Cardiac arrest survivors often face challenges in regaining focus and managing distractions during recovery. In today’s age of constant stimulation and information overload, it can be especially difficult to regain control of one’s attention. However, by incorporating mindfulness exercises into their routine, cardiac arrest survivors can strengthen their ability to pay attention, reduce distractibility, and enhance their overall well-being. This article will explore four simple exercises specifically tailored to support cardiac arrest survivors’ attention and recovery needs.
Mindful Breathing: Cultivating Focus and Inner Calm
One foundational exercise for attention training is mindful breathing. This practice involves directing your attention to the sensation of your breath, focusing on the inhalation and exhalation. As a cardiac arrest survivor, mindful breathing can help anchor your attention to the present moment, allowing you to develop a sense of inner calm and stability. When your mind inevitably wanders, gently guide your focus back to the breath, just as you would gently redirect a wandering puppy on a leash. Regular practice of mindful breathing for 15 minutes a day can gradually improve your ability to sustain attention and reduce distractions.
Mindful Walking: Engaging the Senses and Grounding Yourself
Mindful walking is a practice that can be done by anyone, not just cardiac arrest survivors. It is a form of meditation that involves walking slowly and deliberately, paying attention to the present moment and the sensations in your body. Doing so can reduce anxiety and stress, improve mood, and boost overall well-being. When you practice mindful walking, you can do it anywhere, whether indoors or outdoors. However, if you choose to walk outside, the experience can be even more enriching. You can take in your surroundings, the sights, sounds, and smells, and appreciate nature’s beauty. Walking in nature has been shown to have numerous benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving your mood, and enhancing creativity. To practice mindful walking, find a quiet place to walk without interruption. Stand still and take a few deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body. Then, begin walking slowly, paying attention to the sensation of your feet connecting with the ground. Notice the movement of your body as you walk, the sway of your arms, and the feeling of your muscles contracting and relaxing. As you walk, you can also pay attention to your surroundings. Notice the colours of the sky, the trees, and the flowers. Listen to the birds chirping, the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves, and any other sounds around you. Focus on your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your body and surroundings. Don’t worry if your mind wanders; it’s a normal part of meditation. The goal is to simply notice when your mind wanders and bring it back to the present moment.
Body Scan: Restoring Mind-Body Connection
The body scan exercise is an incredible tool that can benefit many people, especially those who have survived cardiac arrest. These individuals have faced a traumatic event and, as a result, may feel disconnected from their bodies during recovery. This is where the body scan exercise comes in. The body scan is a mindfulness exercise that aims to direct your attention throughout your body, from your toes all the way up to your head. The goal is to notice any physical sensations you may be feeling without judgment or evaluation. This exercise helps promote a deeper mind-body connection and can help restore a sense of balance and harmony. Regular practice of body scan exercises can have a significant impact on an individual’s overall well-being. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improve sleep quality and reduce chronic pain. This exercise is an incredible tool for anyone looking to increase their mindfulness and develop a deeper connection with their body.
Open Monitoring: Cultivating Non-attachment and Present-Moment Awareness
Open monitoring is an advanced mindfulness exercise that can benefit cardiac arrest survivors as they progress in their attention training. This practice involves observing the flow of experiences without becoming attached or entangled in them. Sit in a comfortable position and allow your attention to be receptive to any internal or external experiences that arise, such as thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations. Rather than analyzing or engaging with these experiences, simply observe them as if they were passing clouds in the sky. By cultivating non-attachment and present-moment awareness, you can reduce the impact of distractions and enhance your ability to stay focused.
As a cardiac arrest survivor, regaining attention control and reducing distractibility is crucial for your overall well-being and recovery. Incorporating these four simple exercises into your daily routine can strengthen your attentional abilities, enhance your resilience, and foster a deeper connection with yourself. Remember to start small and gradually increase the duration and frequency of your practice over time. Additionally, consider seeking support from a mindfulness community or exploring helpful apps such as Insight Timer, Headspace, or 10% Happier. Embrace the power of mindfulness as a tool for self-care and post-cardiac arrest recovery, and let it guide you toward a more focused, present, and fulfilling life.
After our first meet-up in February 2015, I realised I was not alone. It was the first time since my cardiac arrest the previous year that I had spoken face-to-face with someone who had experienced what I had. This was also true for my wife, who also happened to be my lifesaver. From that meet-up, the idea of SCA UK was born. Since then, we have achieved a considerable amount, primarily providing information, resources and support to others in a similar situation but also raising the profile of survivorship and the need for better post-discharge care. We are starting to get traction in this, and with the formation of the charity, I genuinely believe we have a bright future ahead and will make a significant difference in the lives of many who join our ranks.