The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Pressing the Pause Button - Managing your psychological wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis

 

Pressing The Pause Button

Pause

 

 

 

Alistair the Lead for Clinical Psychology Services will be sharing tips and advice to support your psychological wellbeing during COVID-19.

We know that you are playing a vital role in caring for patients with Covid-19 and supporting the running of our hospitals. Yet, looking after ourselves - physically and psychologically - is essential if we are to look after our patients.

Building personal resilience and staying positive are key elements of this. So the plan is to write to you every day, with practical tips and pointers for you to follow to stay well. Each memo will have a short mental health workout, usually via a video clip link.

Over the next few days, we’ll expand more on the tips and pointers identified by each letter in the FACE COVID framework. In the meantime, if you’d like to talk to one of the Clinical Psychology team email us on leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net  For Children’s CSU staff keep using leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net

FACE COVID’ is a set of practical steps for responding effectively to COVID-19 using the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Here’s a quick summary of the key steps: CLICK HERE

Workout 1 -This workout introduces you to the FACE COVID framework.

This is a list of very practical steps for managing your psychological well-being during the COVID-19 crisis. Watch this five-minute clip by Russ Harris, a Clinical Psychologist who is a true giant in the world of mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy.  CLICK HERE

Workout 2 - Focus on what is in our control.

Right now fear and anxiety are inevitable. These are normal responses to the situation we find ourselves in – one that still seems laced with threat and uncertainty.

You will have heard the phrase it’s OK not to be OK, but sometimes, we don’t know how not to be OK or what to actually do about it. So here’s something to try today.

Focus on minimising the energy - the time and effort - we put into trying to deal with things that are out of our control, and re-investing that effort into what we can actually control.

So today’s workout is to pause for a few moments and list the things that are under our influence, right here and now. And then keep doing those to get through your day/evening CLICK HERE

Workout 3 seems simple enough - Acknowledging thoughts and emotions - but it can be tricky as doing this can be a painful or difficult experience. So take a moment to watch this 1-minute clip to get started.  CLICK HERE

Now pause and reflect on how you’re thinking and feeling with kindness (as you would with a close friend or relative). Ask yourself the following:

  • How am I feeling today?
  • What am I thinking about?
  • Can I notice any sensations in my body?
  • What is one kind thing I can do for myself today?
  • How am I going to make this happen?

Looking after ourselves is vital in this phase of tackling Covid 19 head on.

 Workout 4 - Today’s workout might seem a little strange at first, but bear with me. It’s about Connecting with your body – sort of ‘physical mindfulness’. Take a moment to pause and connect with your body. You’ll find your own way of doing this but here are some suggestions;

  •  Slowly push your feet hard into the floor
  • Slowly straighten up your back and spine; if sitting – sit upright/forward in your chair
  • Slowly press your fingertips together
  • Slowly stretch your arms or neck, shrug your shoulders
  • Slowly breathe

 The thing is that once you get the hang of it, in later workouts we’ll go through how to put it into practice when you feel stressed or worried.

Workout 5 - Many of you are getting in touch to say how you’re enjoying the mindfulness exercises. Today builds on workout 4 techniques and focuses on engaging in what we’re doing.  But before we do, have a look a the clip. CLICK HERE

Now take a few more moments to run through it for yourself - to get a sense of ‘where you are’ before re-focusing on the activity you are doing or are about to.

  • Look around the room and notice 5 things you can see
  • Notice 3 or 4 things you can hear
  • Notice what you can smell or taste or sense in your nose and mouth
  • Think about what you are doing
  • Now end the exercise by giving your full attention back to the activity at hand

 In this way we are taking control of what we can control.  This is overall strategy in coping with the current crisis. 

Workout 6 - It seems different teams are at different stages in tackling Covid-19. Some are bearing a heavy burden, others less so, but none the less - extremely busy. So today, I’m hoping the attached image chimes with all of you. Take a moment to engage with it and consider where you feel you and your team are. CLICK HERE

None of us can control what happens on the journey this image conveys. We can’t control what might happen in the future or how the virus might affect us or our families or communities.   And it’s utterly normal for us to get lost in our stress  - but it’s not useful or helpful.   What is - is to control what we can control.   And we can control what we do.   And what we’re all doing is massively important

 Workout 7 - Controlling what we can at the moment, means considering taking Committed Action - the second ‘C’ in our FACE COVID framework. This means the action we take because it’s important and aligns with our core values - even if it does bring up difficult thoughts and feelings.

I wrote yesterday about what we can do right now no matter how small it might be - no matter where we are in the trajectory of tackling Covid-19 - that improves life for others or ourselves. Whatever the answer is, we need to act and engage in that action fully. 

I know we’re are all doing this day-in day-out, but today’s mental health workout is to watch this short clip. I hope it helps think about how to take committed action whilst dealing with the difficult feelings and thoughts it might bring up: CLICK HERE

Workout 8 -  We’ve received some positive feedback about yesterday’s Committed Action memo. Thank you all so much. This workout develops this idea now and focuses on Opening up. This phase of the FACE COVID framework can take a bit of time to get hold of, so my plan is to stretch this out over the next two or three Pause Buttons.

In this context, opening up means making room for difficult feelings and being kind to ourselves. Upsetting or stressful thoughts and feelings are going to keep showing up as we move towards the recovery phase of this crisis: fear, anxiety, anger, and so on. Remember we can’t stop them from arising - they are normal – and they’re going to flow whether we like it or not. But we can open up and make room for them: acknowledge they are normal, let them to be there (even though they hurt) and treat ourselves with kindness.

Watch the clip to start with - it’s called ‘the struggle switch’. CLICK HERE

Doing this whilst being kind to ourselves is essential - especially in our carers roles. We’ll do a whole lot better at looking after others if we’re also taking care of ourselves.

So ask yourself - ‘if someone I loved was going through the experience I am, feeling what I am feeling; if I wanted to be kind and caring towards them, how would I treat them? What might I say to them? Then try treating yourself the same way.

Workout 9 - In the FACE COVID framework V is for Values.  Committed action and uncoupling from unhelpful thoughts and feelings should be guided by your core values - what do you want to stand for in the face of this crisis?   What sort of person do you want to be as you go through this?   How do you want to treat yourself and others?   Your personal values might include love, respect, humour, courage, honesty, caring openness, kindness or numerous others.   Look for ways to get through your day according to your values. Let them guide and motivate your committed action.

Before reading on please watch the clip. CLICK HERE

So as this crisis unfolds there will be all sorts of obstacles; goals we can’t achieve, things we can’t do, problems for which there are no simple solutions.   But rather than live by struggling trying to achieve goals we can still live and work by our values in lots of different ways.

Workout 10 - Before we finish off the FACE COVID framework, today’s mental health workout acts as a refresher of the mindfulness coping strategies we’ve covered so far.   

It focuses the exercises we have covered on preparing to leave home to come on to a shift or starting a day’s work, as well as keeping hope throughout.

This clip is a little longer than usual (about 6 minutes), but it’s well worth it. So when you can, take some time and have a look at it.  CLICK HERE

If you like, give the workout a go tomorrow before your shift or day ahead.

As we all consider recovering our work activity, we face the prospects of living with new normal ways of working for some time.  Maintaining a positive outlook and utilising psychological coping strategies are going to be important to get us through.

Workout 11 - The final elements of our FACE COVID framework are about Identifying resources and keeping our Distance. These don’t immediately lend themselves to interactive video clips but they are still really important to cover.

Identify resources for help, support and advice. This not only relates to our own needs, but to those of colleagues, friends, family and neighbours. The Trust Health & Wellbeing group have compiled a huge range of resources for all kinds of support and you can access them all here. NHSE have also a super range of different kinds of support too.

There are concerns that staff are as likely to get Covid-19 from other colleagues as they are from patients. Distancing at work is going to be really important as we all start to plan re-starting activities that ceased over the past few weeks. So the final FACE COVID workout is to watch this clip. It’ll be familiar to many of you by now but it seems a fitting end to the framework. CLICK HERE

The next few ‘Pause Buttons’ will focus on developing psychological coping skills and self-soothing. We’ll also have some pretty good Apps to share with you along the way too.

Workout 12 - Today we’re going to start moving on to consider how we physically respond to threat.

We often think we know all about the symptoms of anxiety, but more often - we don’t really understand why these feelings can overwhelm us.

Today’s mental health workout is to watch this short video that talks about the fight, flight and freeze (FFF) responses;  CLICK HERE

You may feel that your threat system is constantly ‘switched on’ at the moment as you face the challenges of treating Covid patients or the prospects of re-entering the workplace in the ‘new’ and uncertain normal. It might be switched on at home as your think about work, or how Covid-19 is affecting you and your family. Although this is very normal, it can make looking after ourselves and others more difficult. 

Understanding our FFF responses is the first step in taking control of those responses. Remember, let’s take control over what we can control. Whilst we can’t completely switch off our threat system, we will be introducing different techniques and strategies to help calm and soothe it. 

Workout 13 - Yesterday we covered the physiological changes that occur from our threat system becoming activated. Today’s workout is about finding ways to release this stress by relaxing our body. If we feel physically relaxed, this can lead to a sense of calmness too.

In normal times, breathing is unconscious but we often struggle to notice how our breathing changes when stresses or anxious. There is a lot of focus on how we’re breathing at the moment, with us maybe ‘over-focusing’ on the warning signs of the virus.

So, right now (or when you can) take a couple of undisturbed minutes to close your eyes and focus on slowing your breath right down. I’d like you to;

  •  breathe in through your nose for four seconds
  • hold for two
  • release the breath through your mouth for six seconds.
  • rest your hand on your stomach and watch as it rises and falls with each breath… In 1, 2, 3, 4….. hold 1, 2……out 1,2,3,4,5,6

Repeat this a few times and notice how you feel afterwards.

If you have more time, or are at home, you might like to listen to this slightly longer clip, which guides you through a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. If you like you can make it a family affair and get partners and kids involved too. There are plenty of these around, but this one has been reviewed by the team and we really like it…CLICK HERE

Workout 14 - In the last two workouts we’ve focused on the physical and psychological benefits that come from slowing our breathing down and taking the time to relax our bodies.  We’re taking you through this to build skills in dealing with any threat system symptoms.

CLICK HERE

Today’s workout is the final part of this and gets us thinking about exercise. There’s been lots about this but with the modest relaxation of the lockdown rules, there is now a new opportunity to exercise outdoors more than once a day. Whilst social distancing will continue to make it harder for us, the psychological and cognitive benefits of exercising are going to be so important in helping us deal with the long second phase of tackling COVID-19.

There’s lots of free exercise and yoga tutorials available online that you could follow. But even if that’s not for you, exercise also comes in lots of different and unexpected forms, for example, dancing, housework, gardening, playing with the kids/dog - all help.

Workout 15 - Today’s workout returns to the ‘V for Values’ in the FACE COVID framework and to consider how we use these in the next phase of looking after patients and re-starting activity and care that has been affected by the crisis.

Our values are ‘what we want to stand for in life, how we want to behave, what sort of person we want to be’. Have a look at the clip again as a refresher: CLICK HERE

Now, today’s exercise is to identify our values. Mark those below with a V = “Very important to me”; I = “Important to me”; N = “Not important to me”. If it helps, imagine that a dinner is being held in your honour. How would you like to be described? 

respectfully

irreverently

independently

loyally

  compassionately

co-operatively

competitively

usefully

generously

dependably

taking other perspectives

with a sense of fun

creatively

with appreciation of beauty

in a nature-friendly way

sociably

caringly

with curiosity

openly

spiritually

consistently

adventurously

justly / fairly

with commitment

respectably

flexibly

with originality

honestly

helpfully

gratefully

self-challengingly

healthily

nurturingly

effectively

enthusiastically

Those that you mark as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ are your values. And living our lives in accordance with our values influences how we approach stressful and difficult work challenges. It ties in with us taking control of what we can

Workout 16 -  Hopefully you’ll be starting to get to grips with the foundations of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and acting in accordance with our values.

We hope you managed to identify some of your own values yesterday. It did take a little longer than usual - so don’t worry if you didn’t get time. Try it when you can.

In the past we have also focused on ‘accepting’ and living with unpleasant thoughts and feelings as we act in line with those values and focus on what we can control.

Today’s mental health workout is another refresher on unhooking ourselves from distressing thoughts or worries.

Have a look at this clip. It features Russ Harris in person – the bloke whose voice you’ve been mostly listening to in the clips we’ve shared over the past few weeks. He’s a former Dr but now internationally recognised as a leading light in ACT. He’s a particular hero of ours not least as he puts all his teaching materials on line for free. CLICK HERE

Workout 17 - OK it’s time to try to bring together the elements of our last two workouts (living by our values and unhooking from troubling thoughts/feelings), and towards the how we want to be at work and the life we want to live.

Today’s mental health workout is called ‘the Choice Point’. Here’s Russ Harris again doing a brilliant job of explaining how these two factors come together to help us choose actions that lead us towards our goals. CLICK HERE

In Phase 2 of taking-on Covid-19, we are going to continue to be challenged, physically and psychologically, potentially over a longer period time. in the next workout we will consider how we can keep our motivation going throughout.

There are tricky concepts to hold onto, and so do get in touch with us if you have any questions about them, or to talk to us about anything or arrange a 1-1 with one of the team. Every conversation you bring is important to us and no issue is too small to bring up.

Workout 18 -  From all your correspondence it feels like the prospect that Covid-19 is with us for the foreseeable future is starting to hit home.  In the ‘marathon’ analogy, it’s like we’re at the point of having completed the first 10K, and feeling a bit exhausted with the realisation there’s another 30K to go! 

This point can seem daunting and what we need to be alert for is signs of demoralisation and hopelessness setting in. The mindfulness and ACT techniques we’ve been working on together can really help.

And whilst it would be lovely to practice them facing a pile of pebbles and a sunrise, being mindful is about taking the moments we can in the situations we find ourselves - in a busy hospital in Leeds, looking after sick people in challenging circumstances, as well as looking after ourselves and our families.

But remember looking after ourselves is one of the things we can take some control over. Take breaks and rest during a shift.  Actually take some annual leave (rather than save it all up in the hope that we’ll have a proper holiday), to rest, recharge and do some of the things that really matter to us away from work.

Today’s refreshing mental health workout is to really consider how you’re going to rest and take a break. Talk to you manager to arrange it. Talk to one of our Team too if you like.   And if we can’t convince you, then hopefully one last clip on motivation from our man, Russ Harris might.   CLICK HERE

Workout 19 - In the last workout we talked about fatigue setting-in as we contemplate the next lengthy phase dealing with Covid. As we said, rests and breaks and annual leave are going to be vital in building resilience, but we can still expect to feel more worried and stressed at times.

 When we notice we are worrying we might observe ‘what if’ thoughts – “what if something bad happens?” “What if someone I care about becomes unwell?” “What if my patient doesn’t make it through?”  There will be many unknowns at the moment, so worries like these are to be expected, even although they are unwelcome. One can lead to another and another until it can quickly feel overwhelming or catastrophic.

In past Pause Buttons, we’ve considered ways in which we can make room for the difficult feelings these worries may bring – observing and acknowledging them, but breathing around them and letting them pass. Today’s workout is to get familiar with the Worry Tree. This guides you through a decision-making process that starts with asking - are these thoughts within our control? can we do something about it right now? - and so on…CLICK HERE

 

Workout 20 -  In the last workout we spoke about trying to contain difficult thoughts or concerns. Previously we have focused on how easy it can be to become tangled up in these, and we introduced different strategies to help you to allow these experiences to just ‘be there’, by opening-up to them and using mindfulness to help tolerate them (the ‘Opening-up’ workout is a good refresher). Today we wanted to build on this further by introducing the Beach Ball.

In the picture you’ll see a person with a beach ball. Try to imagine that it represents all the difficult, uncomfortable and painful thoughts and feelings you may have coped with so far. Even though it’s human nature to want to push these away, doing so is like trying to hold the beach ball under water. Not only does it takes huge amounts of energy and effort, it also stops us from being able to enjoy the water, see the rest of the beach, do the things we enjoy there, and engage. CLICK HERE

Can we find a way to let the beach ball, and all it represents be with us even if we don’t like or want it?

Can we drop the struggle and re-focus our attention on doing things that are truly important to us despite the discomfort? 

Think of just one thing you can let be with you today, rather than struggle with it.

Workout 21 - Over the past couple of workouts we have spent a bit of time considering how to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings as we come to work.

We’ve particularly concentrated on metaphors to help reframe these and allow them to be alongside us, dropping the struggle to get rid of them, whilst we focus on what we have to do today, at home or work, or both.

Today, our refreshing workout is about mindfulness itself. There are many myths about it and this clip explains these. We hope it will also start to pull together how the techniques we’ve introduced to you are in some ways, all part of ‘being mindful’.

Many of you have been in touch to say how much you’ve been enjoying the way Russ Harris explains these concepts in his videos. So you’ll be pleased to hear that this is another CLICK HERE

Workout 22 - Hello everyone, if you’ve been following the exercises over the past few days, we’re hoping you will be coming round to the idea that mindfulness is only one aspect of dealing with stress. Yesterday we spoke of what mindfulness actually is and dispelled a few myths about what it’s not. It is more than relaxation or meditation but does incorporate some or both of those elements.

Today we want to share a clip with you about what meditation actually is. Then tomorrow we’ll start to look at relaxation as we build up a range of tips and techniques you can use. The idea is that you can then choose from a ‘menu’ of ideas, rather than everything being for everyone. CLICK HERE

So, back to meditation… Don’t be put off by the word ‘meditation’ and take a look - it’ll only take a minute or so. Go on – you know you want to…

Workout 23 - Hello everyone, thank you all so much for your lovely feedback on the Pause Button. When we hear that you are finding the techniques useful and putting them into practice, it really makes it feel very worthwhile.

We are hearing - loud and clear - that with the lockdown being lifted the outside world feels busier. And together with the hospital getting busier and the planning around us recovering our activity, there is a real increase in the stress levels. It almost feels like we’re facing a new set of uncertainties, different to those we experienced in the first ‘crisis’ phase.

Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation are the three groups of skills we’ve been focusing to help us deal with this. These techniques are proven to be effective in dealing with unpleasant, unwanted or upsetting thoughts and feelings. Over the last couple of days we’ve dispelled some myths about mindfulness and meditation, and today’s focus is on relaxation – in particular - progressive muscle relaxation.

Today's clip aims to show how to recognise tension and then release it. It’s particularly good if we experience the physical symptoms of tension or our ‘threat systems’ being activated to the extent that there are feelings of anxiety.

So, this exercise takes you through a progressive muscle relaxation session. It is a little longer – 6 minutes – and yes… it’s full of Tingsha bells and gentle breezes, but the content is accurate and pretty easy to follow. So take a moment away from your workplace and give it a go or save it until your day is done. CLICK HERE

 Next week will build on these skills and focus on different ways of being mindful, relaxing, meditating and self-soothing. 

Workout 24 -  Today we press our own pause button on mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Before continuing our development of these skills and how to apply them to stress as the lockdown lifts, today we invite you to focus on what it is that contributes to us not feeling safe about venturing out again or re-starting parts of our old lives.

The media often refer to Covid as an ‘invisible killer’ - one that we can’t see. When it strikes, there is no immediate treatment. As we take all this in, it’s no surprise that we can be frightened of going out or returning to the workplace, etc. Our threat system is designed to ensure we’re safe, but the problem seems to be that we perceive we are no longer as safe as we once were. However, there have always been risks to our safety; we’ve never been 100% safe, but somehow we felt ‘safe enough’ to go about our business. And so to increase our confidence as we move forward (following all the guidance on social distancing and hygiene), we need to balance our perception of risk. When we contemplate how much risk we face from Covid, we must also try to tune-in to information that counter-balances the risks.

Have a look at this article on the BBC Health webpages, which explains things more clearly. CLICK HERE FOR BBC ARTICLE

Then take another look at Russ Harris’ clip on threat systems. CLICK HERE FOR RUSS HARRIS CLIP

Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, we return to relaxation techniques, which we hope will be useful in coping with any stress and anxiety. But as we do, it will also help to hold in mind the information that keeps our worries in perspective.

Workout 25 - In this workout we return to mindfulness and relaxation exercises.

Walking is a great form of exercise something we do every day (particularly under lockdown). Yet, more often than not we walk from one place to the next without noticing how we got there. Does this image chime at all?

Walking mindfully is taking our walk whilst staying in the present moment, through connecting with our bodies and the environment around us.

 So today our refreshing exercise really is ‘refreshing exercise’ - as we’ll be taking a ‘mindful’ walk.

 This can be done anywhere, for any length of time. It doesn’t even have to be outside!

 But before you start, pick where you’re going to go. Start by taking a few slow breaths in and out notice the air come in and out of your body. Focus on the sensation of walking, notice your feet contacting with the ground one by one.

As you start to notice this allow your mind to explore other senses. What can you see? What can you smell? What can you hear? What can you feel?

If it helps, then this clip takes you through a series of prompts to consider whilst you walk (make sure you skip the ad at the start!)  CLICK HERE

Let us know what you think of this and the other mindful/relaxation techniques we’ll be introducing over the next few days. The more feedback and direction you can give us, the more closely we’ll be able to ‘hit the spot’

Workout 26 - Continuing with this week’s focus on being mindful and relaxing, today we’ve come up with some suggestions on how to relax in short bursts – on the hoof, as it were – in the situations we find ourselves. There are very simple things that we can do. And the most effective involve our five senses. You’re likely to already have your own favourite, ‘go-to’ source of comfort, however, today and tomorrow we’ll suggest some broad ways we’ve come up with to engage each sense.

 TOUCH - our skin is the largest organ in our bodies - and with it being super sensitive to external stimulus, it makes ‘touch’ a powerful tool in our ability to relax and unwind. Water is one of the ways that we can feel instant relief - soaking in a warm bath or going for a swim – might not be instantly accessible but we can achieve a similar sense of warm touch by sitting outside in the warmth of the sun or changing into your most comfortable clothes.

TASTE - while it's best not to try to use food for comfort all the time, there is a lot to be said about its’ effects on our mood. Rather than turning to junk food, try sucking on a hard sweet or sipping a cup of soothing herbal tea. You may also find ease in a comforting meal.

SMELL - There are many ways you can take advantage of soothing scents. Browsing a flower shop or spending time literally "smelling the roses" in a garden can lift our mood. Aromatherapy oils, or a favourite hand cream or simply stepping outside and taking in some fresh air can provide instant relief.

Remember… if you would like to have a 1-1 staff support session with one of the Team, our email addresses are leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsycholgy@nhs.net for Children’s staff. 

