In the recent past Western North Carolina was considered a North American rain forest. 3 weeks ago vast areas of forest were burning due to having no rain for over 3 months. Smoke was everywhere as the Party Rock Fire moved closer to our home. Although I continued working and living in my usual routines, the underlying tension was huge. Initially I experienced shock and denial; “this happens to others, not us.”
My feelings shifted from shock to anger and then to forms of bargaining while planning what to pack in the event of evacuation. We kept friends and family updated while breathing smoky air. Each night we went to bed wondering if the fire would devour the trees on the mountain across the way.
The night we saw the fire crest the mountain we saw dead hemlocks (wooly adelgid infestation killing the trees as a result of climate changes) burst into flames. We listened to them crash and crackle as the orange light moved towards our mountain. Firefighters from all over the country worked day and night to prevent the fire from crossing a double lane road and shrunken river as it raged with heat, gusty winds and dry leaves.
We were lucky. The firefighters maintained the boundary.
Now, the fire is 54% contained and has moved on with no human homes lost. The air quality continues to be poor; a reminder of what others are now facing. The other day I was asked how I made it through that stressful time. I recalled the day we were told we were safe– noticing what safety felt like in my body. I was relaxed and expansive with a sense of ease and relief which I generally take for granted.
My daily sustaining Self care practices of gratitude, walking, journaling, meditation, working a 12 step program and mindfulness, protected the boundaries of my equanimity. Like a person given a dreadful diagnosis, the felt experience of being threatened brought Kubler Ross’s 5 stages of the dying process, which is a process of working through losses, into high relief.
Today I have a deepened compassion for my brothers and sisters around the globe dealing with health, environmental, sociopolitical, and religious stressors that undermine the human right of safety.
My nursing practice is consequently richer as a result of not only the experience, but how I worked with Self care towards clarity and balance. I love empowering patients and colleagues-helping them to experience their strength, intuition, love and joy, as well as their individualized Self care practices relevant to meeting the stressors in their lives.
Please share with us the strategies that you use in maintaining your equanimity in stressful or hard times.
How does it translate over into your nursing practice?
Self Care for Vitality