Last night I watched a short documentary with actual footage of COVID ICU nurses in Arizona. It compliments a documentary by several physicians working in the ER with suspected COVID patients that I saw last month.
Together these short films present a sobering image of COVID attacking the health care system. The film of the ICU nurses was taken with nurses using a body cam.
What was the end result of this? For the nurses there is pain, suffering, fear and often a sense of helplessness. My thought is that may ICU nurses may be on rocky grounds as concerns their mental health and many may be on the road, if they are not already there, to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Banging pots and pans or providing meals can be helpful tools in providing ICU nurses with support and may be indicative of acts of compassion.
But can we use some mindful practices to help these brave souls? These techniques could be called spiritual and ones you have never practiced or thought about and may alleviate the suffering of these nurses and even be beneficial for you. The first technique we can use is a loving and kindness meditation to all ICU nurses throughout the world. I can tell you I have directed this meditation to individuals that are suffering and hurting and it does work. I haven’t done it that often for groups of people. I think what it does is open your heart and mind so the power of compassion is directed and focused.
The text is simple:
- Choose a comfortable place with minimum distractions where you can practice this meditation.
- With eyes closed, back straight, and the mind aligned to the present, think of someone you love, someone you don’t like, a stranger, and a group of people you spend time with every day.
- Keeping all of them in mind, repeat the following words to yourself in silence and complete awareness – ‘May you be happy,’ ‘May you be safe,’ ‘ May you be healthy,’ ‘May you be at peace.’
- Take as much time as you need to repeat the words. You only have to make sure that you say them after realizing what they mean and feeling them from inside.
- Once you have finished repeating the words, end the session by saying, ‘May you and I be happy,’ ‘May you and I be safe,’ ‘May you and I be healthy,’ ‘May you and I be at peace.’
Now if you are an ICU nurse or any healthcare worker is undergoing suffering and pain that is unbearable and is making you feel psychologically unwell it may be advisable to seek psychological help. If you not at that point perhaps it is time to practice self compassion. If your negative emotions are out in the open try not to be like a dog chasing your tail by worrying, by being afraid, by being angry or by being gripped in fear. I suggest you may wish to accept these negative emotions as being part of you. I think that if you accept them without judgement you may cease running from them or avoiding them. You have let the genie out of the bottle which may not be pleasant at first. Once you have accepted these negative emotions and how they are making you suffer you can then exercise some self compassion realizing you have been suffering and as a human being you need to nourish yourself with some self compassion. I am not suggesting you can chase away the demons but you can peacefully exist with them so they are no longer demons.
You may find it beneficial to exercise self-compassion several times during the day. Perhaps you can visualize this as “leaning into your suffering”. What is occurring is that you are opening your heart and perhaps this will make you more vulnerable but my hope is that you recognize this vulnerability and deal with it. If you keep running from your suffering this means you are not dealing with it.
And if your heart is big enough perhaps for your ICU colleagues you can give a loving and kindness meditation as described above.
If you want to share the ICU nurses’ experience you can see it here https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/24/opinion/covid-icu-nurses-arizona.html?smid=fb-share&fbclid=IwAR0OqTML7TWeZHH_GU3TpRsH5_09LioHLiTsoBj6TxCBmzGOBZ5xQWqnAaE