Workout 27 - Today we finish off our ideas for short relaxation exercises by engaging our senses; and today it’s sight and sound to calm, and comfort ourselves.

SIGHT - Distraction is a good thing, particularly when our minds are stuck on our stress, or worries. Distracting ourselves visually can be as simple as finding something interesting or amusing on our social media feeds to look at. However, the more cognitively interactive the vision, the more distracting and relaxing it will be. Try to reflect on happy times or hopes and dreams. Try to relive moments and really cherish what you recall. You might want to look through pictures - loved ones, or a happy holiday. Try not to just glance through and swipe on. Look at them mindfully, recall the scene and people, how you felt, what happened before and after, or what emotions it conjures up . If this doesn’t work, you can always daydream… places you want to go, or even just look around for things that make you smile.

SOUND - Our sense of sound is just as effective as the rest of our senses in setting up a positive emotional state. No matter where we are, we can feel these effects by listening to our favourite music or singing to ourselves. We can even try saying positive statements to ourselves – sort of verbal self-encouragement.

The idea behind us invoking our senses is to create as many techniques as we can to have at our disposal, and practice when we’re experiencing distress. If you try any of these ideas or come up with your own do let us know via email. We’ve already had some feedback that the hand cream idea seems to work.

Remember, whatever impact Covid has had on us, it can’t cancel Spring. Try to mindfully enjoy what you can of the lovely weather. Focus on enjoying who you’re with and where you are, or what you’re eating and drinking. Say to yourself ‘no matter what else is going on, just for this moment I’m going to enjoy this…’

Workout 28 -  In workout 24 we focused on our threat system. You might remember this system aims to ensure we’re safe. 

This weekend, we’ve all hopefully enjoyed some sunshine and new freedoms, yet we continue to feel we’re not as safe as we were. Remember though, there have always been risks to our safety.  We’ve never been 100% safe, but somehow in the past we felt ‘safe enough’ to go about our business. With the recovery phase rollercoaster ride set to continue for some time, we are likely to feel the ‘threat in the air’ as we move on.

Our ‘threat system’ fits into a simple model of our emotion system called the ‘3 Circles’.  We like this a lot and have used it in our staff 1-1 support sessions.  People have been really positive about it.  So we wanted to share it more widely.  It’s a great way of making sense of the ‘rollercoaster’ and how we’re feeling, as well as finding ways to bring some balance back into our lives.

So today’s mental health workout is to take a look at the 3 Circles Model in this clip. It’s a really clear explanation of the model; CLICK HERE

We’ll go through more of this during the week, so do get in touch if you want to ask any questions or talk more about it.  Remember too, if there’s anything that’s bothering you, email us.   One of the Team would get back to you pretty quickly.  The emails remain the same;

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net;   leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsycholgy@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 29 - Yesterday we focused on the ‘threat’ system from the 3 Circles Framework of our emotions. The two other systems in this model are in the illustration below. All 3 are present at the same time, but in different amounts.

If you’ve been feeling a sense of threat recently this is currently your biggest circle. This means you’re having a very normal and ‘automatic’ human response to things, but one that can be unpleasant and upsetting. It’s also a sign that we need to take extra care of ourselves as living in ‘threat’ mode can be exhausting and leaves us open to feeling more stressed.

So what can we do? Over the past weeks we’ve introduced a range of calming exercises, including mindfulness and relaxation. Today’s workout is to go back to some of these. Choose one or two that you found particularly useful and go back over them. 

https://www.leedsth.nhs.uk/staffhealthandwellbeingsupportnetwork/psychology-staff-support/managing-your-psychological-well-being-during-the-covid-19-crisis-page/

In the 3 Circles Model, you have already started to activate your Soothing System (Green). Inviting other systems in helps bring balance to the system and regulate the sense of threat.

We’ll be going through the Dynamic and Soothing systems over the next few sessions and show how these link together.

 3 circles

Workout 30 - We hope you’re becoming more familiar with the ‘3 Circles Model’. We think it links well with many of the ideas and exercises we’ve introduced in previous Pause Buttons.

For the rest of the week we’re going to think a bit more about bringing balance to our systems. Today, we’re going to focus on the Drive System (the Blue Circle) (yesterday this was also referred to as the Dynamic System).

This system can bring positive emotions linked to achievement, pleasure, fun, motivation and reward.

Sometimes though, our Drive System can also be fuelled by threat and it’s true to say that threat based drive’ has dominated both at work and home recently. This, along with less access to things we enjoy that would normally trigger ‘positive drive’ is exhausting!

So today we’re inviting you to start to take steps towards re-balancing and re-fuelling your ‘Blue Circle’. Engaging in activities that stimulate our Drive System in a positive way can be fantastic way of helping us re-charge and re-connect with things that are important to us that may have had to take a back seat. This can really help bring some balance at times of ongoing threat.

So you might want to try:

  • Taking a few moments to think of things that you can put in your Blue Circle; things you enjoy and that give you a sense of achievement/reward (e.g. hobbies, sports, reading, gardening etc)
  • Seeing if you can plan something from this list in for every day, no matter how small.
  • It’s a good idea to take steps at a time, gradually re-introducing things that will be achievable (rather than striving for your ideal straight away).

Drive System

Workout 31 - Hello everyone. We hope you’re getting to grips with the ‘3 Circles’. Following on from yesterday, we’re now going to focus on strengthening our ‘green’ Soothing System. The ‘Green’ system is vital to help turn-down or turn-off, our ‘threat’ system emotions.

Today’s exercise is to have a think about things that help bring a sense of being at peace, calm, contentment and soothing. Examples might be listening to soothing music, doing mindfulness or relaxation exercises, walking or sitting in nature, etc.

 Soothing

 

 

 

 

 

These can be really simple things, but it’s the planning and doing them that’s important here. So try to plan and do something every day, no matter how small. Remember all the mindfulness and relaxation exercises from last week? Take another look - mindfulness is a fantastic way of activating our Soothing System.

And here’s a new exercise too. It’s a really nice mix of connecting with the mind and body (which is unsurprising as the tutor is both a clinical psychologist and a yoga instructor). It’s a bit different from the other ones but it’s quick, and so a fantastic ‘go-to’ exercise for self-soothing. CLICK HERE

It’s been so great to hear from you. We’ve been particularly encouraged by the ways you’ve been using the techniques. In fact, we want to write a PB that focuses on examples of how you’re putting these into practice. So really – you’ll be doing the writing! Tell us about exercises you’ve found particularly helpful or the ones that aren’t so good via the usual emails; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsycholgy@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 32 - Hello everyone, today is our last look at the 3 Circles Model. Feedback from people attending our staff support drop-ins has been that illustration below was helpful as a ‘mental check in’- working out how our circles are looking and what we can do to bring balance. Today’s theme is connection - this is really important in stimulating our Soothing System.

 Drive soothing threat v2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecting with others is trickier with social distancing, busy lives and new demands. We’re all having to be more creative in how we connect. Faces and voices work better than texting at stimulating our Soothing System and so when we can’t meet face-to-face, video and telephone calls are pretty good. But it’s easy for our minds to be distracted. So however we’re trying to connect with people, try to focus on being ‘fully present’ with them - being ‘in the moment’ with them, using mindfulness techniques.

Connecting with nature or the world around us is really useful too. There’s loads of research showing the positive effects of this on our wellbeing. This really stimulates our ‘Green Circle’ and is even more important during stressful times. It’s another fantastic ‘go to’ strategy at the moment, particularly as we might not feel as connected to others as we once were.

So our final refreshing mental health workout of the week is to try these online nature resources. We hope you’ll like them as much as we do.

A dawn chorus: 

A virtual walk in nature: 

Our email addresses again to get in touch leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

If you feel on your own with your worries or stresses, please do get in touch. We’d love to listen and help out.

Workout 33 - Last week we finished explaining the 3 Circles Model with a focus on feeling connected and being ‘fully present in the moment’ when we’re with people who are important to us. We’ve covered this quite a bit in previous PBs but a central theme in mindfulness is the repetition of 'bringing our attention back' to what is important and in line with our values (remember those too?).

So this week’s theme is called ‘Mindfulness Happens Here’. Have a look at this image. 

 Mindfulness Happens Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not wrong to be ‘in’ the past or future. Of course we need to plan ahead or process what’s happened to us. But living in the past or dwelling on the future too much can leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And so to balance this out we need to take a break from it and focus on the importance of being ‘in the present moment’.

There’s no clip today - plenty of those coming up later in the week.  Instead today’s workout is simply to notice when you’re ‘time-travelling’ and spending too much time in either the past or the future. Slowly bring your thoughts back to where you are. Connect with the present and what you’re doing and take control of what you can.

Workout 34 - Continuing with our ‘Mindfulness Happens Here’ theme could not be more timely. Every day we get lots of confusing messages about how lifting the lockdown will affect us and our families; at work, at home, at school. Should I go on holiday? Should I send my kids to school? Did that coughing bloke in the supermarket have Covid?  More and more people are out and about. We’re going to start wearing masks in the hospital. If we focus too much on this stuff, it can really build up our stresses and worries.

These aren’t just going to go away. So we have to find a way of letting unpleasant thoughts and worries be present without struggling with them. Today’s exercise takes us back to a Russ Harris clip and something he calls the Struggle Switch; take a moment and have a look; CLICK HERE

‘Focusing on the present’ – ‘being in the moment’ - and taking control of what we can – is a really effective way of coping. Let’s try to put our energy into taking control of what we can ‘in the present moment’ – truly being with our families online, being with patients in the hospital, completing that business case you’ve got to write, going for a walk, and so on... It is going to be okay. We can deal with anxiety and distress. We just need to learn some new ways of doing it.

Please don’t feel alone with your worries or stress - and don’t think twice about getting in touch with us on our usual emails; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsycholgy@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 35 - This week’s ‘Mindfulness Happens Here’ theme has returned us to being in the present moment whilst dealing with unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

Yesterday we focused on not struggling with them and letting them be present. But if it was that easy to do, we’d have done it already - right?

And so we need some tools to help us. We’ve shared a lot of the ones we find useful in our work with patients and parents who are living with chronic conditions. There is particularly strong evidence for these being effective in people who have chronic pain. So for the rest of the week our exercises will go back over these techniques.

Today’s mental health work out is to look at one of our favourite clips on this  – the Sushi Train. Take a moment and have a look…CLICK HERE

So remember, as you go through your days and weeks, let unpleasant thoughts and feelings circle round, don’t pick up on them unless you have to.

And don’t believe everything you think!

Workout 36 - Hopefully you’re getting the gist that being in the present moment requires a bit of work to let go of the struggle with unpleasant thoughts and feelings or things we can’t control.

As promised, this week we’re focusing on the techniques that might make this task a little easier and make more sense. Some of you have been in touch to tell us how you’re using the ideas, and it’s so encouraging for us to hear. Thank you for this. You know… the thing is, as we learn new skills, is not to expect to get it right straight away. So hopefully a bit of repetition and different ways of conveying the same thing, will develop our understanding and confidence in putting them into practice. We particularly loved to hear that some of you are sending the emails home to practice once the day is done.

Anyway, on with today’s mental health workout… it’s a variation on yesterday’s – called ‘Leaves on a Stream’. It builds on the understanding that we can be selective about the thoughts and feelings we attend to, by actually talking you through doing it – with a lovely lilting voice-over. It’s not long  - about 3 minutes – but probably not one to be done on the hoof. Send it home, or get the headphones on and watch during your break. CLICK HERE

Workout 37 - It might feel even harder to be in the present moment, mindfully, when it’s dank and grey and ‘rodding it’ down outside. But that’s the skill. Being present does not require us to face a beautiful sunset, with little around to upset us. It is about being able to connect to the present moment in the situations we find ourselves. Have you ever watched a toddler eat an ice-cream? They don’t care if it’s smeared all over their face or if they’re getting soaked in the rain. The look of pure enjoyment on their face for me captures the essence of mindfulness; of truly being in the present moment.

But as always, Russ Harris explains it better than we can. So our last workout of the week is to watch another of his clips. Just to keep things fresh, there’s a bonus multiple-choice question on it at the end…CLICK HERE

The definition of mindfulness is;

  1. Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis
  2. Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally
  3. Awareness of present experiences with acceptance
  4. Consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest and receptiveness

We’ll be sure to give you the answer on Monday, but for now - be mindful in the moments you find yourself over the weekend. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or worries you might have leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 38 - The answer to Friday’s quiz was of course, all 4 definitions are correct. Living in the present moment, despite anxiety or unwanted thoughts and feelings, is the first major goal of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

We use this kind of therapy a lot in our work with patients and families. We like it because it’s effective. And one of the reasons it’s effective is because it quickly makes sense to people. If there were an ACT motto, it would be something like…

“Embrace your demons, and follow your heart”

(Russ Harris, 2007)

Over the past week or so we’ve been slowly introducing the first ACT goal by focusing on living in the present moment and sharing tips and ideas on how to do this, rather than fight against unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

Remember ‘acceptance’ it’s not about giving in. It’s about letting go of struggling with it. And although today’s workout is another recap of this central idea, we’ve saved best ‘til last. It’s one of the most commonly used and useful ACT metaphors for ‘letting go’ - called the ‘Unwanted Party Guest’. Have a look…CLICK HERE

For the rest of the week we’ll start concentrating on the second ACT goal again - taking committed action towards living our life in accordance with our values.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on the usual emails; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 39 - Today we return to an important goal and coping strategy - living our life in accordance with our values.

Our values are what kind of person we want to be and what we want to do with our time. I was taught an easy way to think about values as being ‘describing-how-we-do’ words (adverbs); generously, honestly, adventurously and so on… 

Whilst our values can motivate us (e.g., choosing the jobs we want do), they also guide our actions and behaviour. This really helps us to ‘live-in’ and enjoy, the present moments. Today’s workout is in 2 very quick parts  - about 5 minutes in total.

Part 1 is to go back to the ‘V is for Values’ clip for a refresher - CLICK HERE  

Part 2 is then to look back at Workout 15 above and identify some of your own values.        

When we are anxious or fearful, we sometimes avoid those things, rather than tackle them or let them just be with us. There’s a lot of anxiety around about coming back into work in the hospital after a long period working from home or self-isolating. Concentrating on our values and then acting in alignment with them, helps us remember what’s important to us, for example, about our jobs, and what we can actually take control of in our daily lives.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on the usual emails; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 40 - I hope you had a chance to look at yesterday’s clip on our values.

To recap, these are not handed down to us by our parents or elderly relatives, telling us how we should act or behave. Nor are they about things we feel we 'should do' or 'must do'. Our values are so personal to us. They are the qualities that we feel are really important, the kind of person we would like to be. They motivate us in doing what we want to do with our time and guide our actions and behaviour. They give us our sense of purpose.

Believe it or not, a 'values-led' approach has been written to help people stuck in refugee camps in Syria and Uganda often for very long periods - years even! And it's proved really useful.

Today's refreshing mental health workout is simply to watch this short clip by an American comedian Michael Jr.  We feel it beautifully illustrates quite simply, how things are different when we act in accordance with our values. As Michael Jr puts it – when we know our "WHY" (our purpose/values), our "WHAT" (our actions) has more impact.

It really is well worth a watch - and one of our favourites from training courses. We hope you enjoy it. CLICK HERE

Always remember - if you would like to talk things through or ask any questions, email us on leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net  And for Children’s Hospital staff – it’s leeds-tr.psychologystaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 41 - We've been thinking a lot about how to develop the idea of values – the qualities which are really important to us and which guide how we want to be in life - and in particular how they pop up in our daily lives.

Values bring energy and direction but they also bring up feelings – they’re two sides of the same coin – and we can't have one without the other.

For example, we feel:

  • Guilty when there is something we care about
  • Angry when our values/purposes are violated
  • Worried when something precious to us is threatened.

The only way to solve this is abandon the value or live with the feelings.   Here’s a couple of examples:

Russ Harris, the guy whose video clips we’ve been sharing, actually doesn’t like being interviewed. He gets a full range of anxiety symptoms before and during them. However, he makes room for those feelings and accepts them, as his values drive him to sharing his ideas and materials freely, to as many people as possible.

Two of my values are ‘helpful’ and ‘useful’ (not that my line manager would agree maybe…), but not physically being in the hospital as much recently, and not being part of the front line, leaves me feeling a bit guilty. I live with this feeling by putting the energy into writing this memo everyday – controlling what I can control.

‘In our discomfort we find our values, and in our values we find our discomfort’. And so today’s workout tries to help tap into this. During the course of your day, when you are having a difficult/unpleasant feeling or thought, ask yourself: 

"What does this feeling/thought tell me about what is important to me?"

If you haven’t done it already, on a blank piece of paper, write down a list of your values as they occur to you. Try to write them as an adverb - a description of how you want to be seen to be doing things (a handy tip is that the word could end in ‘ly’ - honestly, compassionately, helpfully, and so on…)  

If you have any questions about this, or would like to talk about anything, email us on leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net , and for Children’s Hospital staff it’s:   leeds-tr.psychologystaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 42 - It’s our last look at values for now. Over the last few days we’ve focused on how values are different from goals. A goal can be finished, ticked-off the list. A value is never finished. If we value our health, we don't eat an apple then call it a day. It’s an ‘apple a day’ forever. So in the same way, we can always keep moving in line with our values. 

Today’s workout is to look back at the ‘Choice Point’, how we can avoid some of the things we are frightened of, that aren’t in line with our values. But the clip also shows how any action we take can move us in the direction of our values. CLICK HERE

Did you manage to write down some values yesterday? If so - great! Keep that piece of paper it in your pocket or bag and carry your values around with you. If you didn’t, have a go. If it helps - here’s a list of 50 of the most common values to choose from. CLICK HERE  

We’d love to hear about what you think about values and goals at the usual email addresses leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 43 - This week we’re moving away from mindfulness and ACT approaches to coping with unpleasant thoughts and feelings.  Instead we thought we would try to debunk a few myths about mental health and focus on what is actually involved in taking first steps into talking about things.

Today’s mental health workout is simply to take a few moments to digest this list:

 Mental Health is

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often, taking the first step into a talking therapy is the hardest step. There’s still a lot of misconceptions about talking to a professional. And whilst getting over the threshold initially is always a unique experience, people often say at the end “that wasn’t as bad as I thought”.

Remember if you would like to take a first step, get in touch on the usual emails:  leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and for Children’s staff – it’s:  leedsth-tr.psychologystaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 44 - Talking about psychological problems with a professional is one thing, but what about when people we care about or work with start to talk? Often what they need is ‘a good listening to.’ Being a good listener is both passive (sitting silently), and active (responding carefully). Doing this keeps the focus on the issues the person has raised.

Today’s exercise follows on from yesterday’s. Simply take a few moments out of your busy schedule to digest this list of things that are important in a good talk.

 How to have a converstaion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

f someone has taken that initial step to talk about their problems, it’s important we try to make it as positive an experience as possible. That’s what a psychologist aims to achieve when starting therapy – that Conversation #1 leaves the person feeling ‘listened to, valued, and supported’, so they come back and have Conversation #2.

Remember if you would like to have Conversation #1 with one of the team, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and for Children’s staff – it’s leedsth-tr.psychologystaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 45 - Being a good listener is both passive and active. Passive listening is remaining silent after you’ve asked someone a question. Sounds easy right? But it’s harder than you think. When you’re listening to someone today, try to count to 10 and literally after you’ve asked them a question. See how long you can last before you break the silence. Remember whilst you may feel the awkwardness, the other person probably won’t as they ‘think’, ‘feel’ and decide how to respond.

Being silent is a great start in becoming a good listener. How we respond is ‘active’ listening. Have a quick look at this clip, which has 6 tips on active listening responses and a handy factsheet: CLICK HERE

If you would like to experience some active listening and empathy, have a chat with one of the team, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at the usual email addresses leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s CSU.

Workout 46 - Hopefully you’re getting the hang of some of the key skills in listening to, and understanding, people.   Using reflective questioning wasn’t included in the 6 tips from yesterday, however these are really effective, and we’ll focus on these today. 

Reflective listening is a bit like a “checking-out” process. It’s like saying back what someone has said but using our own words. This style of responding shows that we’ve heard the person and tried to understand what they’re saying. 

The reflection allows the person to agree or disagree that we’ve understood them accurately. Whether they do or they don’t, the conversation nearly always develops as the speaker feels ‘heard’ and goes on to say more or will correct our error in understanding. Reflective listening is useful in so many situations, but particularly when a friend, relative or colleague is experiencing a difficulty or problem.

Today’s workout is just to watch this light-hearted clip of reflecting and active listening in action. It’s taken from the series ‘Everybody Loves Ray’ and shows off Ray’s active listening skills he’s just learned on a parenting course. CLICK HERE

If you would like to experience some active listening have a chat with one of the team. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us 

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 47 -  We hope you have enjoyed our focus on active listening skills. Being listened to empathically can be a really powerful emotional experience – one that is often more positive than people initially fear.

The active listening skills we’ve shared with you this week are our ways of getting conversations going. As clinical psychologists, on top of good active listening skills, we have 3/4-year training in the basic science of psychology before training for a further 3 years in psychological therapies. There’s no magic or mystique in what we do. And no - we don’t ‘analyse people from how they’re holding their coffee cup’. Psychological talking therapies develop conversations, use the basic science of psychology to understand and explain problems, and then use psychological therapeutic techniques to help improve things or facilitate change.

To round off this week’s exercises here’s a clinical psychologist in action. It’s longer than our usual clips – about 10 minutes - so take some time out to see active listening in action;

CLICK HERE

We can all be better listeners… to our families, friends and colleagues. Don’t be fearful of giving these techniques a go… And don’t be fearful of stepping forward if you’d like to have a taster ‘talking’ session. We’d love to listen: 

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 48 - Whilst our experiences of Covid-19 are different from each other’s, we are united by two common themes.  Firstly, for some time now we’ve all had to bid farewell to our “normal” day jobs and roles to some extent.  And secondly, we’ve all been living in a high threat mode, which has activated our ‘threat’ systems, leading to all sorts of unwanted, unpleasant thoughts and feelings. I don’t know about you, but we’re finding it exhausting!

So, as we are now well into planning the “new normal”, re-opening services and planning how to be back at work, we wanted to spend time thinking about what it’s like to return “home” from the experiences we have had.

