5 Sensory Breaks for Busy Hospice and Hospital Workers

Lynnea E. Lindsey is the Director of Behavioral Health Services for Legacy Health. She offers these tips for coping during these difficult times.

In the midst of tremendous loss, a normal coping strategy for humans is to disconnect from the constant grief and loss around them.  Yet, becoming too detached is detrimental to one’s overall quality of life.  A conscious shifting of perspective will help to ground a person in the here and now. The COVID crisis pushed us to our limits, but some simple exercises can ground us.

Engaging one, in all, of the five senses can quickly decrease the stress chemicals in the brain and whole body and allow a person to re-engage in their daily life.

Here are five tips for finding a moment of mindfulness using your five senses.

  1. Visual break: Looking outside for a familiar tree, skyline, garden or another view can offer a quick visual shift.
  2. Aroma pause: Taking a deep breath of a treasured aroma (perfume, candle, lotion) can shift the negative associations with the “smell of decay.”
  3. Sound shift: Interrupting the consistent mechanical sounds of life by singing and/or humming to one’s self and when possible turn on a familiar playlist of upbeat music. Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Current” offers this playlist on Spotify for healthcare workers and a similar list was created for Milwaukee nurses by an area radio station.
  4. Taste treat: A quick bite of chocolate or comfort food and even a piece of gum/lozenge can aid in the shifting of perspective.
  5. Touch time: Rolling one’s hands over a soft fabric or familiar surfaces, rubbing lotion into one’s hands and when possible giving/receiving a hug or elbow bump can also help.

These mindfulness opportunities to ground yourself by reconnecting to your body can bring brief respites from the challenging environments around us.

When additional support is needed, reaching out and finding support groups, counseling and/or professional peer support can give health and hospice workers a better balance and lighten the load.

Every brain needs a break and every heart deserves to be supported.

Mental Health Resources

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