thriving nurse

Meditation for Nurses: How to Thrive in a Demanding Profession

Readers on this blog know that I write on many subjects about meditation. They also know that this blog was started as a site for my book, Minding the Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind. Because I try to make content on this site relevant to everyone, even though this post is for nurses doesn’t mean that you won’t gain great benefit even if you’re in a different profession. So, read on and see…

Stressed Out Nurse? Stressed Out Life?

For many people, stress is just a “part of life,” something that we tolerate and deal with when we can. The problem is, our bodies don’t always handle stress as well as we think our minds are handling it.

For nurses or those working to help others, being stressed out all of the time can lead to burnout. In fact, in my profession of nursing, burnout is almost the expected trajectory for every nurse. You work hard, then you burn out, right?

There are hundreds of articles published[1][2] on the effects of stress and burnout in nursing. And even you haven’t read any of these articles, you’ve probably had your own experience with stress, if not in your workplace, then in your life. So, how do we deal with stress?

Meditation Can Combat Stress

Since research began on meditation and its positive effects on the stress-response (please see related posts on Science), there have been numerous articles touting the benefits of meditation in dealing with stress. And, that’s all well and good. But, how do we motivate ourselves to practice meditation, and what can we expect from our efforts?

In an article published in BioMed Central’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal (April 11, 2011; issue 11: 26) researchers concluded that the expectation that a mind-body technique will work can have dramatic effects on an individual’s willingness and ability to participate in a practice.

Makes sense right? When we expect benefits, we’re more likely to commit to something. And when we consider what recent posts on this site and many other sites have shown about how a meditation practice can have positive health and wellness benefits, it’s almost a no-brainer that we should commit to a meditation practice.

How to Commit to a Meditation Practice

So, how do we commit to practice? With the “five raises,” that’s how.

  1. Raise your expectations. Although this may sound funny, we really need to check-in sometimes with what our expectations are around our meditation practices. Begin establishing within your mind a few expectations about how your meditation practice will positively affect your health and wellness.
  2. Raise your standards. We set our own standards around many things in our lives; our standard of living, our standard for wellness, our standard of practice in our profession. How about raising our standards in what we expect of ourselves in our commitment to learn how to meditate and/or to continue with our mediation practice.
  3. Raise your energy. Seriously, just like our expectations, when we generate a bit of enthusiasm for our meditation practice, and approach our commitment with “enthusiastic energy,” our practice will become that much more enjoyable.
  4. Raise the bar for how much time you’ll commit to. If we’ve only committed to 5 minutes of practice a day, our expectations of our outcomes may be pretty low. How about, just for 30 days, committing to practicing at least 10-minutes at a time, twice a day! Taking 20 minutes from our day? Yes, but just for 30 days. Then, see how you feel and reassess yourself.
  5. Raise your awareness of how your practice positively affects you. There’s a chance that your meditation practice may be having a positive affect, but you may not even be aware of it because it’s too subtle. So, raise your awareness; check in with yourself every day to see how you’re doing. Keep track of situations where your “meditative mind” has been of help to you. See if you’re sleeping better, feeling better, eating more slowly.

These five techniques are based on one thing; committing to a meditation practice and knowing that it will help us in our work as well as in our lives. What we’re doing is committing to ourselves and realizing that making changes in our lives can take not only time, but a change in how we do things.

Let’s try to commit to raising our expectations, standards, energy, time spent practicing, and awareness of how our practice may positively affect us. Even for 30 days. Then, check back here and let people know what worked and what didn’t.

How I Can Help You to Commit to Your Meditation Practice

Maybe you’ve already got a meditation practice. If that’s the case, great! Keep it up. And feel free to use all of the content from this site to support you in your efforts. If you haven’t started to meditate, begin now.

Many people don’t meditate because they believe that they need to do “something special” in order to meditate, maybe you’re one of them. “Doing something” special isn’t the case. All you need is your breath, and a few minutes of time set aside to begin your practice. Here are some tools to get you started:

  • Meditation audio for using your breath as the anchor of your attention during meditation.
  • Ebook and two chapters from the book, Minding the Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind, on how to meditate.
  • Here’s a pitch for my book, Minding the Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind. You can even buy it in a Kindle version! Why buy it? Because I really did write it for you. Because it’s a meditation book written just for nurses (although others who are not nurses have bought the book and raved about it!). And, because it has EVERYTHING that you need to learn how to meditate and to use your practice at the bedside.

This site has tons of tools for learning how to meditate.

I encourage you to look through the HUNDREDS of articles that I’ve written and especially check out my weekly meditation tips and other useful meditation materials provided for your health and well being. And please let me know if you’d like to discuss anything with me, have any questions or need clarification regarding anything that I’ve written about.

Thanks for visiting and have a mindful day.


This blog will be posted in this month’s edition of the Blog Carnival for Nurses. Thanks to Brittney at the Nerdy Nurse and all of the folks involved in the Blog Carnival for Nurses! Great to bring the topic of meditation into the mix.

[1] Kalichman SC, Gueritault-Chalvin V, Demi A. Sources of occupational stress and coping strategies among nurses working in AIDS care. J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care. 2000 May-Jun;11(3):31-7.

[2] Bégat I, Ellefsen B, Severinsson E. Nurses’ satisfaction with their work environment and the outcomes of clinical nursing supervision on nurses’ experiences of well-being – a Norwegian study. J Nurs Manag. 2005 May;13(3):221-30.

2 thoughts on “Meditation for Nurses: How to Thrive in a Demanding Profession

  1. Jerome,
    Wonderful post! You are so spot on with your article and how meditation can combat stress. As I reflect back over the past years, I notice that this past has been much less stressful for me. Sure, the same financial, family, social, or career related stressors were ‘there’. But how I approached, felt, and handled them is noticeably different. I have to tell you that meditation totally does chill me out and I am much less reactive, dramatic, or inflammatory. Thank you for such a beautiful and helpful post that will surely help everyone reading it! Enjoy your weekend,

    • Hi Elizabeth – I’m so glad to hear that you’re benefiting from your meditation practice. I’m biased, I believe that everyone, to varying degrees, can benefit from a meditation practice. When we look at the research showing how well it works in a variety of populations with pain and illness, and even the fact that meditation (vipassana) has been used in prisons with remarkable results, I’ve got to believe that having a contemplative/meditation practice can help to change our world. Less speed and aggression, more presence and compassion!

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