What is 'NHS in Mind'?
With the staff of the ‘NHS in Mind' Slee Parrish, an experienced Senior NHS Nurse and qualified Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, together with Alex James, a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist and Mindfulness Teacher, have put together a set of free resources for members of staff to access and use to help them look after their mental health and well-being.
With the large number of patients expected to need treatment in the coming months NHS staff are going to be working round the clock. The psychological and physical effects on our workforce are going to be huge with high levels of anxiety, stress and fatigue being at the forefront. The inspiration behind this project is Slee's passion to show support and help her colleagues in anyway she can.
These easy-to-access, short interventions and exercises will help colleagues through what is expected to be an incredibly difficult time. Slee and Alex have hand picked this selection of interventions specifically with our NHS in mind. Practitioners across different fields successfully use them with clients who experience anxiety, stress and panic.
The following 8 techniques are designed to help NHS staff alleviate and combat high anxiety, panic and fatigue. Included are tutorial videos, recorded exercises and YouTube links to ensure staff have the tools they need at their fingertips at any point during the day.
Why do these exercises?
At times when we are so busy, anxious and stressed it is vital to do exercises like these.
When we are experiencing fear, anxiety and stress our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode. This ‘threat’ state is preparing us to either fight or run away, sending more blood to the muscles and narrowing our attention. However, it is also turning off ‘non essential’ functions, one of those being the ‘thinking brain’. We need every part of the brain working for us at times like these so we can follow correct procedures and stay safe with our PPE etc.
Doing these exercises helps turn off the fight-or-flight response restoring us to a calm and rational state, re-engaging the brain and helping us to think clearly and stay safe!
NOTICE 5 THINGS
This is a simple exercise to help centre yourself and connect with your environment. Practise it throughout the day, on break or on the way to work, anytime you find yourself getting caught up in intrusive thoughts and feelings.
Pause for a moment... look around, and notice five things that you can see... listen carefully, and notice five things you can hear... lastly, notice five things you can feel in contact with your body.
3 MINUTE BREATHING SPACE
The 3 Minute Breathing Space is a brief practice intended to be used when our thoughts or mood spiral in a negative direction. You might think of it it as an hourglass, going from a wide perspective of awareness to a more focused one and then back out expanding your awareness. It can be used as much as you like perhaps once every hour, you can use it at work, at home, on a bus or any time you might need to restore some degree of balance, resilience and self compassion.
A SHORT MEDITATION ON THE BREATH
This short breathing meditation is an exercise in focusing our attention on our breathing. You will notice during this exercise that the mind wanders away from the focus on the breath to thoughts, perhaps something that happened during the day, or something you need to face tomorrow.
With practise, we can develop a greater awareness of our breathing and use it skilfully to help create a different relationship with our thoughts and help us deal with stress, anxiety and negative emotions.
PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is an evidence-based method of deep relaxation developed in the 1930’s and has been widely used to counter the effects of stress and anxiety.
It is based upon the simple practice of tensing, or tightening, one muscle group at a time followed by a relaxation phase with release of the tension. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a straightforward technique to learn and requires only 10 minutes to 20 minutes per day to practise.
EGO STRENGTHENING HYPNOSIS
Hypnosis is a state of pleasant relaxation in which we become more responsive to positive suggestions. It is not like being asleep and definitely NOT a state of mind control or some kind of trance. You cannot be made to do anything against your will. On the contrary, you must want to accept suggested ideas and actively imagine responding to experience their effects. The idea of being ‘under somebody else's power’ stems from movies, cartoons and comedy stage hypnosis.
Ego-strength is universally accepted as a significant predictor of psychotherapeutic success (Kernberg, et al.). In this context ‘ego’ does NOT refer to a sense of arrogance or self-importance but more an individual’s overall adaptability and personal resourcefulness when it comes to facing and dealing with their problems.
Find a quiet space, relax, think positively and immerse yourself in this 20 minute exercise.
Do not watch or listen to this material whilst driving or operating machinery or where it is not safe for you to close your eyes and fully relax.