How to achieve mindfulness in a busy optometry practice
Simple techniques can be applied by anyone to make their working lives a little less stressful. David Rahman reports
Author: David Rahman, Optician magazine
Take a moment for yourself, even if it is just a few minutes every day
Within any busy optometry practice there comes the daily pressure and stress of having to provide the best eye care to the patients, while acknowledging the need for the practice to be a viable business. The intersection between clinical excellence and retail nous ensures that members of a practice team are always experiencing pressure at some level.
During a busy day, time can seem to disappear (together with lunch breaks) as it is all hands on deck, with wave after wave
of patients and customers appearing relentlessly.
Sometimes just for the sake of health and wellbeing, it is good to take time out. You cannot really escape your duties, but you can pause to breathe. During these moments of pause, it is helpful to seek calm as the source of all stress and anxiety is a busy mind. It is this same busy mind which is frantically dealing with all the challenges and problems being thrown at you throughout the day. Even when the practice is momentarily quiet after a busy few hours, have you noticed that it can take you some time to relax and unwind?
It is natural for some optometrists to become stressed and overwhelmed at times, with scenarios such as a patient turning up late for appointments, some eye examinations taking longer than usual and the occasional double booking occurring.
Expectations and related pressures on an optometrist have grown over the years, especially with the expansion of litigation, increasing responsibilities within the practice and the ever-present daily sales targets.
Here are some easy to use practical tools and techniques, which you can practice in or away from work, to help calm the mind, lower stress levels and improve mood.
Meditation: This is something I personally practice daily. It allows me to become calm and also focus on the moment. A popular misconception is that you have to ‘stop yourself thinking’ during meditation practice. When the mind is active, this is very difficult for people to achieve. Science has shown that the brain waves change during meditation from the active beta wave state to the more relaxed alpha state. Try this simple meditation that I developed a few years ago. Close your eyes while seated and take a deep breath. Hold it for three seconds and repeat this process at least twice. Then imagine two words in-front of you, ‘NO’ and ‘THING’. Focus on these two words, noticing the colour of the words and the background. Naturally your unconscious mind will see ‘NO THING’ and interpret it as ‘NOTHING’. This is a very powerful and simple way for any novice to start practicing meditation. The entire process should take you only five to seven minutes. This should be manageable even on a busy day. The benefits of regular meditation have been seen to include lower stress levels,1 increased self-awareness,2 and improved moods.3
Learn to let go: Take a sticky note and write the words ‘LET IT GO’. Then place the sticky note somewhere you can see it. Place a copy in your wallet or purse. Just seeing the words ‘let it go’ will instruct your unconscious mind to stop holding on to things that you know deep down do not serve you. You may have a conversation with a practice member that you cannot help re-playing in your mind. By lunchtime it is still on your mind. By the evening you are still recounting the story to your spouse. Think of the wasted time you have spent previously thinking about things you need not have bothered with.
Eat: When you eat lunch (or any meal) pay attention to your food. Notice the taste, texture and flavour of your food. When you pay attention to what you are eating, your senses of touch, taste, hearing, vision and smell are all heightened. You are not only feeding your stomach; you are feeding your mind.
Check-in: At various points of the day, check-in with yourself. A great way to do this is to place multiple timers in your smartphone diary. At that time, eg 1pm, your phone could be set to ask you the question ‘What two things were good about the morning?’ These daily prompts can stimulate a in-the-moment conversation with yourself. You get to see and feel more of the day. Often, we will reach the end of a busy day having never noticed the good moments, and instead focusing on what went wrong.
Pause: At a given moment, just pause. Feel the feeling of that chair under you. Breathe in deeply and breathe out fully. Notice the sounds around you, anything you can smell, and the temperature of the room. These moments of pause bring you back into the moment. A very powerful question that you can ask yourself at this moment is: ‘What could I be grateful for right now?’ Research has shown that a daily ‘attitude of gratitude’ helps to maintain a healthy mindset.
Connect with nature when you can
Outside the workplace
Active pastimes: I once asked a coaching client who loved surfing, what did surfing actually do for her? She said that when she surfed, the past and the future did not exist. Powerful stuff. When we do activities we love, time seems to vanish and the world around us disappears. Someone else told me fishing did that for them. What do you love doing? Playing the piano? Painting? Baking? Maybe it is something you used to do, for which you no longer have the time. Make time.
Walking in nature: Every month I work for a couple of days with a business in Finland. In 2018 Finland topped the World Happiness Report compiled by the United Nations. Besides regular saunas (Finland boasts the most saunas per person in the world), Finnish people spend a lot of time outdoors. This allows them to reconnect with nature and live in the moment. I love walking barefoot on a sandy beach or a grassy park. You get to feel nature directly beneath your feet. If you have not done this recently, then give it a try.
One popular app that I can recommend is Headspace, which offers guided meditation practice. It is available for all devices, and can be tried with a free version. You can then use it in your lunch hour, on the train or at home to relax the mind, refocus or destress after a busy day.
For those who would like to delve a little deeper into mindfulness, a well-known book that I can recommend is called The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Finally, some words for you to ponder: ‘You can’t control what you can’t change, and you can’t change what you can’t control.’
Life and business coach David Rahman is a former optometrist, who now helps optometrists and optometry practices achieve better results through coaching and workshops. He can be contacted via his website (www.mind.coach) and Instagram (@david_rahman).
- American Journal Of Psychiatry April 2006 Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders
- Massachusetts General Hospital Study Jan 2011 Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in eight weeks
- Journal Consciousness and Cognition February 2016 A single session of meditation reduces of physiological indices of anger in both experienced and novice meditators.