Today’s workout is to take a listen to this 5-minute podcast, which develops the ideas we’ve shared here: CLICK HERE 

Remember too, if you’d like to talk to one of the psychology team, we’re still very much here for you – in the staff support hubs – and via email and phone:

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 49 -  As we start to get clinical services up and running again, there can be a sense of frustration that things are moving slowly or it can be hard work. We have to think about the new realities of coming into work - masks, office-hygiene, social-distancing - and that’s before we even start to reinstate our clinics/theatre lists and appoint patients who have been waiting to be seen. One of the biggest losses seems to be contact with our colleagues – the support, the camaraderie, the banter….

Today’s workout is to try to consider putting it into perspective. Perspective is in the eye of the beholder – it’s how we see things. Take a look at the cartoon below. You might have seen it before, but this time ask yourself: 

island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • What hopes would we have had back in March when the crisis hit?
  • What would we have considered as ‘making good progress’ by July?

Remember the mantra that has served us well so far - ‘take control of what we can control’. Learning to accept where we are with all the frustrations, and taking committed action in line with our values, might just be enough to help us refresh our perspectives on where we actually are now.

Remember as always, if you’d like to talk to one of the psychology team, we’re still very much here for you – in the staff support hubs – and via email and phone; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 50 - Face masks are now officially part of our everyday lives at work. From what we’ve been hearing in our conversations with you, both individually and with wider CSUs, is that having to wear a face mask every day can be anxiety-provoking.

Today’s exercise is to read through this very short article. It helps to understand and normalise the anxiety and reminds us that ultimately masks are safe. It also asks us to reflect on any negative/catastrophic thoughts we might have as a first step in reducing our fears. CLICK HERE

If you’re not affected by this, I bet you will know someone who is. We often don’t ask if our colleagues are OK about wearing a mask, but maybe we could, particularly those who are not in clinical-facing role?

Tomorrow we’ll focus on the last element of coping with mask-anxiety identified in the article by returning to mindful breathing techniques.

Remember, if you would like to talk to the team, do get in touch via the usual emails;

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 51 - Following on from understanding and accepting mask anxiety yesterday, we would encourage you to really ask your non-clinical colleagues in particular as to how they’re getting on wearing a face mask. We received a few comments and questions after yesterday’s PB, asking about coping techniques that can be done on the hoof.

So, today’s exercise is to listen to this mini podcast called the ‘Butterfly Breathing Technique’. It’s an easy and helpful technique to use when feeling stressed or anxious. It can be done in the situations we find ourselves in at work, but probably needs to be practiced during a break or at home first.

OK, OK… I know what you’re going to think when you start listening to it… ‘this is too weird’ but stick with it. It really does work! I’m listening to it again now as I write, and find it has slowed me right down. I really like how she describes our breath as ‘our companion for life’ and how it mirrors what we’re doing or how we’re feeling.

I hope that as you do the exercise, your own breathing slows, and you feel more in control of it. I’m also hoping it helps if you feel panicky when wearing your mask. Try it without the mask on first and then listen again with it on.

I’ll be really keen to hear what you think of it leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 52 - I hope you found the ‘Butterfly Breathing Technique’ useful if you’re struggling with your face mask. However, this technique can be adapted to almost any situation you find stressful. Keep it in mind if you start to struggle with any worries.

Fears and frustrations about returning to the workplace and getting services back up and running seem to be all around at the moment.   So I thought it might be useful for the final exercise of the week, to go back to the ‘F’ in the ‘FACE COVID’ framework that we worked through at the start of the crisis – ‘Focusing’ on what is in our control.   I think this is perhaps even more apt now as so much more might feel out of our control and re-focusing our efforts and energy on this might be helpful. 

Simply look at this image again and try to make a list of the things that you can actually have control over – at work and home – and focus on these things.

Circle of Control v2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on the usual emails;

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 53 - Last week the psychology teams have been picking up on people starting to feel overwhelmed and exhausted.  We often do what we have to in order to get through a crisis.   It’s when that phase is over that we start to notice the impact on us.

Now it seems we’re shifting from coping with the crisis, to feeling overwhelmed with the prospects that Covid is with us for a long time.   How on earth are we going to: keep going? keep coping?   We’re feeling exhausted from the crisis phase only to be faced with having to work very differently and in some cases, ‘start again’ in how we work.

We have to accept that this is the case.   We don’t want it.   We don’t like it.   But it’s here none-the-less.   Remember, acceptance is not ‘giving-in’ but rather letting go of the struggle.   Remember the ‘beach ball’ analogy? CLICK HERE

So, in the midst of a pandemic of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it feels very timely to introduce today’s workout.   It’s called ‘Dropping Anchor’.   Not only is this a metaphor for pausing for safety during emotionally turbulent times, it’s a skill for handling difficult feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations as they arise - grounding and steadying ourselves, disrupting our worrying and re-focusing our attention on what we’re doing.   The better we anchor ourselves in the here and now, the more control we have over our emotions and actions.

Have a look at this clip on how to ‘Drop Anchor’ – it’s really quick – only a minute!  We’ll focus on this coping technique this week. CLICK HERE

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on the usual emails:  leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s

Workout 54 - How did you get on with dropping anchor? Feeling overwhelmed seems to be a common experience at the moment. Overwhelmed with the realisation that Covid is going to be with us for quite some time. Exhausted with recovering from the crisis phase whilst at the same time anticipating a second spike and working very differently - in some cases, ‘starting again’ in how we work. There can be a sense of despondency that services or care pathways that have been honed over years are having to be redesigned.

Remember we need to drop struggling with this, accept it and divert our energies into doing what we can, when we can, with what we can.

We think developing the skills to ‘drop anchor’ is worth doing to help get us through our days and workloads. Today’s exercise builds on yesterday’s introduction. It’s simply to take a look at this infographic: CLICK HERE

Feel free to print it off and put up in staff areas and or use it as you like. And don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on the usual emails; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s

Workout 55 - Remember this image? We shared it at the start of the crisis back in March…

 PB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From what we’re picking up in our staff support hubs, phone calls and emails with you all, it still seems that we are far from feeling like we’re in the last part of the picture. In fact, it seems that we’re still in the middle of ‘the perfect storm’; physically and emotionally recovering from the crisis phase, working flat out on the recovery and anticipating the ‘second spike’.

Today’s workout is simple. It pulls together the coping skills we’ve been sharing into our psychologically proven, 5-point plan. If you are struggling, feeling overwhelmed or exhausted;

“Drop the anchor. Stop the struggle. Control what we can. Take a holiday. Repeat”

OK, now say it over and over. And here’s all the links together to help you do it.

  1. Drop the anchor; CLICK HERE and/or Butterfly Breathing Technique
  2. Stop the struggle; CLICK HERE
  3. Control what we can; CLICK HERE
  4. Take a holiday; https://www.yorkshire.com/places
  5. Repeat

We’ve been getting busier on the hubs again. Many of you still like that face to face contact. So please, don’t struggle on your own. We will get through this! So don’t hesitate to get in touch;

Workout 56 - Thinking about ‘where we are now’ and reflecting on our progress is an important phase in living with the pandemic. This cartoon conveys a typical trajectory of disasters and disaster-recovery. And if we are truly at the disillusionment stage, it’s important that we do what we can to not become demoralised and overwhelmed. Developing a repertoire of coping skills will get us through. Remember the plan; “Drop the anchor. Stop the struggle. Control the controllable. Take a holiday. Repeat…”

  PPB v2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What we daren’t speak too much about though is something called ‘post-traumatic growth’. This can be both tangible (e.g., re-building services) and psychological (e.g., re-appraising our priorities and activities). So, today’s exercise introduces this concept. Try to consider three positives that have come from your experiences so far, both at work and home. Consider in what ways they might lead to growth and regeneration.

Thank you for all your feedback and words on encouragement. Do keep getting in touch with us; 

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net  for Children’s

Workout 57 - With the turmoil that’s going on it might feel ridiculously hard to plan anything - even a break with the family.   And we’re sensing that this is starting to feel tiresome and disheartening.

But we’ve come across a useful way to understand what it means to grapple with change and live with uncertainty.   A psychologist called William Bridges has come up with an explanation of ‘psychological transitions’.   This highlights that our minds are catching up with the new reality and the actual changes that are happening.  The three stages of transition that people pass through are;

  1. Ending, losing and letting go (of old ways and identities)
  2. The neutral zone (where the old reality is gone and the new one isn’t yet fully formed)
  3. New beginnings (working with new energy and purpose).

People pass through these stages at different speeds, often moving backwards and forward rather than passing through each one in order.

Our last mental health exercise of the week gives you the choice of a 10- minute read or a three-minute watch.  Or you could take a proper break and do both (with a refreshing hot drink of course…).

Read this short article which explains the psychological transition model more fully.  It’s great and gives leaders a plan to follow in supporting their teams by helping them navigate the three stages.

CLICK HERE

Watch this clip from our favourite ‘Youtube-er’, Russ Harris.  It focuses on how we can stay motivated when faced with things we find difficult, particularly as we’re in the ‘neutral’ zone of transition. CLICK HERE  

If you’re not working at the weekend be sure to have a good break, and if you are – remember, be sure to drop an anchor, drop the struggle, control the controllable, take breaks, repeat!  

And, of course, get in touch with us on the usual emails; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 58 - On Friday we shared the psychological transition model which explained how we might be feeling at this stage - the ‘neutral stage’ - of the crisis.

Being in the neutral zone, where past ways of working have changed or disappeared without the future ones being apparent, can raise people’s anxiety and reduce their motivation. We’ve been hearing of your experiences feeling unsettled and out of sorts, and how some of you are doubting yourself or your abilities to cope.  

However, people have also responded by showing resilience - ‘let’s just get on with it’ - and flexibility - taking on new roles and responsibilities.   So, it’s not all negative - this phase can be an incredibly creative time too.

This week we’re going to focus on being in the neutral zone and what we can all do to cope.  Here’s another link to the transition model as a refresher (but this isn’t today’s exercise…) CLICK HERE

Today’s workout reminds us not to struggle with the difficult feelings that arise from this state of affairs, but rather, accept them – they’re inevitable.   Whether they’re old personal issues that have returned or got worse - like anxiety and panic - or difficulties at work - like team issues, relationships or processes – the trick as always is to tolerate them and control what we can in line with our values.

Have a look at this new short clip; CLICK HERE

Taking control of the controllable might simply be just talking about how you’re feeling, rather than struggling on.

Do get in touch with us on the usual emails if you would like to arrange a 1-1; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 59 - It seems the frustrations of being in the ‘neutral’ zone are taking their toll.  We’re hearing stories of how some of you have been battling on with stress, anxiety or panic, which had been problems before Covid struck, and which are now worse. We’ve also come across tales of frazzled colleagues being impatient or curt as we navigate uncertainty and frustration with getting services back up and running. Things don’t quite ‘work’ as they used to and new processes are not progressing as quickly as we’d like them to.

We will get through this transition phase together. One of the key coping strategies is – you’ve guessed it – by taking control of what we can control in alignment with our values.

I bet if we conducted a study, all of us would identify at least two of our values as being ‘kindness’ and ‘compassion’ and now, more than ever, it’s important we act in accordance with them by being kind and patient with each other. I’m not suggesting we all go around the hospital performing random acts of kindness. But more that we accept and commit to understanding that we all come to work despite our problems.

Kindness is about being friendly, considerate and generous. The Quran tells us that ‘whenever kindness becomes part of something it beautifies it’. And so, today’s mental health workout is just to consider how we can be kind throughout our day. It’s easy to get frustrated when systems break and get annoyed with slow progress and a lack of materials, but in and amongst it all remember…

 PPB 14.7

 

 

 

 

 

Workout 60 - Thank you all for your comments on yesterday’s memo. It seems kindness and forgiveness are all around. And it’s important that with kindness, comes compassion.

Being compassionate is feeling for others as they go through their trials and tribulations, particularly during this phase of the pandemic - the neutral zone - as we’ve been calling it. This isn’t just about telling them you care (although that is a pretty good start). It’s about paying attention to people, noticing them, and showing them that you care about them before they seek it out support, or before something happens to them that we respond to with kindness.

Today’s mindful moment takes us back to YouTube, to think more about being compassionate. Have a look at this short clip. CLICK HERE

It’s such a tough time for all of us. From your comments this week and the growing number of requests for 1-1s (which is great!), fatigue and stress are really taking hold. Remember we will get through this. But please, don’t feel on your own.

The psychology team are here for you and are keen you get in touch… leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 61 - Thank you for all your feedback this week. We’ve taken all this on board - and it really helps shape future PBs. There have been lots of poignant comments on feeling overwhelmed and stressed from people feeling they are alone in having these feelings.

This one epitomises it all…‘sometimes feel like I shouldn’t feel so rubbish because I’m not frontline staff, but it’s probably a valid response to this situation’

Firstly, let me stress how you are so NOT alone in these feelings. They are so commonly held amongst us right now. Yes, things are out of our control. Yes, we might feel really ‘rubbish’ and uncertain. And yes, it might feel as though we can’t do anything about it. But we can!

We can...

  • take control of what we can and stop struggling with what we can’t
  • go with the flow and hang in there
  • act with kindness and compassion towards our colleagues

Today’s exercise is a little longer than usual – about 9 minutes. But it brings together a lot of the things we’ve been focusing on this week, and gives some simple ways of detaching and ‘going with the flow’. Put your feet up for a bit and have a look. CLICK HERE

Keep getting in touch with us. As always, if you’d like to talk to one of us 1-1, the emails are; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net  and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net  for Children’s staff.

Workout 62 - Feeling alone with feeling overwhelmed has continued to be a common theme in our inbox over the weekend.  Here is another email we received that was typical…

“Things have been more difficult, and the stress and fatigue are taking hold, but these messages help me feel like I am not alone in this.”

You are far from alone. I feel it, our colleagues feel it, and our families feel it to some extent.  They may not show it, or talk about it openly, but it’s there.  The issues we focused on last week seemed to really connect with something inside us that recognises these feelings.  By sharing our experiences, we connect with each other.  Responses alone, either from this memo or colleagues, rarely makes something better.  What makes a difference is connection.

And in this way, we start to express empathy.  Empathy and sympathy are confusing.  As we continue to focus on coping skills for the here and now, today’s mental health workout starts to show how we can all express empathy with each other; our colleagues, our families; our kids

The following clip is by Brene Brown, who some of you may know about already.   It is really quite entertaining and I can’t believe I’ve not shared it with you already!   It was recently nominated for a ‘Webby’ – not quite an Oscar, but still pretty good. CLICK HERE

Let us know what you think about it on the usual emails.  And do keep getting in touch if you’d like to talk to one of us:

leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 63 - What makes something better is connection’. I really liked this phrase from yesterday’s clip. However, even if we feel connected with our colleagues and act with kindness and compassion, we can still feel helpless in changing things.

Over the next few PBs, we’ll focus on coping skills to tackle helplessness. And, you’ve guessed it, coping starts with taking control of what we can and not struggling with what we can’t. 

The real trick is not to try to change too much all at once. Each little thing we do today, means we start tomorrow from a different point. If we rest well tonight, we start tomorrow more refreshed. If we fill in one of the 20 spreadsheets we’ve got to return to our line managers, we start tomorrow with 19. 

Remember the beach ball metaphor? CLICK HERE  For us this is one of the most powerful images to convey what a waste of time it is to put energy into things we cannot possibly influence.

Today’s exercise talks about controlling what we can a little differently, using a metaphor called the ‘three buckets’. It was from an earlier point in the Covid crisis, but it’s still useful now: CLICK HERE 

If you’d like to talk to one of us; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 64 - Part of coping with feeling overwhelmed is getting some good rest. Usually at this time of year, we might be going on holiday or thinking about one. But at the moment even this can feel stressful - sun, sea and sanitizer seems to be the motto - where will we go? what will it be like?

However, resting involves mentally and physically engaging ourselves in activities that aren’t part of our daily routines or way of thinking. This nearly always happens on holiday but often the answer is right under our nose. It’s the change in mindset that is important.

When we work with patients who are fearful of procedures, we often use guided imagery and distraction techniques, which are also part of mindfulness. The general rule of thumb is that the more cognitively active and engaging the imagery or distraction is, the more likely it is to be effective.

Today’s exercise is to consider what these activities might be for you and your family and plan one soon. If it’s impossible to get out of your routine and work soon, remember virtual guided images can provide a real soothing, relaxing effect too.

Here’s a couple we’ve shared before. Take some time out to listen and relax, either at work or home.

A dawn chorus: 

A virtual walk in nature: 

As always, if you’d like to talk to one of us; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff. 

Workout 65 - Continuing with our focus on coping with stress and feeling overwhelmed, today’s PB refreshes our understanding of how different parts of our nervous system are active in creating the symptoms of stress and anxiety (the sympathetic nervous system) and producing response to buffer it (the parasympathetic system).

Rest is crucial to this and we have introduced some of the different ways of resting over the past few PBs. Of course, the most important form of resting, is sleep. And for many of us, sleep has been a problem during the lockdown and beyond. This is too big a topic for one memo, so next week we’ll spread it out over a few.

But for now, we’ll continue the focus on getting some rest periods during the day - making sure we take breaks where we actively engage in activities that absorb us, but which also distract us for a while from the sources of our stress.

Today’s exercise isn’t really an exercise at all, it’s more of an entertaining mini-lecture all about stress symptoms, rest and relaxation.  CLICK HERE

Here are the usual emails to get in touch with us and if you like, arrange a 1-1; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 66 - To round off our week of self-care and coping skills to combat feeling overwhelmed, one of the key words has been rest. You may have seen the update on annual leave in last night’s Trust Covid-19 bulletin. It is so important to take some time away from work.

Engaging in activities that are mentally interactive is the key to a good break - not the length or the distance you travel or the nice accommodation you (manage to!) get booked.

Holidays from home are as effective in shifting our mind sets away from work and onto committed action (yes, in line with our values!).

Today’s restful exercise is to consider these quotes and sayings. They all emphasise the importance of valuing ourselves and putting ourselves first, whether we are in a front line role or not.

 Quote 1 v2  Quote 2 Quote 3 

 Next week we’ll have a focus on sleep, but for now, enjoy some of the weekend and get in touch with us if you want to share your experiences of resting and relaxing.

Keep getting in touch with us. As always, if you’d like to talk to one of us 1:1, the emails are; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net  and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net  for Children’s staff.

Workout 67 - Looking after ourselves first is sometimes hard, particularly when our roles are to look after others.  Rest and recharging are really important during the day but what about at night?

Many of you have been talking to us about sleep problems since lockdown started and, for many, these have continued since then.  So, as promised, the next few Pause Buttons will focus on getting a better night’s sleep.  And yes, we’ll mainly be taking an Acceptance and Commitment approach, with a few behavioural techniques thrown in too.

The problem with a lot of sleep problems is that our minds are trying to do too much – they’re too active!   What’s the first thing we do when we can’t fall asleep or wake up in the night and start to worry?  We try to put the worries out of our mind, or we try to convince ourselves that things aren’t as bad as all that.  We treat our thoughts as problems to be solved. The problem is - all that mental stuff is keeping us awake.

Today’s exercise involves a bit of reading.  It’s a general introduction to the approach, written by one of the architects of ACT – Steve Hayes.  Have a look here.  I read it and it took me seven minutes (and I’m a slow reader!) CLICK HERE

Here are the usual emails to get in touch; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 68 - We started to focus on sleep problems yesterday by introducing an acceptance and mindfulness approach. Here it is again if you missed it…

CLICK HERE 

Today’s focus is about developing good sleep hygiene. It’s not just about avoiding ‘screen time’ and caffeine in the hours before bed. Developing a good bedtime routine helps us wind down and sets up cues to sleep. These techniques are usually associated with helping younger kids settle at night, but the principles are exactly the same for us grown-ups!

As Steve Hayes points out - some of the things we do to solve sleep problems aren’t effective because that they make us do too much, when what we need to be doing is exactly the opposite – nothing.

Here is today’s workout is very brief. It’s a short clip about eliminating bad habits, building up a bedtime good routine and regulating our sleep. This is often referred to as sleep hygiene: CLICK HERE 

Here are the usual emails to get in touch; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 69 - Thanks for all your lovely feedback on these daily memo’s. It really means a lot and helps us focus on the topics that you would like us to.

Almost all of us wake-up at some points during our sleep cycle but when our minds are rested and we don’t have small children to attend to, we quickly self-soothe back to the land of nod. However, when our minds are active, thoughts pop up and waken us as we problem-solve.

I think Steve Hayes’ psychological flexibility approach is really useful to experiment with here. I know this was in the article in Monday, but these two tips are worth going over it again.

  1. If you can’t sleep, just rest; In many cases, it’s the focus on trying to fall back to sleep that keeps us from getting to sleep. By telling ourselves to “just rest” and reject the temptation problem-solve, we’re more likely to get more sleep. You could try the butterfly breathing technique Butterfly Breathing Technique
  2. Just noticing;Worry keeping us awake. Instead of ruminating on it, try just ‘noticing it’. When worries arise - remember the ‘leaves on a stream’ exercise?  CLICK HERE  try to practice it before you sleep so that you can use it during the night without getting up or disturbing anyone else. Just notice your thoughts. That’s I – don’t add anything in - just let our bodies do what they know how to do.

Do let us know how you’re getting on with these techniques. Here’s our emails again to get in touch; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff. 

Workout 70 - We’re continuing on with a focus on sleep and rest. We mentioned sleep hygiene but have saved going into the behaviours we can change to set us up with a better sleeping routine.

Here are 10 tips on some of the things that will help set up good routines and habits. Some of them seem obvious, some will be harder to achieve than others, and we don’t need to introduce them all at once! CLICK HERE

We think that these techniques together with the clip from Tuesday on explaining sleep cycles and patterns are pretty good at setting up a good night’s rest. CLICK HERE

Remember if you can’t sleep, or wake up in the night – ‘rest’ and ‘just notice your worries’ rather than trying to problem-solve them.

Do let us know how you’re getting on with these techniques. Here are our emails to get in touch; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net  and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net  for Children’s staff.

Workout 71 - Last focus on sleep for now. And today I’ll round up all the ideas we’ve shared this week, with a short workout.

This is about understanding what happens to us when we fall asleep and during deep sleep. It’s really very watchable and at this stage in the week, you’ll be pleased to see it only lasts 2-3 minutes. CLICK HERE

I hope it brings together the understanding of sleep, the importance of establishing a sleep routine and what you can do if you can’t fall asleep.

Remember to get in touch with us and let us know what you think of these techniques. Many of you love the Butterfly Breathing Technique we shared in the week and have been in touch to tell us how you’ve put it into practice.

As always, here’s our emails again to get in touch about this or to arrange a 1-1; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Rest and relax at the weekend.

