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Healthy Balance

Mindfulness for Caregivers: How the Helpers Get Helped (Part 2)

Previously, I spoke with John Schorling, MD, who leads mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) classes for doctors and other care providers twice a year with the UVA Mindfulness Center.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction can help doctors cope with stress.Here’s my conversation with Laura Meyer, a caregiver in the community who took one of Dr. Schorling’s classes in April of 2011.

What is your job?
I am an addiction therapist.

What drove you to take the class?
I began to hate the job I love.  My sleep issues (not sleeping) were getting worse. I had no energy outside of work, which started to make me depressed. I started to experience physical pains from my stress – back pain mostly. And it was my last bet before Xanax and/or sleeping pills. Basically, I was in no position to help others because I was falling apart from the stress.

What was the class like?
It was one time a week for eight weeks, with homework. It was nice to be with other healthcare professions. I was inspired that they cared about their job enough to take care of themselves.

What effect did practicing MBSR have on your clinical practice?
I learned how to be with my patients’ pain, that I don’t have to put up walls to protect myself. I connect more fully with my patients than I did before, and I can tell they feel my openness. I am not stressed by paperwork or the fact that I have ‘ too many’ patients. I enjoy my job; I feel more on purpose as opposed to stress. And I sleep better without medication, so I am rested, which makes everything better.

Do you have an example of where you found yourself using meditation or mindfulness to deal with a stressful situation?
My supervisor recently made a decision. My ‘monkey mind’ went wild, jumping around and grabbing stories, judgments, and insecurities from my past. In my mind, I created a huge mess of the decision. I was killing myself in my mind.

I stopped and took a breath. Then I realized I created my own story that was causing my pain. What was the truth? What was at the moment? My supervisor made a decision, that’s all…that’s all there was, words spoken. The pain, I caused myself. So I then had choices: let go of my mental story (I had no facts, it was true), or express myself and ask for clarity. I chose to let it go, and I later found out that it had nothing to do with me – and I took in a deep breath and kind of laughed gently at myself.

Would you recommend MBSR for others in your profession?
Absolutely. We ask our patients to take care of themselves, and MBSR gives us a chance to practice what we preach.

Stressed? Take a class.

The UVA Mindfulness Center offers classes to the public year-round – including mindfulness for care providers. Find a mindfulness class that fits your needs.

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