Grant Pignatiello, PhD, RN
Nurse scientist prioritizes self-compassion and mindfulness for well-being
Physical health is only one part of wellness. Other key parts — including emotional and mental health — are also pivotal for overall well-being. Grant Pignatiello, PhD, RN knows and believes this, which is why he prioritizes what’s happening on the inside to keep himself well.
For the past 5 years, Grant has focused on learning about himself through therapy and mindfulness. He uses the Headspace app daily. Combining the app with what he learns at therapy, Grant has the tools he needs to overcome emotional challenges and hardships.
As one of those hardships, the pandemic created a fundamental shift in Grant’s mindset. He began to focus more on the “why” for everything in his life.
“Why do we do the things we do?” Grant asks. “My whys relate to fostering meaningful relationships, being more curious and less judgmental about the world, and being true to myself. Being cognizant of my whys helps me reframe things in my head and stay focused on what’s important.”
The Connection Between the Physical and Emotional
Through Grant’s personal experience and research initiatives, he’s placing more importance on sleep. His research at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University shows a clear interplay between emotions and sleep. How do anxiety and stress influence sleep, and in turn, how does sleep impact someone’s decision-making skills? All of these are intertwined — Grant found that individuals who report sleep issues have higher levels of decision fatigue.
Knowing this, Grant makes a concerted effort to improve his own sleep. He does this by sticking to a semi-regular bedtime, which helps him get the length of sleep his body and mind need to function at their best. This directly impacts his emotional health and gives him strength to get through times of high anxiety or stress.
That’s not to say Grant hasn’t faced challenges when it comes to his health. Many of his hurdles involved improving his wellness habits and giving himself more grace.
“I’ve learned to be compassionate with myself by being less judgmental of my thoughts and feelings, and accepting that my feelings are just feelings — nothing more, nothing less,” says Grant. “Emotions are temporary, and we’re in control of how we interpret them.”
Work in Progress
Each day is an opportunity to make slight improvements to better ourselves. Keeping this in mind has helped Grant feel more centered and capable. It’s also taught him how to reframe his mind to think about situations — even the COVID-19 pandemic — in a more positive light.
“The pandemic has challenged all of us in ways we may not have expected,” says Grant. “I allow myself to acknowledge the sadness, frustration, and fear that I experience(d) — and remind myself to be thankful that I and those I love are healthy. The pandemic has given me a new perspective on adversity: Rather than seeing seemingly insurmountable challenges as a threat, I try instead to see them as opportunities for growth and self-discovery.”
Our emotional and mental health play a huge role in our overall wellness. If you’re hoping to improve these areas of your life, Grant recommends that you:
- Figure out your why: Your wellness is a life-long journey, but you need to know what motivates you — and whether those motivations are consistent with your values.
- Give yourself grace: Cut yourself the same slack that you would give someone else. Learn to practice self-compassion at work and at home.
- Listen to your body: If you’re feeling tired or stressed, what is your body trying to tell you? The work will get done — serve yourself and those you love, first and foremost.
Grant Pignatiello, PhD, RN, is an Instructor of Nursing and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Clinical Research KL2 Scholar at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
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