Workout 72 - It seems that uncertainty is on the rise again – about restrictions, closures and cohort self-isolating – to minimise the impact of a second wave of Covid-19.   And the media seems to be going into overdrive in advising us how to maintain our health and well-being during the Covid pandemic. Some of this information is excellent; some pretty dubious.

The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at Kings College has put together a series of short talks by psychologists on a range of important health behaviours, from sleeping well (which we covered last week) to healthy eating (by Ms Pavlova! Honestly).

Today’s workout is to look at the range of clips and choose one that matches a health behaviour you identify with as ‘needing some attention’.   I particularly like the me myself and exercise clip. CLICK HERE

As always, here’s our emails again to get in touch about this or to arrange a 1-1 - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 73 - From your feedback yesterday, it does seem that uncertainty and apprehension are taking grip. If we accept what the World Health Organisation say, things are going to be this way for a while. There is also the uncertainty of whether we’re at the beginning of the second spike. The rising graphs of cases looks familiar if not a bit ominous.

So, in trying to cope with this, we need to fall back on to one of the key principles we’ve focused on over the past few months. And it’s this – that a perpetual state of happiness and being settled is a myth. Life has always been hard and challenging and Covid is one of those phases.

Today’s workout is to look at another very short clip from Russ Harris’ framework  - The Happiness Trap - CLICK HERE

As always, he explains things in such clear ways, that I hope you find going back to this idea helps keep what’s happening to us in context. By controlling what we can and dropping the struggle with what we can’t is central to dealing with whatever comes next.

As always, here’s our emails again to get in touch about this or to arrange a 1-1; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 74. -  I’m following my own advice and going on holiday! It will return on 24th August.

Today’s refreshing workout is to help me think about how frequently the PB should be in the autumn.

Your views have been so important since we started all this back in March, and I want to make sure it is frequent enough to be helpful, but not so frequent that it’s a pain. There’s lots of ideas and exercises still to share, but I will be guided by the responses I get back.

Let me know your thoughts by emailing leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net or leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Don’t forget that you can also use these email addresses to get in touch to arrange a 1-1.

Workout 75 - Thank you for all your feedback and comments on the Pause Button.

It seems like many of you have found at least some of the workouts useful thus far. So, we’re going to keep going but on a weekly basis for now – every Wednesday.

It seems that uncertainty and upset is still all around. Returning to work feels very different -  flexible working, accommodation, resources, being separated from our colleagues all adds to the stress. We might say to ourselves - “well… we should be used to this by now”. But think about it - why should we be? We’re all learners in working and living with a global pandemic and it seems that sometimes we expect too much of ourselves.

We came across a story that covers this in quite a bit of detail; CLICK HERE

It’s mostly about how you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the “new normal” is indefinite uncertainty. Probably one for the bus or some home-reading.

Do let us know what you think of it and feedback on what you’d find useful of us to cover.

All the previous Pause Button workouts are still here for you to access; https://www.leedsth.nhs.uk/staffhealthandwellbeingsupportnetwork/psychology-staff-support/managing-your-psychological-well-being-during-the-covid-19-crisis-page/

As always, here’s our emails again to get in touch; leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and leedsth-tr.staffsupportpsychology@nhs.net for Children’s staff.

Workout 76 -  I hope this finds you well and full of the joys of autumn.

The sun is shining, the schools are back and we have some new social restrictions limiting us to only being in groups of six outside of work/school. Further threats of curfews and closures can leave us feeling confused, uncertain and just plain fed-up. Whilst these health guidelines are super important, it perhaps feels like everything old is new again.

Remember this image?

Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t quite fit now does it? There seems to be part of the visual metaphor missing on the bottom row, after the storm phase. To me there should be a picture of relentless ‘Yorkshire drizzle’ that’s one minute akin to proper rain and the next like it’s going to dry-up but never quite does… “What a depressing man!” I hear you say.

But no… this week’s refreshing mental health workout invites you to take a look at our short guide called ‘After the Storm’ (Click Here). It’s written by a few of the psychology team and runs through ideas on how to re-calibrate our expectations, and yes – take back control of what we can by looking after ourselves.

The Psychology teams across the Trust have now stood down the hubs and 1-1’s and the contact emails are currently inactive. 1-1’s are very much still available via the Trust’s external counselling service and all sources of support are in the After the Storm document.

Workout 77 -  I was put on the spot the other day - asked to come up with some quick words of encouragement for everyone who is trying to cope with uncertainties and a slow pace of change. Needless to say, I choked! Totally useless! So I was thankful that today’s Pause Button gives me another go.

And in trying to come up with something useful, I reflected on two things.

First, is that a train can only move as quickly as the slowest carriage and that trying to go faster only leads to more frustration and exhaustion. We have to find a way to roll with the changes that are happening to us and ride out the residual storms. Easy?

Not really…which brings me to the second thing – the beach ball!

Recall that the beach ball represents all the difficult, uncomfortable and painful thoughts and feelings you may have coped with so far. Even though it’s human nature to want to push these away, doing so is like trying to hold the beach ball under water. Not only does that take a huge amount of energy and effort, it also stops us from being able to enjoy the water, see the rest of the beach, do the things we enjoy there.

In coping with the present frustrations,  can we find our own way to let the beach ball, and all it represents, be with us even if we don’t like or want it? Can we drop the struggle with those things and re-focus our attention on doing things that are truly important to us despite the discomfort? I really like this imagery and use it a lot with the teenage patients I see. Let the ball bob along - and for now , keep swimming!

Do keep on getting in touch with us via the Comms Team - communications.lth@nhs.net

ptpb

Workout 78 - We’ve had quite a few people get in touch to say how they are experiencing stress and anxiety in the face of what seems like a long winter ahead.

For a while it seemed like we were getting into a new rhythm of working, where some of the stresses receded into the background. However much we try there’s no hiding from it now and it feels like a long challenging time ahead.

If you are beginning to struggle again, one way of coping is to focus on giving up the struggle with avoiding or ‘boxing-up’ any unpleasant thoughts and feelings.  This is called ‘experiential avoidance’, - a tendency to move away from things that are threatening.  Whereas coping often involves accepting any difficult thoughts and feelings and making space for them. This way, it helps us put our energies into things we can control.

We used these clips some time ago in the Pause Button, but they’re worth going back to.  I hope they make sense in helping to understand that the struggle we have when we put energy into avoiding things which we could put into developing psychological flexibility to tolerate them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-ZuqeyxULM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp1l16GCXI

Do keep on getting in touch with us via filling in this form with your feedback and questions.

Workout 79 - Things are certainly hotting up across the Trust as the second wave starts to hit.

Last week we returned to coping with stress and anxiety. And focused on controlling what we can, whilst letting go of what we can’t.

This week, I want to take you back to being mindful as part of controlling what we can and focussing on relaxing our bodies and minds as we prepare for, or leave, work.

Our bodies are always in the present moment, whereas our minds tend to time-travel, wishing things were over or remembering a glorious past. But we are in the here and now, and getting through our days will lead to us getting through our weeks, and months, and eventually this winter.

So today’s refreshing mental health exercise is one of my favourites and is about maintaining hope at work. I hope it helps to prepare you physically and emotionally for the day ahead or returning to work after a break.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH_Rl3Hm6zA

When I turned up for a covid test outside the Clarendon Wing the other day, I admired how the two nurses who stood freezing outside in a flimsy gazebo tested me with a smile and warm welcome. They reminded me that we are strong enough to get through this together. After all… each other is all we’ve got right now…

Workout 80 - And so it goes on… everything old is new again, except this time around we’re possibly more tired and fatigued. And so lets go back to the core purpose of the Pause Button - to take 5 minutes out of your day to engage in a refreshing mental health exercise aimed at psychological coping strategies.

Back in March we started with us having to accept that this pandemic is hard and how we need to put our energy into taking control over what we can and let go of what we cant. Remember the FACE COVID plan? I’m thinking that today’s exercise is to have a refresher.

The FACE COVID plan is a list of practical steps for managing our psychological well-being. Here’s the clip again. CLICK HERE  

Apologies that last week’s Pause Button did not appear. “Technical issues” I think was the overarching reason.  I do apologise…

Workout 81 - Hello again everyone. How are you all? It’s been a while…

Who knew back when we last wrote that the worst was still ahead of us? It has certainly felt a lot worse to us in the clinical psychology teams, as we returned to fully running our patient services and you’ll be pleased to hear, building up new staff support teams. We’ve been picking up on awful stories of sadness and despair, but also ones of real strength, resilience and kindness in the face of adversity. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s like “Groundhog Day” - the film where Phil Connors lives the same horrible day every day, enduring the emotional stages of grief -denial, anger, bargaining and depression.

Lots of you have been telling us that you’re really struggling. From those on covid wards and ICU coping with fatigue, stress and upset to those who feel vulnerable, worrying about their health or about taking covid home to a family member or struggling with mental health issues. For others, there’s frustration and anger at the relentlessness of it all, systems slowing down or breaking, and wishing the vaccine would roll out faster. 

There are different shades of struggling, but in some way or other, we are all struggling and feel isolated and disconnected from our families, friends, colleagues and workplaces. We’re told there is light at the end of the tunnel, but from where we are now, can anyone really see it yet?

Whatever our role, we’re all doing a great job under pressure. Many of you have been in touch to say you recall that the Pause Button was helpful when it all started, but couldn’t quite remember all the specific exercises and ideas. So, from tomorrow, we’re going to go back to basics with the FACE COVID framework and a daily mental health workout.  We’ve got some new ideas to share too.

If you’ve got a bit of time when you’re off work, go back and watch Groundhog Day, particularly if you’ve not seen it. It’s pure escapism! But remember - Phil eventually accepts his lot and finds a way forward. He stops struggling with things he has no control over and puts all his energies into what he can, with some pretty amazing results.

Although we cannot see the end just yet, controlling what we can right now, is central to getting through the current crisis and are really looking forward to writing to you again.

Do remember to keep in touch with us on leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 82 - Hello everyone, and thanks for your feedback on the return of the Pause Button.

We hope that going back over the main coping framework will help you deal with your own thoughts and feelings, even if they are difficult to deal with. Some of you have been commenting that it feels like we’re stuck in a repeating pattern of wake – work – sleep. Others have said that they just feel too tired to think.

Remember Russ? Russ Harris? He’s the guy who kindly made his work freely available to us. He reminds us that we can’t control the future, or our thoughts or feelings. Fear, anxiety, stress and upset are all around. It’s OK, these will pass, even though for some of us we can’t quite see how yet. The trick is not to spend too much energy on struggling with them. We need to let them be and cope with them differently.

Today’s refreshing mental health workout is to take a quick look at the FACE COVID framework here.  

Or, if you’re just too tired to read - watch the video here, which, to be honest, is probably what I’d do! It’s only about 5 minutes.

Keep your thoughts, comments, questions coming through to us at leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

With all good wishes – Alistair and the Team.

Workout 83 - With everything that’s going on right now, it’s completely natural ‘to get lost down the rabbit hole’ of worrying and ruminating about all sorts of things – things that are usually beyond our control. No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop ourselves from struggling with them. I don’t know about you, but doing this is frankly exhausting! And, from what we are hearing, energy is in short supply right now. 

Today we start with the ‘F’ from the FACE COVID framework and to pause for 5 minutes when you can, and really FOCUS on what is actually under our control. Doing this helps us to direct precious energy on to things that will be helpful for us.

Take a look at this super short video - 90 seconds! (It’s also useful for your kids struggling with home-schooling, exam-worry and covid fears). It really helps to convey how to start organising our thoughts. CLICK HERE   

If you really don’t have time to watch, take a look at this image from before, which conveys the same thing.

Circle of Control v3 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your feedback and questions coming - the clinical psychology team are here to hear - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

With all good wishes – Alistair and the Team.

Workout 84 - Lots of us are queuing up for the vaccine now, with others soon to follow. But even then, despite the hope, the media is saturated with stories that create uncertainty and worry.

So it’s inevitable that at some point or other, we’re all going to experience an “emotional storm” (or two) - unhelpful thoughts that set our heads spinning and creating painful, upsetting feelings that cause us real physical sensations of panic and anxiety. Sometimes it might feel like this storm is going to sweep us away.

Today’s exercise is about the A from FACE COVID - Acknowledging our thoughts and feelings. Firstly take a look at this 1-minute clip that explains this more CLICK HERE 

Then secondly, take a few moments now, just even 30 seconds, to notice what is showing up for you today. Right now, ask yourself:

  • How am I feeling today?
  • What am I thinking about?
  • How does my body feel?
  • What is one kind thing I can do for myself today?
  • How am I going to make this happen?

Remember, whatever you’re thinking or feeling – it’s valid. Be kind to yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend who told you how they’re feeling right now. Don’t judge yourself either, whatever comes up. There is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings. Just let them breathe a bit - and if there’s tears - let them come. Do this, and you’ll have taken your first steps into mindfulness.

Your feedback and questions are amazing. Keep them coming - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 85 - How did you get on with the mindfulness introduction yesterday? We hope it was useful, as today’s workout builds on it – Connecting with your body (the C from FACE COVID). This is a really useful strategy for when we’re feeling ‘out of control’ or overwhelmed. It’s like ‘physical mindfulness’ and can really help to keep us grounded - like an anchor - when the storm inside (or outside) us is raging.

So, although today’s exercise might feel a little strange, don’t overthink it. Just try it!

As you acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that are showing up for you, start to connect with your body. Everyone will have different ways of doing this, but here are some suggestions to get things started. You don’t need to do them all, just try a few and see what works best for you. 

·         Slowly push your feet hard into the floor

·         Slowly straighten up your back and spine; if sitting – sit upright/forward in your chair

·         Slowly press your fingertips together

·         Slowly stretch your arms or neck, maybe shrugging your shoulders

·         Slowly breathe

There’s no clip today, but if you’re feeling ‘short changed’ and this is how the start of your day feels CLICK HERE  - then this mindfulness clip combines both yesterday’s and today’s exercises CLICK HERE it was really popular before.

Workout 86 -  Remember the metaphor about covid being a marathon, not a sprint? Well I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like we’re at that part of the race - somewhere between half way and three quarters – where we “hit the wall’. This phase of any endurance event is where the body completely runs out of stored energy (glycogen). Believe me, it feels like you’ve run face-first into a pile of bricks, every step is a triumph, there’s no finish line in sight and fatigue and negativity leads you to thinking that you should just give up. Sound familiar?

The only way out of this position is to take control of what we can; don’t believe everything we think; mentally distract ourselves from our pain, get support from our running mate; from fellow competitors and the crowd, and just ‘hang on’. We need to engage in what we ourselves are doing in the here and now (the E from our FACE COVID coping framework). And today’s workout does exactly this, and brings together the last couple of elements in the framework in a very short, exercise.

So... get some headphones on and have a listen… Take a moment out of what you’re doing and become truly aware of ‘where you are’ right now and what is coming up for you, before re-focusing attention on the activity you’re doing. Follow these steps - you can do it anytime and anywhere: CLICK HERE And by doing this, we actually begin to retake control of what we can.

So when you next catch-up with family and friends and they ask “how’s work going?” Answer truthfully – “miserable”, “exhausting”, “<INSERT FEELING>”  Don’t just say “OK”, because you’re too tired to explain it or will get upset. They are your crowd; your colleagues are your running mates.

We’ve had many more of you coming forward for a chat in our staff support sessions. When you’re hitting the wall, all these things are part of the way through it. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 87- Hello everyone, you’ll have noticed that we keep banging on about ‘controlling what we can.’ This isn’t because we’ve run out of ideas, but because we really think this one is central to coping with all of this. In the past few PBs, we’ve ‘dropped our anchors’, ‘acknowledged our thoughts and feelings’, and ‘re-connected with our bodies’. What next? Engage in the things that are important to us, in a way that aligns with our values. This is taking Committed action – doing stuff that’s going to improve our quality of life and that of those around us even if, in the short-term, that is a tough thing to do.

Today’s exercise is simply to watch this short clip. It’s from - you’ve guessed it - Russ Harris: CLICK HERE

Think about the things that you can take control over. Sometimes it’s the basics – laundry, tidying the house, cleaning the car – even these can give us a sense of ‘being in control’ (over parts of our lives at least). Sometimes it even leads a brief sense of well-being.

Keep on getting in touch with us – your questions and feedback are vital: leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 88 - Pay day doesn’t quite have the same ring as it used to, where we’d have been looking forward to paying the credit card off a bit and maybe a treat or two. Now it seems pay day is just another marker of what we miss of our ‘old lives’.

But here we are, another month of Lockdown 3.0 , dealing with changes at work, more upset and grief than we’d normally have in a career, missing families, friends, socialising, being active, all of which can give rise to difficult and painful emotions – anger, fear, anger, anxiety, hopelessness, loneliness, frustration, guilt. You name it, we’ve all probably experienced at least some it – pretty much guaranteed at this point. 

In the FACE COVID framework, O is all about Opening up. This means making room for difficult feelings and allowing yourself to feel them, rather than try to shut them down or pretend they aren’t happening. Here’s another clip from Russ Harris CLICK HERE 

When we’re dealing with painful emotions, the most important thing is to be kind to ourselves. If you have ever flown on a plane, you’ll have heard the message: “in the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. We’ll be a whole lot better at looking after others if we look after yourself. It takes a bit of time and effort and it’s important to use all available support.

Keep on looking after yourself and do get in touch with us to talk leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net.  It’s great that more and more of you are!

Workout 89 - “V is for Values” in our FACE COVID framework. But ask 10 psychologists about what values are and you’ll get 13 opinions. So here at the PB office we’re cutting to the chase and handing it over to Russ Harris to explain:  CLICK HERE 

You might have missed the posts on values last time around. It is a tricky concept, even after watching the clip, but essentially, it’s about what’s important to you. It’s about what you want to do with your time and in particular – how you want to do it and how you want to be remembered. Another way of looking at it is “values as adverbs” – describing how we go about doing things.

We’re hearing lots on the email now about people “hitting the wall”; feeling exhausted, sad, burnt-out, missing how our teams used to work. We imagine that with all this, you might feel you’ve lost touch with your values and with the kind of person you like to be. Maybe you’re finding that even just being kind and compassionate is too tiring. Or maybe you find yourself being impatient at home and work.

And you know, given what’s going on, this is inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Be kind to yourself. Reconnect with your values by remembering what is important to us.

So today’s workout is to press the pause button now and take just a few moments to think about what you value and about the kind of person you are/would like to be. If that sounds like hard work, just look at Workout 15 in the table above. Choose some  - maybe just three - that you feel best describes you. Then when you can, share with a colleague, friend or relation. Find out what their values are over a hot drink.

Whatever you do, keep on looking after yourself and please do get in touch with us if you’d like: leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net 

Workout 90 - Whatever your role at work – a nurse or doctor on the frontline, an administrator, a therapist, a porter, a service manager, a cleaner, an executive director – we’re all working together to deliver care. But what about when it comes to caring for ourselves? Staff that we’ve spoken to tell us that, in their hour of need, it can feel really hard to put your hand up and say “You know what? I’m not ok. I need some support.” And taking this first step is the hardest.

The I of FACE COVID is all about identifying resources that are there to help youSo the exercise of the day is simply to identify a friend, a colleague or a family member who you like and trust and feel comfortable speaking to. And then, this weekend, give them a call or a message for a chat. If you’d prefer to speak to someone outside your circle of trust, the staff support psychologists are always happy to listen. If you feel like it, please do book a time in with us: leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net 

If you’re lucky enough to have time off this weekend, do something that you love, even just for a bit. If you’re at work, know that your colleagues across the Trust care about you and are thinking of you. But whatever you’re doing, do something small and special to look after yourself.

Workout 91- When you ‘hit the wall’ you say to yourself (more than once) “why on earth did I sign up for this stupid marathon?” For some of us, we might be asking ourselves “why did I become a nurse; an administrator; a physio; a finance officer; a HR advisor; a general manager in the NHS?” We hear some of you saying that you are spending so much time at work, you feel like you’re living there. Others say they feel alone in a house full of people, even loved ones - relatives, house mates. Remote workers too feel isolated, balancing work, home and the dreaded home-schooling. This is a moment in time when life has been turned upside down for everyone, and to some degree or other,  we feel cut-off, lonely and perhaps a little frightened by how we’re reacting.

When we are struggling, one thing that can make it better is connection. Remember, there’s one thing we all have in common working in the NHS - an innate desire to deliver care and help people free at the point of delivery. We seem bound together by this common purpose. And we keep going…, and going…, and going… no matter what our role is, despite the adversity. We are inherently kind and compassionate people – it’s the unwritten essential criteria in our job descriptions - but right now, we need to turn some of that kindness and compassion on ourselves.

Self-care and compassion starts with empathy. Take a look at one of our favourite clips from Brene Brown, one of the best communicators on how to look after ourselves; CLICK HERE

Without your sharing, feedback and questions, these posts would be guesswork. Do keep on keeping in touch - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 92- Talking about connection and how we all share a desire to care for others seems to have struck a chord. Thank you for all the feedback!

Of course, we’re also connected by living through Covid and given everything we’ve faced, it’s still “OK not to be OK” – even after all this time – in fact even more so now than when it became one of soundbites of the pandemic. But it’s more than a soundbite. We hear it everywhere; our friends say it, our colleagues say it, your psychology team say it. And it seemed to hit home during the first wave, with there being huge interest in mindfulness and compassion-focused ways of coping.

But, as things have ground on, some people adapted and actually felt “OK” about it all. Maybe you’re still doing fine some, most or almost all of the time – and this is OK too! And there’s hundreds of shades in between. Some people look like they’re OK, but they might not be. Others might seem like they’re faltering, but maybe they’re just having a moment.

Basically, what we’re saying is that it’s OK to not be OK, and OK to be OK! We’ve no way of knowing what kind of shape other people are in so be kind to those around you and of course yourself, regardless of how OK you’re feeling today.

We really really, really need to look after ourselves, which is going to be the focus of these posts for the next while. We’ll address how we can reconnect with each other, meet our basic needs – rest, sleep, exercise, accepting our limits and doing as many of the things that make us happy as we can – guilt-free!

“What? Five paragraphs and no clip!” OK, here’s one on empathy and compassion and the importance of establishing boundaries to help preserve ourselves: CLICK HERE

Do keep the feedback and questions coming - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 93 - There’s a real sense at the moment that there’s just no let-up from the pandemic. Work is relentless and there are no holidays from lockdown. Unfortunately this is out of our control. However, as the situation goes on, what we can do is give ourselves a break - a real actual break during your shift/day.

