As a physical therapist and yoga teacher, I have always believed that yoga and rehabilitation go hand in hand.  I used what I learned in my physical therapy program to create a safer and more intelligent yoga class for participants.

I used stretches, mindset, and breathwork I learned in my yoga training in my physical therapy practice. I didn’t realize how deep the link between physical therapy and yoga went until I experienced burnout myself. 

The problem: I didn’t realize I was burnt out! 

 I dove head first into my yoga practice and personal development because I felt lost and I felt like something was wrong with me for feeling so detached. On one end, I was adding more to my to do list. On the other hand, I learned a lot about mindfulness and how to apply it to my patients.

Having experienced burnout, I quickly learned that the mindfulness techniques that I used with my patients I can use in my own life and practice to make me a happier, healthier practitioner in and out of the clinic.

 Mindfulness can be an overused phrase and an underused concept. I get it- it can be scary to think about adding one more thing to your daily routine as a busy healthcare practitioner. If you told me six months ago that I needed to do MORE to feel better I would have laughed (or cried) in your face. The reality is infusing your day with a little mindfulness can go a long way in making you (and your patients) happier. 

With a little attention and time, it can become an essential pillar to your health and well being. Using these five tips you can begin to infuse your day with a little more mindfulness (and hopefully a little more smiles & abundance).

Here are my top five ways to be more mindful in the clinic:

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ARRIVE 10-15 MINUTES BEFORE WORK TO TAKE INVENTORY OF HOW YOU YOU FEEL TODAY

 When I was beginning to feel burnt out, I would wait until the last possible moment to show up at work. It was like a game, how close could I cut it- I dreaded my job that much. While I thought it felt better to spend an extra five minutes at home, in reality, it was making me more stressed because the minute I walked in the door at work I had to hit the ground running.

I barely had time for hellos and to turn my computer on before my first patient was ready for me. This led me to feel more rushed and more overwhelmed.

I started with one day a week waking up 15 minutes earlier and showing up to work 15 minutes earlier. I would take my computer to a quiet space, turn it on, have some tea and mentally and physically prepare for my day. The extra 10-15 minutes gave me space to breathe and I was able to be more present with my first patient of the day.

FIND A QUIET SPACE TO BREATHE IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR DAY OR IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR BUSIEST TIME OF DAY

There were so many days I was so overwhelmed by my caseload that I felt if I stopped moving I would fall apart. In the end, I was performing a disservice to myself AND my patients.  I thought I had to be ALL on all the time so by the end of the day I was exhausted, cranky and uninspired. 

I was barely taking a break to go to the bathroom, let alone gather my thoughts. At the same time, I was educating my patients on getting up from their desks and talking breaks to walk, stretch or perform deep breathing exercises. After one particularly overwhelming day, I had the harsh realization that I wasn’t walking my talk. 

The next day I made it a point to, in the middle of my busiest period, set all my patients up with an aide, exercise, or rest break and step into the bathroom for a three minute break.

I stood right inside the bathroom closed my eyes and performed a four count breathe (*check out the bonus point below). I also took this time to finish my water bottle and physically shake off all the pent up stress and energy. (I literally stood in the bathroom and shook my arms and legs). 

I returned to the clinic no more than five minutes later and felt clearer and more patient.  

joy energy time healthcare professional occupational therapy physical therapy mindfulness burnout

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

 I know how it feels to dread going to your job and I know how it feels to find it REALLY hard to find the joy in each day when you feel burnt out. Being grateful for something that is affecting your mental and physical health so poorly can seem impossible (and crazy!).  When I was feeling my worst, two things really helped me practice gratitude.  

The first, a phrase “Change your thoughts from I have to…  to I get to…”

Examples:

  • I get to help people feel better
  • I get to teach people how to take care of them
  • I get to go to a job that provides me a salary
  • I get to come home after work and enjoy dinner with my family.

You can really switch anything from an “I have to” statement to “I get to”.  While it might seem silly to say “I get to write all these patients notes.” instead of “I have to write all these patient notes.”, the reality is it is a mindset shift. “I get to write all these patient notes so my patients are well taken care of, happy and healthy.”

 Another way I practiced gratitude was through the help of my significant other.  I would usually come home and immediately start complaining about what went wrong and vent to him.  While he let me vent, he would also say:

  • “Tell me about one patient that made you smile.” 
  • “Who was your favorite to work with today?”
  • “How did you help them?”

Without going into too much detail (because well HIPAA), I would recount a story that made me smile and with that my day felt a little better.  

CREATE A MINDFULNESS TRIGGER

Most days my desk was a mess, notes were piling up and I was barely finding time to eat. If I didn’t give myself the time, I would forget to drink water or sometimes go to the bathroom.  I started creating “triggers” for myself.

While triggers is normally a negative word, I would leave positive triggers for myself. I would put my water bottles (yes more than one) right on my desk so I wouldn’t miss them or I would carry them around with me from patient to patient.

  I would write little love notes to myself and leave them on my desk or computer. “Breathe” or “Take a moment” or “You got this” were soon filling the space.

Patients loved them too as they were a gentle reminder for them.  

When I had to demo a move to a patient, I would perform it with them so they felt encouraged and my body moved a little more. I find little ways each and everyday to encourage myself to take care of my body as much as I was taking care of my patients bodies.

joy energy time healthcare professional occupational therapy physical therapy mindfulness burnout

SET A TIMER FOR NOTES

This tip definitely depends on the setting you are in and the requirements of your company. After an overwhelming day at the clinic, the last thing I wanted to do was notes. I’ll even admit that once I wrote an assessment on one patient in the other patients chart– yes my brain was that foggy!  

To fight silly mistakes above and improve my productivity, I started a new ritual after my shift.  After my last patient was done, I would have a snack and clean up or organize the clinic (five minutes tops). 

I would then set a certain time limit for me to finish my notes– most evenings it was 15 minutes and the mornings sometimes a little longer.  Once the timer went off, I would stop for the evening and revisit the notes the following day. This is a luxury I had at my clinic that I know not everyone does. 

So instead of leaving for the day, maybe you set a 15 minute timer, get as many notes as you can done, take a break to clean or stretch or walk around and then repeat until you are finished.

I spent too many nights staring blankly at a screen getting absolutely nothing done so this was my solution.  

In conclusion, mindfulness does not need to be another thing you add into your to- do list. It doesn’t need to take you hours or take away from your caseload. Mindfulness can be incorporated into the little pockets of your day to make your current job a little more enjoyable and improve your mindset a little each day.  

Try out these tips and let me know how it goes 🙂

Kerry McGinn, PT, DPT, RYT is Joy Energy Time contributor and ambassador based in MA. Kerry fuses all her passions together for one holistic approach to health and wellness. She believes that every body is different and tailors programs to help her clients reach their fitness and wellness goals through mind, body, and spirit. Contact Kerry at contact@kerrymcginn.com.

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