Parts of an article relevant to awareness of breathing to cope with difficult emotions experienced by a physician are given below (1).
After the formal meditation that day (as part of the Mindfulness based stress management program) we spoke about breathing and how to use it as a tool to control difficult situations with patients. After that session, we journaled our breathing. I noticed that when exposed to sadness and suffering, I held my breath.
Although I had learned about the importance of breath before, I do not think I understood the practicality of the practice until the class session that day. One of the most useful things i learned in the course was simply how to breathe.
As a physician you should show the patients that you care but also create separation through techniques like deep breathing.
Before the meeting to discuss the end of life support for a terminally ill 90 year old patient, I feared I would cry and cause pain for my patient’s family. I reminded my self to breathe. Before I entered the conference room where the patient’s family was waiting for me, I reminded myself to pay attention to my emotions and use breathing to keep them under control. When I asked the patient’s husband how his wife was doing, he began to talk and cry. I took a deep inhale, feeling my lungs expand, to give me the strength I needed.
During the 45 minute discussion there were times when I felt my tears coming. I took a deep breath and noticed that my supervising physician’s eyes were starting to fill with tears. I started to feel a slight pit in my stomach. I again inhaled and felt my lungs expand.
I learned to show compassion for my patients without being distant or letting myself suffer. I know that none of these experiences would have been possible had I not learned to breathe.
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