It sounds simple, but we know from talking to you that taking a break is sometimes easier said than done. We all know we are entitled to breaks, people tell us to take one, but we can find ourselves thinking - “well no one else is taking one, it’ll look bad if I do,” or “if I take a break, I’ll only have to work harder to catch up” or “if I go for a walk outside, people will think I’m skiving”.

What unifies these types of thinking errors (as we call them) is feeling guilty. Guilty - we’re off for lunch, when the unit is short staffed. Guilty - we feel we’re not doing enough. Guilty - we’re working from the comfort of the kitchen table. Guilt is a strong emotion that can be a barrier to looking after ourselves, rather than others, even just for a bit.

But taking breaks at work is crucial - it’s one of the ways we can take some control - to rest, to text a friend, to shop online. A 30-minute-lunch isn’t going to undo feeling exhausted, but it might be enough to get you through your day - an express re-charge - if you like!

And what we do on our breaks is important. Breaks are precious. So having carved out a guilt-free slot, make it count. Bring something in – watch an episode of something, read a book, take a walk, get some air, breathe in and out slowly, have some real food, meditate!

Your refreshing task today is to take a moment now to think about the breaks you take at work and how you are going to spend them. If you need to, talk to your manager to arrange it. Perhaps you could share with a colleague how hard you find it to take breaks. Maybe you would find it helpful to talk to one of our Team about it. It might even be helpful to tell your colleagues about your plans and be the role model that encourages them to do the same. Be the ‘influencer’ on taking breaks. So today’s PB is your ‘script to take a proper break. Switch off. Press “Pause”.

Do keep the feedback and questions coming - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 94 - Many of you have been in touch asking how we can best support our colleagues and teams right now. We think that one of the best things we can do is start a conversation with them. And today is ‘Time to Talk’ day so let’s give it a go right?

Wrong! If it were that simple we’d have all done it by now and it’s just not that simple. Starting this kind of conversation can feel really daunting. We worry about not knowing what to say, or saying the wrong thing or making things worse or people crying. We feel we want to fix all their problems, but don't know how. And not offering a fix can feel uncomfortable and leads slowly, inevitably, once again to yet more guilt. This in turn becomes a really strong barrier to us starting, what could be, a really important and helpful conversation.

It feels absolutely great to be listened to and understood. As listeners we don't have to know all the answers or come up with creative solutions to help our friends and colleagues. In fact, just creating a time where they can talk, and feel listened to, is one of the most powerful things we can do. In difficult times, what people often need most is a ‘really good listening to’ - a protected slot to offload, to cry, to breathe. Don’t believe anyone who says you need specialist training to be compassionate, human and kind. If our responses falter or are clunky, what is experienced by the speaker is the compassion, humanity and kindness conveyed in our efforts to listen. Take a look at this 30-second clip for some ideas about how to start this kind of conversation CLICK HERE  

But the real workout for today is to actually take the ‘time to listen’ to one of your team, give them some ‘time to talk’. And here are some really helpful active listening tips, which we hope will help boost your confidence just enough to give it a go 6 Tips for Active Listening #LittleThings - YouTube

We are so appreciative that you take the time to talk to us. It is humbling to hear your feedback, stories, experiences. And your questions really make us think - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 95 - Undertaking some home-schooling this week with my Year 3 son, looking at WWII, we learned that the origins of the phrase ‘being at the frontline’ was defined as being ‘closest to the enemy’.

Our postbag this week has been bursting with people sharing deep-rooted empathy and compassion for colleagues working on the very front line. Some of us expressed feeling guilty over working ‘normally’ and not doing enough, whilst our frontline colleagues, friends, family, battle on. Some front-liners themselves speak of feeling guilty taking a lunch break or getting some fresh air away from the ward. Guilt it seems, is still all around. And we cannot control this.

But we can control being there for people, ensure they feel connected to us, extending the opportunity for people to talk, share, cry. We were struck by the story of a colleague who shared their experience of talking to a workmate. Their words are so much more powerful than ours in conveying that “it really doesn’t matter how they respond, the most important thing is that they listen. They gave me the time to open up/cry when I really needed it - releasing those emotions that shouldn’t be repressed”.

Staying connected is vital right now. Being connected with our colleagues at the very least conveys that we’re thinking about them; that their struggles are not forgotten, and although it may seem life continues as ‘normal’ elsewhere, that they have our admiration and support in whatever shape that can take. Of course, stopping them in the corridor and telling them all this might be just a bit too weird. But could we write them a letter or send a card? A letter from a colleague could be all it takes.

So heading into another lockdown weekend, really try to be kind to yourself. Take the rest if you can. Get your wellies on and get out in the slush. Let February do its worst. Winter is almost done.

Keep on getting in touch leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net and until next week

Workout 96 -  How do we set ourselves for the rest of winter? How do we get through it? We’re exhausted, fatigued, running ‘out of steam’ and ‘on fresh air’. It’s the thing that’s top of the difficult feelings list - ‘tired! Tired of the never-ending situation, tired of the constant changes, tired of an uncertain future, tired of the media. But we are also tired because, chances are, we’re not sleeping all that great.  

Maybe your working patterns have changed and your sleep routine is all over the shop. Maybe you’re a shift worker, and so your routine has always been all over the shop. Maybe you find yourself lying awake at night, not being able to switch off from anxious thoughts and going over and over difficult decisions. Maybe you are WfH and in the house all day, less physically active than usual and have lost your daytime mojo.

This is why, over the next few posts we’re going to be covering sleep - it’s “the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.” We’re going to share what we think are some of the key things you can do to try to ensure more refreshing, high quality sleep and hopefully hear about some of your top-tips too.

But to start off, let’s go back to basics and the FACE COVID framework. We think there are some good ideas here that set the foundations of getting better sleep.

This week we encourage you to make a commitment to yourself to take (back) control over your sleep, by fully engaging with it. Make sleep a priority. Put sleep on your to-do list.

We need to pre-warn you that this is going to involve some ‘media distancing’ – both social and newsfeed – and most importantly – deep breath - leaving screens outside the bedroom. We know that this has probably just induced mild to moderate panic, but nonetheless, it’s a nettle that we need to grasp if we’re serious about improving our sleep.

But for now, here’s a clip that goes over some great tips for healthcare workers to help get more sleep whilst working through the pandemic. It is a little longer than the ones we usually share (still less than 4 minutes), but well worth a watch: CLICK HERE

Let us know about your sleep experiences and keep on getting in touch with us with your questions and feedback leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 97 -  It’s normal to have a bad night’s sleep or two every so often. This happens for a variety of reasons, many of which are random and out of our control. But with sleep being so important for our wellbeing, it isn’t something we want to develop into a longer term problem. So, how do we increase our chances of getting a good night’s sleep?

What we do during the day and in the run up to bedtime, hugely impacts on how we sleep. Here’s a chap called Matthew Walker, an expert in Neuroscience and Psychology who has been studying sleep his whole life. Forget that it looks like he’s only 19 – he is brilliant!

In this clip he sets out five of the most common elements to improve your sleep. If you don’t have time to watch it now, save it for later - but not at 2am when you can’t sleep and switch on your phone. Number 2 on this list is ‘screen-ectomy’ – we did warn you that screens would need to go from the bedroom - but Matthew explains why a whole lot better than we can: CLICK HERE  

Essentially, not only do our smartphones emit light that tricks us into thinking it is time to be awake, they pump a constant stream of news (mostly bad just now), notifications, messages and updates which constantly over-stimulate our senses and set our minds racing. You might need to wean yourself off devices and start by limiting the time you spend on them or, if you’re up to it, go ‘cold turkey’ and leave it charging in another room overnight. Having recently done this ourselves, we can tell you it is hard, but what you find out is that you don’t miss anything – the news is the same and no one really needs another grovelling auto-apology that their parcel is stuck in Rotterdam at 2am. Go on - put your phone away!

Keep letting us know about your sleep experiences/problems and keep in touch with any other questions and feedback, as well as booking a staff support session: leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 98 - So hopefully by now you’ve banished the phone from the bedroom, created a healthy sleep space and you’ve drifted off quickly into sleep. Then - BAM! 3am – you’re awake. Maybe you needed the toilet, maybe you had a hot flush, maybe your partner is snoring (maybe all three, all at the same time). Whatever it was you’re then lying wide-awake unable to get back over. The temptation is to force yourself back to sleep, just lying there you might just fall back over. This very short clip shows the 4 stages of the sleep cycle which, if we’re having a good night, we do 4 or 5 times: CLICK HERE 

The problem is at the end of a cycle our minds become active, or we perceive that it’s light. When we continue to lie there clock-watching, tossing and turning, we can work ourselves up. We become hooked on our thoughts and emotions  - which at the moment – is usually stress, anxiety and frustration.

The trick is to ‘unhook’ ourselves from our thoughts. To see ourselves as an observer of them and just let them be. Rather than thinking “I’ve got so much to do tomorrow” or “I’m already so exhausted, how am I going to get through my day if I can’t sleep”. Try putting the phrase “I am having the thought that…… <in front of> I’ve got so much to do tomorrow”. This is a technique known as unhooking or defusing. Remember our favourite clip on this - the ‘sushi train’? CLICK HERE 

Try to imagine your thoughts as items on the sushi train and just let them go by.

If this doesn’t work then there is only one thing for it – get up! Although it sounds counter-intuitive, it breaks up the struggle with unpleasant thoughts and invites us to accept that sleep isn’t going to happen right now. Take yourself into a different room – remember no bright lights or screens. Try doing something relaxing – read something, make a warm drink but just nothing caffeinated. We’ll go over some guided imagery and meditation exercises that you could add in tomorrow. Only when you start to feel tired again, head back to bed. Keep trying this until it works.

And keep letting us know how it’s going and keep in touch with any other questions and feedback, leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 99 - We’ve been getting some really great feedback from you all in response to our sleep posts. Thank you all so much! We had a suggestion on switching off phones at night, rather than leaving them outside the bedroom, for those who might need communication to hand in case of a night time emergency.

But from most of your comments, it sounds like the main culprit at night is anxiety. As we discussed yesterday, often when we wake in the night, our minds start to race. We can go over and over something that happened in the day, or we might have had really intense dreams about work and wake feeling like we’ve just done a shift. We might be worrying about something we have to do. Sometimes we just lie there and worry tirelessly; only to wake up in the morning asking “why was I even thinking about that?”

All of the tips we have given this week about creating a healthy sleep routine will help towards this. But managing night-time anxiety is also about trying to ensure you go to bed as relaxed as possible.

Meditation and guided imagery is a great way to wind down and distract ourselves from anxious thoughts and feelings – day or night. But if you’re one of many struggling with sleep, give this a go tonight.

It’s a 1-minute long meditation for sleep from Headspace Guided Meditation for Sleep | Get a Good Night’s Rest - YouTube.  Another tool for switching off that we particularly like is the Calm App - Sleep Stories. This one is read by Stephen Fry; Calm Sleep Stories | Stephen Fry's 'Blue Gold' - YouTube – but if you go to the Calm App, there are lots of options. After all, why should kids be the only ones to get a bed time story?

Keep your feedback and ideas coming. Equally, ask us anything or arrange a staff support session via the usual email - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 100 - Lots of comments and input on getting a better nights sleep have been coming in. So much in fact that we’re going to pull a sleep resources repository together – watch this space!

We had a kind offer from a colleague to pull the ideas from this week together in an infographic. It feels a nice way to round up the week and go back over some of the main ideas we’ve shared.

Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

untitled v7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your feedback coming. Equally, ask us anything or arrange a staff support session via the usual email - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

But for now, enjoy the weekend if you’re not working and try to get some rest if you are.

Workout 101 - Last week we focused on sleep and talked about using meditation sometimes if you can’t drop off. Today we want to introduce what meditation actually is. There are a lot of misconceptions about it. Meditation has to be accessible and usable, in the real-life situations we find ourselves (not saved until we can have a tranquil half hour to ourselves or when we can face the sunrise on a beautiful, clear morning). The idea of meditation is to increase physical calmness and relaxation in the here and now, regardless of what is going on around us.

This week we thought we would focus on building up a range of relaxation and meditation tips and techniques you can use, before a shift, during a shift or break, or to decompress from work before going home. The idea is that we’ll create a menu of ideas, rather than everything being for everyone.

So today’s exercise is just to take a moment when you can, and go through this very short video that explains just exactly what meditation is: CLICK HERE

Thank you so much for all your wonderful feedback, contributions and questions. Do keep in touch - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 102 - Hope today’s post finds you safe and well. Strange start to this one… Imagine that you’re Serena Williams and it’s the morning of the first round of Wimbledon and you’re running late for your first match, which should be routine. You frantically drive to the venue, jump straight on court and into the full throttle of the match. Are you going to be able to play to the best of your ability? Of course not! We all know that pro athletes, entertainers, bands and the like take time to prepare, warm-up and get into the right mindset before their event.

But what about us? Regular folk doing regular shifts in the NHS? How many of us take time to ‘warm up’ before our ‘event’ and prepare for the day – to steady ourselves mentally for the potentially difficult and stressful day or night ahead?  When things are relentless, and seemingly never ending, it might help to contain our work, to put boundaries around it, if we reframe it in the same way. So the next few posts will develop this theme and help put up some buffer zones.

We start with a lovely, 4-minute meditation designed to help us as healthcare staff ‘warm-up’ and ‘warm down’ from work. It really is worth a listen: CLICK HERE .

If you want an alternative we shared this clip about preparing for an NHS shift during Lockdown 1.0 which many of you found useful: CLICK HERE  

Thanks for all your feedback and creative offers of helping each other. We’re working on this! Thanks too today to Chris Irons for the tennis metaphor - we’d love to know what you think of it all. Do keep in touch - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 103 -  Regardless of your job role, it is likely that at times work feels like a constant stream of tasks to be completed; one never ending to-do list. In order to protect ourselves, it is really important to create ‘buffer zones’ within our day - moments where we allow our minds to shift away from our to-do list and to rest in the present. This can feel counterintuitive when we are really busy, however taking some time out has actually been shown to make us more productive, not less.

  • Sometimes, we just need to step back and take a breath. This 1-minute meditation is perfect for this: CICK HERE
  • Take back your commute. If you are WFH, it is likely you now find yourself with more time in the morning. Whilst it is tempting to use this time for a) sleeping, or b) starting work early, consider using this time for something that is going to benefit you mentally. Exercise or have a stretch, to ready your body for a day of sitting at your desk. Practice meditation (the recording we shared yesterday would be great for this!) Or do something that is going to wake your brain up gently -some people like to do puzzles, read books, or write in a journal.
  • Connect with colleagues. What’s the saying; “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” I think we can all relate to this at the moment as we realise how important our informal interactions with our peers were for our well-being. It is easy to feel isolated at the moment, and so we have to be a bit more creative about how we buffer against this. Consider scheduling a virtual coffee date, or an MS Teams lunch break. Think about picking up the phone and talking to a colleague, rather than just sending an email.
  • Do something different. Allow yourself moments throughout the day where your mind can shift away from work. It doesn’t really matter what you do, just try to do it mindfully; that is give it your full attention. You might like to listen to some music, engage in mindful colouring, or (our old favourite) go for a walk. This short clip talks you through how to make your walk a mindful one: CLICK HERE 

How do you build buffer zones into your day? We would love to hear your ideas - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 104 - Thank you all for sharing your wonderful ideas on how to create buffer zones. People are certainly getting used to maximising their lunchtimes - running, taking ‘coffee walks, admiring the architecture of our ‘quieter’ city, meditating, yoga, scheduling chats with colleagues.

Creating buffer zones at the end of the day is crucial too. We may have done this without thinking on the commute home, but given it seems that for some of you WfH commuting is a short hop past the laundry bin, we’ve been amazed at hearing of your creative buffering! 

But in all seriousness, the way we ‘warm down’ at the end of our workday/shift is really important. We need to transition from ‘match mode’ to ‘rest mode.’ Often, this starts informally whilst we are actually still at work, perhaps while changing out of our uniforms, or wiping down the hot desk.  Next time you are getting ready to go home, try this - close your eyes (if safe to do so) and focus on your breath. Count to 10 deep breaths. And then, in your mind, talk yourself through this checklist…

 Going Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow, we’re going to consider some of the ways we can take a mindful moment to ‘transition’ on our way ‘home’ and once we get home, or indeed, passing-by the laundry bin again with a wine-rack detour.

We’re working with the Trust’s Health and Wellbeing Group to start collating all your ideas and kind offers of leading staff group activities when we’re about to again. So, keep your ideas and feedback coming - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

 

Workout 105 - Transitioning your mind from ‘match mode’ to ‘rest mode’ might be easier said than done. Maybe work is just so busy, that thoughts of it are leaking into your rest time. Perhaps you are working from home, and you have lost the boundary completely.  

If you have a commute, how do you use this time? Could you use it for something that is going to help your mind unwind, ready for home? Listening to a light-hearted podcast or an audiobook can help you to relax. You can make your daily journey mindful by actually paying attention to it; notice the sights, the sounds, and even the smells there are along the way. You might even observe something you’ve never noticed before. Disclaimer: if you drive/walk/cycle to work, please do not practice any form of mindfulness that involves closing your eyes. This will not reduce your stress levels!

If you are WFH, it can be helpful to create an “end of the day routine.” This might involve;

  • Reviewing what you have achieved from the day and making a list of any outstanding tasks,
  • Packing your work things away and moving away from your workspace,
  • Taking a shower and changing your clothes,
  • Scheduling in a call with a friend,
  • Practicing meditation – we recommend this short one from Headspace: CLICK HERE  

As always, we love to hear from you - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net 

Workout 106 - Motivation or rather… lack of it, seems to be cropping up for many of us. For some, enthusiasm has dwindled - we’re bored with being locked down – we’ve exercised everywhere there is and even the new glossy Netflix “most popular” has lost its’ appeal. For others… we just can’t be bothered. What’s worse still is that part of the enjoyment was doing things with other people. We are deprived of the social ‘reinforcers’; the friend who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer to go: into town, for a walk, fishing, the pub, for a run. We all have more willpower when we have someone to do things with.

It’s amazing we’re keeping going at work. It is really hard, but we do, we keep on keeping on. Losing our drive and enjoyment of things is normal! But what motivates us? What’s the point? What’s our purpose right now?

Losing our 'motivation' is different from losing our 'willpower'. Willpower runs out, like batteries, but being motivated to do something is driven by our values; of being active, sociable, supportive, collaborative, even if we’ve temporarily lost the energy to do those things. Maybe expecting ourselves to be functioning at our absolute best just isn’t realistic. Sometimes, “good enough” genuinely is good enough.

So this week we’re going to have a mini-focus on values again and how they connect to our purpose and motivation. Take another look at this Russ Harris clip on taking a values-based approach to things, rather than goals/activity-based ones: CLICK HERE

We’re loving your feedback, ideas, offers of help. Keep on, keeping in touch - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 107 - Motivation and values are inter-twined. And this makes sense - values are about what we want to stand for in life and the kind of person we want to be.Russ Harris’ ‘big question’ is - “what do we really want?” And it is usually met with; “Oh I just want to: <be happy> <have kids and a nice house> <succeed at work> <be rich>.” But although these all may be desirable, do they really describe what is important to us? What are our real desires? How do we want spend the rest of our time on earth? How do we want to be remembered? “WHOAH - this is way too much for a daily post” you say. Well, some people already have a clear idea of their values and know instantly what we’re on about and what matters to them. For others - most of us, actually - it’s going to take some thinking about. So, where do we start?

Take a moment now and imagine you’re at your 80th birthday party. Two of your nearest and dearest are making speeches about you – about what you stand for, about what you mean to them, and the role you played in their life. Think about what you would hope to hear them say. It doesn’t matter what comes to mind, as long as it matters to you. There is no right or wrong when it comes to values. This short clip puts it very nicely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZM9Z4vM-iM

 Once we know our ‘why’ our ‘what’ becomes easier to identify. Once we ourselves know what it is we want to do, our motivation to do it is a near guarantee.

 If you would like to get in touch, or having any thoughts to share, please do - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 108 - Our values – what we stand for in life – are in the here and now. In any moment we can choose to live in accordance with them or not, regardless of whatever else is going on in our world. So it’s not a case of “once things are normal again I can start living in line with my values.”  In other words, let’s not wait ‘til lockdown ends – let’s prepare to restart our lives now.

 But before we take action, we need to identify our values. As always, a minute from Russ Harris explains this in ways we can https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsWGLFGUomA

 Trying to identify our values can feel a bit daunting. We are complex beings and live lives in many domains. In each of these we will act differently, present ourselves differently and therefore be driven by different values. For example; in our ‘family’ domain, we might value being a “loving” “nurturing” parent and a “calm” and “thoughtful” partner. While in our work domain we value “assertiveness” and “creativity.” And then, when we are out for a bit of exercise at the weekend, we might value “solitude” “competitiveness” or “mastery.” There are loads of different domains we operate in, but to get out the starting blocks, its best to keep it simple.

 Many of you have been missing the daily workout, so in re-introducing one, take a moment now (or maybe later), and focus on four key domains of our lives – Relationships, Health, Work/Education and Leisure. If you can, try to describe to yourself how you act in each of these domains. Use words that describe how you act/do (adverbs), and write them down. Even just a couple of values per domain will do. Then ask yourself “how much am I really, truthfully, honestly, acting in line with my values in these domains right now?” For each domain you could rate this - in other words on a scale of 0-10 (10 being the most), how much do you think you’re acting in accordance with your values in each of the four domains.

 Tomorrow we’ll look at how we can start using some of this and putting it into action. If you have any thoughts, get in touch: leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 109 - Yesterday we identified our values so now what? How do we translate this list of words into actions? It can be helpful to break it down. With everything that is going on right now, it is likely that all of us are struggling with our values in at least some life domains. But let’s just start by looking at the list we made yesterday and highlighting the domain that we feel we’re struggling with the most. This is the domain for change.

 So ask yourself - how you would like to be living by your values in this domain? What would be different? How would you act differently? What qualities would you like to show?

Our refreshing mental health workout for today is to come up with just one or two very small and immediate tasks - or what psychologists call “committed actions” actions we commit to that are aligned to our values. These tasks would be something we can do in the next 24 hours  - things that are going to move us closer to our values. For example; if we are thinking about our ‘Relationships’ domain and our value of being a “thoughtful” partner – we might commit to sending our partner a text on our lunch break to let them know we are thinking of them or the likes. If we are thinking about our ‘Leisure’ domain and our value of being “competitive,” we might like to set ourselves a time target for our next 5km walk/run.

