Every other December, I schedule and attend a class on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), using an automated external defibrillator (AED), and administering first aid. Though I could have opted for an online course this year, I decided that I’d rather take the in-person class if I could.
After experiencing the most candid and efficient class I’ve ever attended this past weekend, I’m glad I made the choice I did. This new-to-me instructor was a respiratory therapist prior to starting her CPR training business, and she didn’t sugarcoat anything.
It’s a little (okay, a lot) gruesome to watch parts of the first-aid training materials, but the CPR training videos aren’t usually as graphic, with the case studies showing people passing out and falling down or others already passed out on the ground when the rescuer arrives on the scene.
This year’s instructor made it clear that if a person needs CPR, that person isn’t going to care if you break their ribs. Performing CPR in an emergency could be the difference between life or death for a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. She talked about common mistakes that well-intentioned people make when attempting CPR, shared tips about what to stock in your first-aid kit, and impressed upon us the importance of taking action quickly during an emergency.
Due to the pandemic, the eight of us weren’t able to practice breathing into the CPR mannequins. Spaced apart with masks on, we were still able to practice our compressions and receive feedback.
Though I’ve never done CPR in an emergency, the muscle memory from my previous classes is strong. Placement of the hands, target depth for each compression, rate of compressions — all of that is programmed, ready to be activated.
I try to be as present and engaged in each class as if the material is something I’m learning for the first time, even though I’ve attended many CPR classes, starting in my teens and now as a regular part of my continuing education.
This mindfulness has likely improved my muscle memory for CPR and strengthened the associations that I have between potential emergencies and appropriate first aid.
Being present in the moment has benefits outside of structured learning situations, too. Did you know that being mindful during exercise can improve your workout?
When lifting weights, focusing on each exercise can improve your form and increase the connection between your mind and your muscles.
Being present and aware of the actions you are taking can help you to execute those actions to the best of your ability.
Though it’s easy to zone out when exercising, focusing on the activity you are doing can increase your sense of accomplishment and reduce the feeling of being rushed.
Additionally, fully experiencing workouts can provide a better understanding of your body over time. (Note: this isn’t always comfortable.)
If you love to listen to music while working out, consider observing your behavior. Are you listening to the music to distract yourself from your workout or are you using the music as a way to enhance your experience? If you default to using music (or another method) as a distraction, can you be more present and aware the next time you exercise? If you are struggling with a particular type of workout, would it be helpful to make adjustments to the duration or intensity? You might also consider trying an alternative activity that is more enjoyable.
Whether exploring different types of exercise, learning new information or aiming to solve a problem, living in the moment can provide insights and improve your self-awareness.
Further, as life isn’t just about exercise, learning, or solving problems, fully immersing yourself in the present can also make spending time with others much more memorable, regardless of what activities you choose and how you connect. As you take time for the holidays, consider how being present can be a gift in and of itself.