Connection, community and collaboration are essential for best outcomes in healthcare work. Drawing inspiration from thought leaders and research that advocates for a collective, compassionate and courageous response to peer support, this blog conceptualises a unique approach to collective care. How can we develop and support each other through creative expression and networks that hold us with a strong back, soft front, wild heart and clear mind for the wellbeing of our clients and our own sustainability in the work?
In this NAIDOC Week I am taking inspiration from Indigenous Healers and their Healing Practices by unpacking some of the key features from the social and emotional wellbeing practices of First Nations people. Some of these features are familiar to me through a white lens. Others are not. Either way, I am aware that my lens is likely to miss important elements. However, being aware of the need to clarify these may help me to best support First Nations clients.
The late Robert Hall was an American psychiatrist and lay Buddhist priest who worked to integrate Gestalt theory with practices of embodiment and meditation. Hall was also an author and poet. Take your time to sit with these words to consider how they land with you. What emerges in your thoughts and body? What is your felt sense? What images are evoked?
In preparing for the two hour masterclass that I am offering in June, I have been enjoying a process of research and reading. In this blog, I'm happy to share the eight key texts that will inform this dive into self compassion, embodied empathy and boundaries for health workers. If these pique your interest, take a look in your local library or bookstore. Or, better yet, join us at the masterclass on Thursday June 15 for an immersive, nourishing and stimulating deep dive into these topics.
With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, I'm thinking about the importance of comfort. What are the songs or music that you turn to when you need some comfort? When I asked people in my community this question, they generously shared their favourites. I have compiled these into two lists: one for songs and another for music. Music is a very personal thing - I hope these songs and music will invite you to listen and be comforted, or if these pieces are not for you, to create you own comfort playlist.
In their wonderfully accessible book, 'Burnout: solve your stress cycle', sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski take us on a delightful romp through all things related to stress, burnout and 'solving your stress cycle' - quite a feat given the subject matter! The key messages this book are really helpful in understanding how we can best support ourselves, manage stress and work through the emotional exhaustion that is so huge for many right now. So what are the four key factors in managing our stress response?
'Stress' has become a ubiquitous concept and term, bandied about with (ironically) careless abandon: 'I'm so stressed'; 'He really stressed me out'; 'I've got to stop being so stressed'. We talk about stress all the time, but what exactly is stress? What are the differences between acute stress and chronic stress? And why does it matter?
Finger paints and worker wellbeing?! There is now so much more recognition of vicarious trauma, moral injury, empathic strain, burnout and other vicarious risks of helping work. But many do not know that there are also protective factors that help to mitigate these risks, and bring us strength, hope, inspiration and joy. Understanding of these concepts and connection to our felt experience is crucial for a healthy and sustainable career.
Art and music have whispered, wailed and shaken into us the secrets of what it is to be human ever since we have had the ability to create as a species. In today’s busy world, too many of us are turning away from connecting with ourselves at alarming rates. In the process we are losing connection with our essence: our tender core that is numbed from hurt, exhaustion and pain. How can artistry sing us back into connection with our true selves? What can music and art show us about sitting with numinosity to find presence and wellbeing?
When we are burnt out it is hard to take the steps we need to begin to recover. In this blog you will find short summaries and links to podcasts on burnout. There is a range of information here from different professions, including doctors, naturopaths, psychologists and therapists. Understand the stress response cycle, hear personal stories from those who have experienced burnout in relation to work and home, hear why listening to your body is important and even what we can learn from dancing to our own rhythm!
So many of us in helping roles struggle to put ourselves first. For so long, our roles at home, at work and in the community have urged us ever forward in support of others. We have whispered to ourselves, 'but this person is so much more in need...', 'I have so much...', or just pushed on through without realising what we lose. This poem articulates so well the struggle between the different parts of us, and highlights the disconnect that so often occurs. I invite you to take a moment of gentleness with yourself in reading this poem by John Roedel.
You may have an idea of how creative arts, music and the embodied approaches work in counselling or therapy, but in supervision?! What does this mean? And how might this sort of approach support you in your practice? In this piece, we look at a couple of short videos from Cathy Malchiodi and Joan Wilmot to understand these thoughts from the point of view of the 'Seven-Eyed Model of Supervision' and creative arts therapy approaches.
It is well documented that recovery from post-traumatic stress requires a multi-modal, body-based approach. Guided imagery and music GIM) is a creative, internal and experiential approach to therapy that enables participants to access aspects of experience and memory that are beyond conscious awareness and talking. With its origins in depth psychotherapy, a growing research base and its close associations with other internal and experiential therapies such as Internal Family Systems Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and psychedelic therapy, GIM has much to offer.
You may have heard that using nonspeaking approaches - essentially anything other than talking, such as movement, gesture, body posture, creating art, music or craft, listening to music, tactile or sensory experiences, working with the breath, touch or play - offer a number of benefits in counselling or supporting others. Here, we explore eight ways that alternatives to talking may support your ability to connect with children and adults, enhance your therapeutic practice, and help your clients, students or patients to find other ways to feel safe and understand their experience.