We’re sure you’ll come up with some great ideas, and always we’d love to hear them:  leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 110 -  As the weather seems set fair, the daffs are starting to pop out, the media are trying really hard to be more positive and best of all, Monday is March, with only 20 days ‘til the sun bounces over the equator into our half of the world again! It could just be enough to put a spring back in our step to take on some of the tasks we set ourselves – ones that are of course, in accordance with our values.

 Yesterday we talked about setting immediate goals. Next is stretching these out a bit. What can we do over the next few days? What small things can we do over the next few days that are consistent with value X. Let’s be specific and consider what actions we will actually take. For example, in the ‘active’ domain, we can prepare for a new activity or returning to an old one. In the work domain, we can plan our holidays  - no joke - we all need a proper rest right?

 What can we do over the next few weeks? What larger tasks will take us in our valued direction? Again, be focused. If one of our values is looking after ourselves, a medium range goal might be to do a ‘couch-to-5K’ with a friend, or reduce the number of take-outs we have each week. 

Russ Harris talks about making sure we do not set a ‘dead persons’ goal. By this he means don’t do something a dead person will do better than us, like stopping eating crisps. Any task that involves ‘stopping’ something we need to convert into us thinking on what we would do better with the time/money that not doing that task creates.

 So with that, we hope you have enjoyed this week’s focus on motivation, values and taking committed actions. We hope you have got some ideas for the brighter phase ahead. Keep hopeful, keep well, and keep on keeping-on.

 Enjoy the weekend and if you’re working, remember your colleagues are thinking of you and try to take some rest outside when you can.

Here’s the usual email to get in touch for feedback or to set up a 1-1 session with the one of the team leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 111 - January and February were tough; short days and cold weather are hard at the best of times, but the pandemic took it to a whole new level. At times, it was hard to imagine things ever being different. And those tricky thoughts we all have in our heads don’t help sometimes. Our brains tend to make shortcuts when processing the world around us, and one of these shortcuts involves using how we feel currently to predict the future. This is great if we are feeling good, as our brain will predict a positive future. But in times when we feel rubbish, our minds make it very hard for us to imagine a future where we don’t feel, well… rubbish!

But with the roadmap, vaccines, the sunshine and the first signs of spring flowers budding, a word we are hearing a lot more is “hope.” Hope for the end of lockdown, hope for seeing friends and family, hope for the schools going back, hope for (dare we say it) being able to actually go somewhere on a proper holiday!

We’re all in very different places when it comes to how hopeful we feel right now. And that’s ok. Wherever we’re at, it is worth reminding ourselves that the way we feel is likely to change from moment to moment, context to context. Try taking few moments now to direct your thoughts and feelings onto what you are hopeful for and hold on to this for the rest of the day. We love these ideas from The Psychology Mum.

Holding on to Hope

Workout 112 - Whilst hope is in the air from your comments, it’s clear we’re still very much affected by what’s going on. People are still getting sick and dying, our services are under pressure and we remain on a war footing. As staff, we are more likely to have been personally affected by Covid, either by having it ourselves, hearing stories of others having it, reading the daily ‘bed-count’ or indeed watching our loved ones go through it - or more likely still, a combination of them all. And if that’s not enough, many of us worry about ‘taking it home’ and remain fearful, despite being vaccinated. All this creates a perfect storm for trauma and guilt to overwhelm us.

So just as there is hope, there is hopelessness, and this is just as OK. It doesn’t come from the actual distress or trauma we’ve experienced, but rather from our attempts to control or avoid it. This can have the opposite effect - we may spend so much time and energy trying to avoid it that we’ve got nothing left in the tank. And hopelessness arises when we feel that all the things we’ve been trying don’t work. We can feel panicky that we’re damaged in some way, or think that we’re not going to get better or that things won’t change for the better.

Whilst there’s never going to be an effective way of removing emotional pain from our lives and our thoughts about it may feel true, they are only thoughts. They are not a reflection of what is really true.

Over the next couple of posts, we’ll try to explain this a bit more and share some practical ways of coping with this. But remember, when something upsetting happens, we get upset in the same way as we laugh when see something funny. When distressing things happen, we can feel distressed. Let these thoughts and feelings happen. We’re all going to go through a long phase of recovery and this is one of the very first steps. It is going to be OK.

Don’t hold back if you feel like you’d like to talk to one of the team - even although you might want to avoid it, we’re still very much here for you - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Alistair, Cara and The Team.

Workout 113 - Thank you for all your comments following yesterday’s post. We’re all in good company with feelings of being overwhelmed, empty, and hopeless. We are not alone.

Avoiding emotional pain takes a huge amount of energy. It can takeover our lives. As a result, we might feel like we’ve got zero energy left to put into the meaningful, nurturing, rewarding parts of our lives. Indeed, these aspects can also be stressful and demanding. We may have elderly parents who have health issues, and/or dependent children, we may have health issues ourselves which don’t stop for Covid. It all adds up.

But no matter how distressing these things are, they’re still important parts of our lives. If they weren’t important, we wouldn’t be so worried or upset. Increasing the time we spend doing things that are consistent with our values, no matter what emotions or thoughts arise, helps us avoid ‘avoidance.’ By allowing our upsetting thoughts and feelings to breathe, we can accept that they are by definition, ‘upsetting’, but that they are not a sign that we are broken; damaged; bad. Allow the upset, but put the phrase “I’m having the thought that…” at the beginning. This is often referred to as ‘defusion’ or ‘unhooking’ from our worries. It sounds stupidly simple, but it puts a stop to the tug-of-war we can all get into with our upsetting thoughts and feelings. Don’t buy into them! This way we start to build back resilience and show our thoughts what we’re made of!

Have a look at this 5-minute clip on all this; maybe when you’ve got a bit of time to settle and think it all through (apologies for the chirpy-end-of-Monty-Python’s-‘Life-of-Brian’ soundtrack) CLICK HERE  

Do keep getting in touch with us. It’s really great to hear from you and we’ve got plenty of sessions available for you if you want to have a chat - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 114 - We’re so glad to hear that some of you finding defusion helpful. Yes, things can be awful, stressful, distressing and upsetting, but we are not broken. We don’t like what is going on, we wish it would disappear, but here it is none-the-less. We will move on. Give it time. And give those feelings some airtime.

We’ve been hearing from some of you who have shared that putting our hands up and saying out loud “I’m actually not ok.” This is truthfully the hardest step, but once we have taken it, we have started the process of recovery. When we feel overwhelmed, hopeless, burnt out, we can put on the autopilot - we get our heads down and graft our way through. When we’re asked; ‘how are you?’, we say “you know, yeah, fine!” When really - nothing is fine - it’s just too much of an effort to explain.

When we run out of steam, sharing that we’re not so good is important but it can be scary. It strips us of our armour, our defences and opens us up to reveal the truth that *spoiler alert* none of us are invincible. It might make us feel vulnerable. And so often, in our minds we confuse vulnerability with weakness. But in reality, admitting we’re struggling requires courage in its starkest form; courage is our ability to do something that frightens us. So, admitting we are not ok and asking for help is far from weakness; it’s perhaps one of the bravest things we can do.

Have a listen to this. It’s from Brené Brown who has dedicated her whole career to understanding vulnerability – she really knows her stuff: CLICK HERE  

As always, stay in touch and know we are here to support you when you need us - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 115 - Thoughts: believe them, struggle with them, or just notice them? Defusing (or ‘unhooking’) from them helps us learn that it’s fine to simply observe them and let them go by. We are not our thoughts.

Many of you have been writing to us to say this has been useful. And here’s a soothing reminder of the main techniques. CLICK HERE 

But what happens when our thoughts frighten us? That familiar voice in a raging sea that’s always been there, leading to that sense of threat which leads us to avoid doing anything that conjures them up. This is ‘experiential avoidance’ and whilst it’s entirely rational to want to avoid the unpleasant feelings these thoughts creating avoidance is central to maintaining our fears. CLICK HERE

Thoughts: believe them, struggle with them, or just notice them? Defusing (or ‘unhooking’) from them helps us learn that it’s fine to simply observe them and let them go by. We are not our thoughts.

We’ve not had a refreshing mental health workout for a while, so here’s one to finish off the week. It’s from ‘The Happiness Trap’ by Russ Harris, and we use this a lot in our work.

Take ten minutes to think about these questions and write down your answers for future reference.

  1. How would I behave differently if painful thoughts and feelings were no longer an obstacle?
  2. What projects or activities would I start or restart if my time and energy were not consumed by troublesome emotions?
  3. What would I attempt if thoughts of failure didn’t deter me?

This might be one to do later. But give it a try. On Monday, we’ll go follow this up and focus on defusing/unhooking from the emotions that might arise.

As always, stay in touch. Keep sharing your thoughts and view. And most importantly, don’t be fearful of getting in touch to talk - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 116 - Hello everyone. We hope you managed to enjoy some of the weekend. And hopefully for many, the kids going back to school today is an indicator of real hope.

Dealing with upsetting thoughts and images takes time… and practice to defuse them (remember that defusing is uncoupling from the influence our thoughts have over our lives). And on Friday we asked you to take some time to consider what you’d do if your bothersome thoughts didn’t bother you anymore. Today we’re going to focus on practising. The more we practice seeing these upsetting thoughts for what they are, the less influence they will have on our reactions and behaviours.

Today’s workout is about noticing the thoughts that arise and then repeatedly going back to putting the phrase “I’m having the thought that” or “I’m noticing that…” Remember the aim of defusion is not to instantly 'feel good' or to get rid of any 'bad' thoughts. It’s to help us ‘be present' and reduce those influences of unhelpful thoughts and beliefs over our behaviour. It helps us avoid avoiding things we would like to do, but which we know are likely to increase those difficult thoughts, which in turn, prevent us from doing those things. Being patient and kind to ourselves as we learn a new coping skill will be a positive experience, despite us maybe not getting the hang of it straight away. And being compassionate and kind to ourselves as we recover, is what we’ll focus on over the next few posts.

As always, stay in touch and keep sharing your views with us - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 117 - Compassion is a fundamental part of all our jobs and is likely to have been part of the reason we joined the NHS in the first place. Compassion is our ability to notice that someone is struggling and having the motivation to do something about it. Compassion for our patients comes naturally; but what about when the ‘someone who is struggling’ is us? This pandemic is our hour of need. Have we taken time to notice our own struggle? Have we treated ourselves with the same compassion we give others? Have we accepted offers of support and kindness from those around us; our families, our friends, our colleagues? For many of us, the answer will be “no.”

The 3 Flows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compassion can flow to and from us; but thinking about compassion towards ourselves can feel strange, uncomfortable, or even selfish or wrong.

Over the next couple of days, we will be thinking more about this. But for now, as always keep in touch - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 118 - Thinking about being compassionate to ourselves can sometimes have the opposite effect to what we intend. Instead of bringing warmth and support, it brings discomfort. Perhaps we feel self-compassion is too ‘fluffy’ or ‘self-indulgent’, or that it’ll make us feel weak. We might notice thoughts such as “I don’t deserve compassion,” or “I’ll let myself off the hook.” This kind of negative self-talk or self-criticism is part of the human condition, but it can stop compassion in its tracks.

We need to experience compassion in our lives because right now our lives are hard. This past year, we’ve all suffered to some degree, and at times been overwhelmed by our experiences, almost all of which have been way beyond our control. We didn’t ask for this. We’ve just found ourselves here and we are trying to cope in any way we can. And, on top of it all, we’ve got minds that tell us we should be coping better.

Whi am I finding 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is tough to be kind to ourselves without accompanying troublesome thoughts and feelings but we can start by using the defusion techniques we went over last week - to ‘unhook’ from our judgements about self-compassion.

As always, stay in touch - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 119 - We’ve talked this week about how self-compassion can be hard but sometimes, dare we say it, we can also struggle with compassion for others. We notice we are being short with our partners, our children, our colleagues. We feel we have become hardened to other people’s problems. We might find ourselves talking about patients or colleagues in a way we wouldn’t normally. We don’t recognise this version of us, and we feel mentally and physically exhausted.

Compassion doesn’t come in endless supply. We can experience that feeling of “I just don’t have any more to give” - like the tank is empty and this might be labelled ‘Compassion Fatigue.’ It hurts to consider we’re experiencing this given our work in the caring professions. But compassion fatigue is an occupational hazard; a sign that we have cared very much, for a long time, in the most difficult circumstances. We’ve got to expect that our experiences over the last year will affect us. “The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.”

Refilling the compassion tank takes time. We need to rest, take stock and give ourselves space to heal and reconnect with life and each other. And so, this takes us back to the start of this week’s posts - if we’re going to restore our compassion for others, we must first treat ourselves with that same compassion.

We love receiving your feedback, so stay in touch - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 120 - If it feels like treating ourselves with compassion is alien, it often means we don’t know where to start. We need space and time to acknowledge all the difficult things that have been going on - to say to ourselves “things have been really hard for me recently” or “I am struggling with X at the moment.”

The important bit though, is how we then respond. Imagine your best friend comes to you because they’re struggling with something. How would you respond? Would you say “Ah… get on with it” or “this isn’t a big deal, why are you worried about this?” No. So why are those the words we hear in our heads that niggle on at us: “what’s up with you? You’ve got x years’ experience, you shouldn’t be like this, you’re rubbish at your job, you shouldn’t be feeling like that, just get on with it” and so on.

Many of us operate with these double standards and self-compassion doesn’t happen overnight. But we can practice. Your refreshing workout to finish the week is to undertake this short ‘self-compassion break’ – this 3-minute video shows you how: YouTube: Being Kinder to Yourself  

Enjoy what you can of the weekend and keep in touch – we love receiving your feedback -  leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 121 -  We thought we’d start the week with a story. Everyone loves being told a story, whether your 6 or 66. This story is a thriller, in which you are the lead character. It’s called ‘Demons on the Boat’.

Imagine you’re steering a ship far out at sea. Below the deck, out of sight, lie a vast horde of demons, all with enormous claws and razor-sharp teeth. These demons have many different forms… Now read on…Download Demons on the Boat story 

And don’t forget to send a review. Your feedback means everything to us -  leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 122 -  Our demons - the thoughts, feelings and mental images that frighten us, stopping us from doing what we want to do – seem to be ‘making a real racket’ at the moment. It feels like we’re all going into a transition phase, changing course, which has stirred them up. Chances are, we’re going to be apprehensive. Some of us have been shielding and working from home and are terrified of returning to the workplace. Some of us have adapted to a different (slower?) way of life with less pressure and demands (no weekend kids’ activities, no shopping, no seeing people we don’t really want to see, no getting cajoled into doing things we don’t want to do).

It’s little wonder then that for some confidence has been well and truly knocked. And we’re in good company - questioning what we think we’re capable of. We might even question if we can do the jobs we do any more, or if we should apply for a promotion or leave a profession/job we love(d) – one that we trained for ages for. You can just hear the demons’ special effects - “You’re not good enough” “People will think you’re a snowflake and a skiver”, “You’re not going to cope”, “You can’t go back after being off for so long” “You’re going fail!” “You’re going to let people down?” Demons. Demons. Demons. Demons. Demons.

Change is scary but staying in our safe zones can be miserable. And when it comes to change, we’re all in it together. Let the demons be. As Russ Harris says ‘they’re just words and pictures’. And when we use the defusion/unhooking techniques we’ve been talking about, the less influence they’ll have on our lives. Put in front of your demonic thought/image “I’m having the thought that…. I am noticing that…” and practice, practice, practice. You are not alone.

Thank you for all your comments and feedback - it keeps us connected- leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

 Workout 123 - 

Staring down our demons, means being able to tolerate our difficult thoughts, images and sensations and unhook from them. Thoughts are just words, images – pictures, sensations – feelings we have in our bodies. Defusing or unhooking from them means seeing them for what they are with the purpose of us being able to enjoy the things we want to, to engage in life the way we would like to. To achieve this, we need to make room for them (which is sometimes referred to as ‘expansion’). When we don’t, it leads to avoidance - experiential avoidance – where we avoid the experiences that give rise to these words, pictures and feelings, thereby missing out on those experiences. Make sense?

If no, then it’s back to Youtube. We’ve shared this clip before but given all your feedback and the transition phase we are all in, we thought it would be timely to go back to it. Somethings are worth repeating…YouTube:Headstuck! What is Experiential Avoidance?

Workout 124 - Making room for our feelings, rather than supressing them or pushing them away is important. It’s been a whole year since Covid started. In some ways, it feels like the longest year of our lives; in other ways it feels like the year that never was.

But in all seriousness, there’s no doubt that we’ve all come a long way in 12 short months. Can any of us actually recall the time when we had no knowledge of this disease? How it spread or how to treat it - a time of panic and desperation - to now, where we have a vaccine and some effective treatments.

But more often than not anniversaries are emotionally hard. We’ve been living with the threat of Covid day-in and day-out and this has taken its toll. Whatever you are feeling right now - anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, hopeful, frustrated, tired - remember these are just feelings – sensations in our bodies – and we have to make room for them all.

The capacity cup of Corona virus overwhelm one year on

Just as we said a year ago, there is no right or wrong way to feel. You might feel different day-by-day, hour-by-hour, you might feel the same as your friends and colleagues, you might feel very different. That is all OK. And it’s going to be OK.

Workout 125 - So, we’re coming to the end of this mini-series of posts on unhooking from difficult thoughts and making room for the full range of feelings we have, even the negative ones. Trying to do otherwise is like trying to delete a memory of a lovely holiday – go on try it – bet you can’t! So trying to erase painful thoughts and feelings, or ignore them, or distract ourselves from them, just doesn’t work long-term as a coping strategy.

At this point in the pandemic, we’re all at the ‘readiness’ stage of change. Colleagues on the front line maybe less under pressure, but are still dealing with sick patients, some of whom die, and are reeling from the horrors of the past year. Others among us are returning to more familiar patterns and places of work or un-shielding. Some people will have experienced little changes themselves, but everything changed around them. Everything is changing. It’ll take time and we need to be patient as we reconnect with each other. But mostly importantly, we respond in ways that are kind, compassionate, understanding and in line with the kind of people we want to be.

 Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. Always

Workout 126 - Don’t know about you, but it feels like we’re getting back to business. And as the world changes - again, so do we - again. We adapt, adjust and problem solve. We only have to look back over the last year to see evidence of this. We’ve all adopted new routines, new ways of working and new ways of living. Whilst some of these changes will have felt uncomfortable, others will have been positive. Charles Darwin is often misquoted as saying “it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” (this was actually a paraphrase from a marketing professor!) But the intention was honourable because one thing’s for sure – we are a naturally resilient species.

And right now, it feels as though we’re on the brink of a long journey towards normal. Sometimes it feels like a step forward then half-a-step back, but over time we progress - slowly. And whilst this brings hope, it also brings uncertainty. And where uncertainty goes, anxiety follows.

Being able to tolerate uncertainty is the key adaptation to make for now. Uncertainty about how the structure of our workplace will change, or whether our team will be the same when we get back. Uncertainty about returning to work after shielding at home, or how we’ll manage in a busy hospital again. Uncertainty over continuing to work from home and uncertainty about coming back into work when you enjoy WFH. As uncomfortable as it is, we have no option but to tolerate it and sit with the anxieties that arise. Take a look at this short clip which helps us think about how we can sit with uncertainty -  How to be at Peace with the Unknown | Andy Crisis Wisdom

Workout 127 - We can’t let the significance of this day go by unnoticed. It’s exactly a year since we hurtled into lockdown, leaving us shell-shocked and fearful; our senses overloaded and on hyper-drive, alert to the merest, sight, touch, sound, taste, or smell of threat. And so we were already in a heightened state of emotional arousal when we experienced loss.

Loss is often associated with people, miscarriage, pets or things. But loss is more often non-tangible – in other words, - incapable of being touched, seen, tasted, smelled or heard. So when we think about the things we’ve all lost over the past months, it’s the loss of connection, social fabric, activity, touch, hope, enjoyment, anticipation. You name it, we’ve probably lost it in the past year. And you know, many psychologists consider loss to be at the heart of low mood and depression, and often the early stages of talking therapy are exploring, feeling and normalising the experience of loss, even dreadful gut-wrenching loss, that hurts so much our minds block it to protect ourselves.

But we are amazingly resilient. We are far from alone in living with loss. We are connected to others trying to accept it, make room for it and give it space to be.

Let's reflect on our personal and collective losses, and to connect with and support those who have lost. Let’s be bold, talk about it with those who are close to us.

Workout 128 - Loss. It’s not the cheeriest of topics, but to avoid it is to fall into the ‘Happiness Trap’. And our post bag has been bulging with your experiences of loss and grief. So here goes…

When we cherish someone or something deeply and we lose it, like night follows day, we’ll feel pain. This pain is known as grief. Grieving is a normal emotional reaction to significant loss. And once we accept it, it will pass. It might take some time to pass, but it will.

Psychologists aren’t usually fans of ‘stages of grief’ explanations because grief never truly goes away. It ebbs and flows depending on our circumstances and the time of the year. So a more apt idea is that eventually grief diminishes into chronic sorrow which, for most of the time, like a river, dries up or becomes a trickle, but which swells from time to time to wash over us.

It feels intuitive to not want to accept grief and we often do anything to avoid feeling it. We distract ourselves, bury ourselves in work or numb ourselves with booze, knowing that deep down it’s still there. Like the beach ball we hold under water, it’s sure to bounce back. And when we put so much effort into holding it below the surface, we get tired; we get exhausted from trying to control it. These secondary feelings and reactions often lead to us feeling overwhelmed and we’re forced to let go of our imaginary ‘grip’ on it leaving it to fly up to hit us in the face when we least want it to, when it is most inconvenient.

There is a role for all our emotions and if you’ve seen the Disney film ‘Inside Out’, you’ll know exactly what we’re on about.

Inside out

 

 

 

 

 

And whether you have or you haven’t seen it, today’s mental health workout is simply to watch it. It’s a bit longer than our usual clips, so find a good couple of hours.

Workout 129 - We’ve all heard the saying that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. But loss is probably the other certainty that should be included here. We’ll all experience this many times in our lives and the sadness that accompanies it. Recovering takes time and is usually kicked-off by a series of small actions, when we are ready - getting a new outfit, taking up a new activity, joining a new club, re-connecting with old friends. But as we’ve talked about already, recovering from grief takes time and doesn’t mean getting rid of it. We don’t move on from grief, we move on with it and live a new normal.

Emotional recovery from the losses we’ve all endured in the pandemic will also take time, and there will be aspects that will stay with us now forever. But it is the same process - being patient, understanding and kind to ourselves and our loved ones as they too recover. We will eventually take small steps which will eventually lead to – you’ve guessed it – a new normal.

