Ben Garcia, BSN, RN, blends his unique expertise as a mindfulness meditation facilitator and a registered nurse with over 20 years of experience in oncology. His experience with lung cancer spans from clinical research to developing a comprehensive screening and detection program. Ben is a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Facilitator who works with both healthcare professionals and patients to help individuals find deeper connections in daily life through mindfulness meditation. With years of experience in mindfulness and coaching, Ben helps individuals explore how mindfulness can enhance overall well-being. He teaches techniques for daily practice to improve self-care to build resilience.
How is mindfulness meditation helpful for newly diagnosed patients, those in active treatment, or posttreatment survivors?
Mindfulness is a powerful tool. It’s a resource, it’s a skill that we have within us that sometimes we’re just not aware of. When someone first hears, “You have lung cancer,” it’s quite, I think, traumatic and there’s so many things to consider and so many questions. There’s a sense of overwhelm. The thoughts are, “Why me? Will this end my life? How can I afford this treatment?” I just think that there’s a lot of things that go on and it’s very, very challenging in that moment. That start of the lung cancer journey, mindfulness can help people respond versus react. For those undergoing treatment, mindfulness can help with symptom management, it can help manage sleep, pain, nausea, and other symptoms. Mindfulness has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease cortisol levels. Then those in post-treatment, they actually have to continue to be followed up, so there’s follow up scans or blood work. They have to come into the clinic still, and that’s going to be for a long time, maybe for the remainder of their life. But what mainly seems to be an issue with them is their fear of reoccurrence and those thoughts and those fears. Mindfulness can help them face the fears and also not be overwhelmed by that anxiety that is associated with that.
Where can nurses find mindfulness resources?
I think the first place people actually are aware of mindfulness tools are now, there can be apps on the phone that can be downloaded. There’s apps called Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, Smiling Mind, and UCLA Mindful are just a few. There’s many, many out there now and some are free. Some, if you want to go deeper, you have to pay extra on a monthly fee. But UCLA Timer has meditations in English and in Spanish and I wanted to let people know that. There’s magazines that are available too. Mindful is a magazine that I read regularly, but even National Geographic put out an issue about everyday mindfulness. Then there’s articles in magazines.
The Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing published an article recently within a year about mindfulness and mindful breathing. Patients who did mindful breathing three times a day for five minutes were compared to patients who didn’t do any mindful breathing and it was found that the patients with mindful breathing actually handled their stress better and felt less stressed.
I also think mindfulness is so important in a daily practice, and I use a book called How to Train a Wild Elephant and Other Adventures in Mindfulness. That book is by Dr. Jan Chozen Bays and this is gives 52 weeks, one practice a week for on a daily basis so that you can continue to practice mindfulness. That’s the most important thing is we have to develop our mindfulness muscle, so we have to practice on a daily basis.
Then clinicaltrials.gov certainly has mindfulness studies listed, and I want to stress that a lot of cancer support communities are providing mindfulness programs now. I work with one here in my local hospital, and I provide mindfulness classes and there’s mindfulness meditation online.
Let’s see. I think that’s about it for resources, but I really do want to stress that mindfulness in a daily life is so important, and it really can help us connect with the mind, body, and spirit. Mindfulness really contributes to being a healthy survivor and develops our resilience in going through the cancer journey. Thank you.
This video was created by a mentee of beyond Oncology’s Writing Mentorship Program. beyond Oncology pairs oncology nurses with writing and publishing experience (mentors) with nurses who want guidance in having their voices heard through online writing (mentees). To learn more about the program, please visit beyond Oncology.
Bays JC. 2011. How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness. Boston: Shambhala Publication, Inc.
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