful curiosity and putting judgment aside, the foundation of a mindful practice is simply noticing one’s thoughts. Mindfulness is a practice that anyone can do, and in the process of shifting awareness, one can actually rewire the brain and create neural pathways to promote resilience. In fact, Dr. Bauer-Wu said that research has found Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, one of the most widely used Mindfulness-Based Interventions, to be as effective as anti-depressants.

She warned that mindfulness should not be confused with relaxation techniques; rather, mindfulness doesn’t try so hard. Additionally, mindfulness is not about trying to achieve a special state of mind, not about going into a trance, not about thinking only positive thoughts, not about doing anything (it is a way of being), and not about distracting yourself or using imagery. Mindfulness is also not religious.

 

To apply this to one’s own personal or professional life, Dr. Bauer-Wu shared the STOP process:

S – stop; pause

T – take a few deep breaths to tune in

O – observe

P – proceed with awareness and wise action or wise inaction

 

An additional acronym, WORTH, provides healthcare professionals with cues to be mindful:

W – wash hands, feel the warm water, watch the soap lather and wash away

O – open the door, observe patient (and family), notice the experience

R – remember that you are caring for a person with a full life

T – take a few deep breaths

H – handle patient/family’s concerns

She noted that empathy and compassion stem from tuning into one’s own body’s needs. If, as practitioners, we can be more present, in turn we can teach and model calm clarity and heartful acceptance for our patients and families. When can you STOP to drop an anchor throughout your day?

 

~Sarah McElvain, MSSW

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