Your refreshing mental health workout today is to let our losses be and NOT to explore Youtube or Google about “Grief”. We think the vast majority of content is valiant but way too simplistic. There is no grief recovery handbook or a one-size-fits-all plan. Loss is such a personal experience and our reactions – are normal! The psychology team’s thoughts about it are always, to talk about it with someone you trust or are close to. Someone who will acknowledge your feelings and ‘be’ with you rather than try to prod you out of them and into action too soon. 

Workout 130 - 

Q; OK I can let my difficult feeling be. I’ve stopped believing everything I think. And I’ve counted my losses. Now what?

A; As we contemplate taking small steps out of lockdown, it’s time to slowly increase our activity. There is much to look forward. Taking even the smallest of actions is something we have control over, unlike our fears and worries.

Q; I can’t work out my values.

A; Have a look at WORKOUT 15 

Q; Why do you keep banging on about doing stuff that’s in line with my values?

A; Because doing things in ways that are consistent with the kind of people we think we are, tends  to motivate us. We find that these actions are somehow way more gratifying, despite encountering difficult thoughts and emotions along the way. Fulfilment, closeness, friendship and delight also come from actions that are connected to our values. And these often outweigh tolerating the difficult stuff.

 Q; What if I’m not motivated and can’t be bothered?

A; Don’t do it. It’s not the right time… or the right action… or it’s connected to a value that isn’t really yours.

 We’re all about to start recovering from the toughest time any of us could ever have imagined - probably at the same time as dealing with significant life events and pressures. And if you’d like to talk to us, we’re here for you - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 131 - We have spent a lot of time thinking about not believing everything we think. Whether a thought is true or not doesn’t really matter, its more important to consider if it’s helpful or not. If it is, then its worth listening to them, if not, then why bother? Russ Harris uses this idea to help us decide which ones to listen to.

This clip also helps us to see our thoughts like ‘leaves on a stream’ Is a really popular metaphor psychologist use a lot. Take a look here and give it a go. Youtube:Walk in my shoes, Leaves on a Stream

Please keep on getting in touch with us. Your feedback is so interesting and helpful. Equally if you would just like to arrange a session to talk to one of us drop us a line - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Workout 132 - With the lockdown lifting and the sun shining, we may be ready to get active again, socially, emotionally and physically. Whatever we do, taking committed action towards what we care about and value, even in the presence of obstacles (physical or emotional), is ultimately going to be rewarding - fulfilling even.

 Some of us might not be ready or are still stuck. That’s OK too. It just means that if this is the case, we are still experiencing “expanding” to let difficult thoughts and feelings be. 

Take a look at this clip. We’ve used it before and it’s in the usual chirpy animated style, so easy to watch, but the message is really important and useful for thinking about taking action: Youtube:The Choice Point: A Map for a Meaningful Life

Workout 133 - Right now, it is easy to focus on the negatives. In fact, it’s pretty much a given. And how can we not? There is negativity at every turn - like the world has just become full of unsettling stories and anxious uncertainty. And, on top of this, we have our mind’s natural bias to focus on what’s going wrong. It’s a perfect storm! 

The issue is not that we simply forget the positive things - often we do not notice them in the first place. We move through our daily tasks - making breakfast, getting the kids ready for school, walking the dog, coming to work, and so on - on autopilot. And on autopilot, the negative things that happen tend to stick to us like Velcro, whilst the positives slide right by.

Learning to notice, and be grateful for, small positive moments in our day can be surprisingly powerful.

Tomorrow, we will think about how we do this, but for now, take a look at this short clip which talks more about the power of gratitude: 

Youtube:The Power of Gratitude in Uncertainty | Andy Crisis Wisdom

Morning Gratitude v2

Workout 134 - Practising gratitude won’t miraculously give us an easy life or fix all our problems, but it can help to nurture positive feelings - and, let’s agree, we all need a bit more of those right now.

But after the past year, noticing the good in each day might be something we need to re-learn (as strange as that might sound). Something that used to be effortless now requires practice. Our first mental health workout for a while is to think about keeping a simple gratitude diary. These 5 steps explain how;  

  1. Every night before bed, think back over your day and list three things that went well or your felt grateful for. Remember, these don’t need to be anything big; often it is the small things that bring a smile to our face.  
  2. Note them down. You might like to get a notebook for this purpose and keep it by the bed.
  3. Think about why you are grateful for each thing. This might feel tricky to start, but you will soon get the hang of it.
  4. Look back over what you have written after a week. Notice how it feels to look back over these highlights.
  5. Keep it up. Try to keep this up for a while, a couple of weeks at least. Maybe try to make it a bed time habit.

Workout 135 - It feels as though we have experienced all four seasons worth of weather over the last few days. We have gone from slapping on the sunscreen last week, to reaching for our winter coats and woolly hats this week. Whilst these changes do seem to have been quite extreme, we get that this is what weather does; it changes.

Our emotions are much the same - they change hour-by-hour, day-by-day dependent largely on what is going on around us. However for some reason, we are a lot less accepting of our emotions than we are of the weather. We often expect that we should feel fine and on top of things all of the time, and that if we aren’t, there is something wrong with us. This can be a very lonely place. 

Whatever our emotional weather is like, whatever feelings are coming up for us right now - be it anxiety, anger, fatigue, sadness, hope, excitement - it is important we validate this. We need to avoid telling ourselves that what we feel is wrong. Shaming ourselves only makes things worse. 

Moving forward in this pandemic, the forecast looks mixed. There will be more storms to weather, but there are surely brighter days ahead.

How we think.

Workout 136 - Over the last year, we have heard a lot about the importance of good self-care. Whilst there is no denying that it is vital, it feels as though self-care has become a buzz-word of the pandemic; something that conjures up clichéd images of bubble baths and chocolate cake.  

What do we really mean when we talk about self-care? Meaningful self-care starts by taking an honest look at ourselves and the kinds of thoughts, behaviours, and patterns we are engaging in. We need to ask ourselves “is the way I am thinking and acting right now promoting my well-being?” And, if the answer is no, then we are not taking good enough care of ourselves.

None of us get this right all of the time, and effective self-care can be hard work. It is not a one-time experience - looking after ourselves is an on-going practice that requires us to keep showing up for ourselves time and time again.

This week, we are going to think a little more about self-care and address some of the common myths associated with it. But for now, take a look at this 2-minute video from Headspace, which is all about showing up for yourself and getting the basics right: Youtube: Small Ways to Practice Self-Care in Difficult Times | Andy Crisis Wisdom

Workout 137 - Despite the restrictions we have faced over the last year, it feels as though demands on our time have never been higher! And amongst all of this, we are being asked to take time to care for ourselves. Self-care feels like just another thing we have to carve out space for, which seems an impossible task at times. Suddenly, something that is meant to make us feel good becomes a chore.

Meaningful self-care can take up some time in our day, but it doesn’t have to.  Looking after ourselves better can be as simple as altering the way in which we are doing the things we already do. Treating ourselves with the same care and respect we would others is self-care in its purest form. Setting realistic expectations of ourselves and maintaining boundaries in our work life, home life, and our relationships are amongst the most powerful things we can do for our wellbeing - and aside from some initial thinking time, they take no space at all.

 Types of Selfcare v2

 

Workout 138 - We are finishing this week by addressing one of the biggest myths about self-care - that it looks the same for everyone. The idea that, in order to be looking after ourselves effectively, we need to be having bubble baths and doing yoga.

There is no denying that this is good stuff. But the truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to looking after our mental wellbeing. What works for one person, may not work for another. And forcing ourselves to do something just because we think it should be helpful, isn’t meaningful self-care (and often leaves us feeling more stressed than when we started!!).

Today’s workout is to take some time to reflect on what self-care looks like for you. There is no right or wrong here - if it feeds your physical and psychological wellbeing, then do it. It can be helpful to have a conversation about this with someone you trust - Whilst they can’t instruct you, they might be able to make some helpful suggestions. Our team are also on hand and happy to have these kinds of conversations. 

 That May work

Workout 139 - Olly olly oxen free is a phrase in outdoors children’s games that lets players who are hiding know they can come out into the open without losing the game. Today very much has that feel - of us being told that it is safe to come out into the open (at least a bit) and get a hairdresser’s appointment and pub table booked. Yet for some ‘olly olly oxen free’ doesn’t feel as safe as it might for others, just because someone’s  shouted it. As we’ve said before, some of us might not be ready, or are stuck with tricky thoughts and feelings that get in the way of us enjoying the new freedoms – and these thoughts and emotions influence how we act.

So at risk of repeating ourselves, take another look at the ‘choice point’ clip we shared a few weeks back. It’s one we use a lot in psychology and underscores a really important message, so it is worth repeating. And we hope it refreshes the confidence to come out into the open and be willing to learn to feel safe again, to enjoy what we want to with the people we’ve missed and yes – all the time  making room for those difficult thoughts and feelings.

 YouTube:The Choice Point: A Map for a Meaningful Life

Workout 140 - Whether we’re ready to step back into the world around us and plan to do all the things we’ve not been able to and see people we’ve missed, or not, once the initial wave has passed, then what. We know we want to take action, change a few things, but these don’t just happen spontaneously. They take thought and planning. Just because we’ve maybe identified our values – the kind of people we are/want to be – that doesn’t mean that we’ll automatically start living fulfilling lives. This takes action, albeit, action that is channelled by our values.

So today’s refreshing little exercise is from the Happiness Trap book by Russ Harris. Take a moment to think about what is important to you. As you look at the list below, ask yourself – ‘in which of these aspects of my life am I most out of touch with my values’. If there is more than one, try to consider ‘which area is the most important to me right now?’ 

  1. Family
  2. Health and body
  3. Important relationships
  4. Friendships
  5. Employment
  6. Education and personal development
  7. Recreation, fun and leisure
  8. Spirituality
  9. Community life
  10. Environment and nature

Now choose one and set a meaningful, immediate goal – one you can do almost straight away. For example, if one of your values is ‘loving partner’ – ask yourself what is the smallest, easiest thing I can do today that is consistent with this value – maybe send a text.

Whatever you do, make it specific and EASY! 

Workout 141 - There are a variety of ways to starting setting small goals and changes and there is a lot written about it in the popular media. What is talked about less often (if at all), is what to do if we get stuck starting or getting started and then stopping. All sorts of things get in the way. If we are struggled to get out the starting blocks, perhaps we’ve chosen the wrong activity or been over-ambitious. Stopping once we’ve got going is almost inevitable and the trick is to re-frame this as a lapse rather than a relapse. Imagine you are side stepping your way up a snowy hill and you slip back. You rarely slip all the way back to the bottom.

One technique that is incredibly useful in preparing for a failure to launch or a lapse is Implementation-intention Plans - ‘IMPS’ for short. To get started, make a written plan for each small step; how, when and where – take a look here - YouTube:Psychology and ELT - Implementation Intentions

But what the Youtubers don’t often cover is planning what recovery moves we can take if we slip back. The pro-golfer who hits it in the rough off the tee, already has a range of recovery strokes to get back on the fairway. Maybe we’ll get round to writing one because it’s incredibly simple and very powerful. And it’s this – write the recovery plan down in exactly this format

“If X happens, I will do Y”

So, if I start a couch to 5K and miss Wk. 4 because my child is ill, I will give myself permission to miss the whole week and will go back to Wk. 3 next week. Writing it down has been shown to help keep things in perspective and social psychology studies have shown this to be effective in successful recovery planning.

Workout 142 - For the past year, we’ve all longed for things “going back to normal.” Whilst we’re by no means “back to normal” yet, it certainly feels as though we have made some steps towards it. We’ve started seeing family and friends again, we ‘re back in the gym, and can sit outside a pub (providing we’ve not put away our winter thermals!) At work, we’re in the process of returning to our home teams and starting to get back to business as usual, giving us some much-needed breathing space.

But slowing down also makes space for reflection on this past year and to realise the toll it has taken. Space to feel that we might not be the same person we were before the pandemic. Space to fear we will never be the same again. Space to think “How do I come back from this?”

Recovery takes time and patience. It does not happen overnight. We cannot expect the cost of the last year to be fixed by a catch up with a friend in the garden or lunch outside a café. The last year has left scars that may take time to heal.  We humans are a resilient species, and we will come through this, as long as we afford ourselves the compassion we need. We will move forward. We will feel good again and may even grow from it all. Just give it time.

Workout 143 - Hello everyone. As we start to venture back out into the world over the next few weeks, taking tentative steps towards “normal,” we are inevitably going to come across the people who are “anti-lockdown,” those who don’t follow the guidance and those who might claim the whole thing is a hoax.

When you have lived the impact of the pandemic, seen the pain it has caused to our patients, their families, to our colleagues and our services; the dismissive views of others are excruciating. Frustration, anger, fear, and sadness are natural and valid reactions.

We can’t know what contributes to these views, and we cannot change them. We cannot control what others believe or say or do. And it is ok to feel angry about this. The issue is that focusing our efforts on being angry is tiring. We expend what little energy reserves we have left on something that makes us feel miserable.

Acknowledging feelings of anger is important, but we must try to remove ourselves from the struggle with them. Refocusing our attention on what is within our control and directing our energy into the things that nourish us will help.

What I can control

 

Workout 144 - Hello everyone. With some luck we’re starting to reconnect with friends. We have talked a lot about family and the effect of us all working for the NHS during this time on them. But we may not have talked specifically about friendships, which are some of the most important relationships we have, particularly with old friends. There’s a saying that we can always make new friends but can never make an old friend. Yet, we can sometimes take them for granted, thinking they’ll always be there and that it doesn’t matter how has gone by without being in touch or how awkward it might be to call out of the blue.

Old friends can: remind us of who we are, offer the intimacy of family without the pressure, and know straight away what makes us happy or cheer us up. These are the people we can openly disagree with and not fall out, or sit in silence with and it not be awkward. If you like, take a look at this longer piece that we usually recommend about the place of old friendships in our lives The school of life: Why Old Friends Matter

With us reflecting on what‘s important in our lives, our values, our work – old friends are worth reconnecting with, even if it is a bit awkward after all this time. As part of us taking committed action, consider giving it a go – get in touch with someone who you haven’t spoken to in ages - years - a decade even.  In the company of an old friend, we get to take stock of the journey we’ve been on.

Workout 145 - “It’s about time!” said a friend to another as they met in a park. To the observer it seemed like a light-hearted rebuke for the other being late, but the other smiled knowing it referred to them not having seen each other face-face for so long. Amidst the tangle of prams and dogs there was the warmest ‘elbow pump’ you could imagine.

There is something special about close friendships – ones that develop their own language and slang and banter, ones where both parties instantly know the meaning of what is said from the context of the relationship or situation, particularly as what is actually said is different and not obvious to any passing observer.

Old friends connect us to who we are underneath our jobs, roles and responsibilities. New ones give us the opportunity to be who we are now. We need both in our lives - never more so than now. True friendships whether old or new, are about having people with whom we can be vulnerable, with whom we can share what’s been really happening to us over the past year and how we’re really feeling now. Have a look at this short clip from the School of Life which talks about this more TheSchoolOfLife: Friendship & Vulnerability

It’s important not to overthink it, but we all know how we feel when we’re with our friends… so take the time to get back out there in the ways we can right now.

Workout 146 - Thinking about friends – losing them, not knowing how to help, seeing them suffer, wondering where to start (again!) – might not necessarily be a joyful experience, but instead gives rise to a range of emotions - sadness, confusion, frustration. In any relationship the only aspect we genuinely have any control over is the way we behave. We don’t have any over how our friends think, feel, or act. Although we can have an impact depending on how we ourselves behave and the actions we take. Our responses - actions - have the best chance of influencing our friends and supporting them, if they align with our values.

Listen and understand your friends if they’re suffering, struggling, upset. The best clip to help is still this one by Brene Brown. YouTube:Brene Brown on Empathy   

Yes, we’ve used it before - lots - but sometimes if something’s worth doing - it’s worth over-doing.

Workout 147 - Over the last couple of weeks, we may have started those long overdue catch ups - a drink with friends, a BBQ with the in-laws, coffee with Mum and Dad. We’ve spent the last few months wishing to see these people; to catch up with them in the flesh, rather than through a screen. We have built the reunion up in our mind; “it is going to be amazing!”

But sometimes it doesn’t feel quite right. We notice feelings of anxiety and unease. Maybe we are aware that we aren’t quite the same person we were before.  We might feel we don’t know what to say, and conversation becomes stilted. We start to question, “have we forgotten how to socialise?” Maybe we feel there isn’t much to talk about because, in reality, not much has happened. We get hooked on the thought that ‘this should feel amazing,’ which leaves us feeling disappointed and upset.

Getting hooked on these thoughts means we can easily overlook what is actually the most important part. What we have missed over the last year is not ‘talking’ to one another - we have been able to do that. What we have missed is being able to ‘be’ with one another. And so, we need to unhook from our thoughts about how that reunion should look, and instead just be present. If there is unease, notice it, sit with it, maybe even name it. If there is silence, embrace it and simply bask in the physical presence of someone you love and have missed so dearly. We will get there.

This 2 minute video from Headspace talks a little more about staying present: YouTube: Headspace;The Importance of Staying Present / Andy Crisis Wisdom

Workout 148 - We’ve spent the week focusing on friendships- the importance of developing, maintain and rekindling them - but most importantly, taking what action we can, that is in-line with our values.  Here’s our last post on the topic, which from your feedback, many have enjoyed. It’s a bit of a longer read this one - and a bit Americanised as it’s from the New York Times - but we think it really captures the essence of good friendships. New York Times: How to Maintain Friendship    

Workout 149 - This week is National Gardening Week, so we thought we would pave the way with a metaphor. Imagine we bring home a new houseplant - a nice Swiss Cheese or a Spider Plant. After a few weeks we start to notice it is not growing well. The leaves are drooping and turning yellow-ish, and the whole thing just looks a bit sad. What would we do?

Would we blame the plant? Would we criticise it, saying “You stupid plant! What on earth is wrong with you?” No, of course we wouldn’t. We would look for the reasons why the plant is not growing well. We would look at its environment; Is it getting enough light? Is it too cold? We would consider how we care for it; More water? Less water? Some fertilizer?

We do this because we know that, once the conditions are right, the plant will flourish.

Yet, when it comes to us, when we are not flourishing, we instantly turn the blame on ourselves. We tell ourselves we are “weak,” “stupid,” and we should “get a grip.” But, just like with our houseplant, blaming ourselves will not get us anywhere. In fact, it just makes us feel worse! What might happen if we treated ourselves like a houseplant. What if, instead of instantly jumping to self-blame and criticism, we sought to understand ourselves. What if we asked “what do I need right now, in order to grow,” and “how can I care for myself better?” Perhaps, just perhaps, we too would slowly start to bloom.

Plant

Workout 150 -  Over the past year, more of us have embraced our ‘green fingers’ to fill time in lockdown. From planting bulbs to growing our own veg; ‘Gardener’s World’ has had its highest viewing figures for a decade. When the world is threatening and chaotic, and we are feeling stressed and exhausted, why do we find solace in spending time outside?

Getting out in the garden can tap into two emotional systems that help us to balance stress. Firstly, nature brings a sense of soothing; encouraging us to be present and engage with our senses. It is as if the quiet calm of nature is contagious, leaving behind calm in the mind. Secondly, it can meet our need for drive and a sense of achievement; the feeling we get when we learn something new or when we eat our first home grown tomato.

Not all of us live in the rolling hills or have access to a garden. If we live in the city, house plants and window boxes are great places to start. There is even evidence that you can benefit from nature without leaving your sofa, with meditations like this: You Tube - Sense of Soothing

Whilst we are not going to cleanse ourselves of the trauma of the pandemic by planting bulbs or growing chillies in the spare room, alongside time and self-care, it can support the gradual healing process. 

Workout 151 -  As we start to recover and consider the future, we will encounter what we have lost. We wrote fat length on this some weeks ago, but as we look to regain freedoms, we feel that things are not quite the same; somethings are missing or feel strange.

Throughout our lives we are taught how to acquire things, not what to do when we lose them. If we think about it, this happens progressively from infancy, gaining parental approval, gifts as part of festivities, good exam results at school. We often have little experience of being taught how to cope when we lose them. In fact, we sometimes learn ‘not to talk about it’.
As we’ve said before, loss is inevitable. But loss does not need to be on a grand scale - someone or something important. A series of small losses adds up and if we were to take the time to explore it; feel it; study it, feeling that things are ‘not quite feeling the same’ probably come from our losses.
Acknowledging these is one of the first steps of recovery. Take time to reflect on what has happened over the past 15 months, rest, have slower days when we can, let’s not expect too much of ourselves. We are psychologically convalescing, and this takes time. So be patient and all will be resolved. b133fdba5382d2db8ffb4fc27fbc8f18 v2

Workout 152 - Recovery takes time and often, just one step at a time, as we ease back into some of our old freedoms. We often use an image of stepping-stones – just like the ones by the suspension bridge at Hebden - when we work through progressions with patients. It’ll be well known to many of you (see the photo below). The other side of the river is where we want to get to; the stones are the steps we need to take to get there. Some jumps between stones are wider than others, take more time to plan, take more patience to get ready to jump. If we falter, we only get wet – we don’t go all the way back to the start like snakes and ladders. There is a huge jump in the middle of these stones, where many have indeed, fallen in. 

Now here is an inspiration from a colleague who wrote to us for some advice and who has kindly allowed us to share her experience of helping her close friend start to ‘recover’.

"At first, she only sat outside in her garden for, maybe, 5 minutes. Panic set in and we had to go inside. We progressed at a snail’s pace and she made it to the bottom of her street.   

On Saturday she made a giant leap and we sat outside in the pouring rain at a new shopping complex near where she lives. The assistant inside very kindly came and put up an umbrella and I have to say we received some very odd looks from passers-by. It only lasted about 20 minutes but the relief she said she felt at not feeling like a prisoner was amazing. We’re going to the supermarket next, and hopefully to her hairdresser at the end of May. Tiny steps are required here, and I admit when I got home and told my husband I was emotional - like when your child takes a first step. I don't know how long it’s going to take her, and time is not a problem, but one thing I do know is that my friend of over 30 years is coming back to us and the feeling is great!”

As we ease into our different worlds, be patient and kind to yourself, your family and your friends. For some this will come quickly and naturally. For others it’ll need breaking down into ‘tiny steps’ and support.

Enjoy what you can of the weekend. With all good wishes…

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Workout 153 -  This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is ‘Nature and the Environment.’ We actually covered some ideas on this a couple of weeks ago, and so instead of repeating ourselves, today we would like to share with you this poem from the clever folk at All On The Board.

