A Reflection on working in a hospital setting and self-care for the music therapist:
There are some important things to remember when working with patients and families in a hospital setting. The first is to remember that being in a hospital environment will cause you to be in a frenetic atmosphere almost 90% of the time. There is something going on around you at all times- loud beeping noises from various machines, new patients on the floors getting acquainted with being in the hospital, people unfamiliar with the layout of the hospital and the anxiety that ensues from parents and kids being exposed to various medical terminology, procedures and/or emergencies. Every moment of the day; doctors, nurses, specialist, families, friends and patients are interacting and communicating in order to better understand what is happening to them and to meet the needs of those they love who may be suffering from a specific illness. With all of these personalized interactions and sifting through the chaos of stressful situations, the music therapist needs to have a handful of tools to cope with being in this type of environment on a daily basis.
The question should be how does one cope with being in a stressful environment and what should be done first in order to reduce the effects of emotional reactivity and unproductive responses to external stimuli from various medical stressors? While there isn’t an end all for everyone concerning a specific coping strategy, there are many strategies that one could choose from that could meet the needs of those music therapist looking for something that will help propel them into making them better clinicians. I used to think that there had to be an answer for this that worked just for me, but the truth is, everyone is different and the way you cope or find ways of coping can vary depending on your personality and your interests.
The one thing you want to be really aware of when finding ways to cope is that you are not doing things that can be unproductive in making you a better clinician or helping you thrive in the environment you are in. Such poor coping strategies would include not sleeping or sleeping less than your usual sleeping patterns, not eating right or changing your eating habits to fulfill an emotional need, turning to drugs or alcohol, engaging in risky sexual behavior or gambling. All of these things, although some may seem non-threatening, are really bad for your health both physically and emotionally. The most important question to ask yourself here is, if I am not completely emotionally and physically stable, how can I help those in this frenetic environment be stable through the work I do? In order to maintain healthy habits in your life, you have to choose something that is going to be productive for your physical and emotional well being. Lets look at some strategies below:
Writing/ Blogging/ Journaling
Finding your muse
This seems very basic and the great part about this is that anyone can do it!! It’s important to know that you can do this exercise at any time. Plant your feet on the floor and make sure they are squared with your shoulders. Take a moment to take in 5 deeps breaths with their respective exhales. After the first 5 assess how you are feeling. The first 5 breaths will give you time to collect your thoughts and release any tensions or anger you may have toward whatever is ailing you at the moment. After these first 5 breaths, become aware of what it is that is truly bothering you and separate yourself from it. You do this by acknowledging that you are upset or frustrated by a certain situation and that you know you can respond or react to this situation with a better attitude and a sound mind from letting that awareness register. Once you take those breaths, you may take as many as you need to calm yourself down in order to be able to think more rationally about your situation and make better choices for you and those you need to interact with.
This does not work for everyone, but it can work for those who are interested in helping them get clear about their needs and intentions when working with clients. Sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing. One easy way to do this is to count your breaths. Count on the exhale starting from 1 to 10. Once you reach 10 start all over. If you continue to do this, you may be able to quiet your mind and clear all your thoughts for a few moments to gain better insight into the present. Here are a few sites meditation http://www.themeditationpodcast.com/, http://www.meditationoasis.com/podcast/
Encompasses a physical, spiritual and mental discipline through movement-stretch forms practiced on a consistent basis to help focus one’s life-force energy and attain a restful and calm state.
This includes various activities that gets your heart rate going and allows you to release pent up energy. Physical activity includes running, cycling, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, various sports and or aerobics. Some newer activities include Tougher Mudder Marathons, Aerial Arts, Belly Dancing and Hoola Hooping, to name a few.
Writing/ Blogging/ Journaling:
Some ways of taking care of oneself from working with clients is using a journal to express thoughts from a session or overall experiences. Some like to use a personal journal, others like to Blog about their experiences. It’s important to note here that when blogging about one’s experiences, they leave out the patients names or personal information and keep all relevant information confidential, unless otherwise noted (e.i. consent). Writing can really be a great way to express your feelings and process the information that is most important for your growth as a clinician.
There are many groups out there which allow for one to express their emotions. For some, this can be really cathartic. It allows for integration and group cohesiveness in context to what is being brought to the table concerning one’s own experiences.
Sometimes its best to get a clearer perspective on how you are coping through talking it over with a colleague or a licensed psychologist once a week. These type of strategy can help you stay on track with your goals and understanding of clinical aspects of your work. Supervision is key in disseminating important clinical experiences and transforming them into manageable pieces to do valuable work with clients and patients in the future.
Finding your Muse:
Plunge into something creative!! Why not- we are all creative beings! Write poetry, or a book, read, listen to music, create music, paint, dance, sculpt or throw pottery. Learn how to knit. There are so many possibilities to be creative, but the most important thing is that you are being creative and choosing something that you can get better at over-time.