Stress Reduction: Tips for NPs with Jonathan Relucio
With over 18 years of professional experience in social service delivery and community program development, Jonathan values yoga as a healing practice to strengthen individuals and communities. He is a Program Manager and Senior Instructor for Niroga, supporting youth to develop self-awareness and resilience in inner-city high schools and juvenile hall. Jonathan also leads Niroga’s Community Mind Body (COMBO) meetings and daylong Transformative Life Skills (TLS) Trainings throughout the Bay Area and internationally, teaching mindfulness practices for stress management, self-care, and healing from primary/secondary trauma to educators, mental health professionals, and social service providers.
NPs tend to be have very hectic schedules and operate in high pressure situations. What can they do to help reduce stress, both in the moment and long term?
In the moment, you can practice belly and/or rhythmic breathing. For belly breathing, notice the breath when you inhale while expanding your belly on all sides like a balloon, and notice the breath when you exhale while you relax your belly towards your spine. For rhythmic breathing, breathe in for a count of 4 and breathe out twice as long for a count of 8. These breathing techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn, activate our relaxation response.
You can do this for 1 – 2 minutes when you’re: on your commute, by yourself at work, walking between appointments, and/or with your patients.
In the long term, the more regular and longer your practice, the more benefits you experience. Here is a video from the Niroga Institute that provides instruction for 15 minutes of mindful movement, breathing, and centering that you can do anytime and anywhere (and doesn’t require a mat). You can use a couple of the practices for 5 minutes or do the entire sequence at one time. We suggest to practice a total of 15 minutes a day 3 – 4 times a week.
As a yoga practitioner, what is your favorite quick way to reduce stress?
My favorite quick way to reduce stress is to combine the two breathing techniques (I just described) into one – rhythmic belly breathing. As I inhale observing and feeling my breath, I allow my belly to expand for a count of 4. As I exhale observing and feeling my breath, I allow my belly to relax towards my spine for a count of 8.
How are yoga, meditation or other mindfulness techniques related to stress management and overall health?
Mindfulness practices reshape our brains by strengthening and creating new neurological pathways that increase our capacities in the areas of attention control, emotion regulation, coping, learning and memory, and empathy all of which improve stress resilience and our overall well-being. There is a distinction between ‘react’ vs. ‘respond’. Regular ongoing mindfulness practice develops one’s capacity to respond more optimally to stressful situations with greater self-control, thus creating less stress for ourselves.
What can NPs do to help their patients understand the benefits of stress-reduction techniques such as yoga?
At the Niroga Institute, we address this question in our Transformative Life Skills (TLS) trainings which teaches a 15-minute practice (as shown in the video above) that integrates yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques for stress management, self-care, and healing from primary/vicarious trauma. There are things in our life that cause us stress: family, employers, co-workers, traffic, etc. Yoga does not directly address these stressors, but the practice does increase our capacity (by reshaping our brains) to deal with them from a more centered and calm way. Also, in our trainings, people share the different ways in which they cope with stress: working out at the gym, talking with friends, gardening, shopping, drinking, reading a book, etc. We ask participants to consider that they may not always have access their gym, friends, garden, etc. when they need it, but they always have their breath and body where ever they go. You can practice TLS and other mindfulness practices anytime and anywhere because it only requires your breath and body.
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