Polyvagal theory helps us to understand that we can be creative and and precise in our self supports. We have a whole smorgasbord of ways in which we can connect in, connect with others and connect with the world around us. We already know this, but in our busy-ness, we can forget. This is your invitation to look through and choose your own adventure of nervous system supports. Have a look at this infographic with a sense curiosity and of exploration. How might you bring yourself into greater connection with your world today?
Nonspeaking approaches in counselling or supporting others can move us beyond the thinking, talking, logical world of the cortex, and into the subcortical realm of implicit experience, feelings, movement and the senses: into the unconscious experience that informs 80% of our existence. How can we find ways to connect with these parts of ourselves? What are the benefits of doing so? This blog explores these questions and why approaches beyond words are an essential part of any health or education professional's toolkit.
We can hardly explore the joy-pain spectrum in helping roles without looking at the pointy end. While previous blogs in this 5-part series explored the positive, protective factors, this post examines the risks in empathic connection when working with those who are suffering. Here, we will consider the symptoms, contributing factors and the differences between empathic strain (compassion fatigue), burnout, secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma.
Given the outward focus on the individual, it is ironic that many of us in this Western culture struggle to truly care for, and nurture ourselves with kindness. Regardless of the types of mothering experiences we have had, at some point we all need to find ways to nurture our inner child. See below for an infographic that summarises one approach to self-mothering in three simple steps.
This Mother's Day blog brings an invitation for teachers, counsellors, nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to reflect upon how you might invite self-kindness through self-mothering: a process of caring for your needs as a loving mother might. If you are feeling unappreciated and exhausted, how might you protect, care for, love unconditionally, and find a way to truly see what you need?
In these uncertain times, it is easy to get caught up in the heavy waves of helplessness that come with a world facing a pandemic, war, climate change and the ensuing tsunami of mental ill-health. Connecting with presence and hope through music, imagery and poetry can help us to open to a sense of possibility and connection with ourselves, others and the world around us.
The first four blogs in this five-part series have illuminated the significant challenges faced by workers in helping roles in Australia, and the need for change if we are going to sustain a stable and healthy workforce in healthcare and education. The statistics are dire, but there is a way forward. This blog explores how we can nurture hope in healthcare and education through presence and connection.
This time of the year can be difficult at the best of times: the pressure to get things finished, have fun, be social and make merry; family gatherings; multiple social events; late nights and rich food. Additionally, this year’s festive season follows two years of lockdowns, restrictions, negotiating who has/hasn't been vaccinated, ongoing uncertainty, and for many, financial hardship. See below for how the ‘8 C’s’ of Internal Family Systems therapy can guide what you might need to create space and support for yourself.
Well before COVID reared its ugly head, the World Health Organisation predicted a global mental health crisis. With a return to lockdowns and uncertainty everywhere, it's more important than ever to find different ways to support ourselves at home, at work or working from home - wherever you fit now, or when it changes again. See below for some tips on managing the “new normal” of lockdown and uncertainty.
Polyvagal theory describes how our nervous system works hard to help us to connect with others, to keep us safe, and to protect us against threat. Many are familiar with terms such as fight, flight and freeze. However this is only part of the picture. This article unpacks three organising principles of polyvagal theory that help to make it accessible, understandable and easy to translate into daily life.
The body is our home. But what happens when we become disconnected from this home, unable to feel it, or to notice when it needs a break or nourishment? What happens when we tune out from it, turn away and ignore the vital messages it is sharing with us? See below as we explore the role of being aware of, and connecting with the body and its sensations for embodied health and wellbeing - for yourself and the wellbeing of those in your care.
The rich array of autumnal colours remind us of the cycles of life, the delight of colour, and the shift from the expansiveness of summer, to our inner world as we head closer into winter. With so much of our focus caught up in busy-ness and the 'doing' of life, this post invites reflection on presence, connection and transformation through creating the safety and space for our inner worlds, through music, art, embodiment and relaxed states.
Within the helping professions we often focus on the more challenging end of the joy - pain spectrum in this work: exhaustion, compassion fatigue, secondary stress and vicarious trauma. This blog series seeks to rectify that, with Part 1 focusing on vicarious resilience, Part 2 unpacking compassion satisfaction, Part 3 looks at suggested changes in terminology and Part 4 addressing the importance of, and risks associated with, connecting with others when in a helping role. Cultivating awareness of both ends of the joy - pain spectrum in the helping professions is essential in supporting worker wellbeing.
Post-traumatic growth is a familiar concept to many. But what about other positive impacts that workers can experience? Vicarious resilience and compassion satisfaction help us to understand the ways that workers in helping or caring roles can be positively impacted, or even transformed, by witnessing the strength and resilience of others. Holding an awareness of both ends of the spectrum - the joy and the pain in the work - may hold the key for a healthy, successful and durable career.
We are a sleep deprived society. Research outlines the cost of inadequate sleep to our mental and physical health, our immune functioning and the cost to workplaces. The recommendations for a good sleep routine are well documented. However the benefits of music listening for improved physiological relaxation and sleep are less known. Find out how music listening may be your ticket to a better night’s sleep.
We don’t leave ourselves behind when we go to work, we take our whole selves in. Some days it is easy to keep ourselves separate. But when we are tired, have a special connection to a client or patient, have difficulties of our own, or are touched by the moment, it is not always possible, or appropriate, to maintain a separation. We feel their joy and we feel their pain. And sometimes it touches ours.