How to Incorporate Micro-Restorative Practices for Nurses at Work
Learn how nurses benefit from mini resilience-building exercises throughout the workday.
Many nurses place themselves last on their list of priorities during their shifts. They forget to fuel themselves with healthy snacks and water, or take a bathroom break, or stop and catch their breath.
Strong evidence links job stress, safety, and health within nursing populations. Some factors that cause job stress are inevitable — there’s not much you can do about complex patient conditions. But using micro-restorative practices throughout your shift can lower nursing-related stress and improve well-being.
What Are Micro-Restorative Practices?
Micro-restorative practices are small, short exercises designed to be used throughout the workday. The goal of these activities is authentic presence. They help you learn to acknowledge when you need to pause — and then, to choose the best technique to help yourself in that moment.
The first step: Learn to uncover what your body and mind need in a stressful or chaotic moment. This step involves emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Other methods to learn what your mind/body need and relieve stress that only take a few moments include:
For example: A body scan only takes a few quiet moments, but it can help you learn what you’re feeling and how you can relieve areas of tension or pain. Follow these steps to complete a body scan:
- Close your eyes. Center yourself. Anchor yourself to the present moment.
- Think about the boundaries of your body and find your breath. Follow your breath for a minute or two.
- Start with your head. Notice the temperature of your skin. Think about any tension you feel in your head or neck.
- Move down through your body, taking note of tightness, pain, or soreness. Send your breath to places that need attention.
- Think about the spaces between your fingers. Is your back straight? Your neck forward?
- Imagine a loved one’s hands holding you up so you can lean back. In this moment, you don’t have to care for anyone but yourself. Trust.
- Once you’ve moved all the way down to your feet, ask yourself: How am I feeling? What do I need?
How to Use Micro-Restorative Practices
After you identify the area of your mind/body that needs attention, you can use an exercise or tactic to improve the area of concern. For example: If during the body scan you notice tension in your back, take two minutes to stretch the back muscles.
“Micro-restorative practices offer an intentional pause and check-in to become more aware of your mental, emotional, and physical state,” said Pamela Mulligan, BSN, RN, RYT 500, of Replenish Mind Body Spirit LLC. “When we can acknowledge when our emotional state is in chaos, we can find the tools to skillfully navigate it.”
Pamela works with hospitals and nursing staff to create personalized, gentle approaches that encourage mind-body awareness, self-care, self-compassion, and resilience. She worked with Cathy Alvarez, MA, RN, CNML, HNB-BC, of Yale New Haven Hospital to bring the program to nurses.
Micro-Restorative Practices at Yale New Haven Hospital
“Each individual knows what they need to be healthy and well,” said Cathy. “But they tend to give to others before giving to themselves. We needed to change the conversation about how we care for ourselves.”
Together, Pamela and Cathy brought micro-restorative practices to Yale New Haven. The first step was leadership buy-in. At Yale New Haven, this made sense because of safety and quality’s direct tie to nurse engagement and satisfaction.
Next was nursing buy-in. The program was personalized to what staff say they need. There was no micro-managing and no staff requirements. Nursing staff provided feedback on common barriers to self-care, so Pamela and Cathy could work with leadership to remove those barriers.
Finally, Pamela and Cathy focused on coaching and education. Teaching staff how and when to use micro-restorative practices gave them the tools they needed for the future. From there, it was up to staff to decide when, if, and how those practices are used throughout the workday.
The key, Pamela said, is sustainability. With the program in place, nurses experience a deeper connection to self and each other at work. It’s a culture shift with an emphasis on compassionate connection, self-care, and resilience.
Results were noticeable. Engagement scores increased by 14.2% in one month, and disengagement scores dropped. Baseline health scores improved by 4%. Contentment with work increased.
But most of all, the nurses felt heard.
Does your hospital encourage micro-restorative practices for nursing self-care? What kind of benefits have you or your coworkers witnessed? Tell us in the discussion or on Facebook.
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