Acupuncture And Aromatherapy For Stress Relief At Work
How can we do more to take care of ourselves in the workplace?
That’s the question we continue to ask as we put our patients first (and ourselves last) day in and day out. There’s only so much time in the shift, yet so much to do. It’s not unusual to find yourself skipping the snack your stomach is growling for, or the bathroom break your bladder needs.
A Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation’s HealthyNurse® survey found that over half of nurses surveyed often had to work through breaks, arrive early, or leave late to get their work completed. As we all know, you can’t take care of patients if you don’t first take care of yourself. That’s why micro moments for self-care in the workplace are more important than ever.
Acupuncture and aromatherapy are two easy and impactful ways to add stress relief to your shift. Eileen Carino, RN-BC, BS, MA, ADS, is the Clinical Director of the Inpatient Behavioral Health Unit at Griffin Hospital, a Planetree Hospital in Derby, Connecticut. She uses both aromatherapy and ear acupuncture in her unit for patients and staff, and has conducted studies that prove their effectiveness.
Noninvasive Ear Acupuncture
Auriculotherapy, or ear acupuncture, looks at the ear as a microsystem of the entire body. Acupuncture needles or small magnetic beads (whichever patients choose) are placed on certain meridians on both ears to stimulate healing. The needles remain in the ear for 30 minutes and can have an immediate healing effect on the body and mind. If beads are chosen, the patients are instructed to massage the beads 2 to 3 times per day to stimulate the meridians promoting relaxation, healing, and stress reduction.
Eileen uses the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol known to be helpful in reducing symptoms of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, decreasing anxiety and stress, and well as diminishing symptoms of PTSD. Patients and staff who receive auriculotherapy both report a decrease in levels of stress and anxiety, as well as a greater sense of well-being.
Recently, Eileen studied patients’ response to auriculotherapy in the inpatient behavioral health unit. Anxiety and well-being levels were measured pre- and post-treatment based on a scale of 0 to 8. The patient’s perceived anxiety levels dropped from 5.9 to 3 after the treatment. Sense of well-being rose from 5.5 to 7.5.
“You can tell the difference on the unit when patients receive auriculotherapy. The atmosphere changes — it is calmer,” said Eileen. “Patients and staff love it, and staff will frequently request a treatment. ”
Aromatherapy in Nursing Units
Something as simple as the essential oils on the nursing unit can help lower stress levels, too. Lavender, for instance, has long been used as a remedy for stress, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Bergamot is another essential oil with a reputation for its soothing effects.
In one study, the use of lavender and rosemary essential oil sachets reduced anxiety and pulse rates among test-taking nursing students. Other studies show that lavender essential oils can improve sleep quality and help treat mild insomnia.
As a certified aromatherapist, Eileen uses lavender, bergamot, and other essential oils for both patients and staff. She offers an individualized approach for patients as a complementary add-on service, so they get the essential oil best suited for their health needs. Many patients use them to sleep better while staying at the hospital.
Staff love aromatherapy, too. Eileen puts a couple of drops of lavender or bergamot essential oils on a tissue, and the staff keep it in their pocket throughout their shift. When they need to, they breathe in the scent from the tissue. The anxiety-reducing effects are noticeable.
More Stress-Relief at Work
Eileen emphasizes the importance of finding ways to soothe and de-stress during the workday — no matter how busy you may be.
“Self-care is so important,” said Eileen. “Taking the time for yourself can really impact the patients and the care they receive. Look for different ways to do that, there are many.”
Eileen recommends the following:
- Turn on soft, healing music in your nursing unit as a form of sound therapy.
- Find a certified acupuncturist; even using it once a month can be helpful.
- Use lavender during your shift. Put a few drops on a tissue, carry it with you, and breathe it in once in a while.
- Deep breathing is a quick, simple way to lower your heart rate and anxiety levels.
How do you lower your stress levels while working? Share your tips with us in our discussion.
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