If you would like to know more about Mental Health Awareness Week, then take a look here - Mental Health Awareness Week Mental Health Awareness Week

Workout 154 - So it’s official, from Monday we are allowed to greet our nearest and dearest with a hug, rather than an awkward wave from a distance. It conjures up images of that iconic opening scene from the film Love Actually- a heart-warming montage of real people, friends and family, reunited at Heathrow airport. 

Whilst our reunions will not have a Hugh Grant voice over, like those in Love Actually, this is big news. Hugging is a fundamental form of human social interaction; vital for connection and closeness. In times when we feel sad, frightened and unsure, a hug has been shown to release soothing chemicals into our brain that can directly reduce our sense of threat and anxiety. 

A hug from our mum, our brother, our nan, our best friend won’t take away the pain of the last year, undo what we have lost or make up for what we have missed. But, for some, it’s a very much longed for step in the healing process. 

So to those self-confessed huggers out there - enjoy (safely, of course)! For those of us who are not quite ready for physical embrace, that’s really ok. Maybe some of us never liked hugs, and are frankly happy for the excuse not to! What’s important is that we go at our own pace right now and respect that we may all be at different points along this road to recovery.   

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Workout 155 - The year of social seclusion is coming to an end - well, at least for now. Since the beginning of the lockdowns, many of us have struggled through the pandemic. And we’ve spoken a lot about it in these posts over the months - how to cope with it, how not to struggle with it, how to be ‘in the moment’ and enjoy simpler pleasures. For lots of us, music helped. Yet it’s something we often take for granted as a coping strategy.  It can match our mood or change it. It can block out things that are painful to see or hear. It can soothe us, when we need calmed.

This link is to an article by Graeme Thomson who considers the changing soundscape to the pandemic, how many of us have adapted to a slower, quieter, more contemplative way of living The Year of Living Distantly: Songs For the End of Silence – Byline Times

All that is back on offer now may just not be what we want anymore. We’ve adapted to the “newly available silence”, where we listen more closely to what had been drowned out before.  In the article, Graeme remembers a band called The Blue Nile, whose ambient songs have only been shared in four albums in 25 years.  When asked about it, the singer, Paul Buchanan, spoke about the wider purpose of making music … “Silence is perfection, he said.  “How do you improve on that?”

And like the silence the lockdowns brought, we might want to cling on to some of it for a while longer.  We can still find it in great music. BylineTimes masthead

Workout 156 -  Hello everyone, Remember the mantra that has served us well so far - ‘take control of what we can, stop struggling with what we can’t’? As the release from lockdown hits it's second phase, and we can meet friends and relatives indoors, it might all feel so familiar and yet strange at the same time. We can sit in the same café as before where nothing seems like it has changed, yet everything has changed. Are we really allowed to sit inside? Can we really go to the pub again?

We might be more apprehensive, or our friends might be, and we need to be patient - with ourselves and with them. For some, the changes will be like water off a duck’s back, they’ll glide straight back into it.  For others, it will take time. But being patient is within our control – take time to get used to being back in these environments again and be patient with others who are struggling with it.

But most importantly, whatever we do over the next few days and weeks, really focus on the moments to savour and enjoy!WA5W5681 v2

Workout 157 -  With some luck we’ll have some better weather soon to get us more in the mood of summer.  Like us, many of you will be planning a well-earned holiday, despite the ongoing uncertainties of where we can go and what we will actually be able to do once we’re there.  The thing is that even if we’re not going away, or going far, getting a physical and psychological rest and a chance to recover is what is key.  But it’s not just a break from work.  Our daily routines can be packed from the moment we get up, to the moment we go to bed, and leaving these behind for a while is also important. 

Holidays matter. Taking time away and reconnecting with friends and loved ones is very much taking control of what we can. 

It can't be any worse than last year right? 

Holidays matter

Workout 158 - Every day the confusion about what we can do, can’t do continues. Should I go on holiday? Should we just book something in the UK even if it’s going to rain? Should we plan any visits to see our families? All the while the media talk of a third wave threat despite our prolific vaccination programmes. It seems these things are just not going to go away. 

So, we have to continue to work hard at letting them be present without struggling with them. Remember the ‘Struggle Switch’? This was an idea from Russ Harris, we shared a while back. Take a moment to have another look - The Struggle Switch - By Dr. Russ Harris - YouTube 

‘Focusing on the present’ – ‘being in the moment’ - and taking control of what we can – is still a really effective way of coping with uncertainty. Let’s try to put our energy into taking control of what we can ‘in the present moment’ – truly being with our families and friends where we can. Use the time to reconnect.

Enjoy what you can of the bank holiday weekend. 

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Workout 159 -  We want to start today’s Pause Button by sharing with you a popular proverb: 

One evening, a Grandfather was teaching his young grandchildren about the internal battles each one of us faces: “There are two wolves fighting inside each of us” he said. “One wolf is vengeful, angry, resentful, self-pitying and scared … the other wolf is compassionate, joyful, generous, kind, faithful, hopeful and caring.

"The children thought about this for a moment or so and one asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled a knowing smile and replied, “The one you feed.”

Many of us will be facing an internal battle right now. The sunshine, the bank holiday and new found freedoms bring vitality, joy and connection. But recent news updates bring uncertainty and an all-too-familiar anxiety. And this is in addition to the lingering sadness, anger and resentment many of us are experiencing as a result of the last year.

This short clip builds upon this proverb and helps us think about how we can use mindfulness to better understand our wolves: How Mindfulness Empowers Us: An Animation Narrated by Sharon Salzberg

We cannot control what the next few weeks will bring - but we can choose which wolf we feed. We always have the option to choose compassion, to treat ourselves and those around us with kindness and understanding. 

Workout 160 -  We all know how important it is to rest but, chances are, most of us aren’t getting enough of it. Maybe the issue is time or demand, but maybe it’s something else. Maybe it has to do with our relationship with rest. 

Ask yourself “How do I feel when I rest?” For many of us, the answer will be “guilty.” Perhaps we notice ourselves getting pulled into thoughts such as “I shouldn’t book that week off,” or “I’m being lazy.”  When our sense of worth comes from doing and being busy, resting can be incredibly difficult. 

Too many of us are now living on a burnout rollercoaster - giving, crashing, giving, crashing. But the truth is we need energy to make decisions, to concentrate on the task at hand, and to rationalise anxious thoughts. When we are not rested, even the most simple of questions can tip us over the edge (like crying over trying to decide what to make for dinner - we’ve all been there!

Next time you feel guilty for taking time to rest, try this simple reframe; Imagine you are literally plugging yourself into the wall - just like you would your phone. You are recharging your battery, replacing what you’ve used up, storing up energy for what is to come.

We need to start respecting our need for rest.

Wednadfk

 

 

Workout 161 - The NSPCC held their ‘Childhood Day’ last week, and the theme was play. Those of us who have children, know children, or were once children (that’s all of us then), will know play is vital for kids. Not only is it fun, play literally shapes a child’s brain; it boosts creativity and problem solving, as well as developing social and emotional skills.  

But this got us thinking; what about us grown-ups? Do we not need play anymore? 

Over the last 18 months, our lives have been more stressful, more “go-go-go,” than ever before. We’re tired, many of us are burnt out. Play might have a part in balancing this out. Studies have shown that play is far from a waste of time for adults; in fact, it energises us and floods us with feel-good chemicals. It boosts focus, creativity, and innovation. Play also forces us to live in the present moment, and can help us connect with those around us. Play offers an island of respite in the ocean of purpose and responsibility.

Play will look different for everyone. It might be throwing a ball around, or dancing in the kitchen while tea cooks. It might be painting, playing video games, a good old board game or building Lego (that’s what David Beckham does apparently). It might be as simple as jumping in a puddle! How we play is not important - What matters is that we are doing something enjoyable, for no specific purpose. Doing something, just because.

And it doesn’t need to be confined to outside of work. Could we be more productive if we incorporated a few minutes of play into our lunch breaks, our morning huddles or the start of meetings? Something to think about…

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Workout 162 - With the number of cases down, the vaccine programme on-going and the world opening up (albeit slightly delayed), why do we still feel rubbish? 

In the early months of the pandemic, we were operating on “surge capacity” - a combination of mental and physical resources we drew on for short term survival. The problem is, we can only run on this for so long. And what goes up must come down.

None of us expected the down to hit so hard, or for so long. But, if we ask ourselves; “how long have we felt stressed for?” A year? 18 months? Longer? Is it realistic to expect to have bounced back already? The pandemic isn’t even over yet. The destruction of Covid has brought is on-going, and will be for some time. There is no guidebook on how to cope with a global pandemic. We are all trying to move forward, by trial and error, clutching at whatever makes us feel good.

There is some wisdom that might help on this uncharted path.  Firstly, we need to accept that that the way we feel right now, is the way we feel. Tired, burnt out, lacking motivation; it’s ok, you’re in good company. It’s ok to expect less from ourselves for a while. Secondly, whatever our Covid story looks like, we need to look back on it with compassion (This 5 min clip helps us think more about this: Self-Compassion-Learn How to Face your Flaws with Love and Courage - YouTube).

We need to acknowledge that we have all suffered; none of us got away unscathed. Last but not least, we need to make a commitment to ourselves now to take steps towards wellbeing.

To allow ourselves the time to engage in things and be with people that nourish us, and help us to make some unsteady step towards recovery.

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Workout 163 - We would hopefully forgive ourselves for feeling confused right now. Almost every day there are mixed-messages, the rate is going up but opening up the rest of society looks good for 19 July, foreign holidays are a no go until 2022 but if you’ve had both vaccines you might be able to travel without having to self-isolate. We don’t know whether to plan ahead or stay put.

Of course we need to plan ahead or process what’s happened to us in the past. But living in the past or dwelling on the future too much can leave us feeling overwhelmed. And so to balance this out we need to just have a rest from it all - and focus on being ‘in the present moment’.

‘Focusing on the present’ – ‘being in the moment’ - and taking control of what we can – is a really effective way of coping. Try to put energy into taking control of what we can ‘in the present moment’ – by truly being with our families wherever we can, being with patients in the hospital, completing that business case you’ve got to write, going for a walk, and enjoying the sunshine.

focusing

Workout 164 - Every day the confusion about what we can do and can’t do continues. Even the weather is confused! And so it might feel especially hard to be in the present moment right now. But that’s the point, being mindful is about being present in the moments we find ourselves in, not as we’ve said before, on a beach facing a beautiful sunset. It’s about connecting with the here and now. 

Let’s go back to the Jedi Master of Mindfulness, Russ Harris. His explanations about what mindfulness actually is are so succinct. We’ve used this clip before, but it is worth repeating https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_gXW9bo3uQ&t 

As always, enjoy what you can of the weekend. 

Mindfullness 

Workout 165 -  Despite being in a better situation than we were 6 months ago, there’s no denying we are still facing uncertainty. And so, we can forgive ourselves for often focusing on the negatives. Well-meaning friends, family and colleagues will tell us to “look on the bright side” but this is much easier said than done. Especially because (as we covered in a previous PB) our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to danger, stress and threat.

We can’t control the hard-wiring of our brains (and neither would we want to really - after all, our sensitivity to threat and danger has proved pretty handy for survival). But what we can do is learn to direct our attention onto things that will be more helpful day-to-day.

Imagine our attention is like a spotlight on a stage. We can use it to home in on certain things whilst leaving other things out of focus. We can redirect our attention onto what matters most in any moment - that positive feedback from a patient, having a laugh over a meal with friends, reading a bedtime story to our kids. We bring this stuff to the forefront, whilst leaving the fear of cancelled trips and postponed family get-togethers backstage. This isn’t about ignoring the bad stuff, or pretending it’s not happening - we are just not investing all our attention, our time, our energy into thinking about it.

And, of course, the trusty Russ Harris has a nice 3-min clip which really brings this metaphor to life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBPPr1hsbMM&t=85s

 

Workout 166 - It is all about awareness - we need to notice when our spotlight is getting pulled in unhelpful directions. To do this, we need to check in with ourselves throughout the day, making note of when it happens. It might be helpful to set reminders on your phone, or put a note on your desk to do this.

We can then note where our spotlight wanders to; whether it’s worries about school bubbles bursting or a cancelled holiday, or the judgements we make about ourselves. We may start to see patterns of when we are most vulnerable to this. Often it is as simple as when we have had a bad night’s sleep, we’ve not eaten well, or when we have neglected some much needed ‘me time.’ Once we know our triggers, we can start to take control. 

Meditation can help too. Short, simple exercises like this can help to train our minds and leave us feeling more in control of our attention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2awoUfCwXQs.

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Workout 167 - As if our jobs aren’t stressful enough, we’re hearing that staff, particularly front-liners, are really struggling with some people voicing the views that Covid is an international conspiracy theory or that the vaccines are an attempt by the State to implant tracking devices in our bodies. The basis of approaching a conversation is - as you will know dear PB readers - not to struggle, confront or persuade otherwise. We cannot control what other people think… and persuasion DOES NOT WORK (you only need to have teenage kids to know this!). However, whilst doing nothing doesn’t feel very satisfactory, people are entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, and our job might simply be to listen and understand in the first instance. 

When people feel listened to, they feel understood, and this does lead to greater engagement and likelihood of following medical advice. There is a really useful technique to help with this - it’s called the elicit-provide-elicit cycle in giving information. Rather than confronting people with facts and figures, we need to firstly engage them in thinking about the topic by asking, for example, ‘what do you already know about vaccines?’ and eliciting their views. We listen and then provide a specific piece of information about what we want to share- providing - and then elicit from them what they have understood we have said. 

This cycle makes information-giving interactive and feel more like a conversation than a lecture. The really important part is to get people thinking about a topic before we start talking with them about it. When we are thinking about something we are much more likely to remember more about what new information is shared as ‘memory is the residue of thought’

If you find yourself in this position, or indeed any position where you have to instruct or impart new information, do give it a go. Many of the team use this technique when teaching communication skills and we’ve had some pretty good feedback so far.

Providing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workout 168 - So, it is confirmed - Next Monday is ‘Freedom Day.’ The day that (almost) all remaining restrictions will be lifted. The day we have wished for, the day we have waited for. The day when, after 18 months, things go ‘back to normal.’ 

But there is a mismatch between this message and the reality we face. We only have to flick the news on or read this week’s ‘Start the Week’ to know numbers are on the rise. We are hearing of more and more people getting ‘pinged’ by the NHS app, school bubbles bursting, and we of course need to remain vigilant with ‘Hands, Face and Space’ on hospital sites in order to protect our vulnerable patients.  

It is all a bit unclear. It is all a bit uncertain. It is all painfully familiar. And with this comes a whole host of mixed feelings. In a time that should feel positive and hopeful, anxiety and fear are the reality for many of us.  

We have shared the FACE COVID framework at various points throughout the pandemic, and we feel it is just as applicable now as it has always been. If you have 5 minutes now, or later, we would really recommend reminding yourself of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oojLBsem978

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Workout 169 - We are having a proper British summer aren’t we? One minute it’s grey and miserable, and the next, blazing sunshine. Living in the UK, we learn not to trust the forecast. We know that we cannot control the weather, and we certainly can’t make it fit with our plans. Realistically, all we can do is make a contingency plan and prepare to protect ourselves as best we can for whatever the day might throw at us - which usually involves packing both our sunscreen, as well as an umbrella!

This next phase of the pandemic seems as unpredictable as the weather. As restrictions outside the hospital lift, there is a sense of needing to ‘brace’ ourselves - but we’re not quite sure what against. There is a need to prepare to be unprepared, again. 

We can’t control what happens next. What we can control is how we care for ourselves, and each other. We can control how we protect ourselves against the next potential wave that none of us have the energy for. We can make contingency plans - “what will I do if x happens?” We can draw on our experience of the last 18 months to think about what will help us to cope. We can (metaphorically) pack our sunscreen, as well as our umbrella. What’s in your coping umbrella? And is there anything you think others might find helpful? Let us know - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net 

 Umbrella

 

Workout 170 - Over the last week or so, things might have seemed a little bizarre: glorious weather, people on holiday, beer gardens and restaurants open – versus increasing Covid cases and hospital admissions. Throw in some gloom about self-isolating, summer childcare, waiting-list backlogs and pay disputes and set this against the joy (for some) of night clubs, summer festivals and concerts being back on, it’s little wonder many of us find it difficult to switch off and relax. But we must keep trying to find ways. 

Stepping back from the workplace to physically and cognitively engage in something else can be as refreshing as a holiday away.  We need to try to reframe what we previously perceived as engaging in simple ‘everyday activities’ away from work, as our opportunity to rest.  What is key is active mental engagement in a totally different topic. 

Controlling what we can at the moment means taking Committed Action. We’ve spoken lots about this when we’ve been in the eye of the storm. And the smallest of committed actions can have the largest of impacts as long as we stay in the here and now and find ways to enjoy it. 

Who knows what the autumn will bring?  So for now, rest and be thankful and as always enjoy what you can of the summer

 Mindfullness

Workout 171 - While rules and restrictions remain crystal clear in the hospital, things in the outside world are a lot hazier. What we do and don’t do is now up to us to judge, and it is likely that we are all singing different tunes when it comes to how much freedom we relish. And, sometimes we will come across people who are not only out of tune with us, but are listening to a different song altogether. 

We have been living with a higher level of threat for a long time now and this is not something we can just “switch off” that easily. So when we come across someone who holds a different view to us, it can trigger that threat reaction leaving us with anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness, guilt. And, as caring professionals, when these feelings are directed towards our colleagues and our patients, it can raise a painful conflict within us. 

Embracing the freedom may feel easy, or it may feel uneasy - there is no right or wrong. And we can guarantee that there are plenty of people who are singing the exact same tune as you, even if it doesn’t feel that way. These differences do not make us different or weird, reckless or overcautious; they make us human. However, if these feelings are getting in the way of you living your life how you would like to, then it might be helpful to speak to someone.

As always, our team are here and happy to help - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net.

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Workout 172 - When we see people we care about struggling with things, often what they need in the first place is a good listening to. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed in the moment. Being a good listener involves nothing more than keeping the focus on the things that person talks about (rather than, say, share our own experiences for example).

Today’s exercise is simple. Just take a few moments to digest this list of things that are important in a having a good chat.

If someone has taken the opportunity to ‘talk’, then it’s important to make it as positive an experience as possible. This is sort of what we do as psychologists when we start therapy – that Conversation 1 leaves the person feeling listened to, valued, and supported so that they return for Conversation 2.

We hope you are enjoying the summer. What happens in Autumn is probably still out of our control, so remember to focus on what you can.

Mental Health

Workout 173 - We know that things are really busy in the hospital right now. But chances are things are also feeling busy outside too. Since coming out of lockdown and with the world opening up, it feels as though there has been an expectation to “make up for lost time” - making plans, going away, seeing everyone we have missed. 

Of course, doing this stuff is important and does boost our mental health. But, right now, it can also feel exhausting. If you find yourself missing certain aspects of lockdown - like the enforced rest or spending more time at home - then you are not alone. 

We live in a world that has become increasingly “go go go.” We are expected to be always striving for the next thing, living in a constant state of drive. Why are we like this? Well as usual, Russ Harris explains it well in a short fun clip - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv6HkipQcfA  

So how do we balance this out? We need to be prioritising  periods in which we can slow down, recharge, reconnect - a state we often call “rest and digest.” This might mean scheduling in a few quiet days off, giving yourself permission to say “no” to social plans and engaging in activities that energise you. The image below outlines a few ideas - it is not exhaustive and so we would love to hear how you plan to “rest and digest” - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net

Rest and Digest

 

Workout 174 - Hello everyone.  Regular PB readers will know we always sign off with our Staff Support email. We do this to remind you who you can contact if you would like to speak to someone. But, we know that the vast majority of these conversations happen on a much more informal basis - with friends, peers, colleagues and managers. 

We are big advocates of this - whether it is a natter over a cuppa or a chat grabbed in a corridor, the more we are talking to and supporting one another, the better. Not only will it make a difference in that moment, but it will help to feed a culture where it is ok to look after ourselves - where feeling valued and supported by one another is the norm, not the exception. 

It can be daunting though, and it is easy to worry that we won’t have the answers. As a rule, us healthcare professionals like to give solutions, to put things right. But when it comes to having a conversation with a colleague who is struggling, the solution is rarely the most important part.

 

Simply sitting with someone, sharing the load, acknowledging that “this is really hard” or “things are tough right now” is the most powerful thing any of us can do. Making sure they don’t feel alone with their struggles requires no special training, just a willingness to listen. This short clip puts it really nicely - we’ve used it before, but it’s worth a re-watch - Youtube: Brene Brown, Empathy  

 Empathy

Workout 175 - Hospitals are full of emotions; sometimes wonderful and joyous, but often painful and tragic. Patients and staff alike go through both triumph and trauma between these four walls.

This rollercoaster of emotions is something we all face, no matter what our job title or pay grade. Day after day of highs and lows. And something many of us have in common is the expectation that we should be unaffected, that we should be able to just “get on with it.” After all “it’s just part of the job” right?

Take a few moments now to read and digest the quote below. Reflect on what it means to you and ask yourself “Am I expecting the impossible of myself?”

It is ok to be affected by the work we do. We’re here if you want to talk about it - leedsth-tr.covidstaffsupport@nhs.net.

Expectation

 

Workout 176 - With autumn and winter approaching and Covid numbers rising, it is ok to be feeling a bit wobbly.  It’s that all too familiar feeling of uncertainty. If you read “Start the Week” you will know that in response, the trust have modelled for the best, worst and mid-case scenarios. Even if the plan for worst case scenario doesn’t need to be mobilised, it is reassuring to have one. This is because making plans for potential eventualities can help us feel in control of a situation that is largely out of our control. 

We can apply the same approach to ourselves and our wellbeing over the coming months. What might our best, worst and mid-case scenarios be, and how might we plan for them? We might call this our ‘Wellness Plan’ and the questions below can help to get us started: 

  • What helps me to stay well at work? What helps me to sustain my energy?
  • What triggers or pressures might I face in the coming months?
  • What has helped in the past when things have been stressful or difficult?
  • What are early the warning signs that I am starting to struggle?
  • What can other people do to support me? Who do I feel safe to go to?
  • What can I do if I feel I can’t cope? What support can I access?

It can be helpful to write down your Wellness Plan and keep it somewhere safe for when you might need it. It might be something you want to keep private, or you might find it helpful to share with family, friends, colleagues or managers.