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Try meditation and feng shui for peace of mind

EDITOR'S NOTE: Carole Jakucs, MSN, RN, PHN, is a freelance writer.
Nursing is a high-stress career that requires its professionals to maintain their overall health in order to prevent exhaustion and compassion fatigue. Adopting an exercise regimen and healthy eating habits are well-known to benefit both body and mind, but there are other practices out there that can add more depth to a self-care plan — including meditation and feng shui.
One way to care for yourself is to create a more peaceful environment by integrating elements of the Chinese system of feng shui into your surroundings, said Mao Shing Ni, DOM, PhD, LAc, doctor of Chinese medicine, author and co-founder of Yo San University in Los Angeles.

“Loosely translated, feng shui means the art of living in harmony with our environment,” he said. “We’re the product of our environment and what we inherited from our parents (nature) along with the people we come in contact and our physical environment (nurture). These begin to mold our perceptions of the world and affect our reactions to it.”
Mao said because nurses work in high-stress environments, “it’s important to create a sanctuary at home, as self-care is critical to maintaining health, preventing burnout, avoiding feelings of resentment and preventing illness.”
Mao said if you want to start practicing feng shui, the first step is to understand how it works. Next, you’ll want to maximize your environment using feng shui principles and to do that, you need to “know your element.”
Designing the space around you with the right use of energy is a feng shui tradition that helps maximize health and vitality, said Mao. The key is determining, “How does this space make me or someone else feel? People’s reactions to an environment will tell you; using feng shui makes us feel happy, not using feng shui can make us feel sick or sad,” he said.
Room shape, for instance, illustrates the principles of feng shui. “Sitting in a rectangular shaped room with two long narrow sides can create feelings of oppression and a person may not know why they feel that way,” said Mao. “Sitting in a square shaped room feels more spacious and the reaction is feeling relaxed and not as stressed as you did when in the rectangular room.”
The use of light, including natural light and the placement of mirrors to reflect light, are other strategies used to create a harmonious space. “When we’re in a room with windows and see outdoor light we feel uplifted and happy," he said. "When we’re in a windowless room with fluorescent lights, we don’t feel as good."
Watson Rooms at work
Sign up for a Focused CE on meditation training
Meditation is another tool that can help calm the chaos in nurses' lives. “Practicing meditation introduces you to yourself, rests and calms your mind, removes roaming thoughts and ruminating tendencies, and helps you take control of your mind and body,” said Susan Taylor, PhD, founder and director of the Center for Meditation Science, author, teacher and speaker. “If we examine our needs and learn about ourselves, it helps put us in charge of our mind and creates more positive energy. And by not allowing the external world to influence our feelings and thoughts you become an observer and not dragged around by distractions from the outside,” said Taylor.
Taylor, who has taught meditation and nutrition for more than 30 years and authored a Nurse.com continuing education module on meditation, as well as a FocusedCE series on the topic, said nurses who would like to take classes in meditation would benefit from having a seasoned instructor that teaches an authentic style of meditation with a lineage, and find a program with integrity and accountability. “Meditation is a science that needs to be taught in a precise manner," she said. "I teach in a manner where science meets practice."

Those unable to take meditation classes can turn to the American Holistic Nurses Association's website for helpful information on ways to reduce stress using different strategies such as diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness meditation. The site also provides a link to the meditation video created by Robert Boroson (see "How to Meditate in a Moment" embedded above), which includes easy-to-follow steps for beginners.

In addition to practicing meditation, Taylor said detoxing from the digital world can lead to a calmer, more joyful, focused life. “It’s okay if you use technology, but don’t let your digital practices control you,” she said.
“How to meditate in a moment” by Robert Boroson
Feng shui at home
Mao said in order to start practicing feng shui, one needs to know which one of the five elements they are — earth, fire, metal, water or wood. Each element has corresponding personality traits, colors and shapes. Each element also has corresponding health vulnerabilities related to their personality traits.

