Where mindfulness can feel like self-care, self-compassion can often be mixed up with feelings of self-indulgence 5 and therefore can be overlooked, yet it is crucial for clinicians. But there is a growing interest in mindfulness for self-compassion especially in a healthcare setting where
clinicians can be vulnerable to stress overload and compassion fatigue owing to the emotionally exhausting environment 6 . Having compassion for others requires having compassion for oneself and a common sense of humanity. Beddoe & Murphy 7 found that nurses who participated in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program reported that their mindfulness practice helped them to develop more compassion and empathy for their patients, and also helped their own self-compassion so they didn’t take on the negative emotions of their patients. In another study, Shapiro et al 8 also found that health care professionals who completed a mindfulness program reported an increase in feelings of self-compassion and reduced stress. Both mindfulness and self-compassion involve promoting an attitude of curiosity and non-judgment towards one's experiences. Research suggests that mindfulness interventions, particularly those with a focus on compassion has the potential to increase self-compassion among health care workers, which in turn, shows promising results for reducing stress and increasing the effectiveness of clinical care. 9
Whilst mindfulness may not be a fix to “cure all” for everyone, it is a way of meeting our experience with the presence of mind to respond skilfully to life's challenges, rather than reacting based on intense emotions. And with growing stress levels and burnout amongst health professionals, and increasing evidence that they could benefit from mindfulness interventions what is there to lose?
1. Montgomery A, Panagopoulou E, Esmail A, Richards T, Maslach C. Burnout in healthcare: the case for organisational change BMJ 2019; 366 :l4774
3. Ospina MB, Bond K, Karkhaneh M, Tjosvold L, Vandermeer B, Liang Y, Bialy L, Hooton N, Buscemi N, Dryden DM, Klassen TP. Meditation practices for health: state of the research. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2007 Jun;(155):1-263.
5. Susan L. Woods, Patricia Rockman, and Evan Collins. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. 2016 American Mindfulness Research Association.
6. Neff KD. The Role of Self-Compassion in Development: A Healthier Way to Relate to Oneself. Hum Dev. 2009 Jun;52(4):211-214.
7. Beddoe, A.E. and Murphy, S.O. (2004) Does Mindfulness Decrease Stress and Foster Empathy among Nursing Students? Journal of Nursing Education, 43, 305-312.
8. Cohen-Katz J1, Wiley SD, Capuano T, Baker DM, Shapiro S. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on nurse stress and burnout: a quantitative and qualitative study. Holist Nurs Pract. 2004 Nov-Dec;18(6):302-8.
9. Raab K1. Mindfulness, self-compassion, and empathy among health care professionals: a review of the literature. J Health Care Chaplain. 2014;20(3):95-108.