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Beacons of Hope

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park




One of my favorite phrases attributed to Winston Churchill is: "If you're going through hell, keep going." We can choose our reaction to life's difficulties and challenges, and we have to remember that our reactions to our environment really are choices. When confronted by difficulty, it is hard to remember that, and I believe that we tend to revert back to coping mechanisms in our past that may or may not have worked.

In our rural emergency room, I have seen people at their most vulnerable state and at a time in which their need is highest. After trying to figure out how all of us hospital workers were going to get through a pandemic, rioting, economic hardship and home schooling, we all decided to at least take a moment for reflection and meditation at the end of our meetings. I'm not saying it worked, as I doubt that we reduced the stress for all of our hospital employees by taking a moment or two to reflect on these hard times, but it did do at least one thing: it memorialized and recognized these unusual times were are going through.

I have often joked about the use of meditation in the emergency room, with the realization that it is an unsettling environment that requires quick decisions, attention to communication, teamwork, and a sense of humor. I doubt that anyone would find comfort in seeing a group of medical providers meditating instead of administering life-saving measures to those in need. However, the mere thought of meditation sometimes has helped our most vulnerable patients.

Reminding patients to take in a deep breath, and to concentrate on relaxation techniques can actually reduce patient and provider stress. It's interesting to me how different people react to the insertion of an IV, for instance. Some people tend to "get into the zone" and you can see them working on controlling their breathing, concentrating on something more pleasant than having a needle stuck in their arm.

And certain people already are hyperventilating, thus becoming a moving target for their IV insertion....something that seems counterproductive, and in many instances it is. And so then this worsens the experience and we are all left feeling a little shell-shocked for the experience.

At one point in my life I was a science teacher for middle school. We had a medical club that met in the morning time before classes started. As we were starting into the state-wide testing for science, math, and English, I decided to ask two social workers who were patient navigators for a local medical clinic to stop by and talk about meditation. They did an excellent job at helping the students explore their anxieties, and we had a good time in creating a quiet, safe space for the kids.

In fact, in the name of scientific experimentation, we decided to check our pulses before and after meditation, with the hypothesis that our pulses would actually become lower than our regular resting pulse if we meditate. For the most part, it was a great time as kids began writing their before and after pulses on the erase-board.....and for the most part there was a positive correlation for lowering one's pulse through meditation. That is with one exception, a kid who had attention deficit disorder and who had forgotten to take his medications....his pulse tended to run a bit high.

Given that we are going through so much now as a people, I do have to admit that it's hard to quiet the mind down. However, every time I have used my Calm App and other techniques to meditate, I have seldom been disappointed.

Thus, as we all traverse the angst of the times, I do encourage each of us to take some time out just for some deep breathing, some calm waters of thought, and some peace. It's not that it will take away each and every problem, but I am convinced that it will change our reaction to what the World throws into our direction. And we will be better for it.



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