Just Breathe: Anesthesia Burnout – Part 3 of 4

By taking a few moments to use some breathing practices, you can often shift from feeling anxious or overwhelmed into feeling more balanced and ready to take on the challenges that come with your role.
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Anesthesia Burnout Breath

As someone who works in anesthesia, your job may always have aspects that are potentially stressful. It’s understandable that caring for a patient or handling the emotional aspects of supporting family members comes with stressful times. However, it doesn’t have to be your constant state. By taking a few moments to use some breathing practices, you can often shift from feeling anxious or overwhelmed into feeling more balanced and ready to take on the challenges that come with your role.

Stop. Right now. Focus on your breathing. Notice where you feel your breath coming from. Is it your belly, higher up in your chest, or even higher in your throat? When we use deep abdominal breathing, also known as diaphragmatic, we trigger a response that relaxes us and override the “fight or flight” reaction.

Take a moment and do the following:
1.Place your hands on your abdomen, one on top of the other. Gently take in a long, slow breath through your nose moving it all the way down to where your hands are until you sense them rising.
2.When your lungs and your abdomen cannot expand anymore, slow allow the breath to escape from your mouth.
3.Repeat this several times until you sense that your thoughts, your breathing, and your heart have slowed down and you feel more calm.

Stress reduction strategies do not have to take a long time or involve complicated steps. Think of everyday activities that are already part of your routine and be curious about how you can make some changes to them to help you slow down. For example, notice the pace of your walking throughout the day. Make sure you find a few times where you can take longer, slower strides instead of feeling like you’re rushing everywhere.

Stress and its Effects

Most healthcare providers are often in a state of tension. You probably experience times when you feel your heart pound and your muscles tense. Those symptoms caused by stress hormones being released into the body are a result of the body’s stress hormones releasing. Sometimes showing you care—the very thing that makes you a good practitioner—can ail you as much as an emergency situation. This is evident in nurses who experience compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress.

Over time, stress can lead to heart disease and hypertension to depression and insomnia and other health and quality of life issues. Being more aware of when your body needs a break – and actually taking one – can do wonders for your health—and those around you.

Breathing with Purpose

You can break the anxiety cycle with breathing, which has been shown to be useful for medical providers. Instead of relying on your body’s autopilot breathing method—usually quick, shallow breathing when things at work are overwrought—practice a more intentional method of breathing, such as the abdominal breathing mentioned here.

When we practice controlled breathing we can lower blood pressure, improve our sleep, and can change gene expression involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion. Those are just a few of its many benefits.

When patients feel you are calm and more energized, it can help them to feel more relaxed. You increase your capacity to care well for others and longevity in your career. Who knows? You may inspire others if you start to integrate simple tips and tools like consciously breathing into your daily routine.

What would be different if, as the patient relaxed silently into their anesthesia-induced sleep, everyone around the table took some slow deep breaths before surgery began? You can be the victim of a stressful environment, or you can be the change by practicing stress reduction strategies and inspiring others to do so as well.

Author: Tambre Leighn MA, PCC, CWDS
Tambre is a behavior change expert, certified professional coach, and healthcare disruptor specializing in patient adherence and healthcare provider wellbeing. With nearly a decade of experience coaching, training, and speaking about wellbeing and the integration of coaching and behavior change into the healthcare system, she understands the critical role stress plays in performance, engagement, adherence, and wellbeing. You can read more about her at WellBeyondOrdinary.com. Ready for change at your organization? Email tambre@wellbeyondordinary.com to learn more about her programs, fees and availability.

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