“A majority of nurses are the earth element,” Mao said. “This is the caring personality type that exhibits nurturing, loving, dependable traits. This predisposes ‘earths’ to developing exhaustion as many care for others before themselves.”
Once you know your element, you can customize your environment and surround yourself using the shapes, colors and textures of your element, he said. For example, someone whose element is wood, generally prefers wooden textures and the color green — these can be added to your home decor. Many times, people will gravitate toward the corresponding colors, shapes and textures of their element type, said Mao.
It's more difficult to drastically change a nurse’s work environment to suit his or her personal element, Mao said. But there are some feng shui strategies that can help at the workplace such as placing plants and tabletop fountains at the nurse’s station or in the break room whenever possible. Plants produce oxygen and remind us of nature, and given that flowing water has a soothing effect, using fountains can help create a calmer environment, he said.

Carol Olmstead, FSIA (a certification from the Feng Shui Institute of America) and feng shui master practitioner, adds nurses also can also practice feng shui on the job by clearing clutter at workstations and in patient rooms. Also, opening blinds and curtains to let the daylight in whenever possible creates a better environment by relying less on fluorescent lighting, which is harsh on the eyes.

If having fresh flowers or plants at work isn't possible, silk flowers work since silk is part of nature, she added.

Olmstead said if you only have time to do one thing to get started with feng shui, begin by clearing clutter. “Clutter blocks the flow of Chi," Olmstead said. "Chi is energy. Anything that holds back the flow of Chi is a negative in your environment. Clutter represents delayed decisions and the inability to move forward.”

When removing clutter, think of the 3 Rs — remove, repair or replace. Also, if you don’t like it, love it or need it, why hold onto it, she asked.
Olmstead agrees that the goal of feng shui is to create a balanced, harmonious environment indoors that makes you feel like you're connected to nature and shares feng shui basics on her website Feng Shui For Real Life.

“Think of how we feel when we’re outdoors with the breeze blowing, sitting near a body of water and feeling the warmth of the sun," she said. "We’re trying to create these same feelings when we’re indoors.”

Olmstead, who offers tips sheets on her website on ways to start practicing feng shui at home and at work, says knowing which element they are can help nurses create a more relaxed environment for themselves.
Determine your element to get started
Meditation and more
Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring is one that is used by nurses every day when caring for their patients. And some hospitals are creating "Watson rooms" that allow nurses to immerse themselves in a quiet sanctuary while at work and practice the same principles of caring on themselves. Virginia Commonwealth University Health in Richmond, Va., for instance, has several Watson Rooms available for nurses.
Crystal Crewe, DNP, RN, CMSRN, nurse manager at VCU’s level 1 Trauma Center, came up with the idea of creating a Watson Room, after realizing she found solace from her busy workday in the quiet space of a small closet, a storage room or a bathroom. She found she needed some alone time to decompress for a few peaceful minutes during breaks.

This realization lead to her conduct research on compassion fatigue while working on her doctoral project and to the creation of the first Watson Room for VCU in 2016. VCU now has 15 Watson Rooms and more on the way, said Crewe.
“No phones, keys, food, beverages or other personal or work items are allowed in Watson Rooms at VCU — they’re left at the nearest nurses’ station before you check in and enter," Crewe said. "VCU’s Watson Rooms typically consist of a massage chair; soft battery-operated tea lights; Zen music on a DVD; lightly fragranced essential oils of either lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint or clean linen; a large flat screen TV that’s not hooked up for TV viewing but to show peaceful scenes such as a crackling fireplace, ocean waves, or fish swimming in an aquarium; and positive quotes on the wall."
With many nurses balancing work, family obligations, aging parents and school, Crewe said she wanted to focus on, what they can do for us nurses. "We need self-compassion to be there for ourselves and for our patients,” she said.
“It’s important to create a sanctuary at home, as self-care is critical to maintaining health, preventing burnout, avoiding feelings of resentment and preventing illness.” Mao Shing Ni, DOM, PhD, Lac

These practices can take your self-care plan to a new level

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By Carole Jakucs, MSN, RN, PHN