Practicing strategies that renew compassion will allow you to care for patients more effectively.
A new book, “Compassion’s COMPASS, Strategies for Developing Insight, Kindness, and Empathy,” shares simple exercises for regaining equilibrium, setting a compassionate intention for your workday, and using challenges to build perseverance and compassion resilience. Below are some of the key points from the book.
Unchecked, stress and exposure to patient trauma can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue. Over time, this can result in health issues, depression, irritability, fatigue, and work avoidance. It renders us less available to patients and colleagues, and more reactive in challenging situations. This may result in negative patient outcomes. Keeping an even keel in troubled waters benefits both us and the patients we serve.
There are many strategies for regaining and maintaining equilibrium and bolstering compassion resilience. A good place to start is to be aware of your physical reactions to stress and where you hold it in your body. Taking time to tend to your stress with mindful self-compassion can help you regain composure. When you’ve regained a sense of well-being, you can then reboot your compassionate intention for your day’s work.
Here is a simple exercise that you can use each morning and whenever you need it later in the day:
1. Notice your breath as it enters and exits your nostrils.
Be aware of the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen as you breathe.
2. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are present.
Locate where these emotions are staying in your body.
3. Soothe uncomfortable feelings as you imagine breathing into them.
Release any tension and discomfort in your body with your out-breath. Let your body and mind start to settle.
4. Once settled, think of someone for whom you feel gratitude.
Imagine breathing out kindness to that person and breathing in well-being to yourself. Next, include patients and colleagues in your thoughts, breathing out kindness to them and returning it to yourself as you breathe in.
5. Set an intention for what you want to accomplish that day.
Recall the above contemplation when confronted by challenges. Remember to breathe in well-being and breathe out kindness even in the middle of conflict. If you can master this, you will start to develop a resilient form of compassion.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.