Case studies are based on real stories from Dr. Walsh’s students and patients. It is designed to raise awareness for the practical application of mindfulness in real life, so you can also use it to help you. Names have been changed for privacy purposes.
Sally had one hell of the day! Sally is a nurse and her patients were in and out of crisis all day at the hospital. It was a 40° day scorcher. When she got home to her apartment she found hot water system had blown up, with water everywhere and her downstairs neighbours were blaming her for the water coming through their roof into their house. Her fuses had blown and the electricity had been cut off. The food in her fridge was off and she had no food. When she went to the supermarket to replenish food supplies another car ran into the back of hers. The driver of a car tried to drive away without exchanging details for insurance purposes.
After such a horrendous day, it would have been so easy for anyone to be very razzled, breakdown or simply freeze in the car while the culprit drive drove away.
However, Sally was pleasantly surprised to discover that she had the presence of mind to calmly get out of her car pull out her phone and very obviously take a photo of a fleeing car’s number plate. The guilty driver consequently got out of the car and complained about her photo taking. Sally calmly explained that as he was fleeing, she needed it to notify her insurance company and the police. He then submitted to appropriate exchange of details.
This calmness and capability in the face of high levels of stress was very new for Sally. So in spite of her horrible day, she was delighted. In the past, she would have been much more likely to break down in tears and been unable to communicate effectively.
How to achieve this
Sally had started learning mindfulness six months previously to minimise the risk of relapsing into depression. After this incident, she realised upon reflection that she had been getting compliments from the other nurses at work about her ability to stay calm in crisis over the previous two weeks. She noticed she seemed to have extra time between a nasty experience, such as the driver driving into the back of her, and her response. She was then more able to choose an effective response. It was clear to her that this newfound ability was a direct result of her regular mindfulness practice.