Home > #FLOURISH at Work - Creating resilience in times of stress
Posted by admin on October 30, 2017
We all know that the NHS is in the spotlight (when isn’t it?) As we head into what is predicted to be a difficult winter, some of the challenges we face at the moment are quite unprecedented. The Executive Team and I are spending time working through all of the things we can be doing to support staff and their teams.
Whilst on a day-to-day basis most areas of the service are running perfectly well at present, we are already seeing signs of the strain the system is under in areas such as hospital care, A&E, GP services and social care – amongst others. The reasons for the service reaching this point are many – and well narrated in pieces such as this one from Chris Hopson https://nhsproviders.org/news-blogs/blogs/the-nhs-in-the-red-zone. I believe what is absolutely essential, now more than ever is that we look after ourselves and each other. There are many ways to support and build our resilience.
Whilst being resilient isn’t just about coping with stress – stress is certainly a factor. Wednesday 1st November is ‘National Stress Awareness Day’, therefore I’d like to stay on the subject. Stress is very real, both in the workplace and in our day-to-day lives. Stress serves a solid purpose in human biology, but our modern lives have brought about a surplus of causes that can haunt us daily. When we are faced with a challenge, or a threat to our well-being, the body experiences stress.
Throughout our working lives - but particularly at the moment, it is important that we develop our own resilience. What do I mean by resilience? It doesn’t matter whether you are a CEO, a nurse on a ward, working in a laboratory or in an outpatient reception - we all have own pressures to cope with. By resilience, I mean our ability to manage, to get ’back up on our toes’ and cope with pressures and have the ability to flourish in such times. So, how can you manage these stresses and thrive, rather than wilt under the pressure?
Here are five things I do to manage my stress:
1. Network and create time to talk
The evidence is strong – when you are feeling stressed, it is good to connect with others, a friend or a work colleague. I find a different perspective on a situation often helps – as does getting something off your chest! Make the effort and take ‘time to talk’ - it can be really difficult when you’re busy I know that, but just taking those few moments to put a ‘virtual ‘arm around a colleague and ask them if they are ok could be just what they need. The same goes for yourself, talk to a colleague or your line manager if you need assistance in any way or are not feeling quite your usual self. The Trust offers a wide-range of occupational health and well-being advice and support with information available on the staff intranet: http://uhmb/cd/ohwe/Pages/default.aspx.
2. Restorative Niches
During or after a stressful, hectic day, building a ‘restorative niche’ in somewhere really helps. There are days when I literally don’t have a minute and I find my mental energy totally depleted. At the end of these days I might take the dog for a walk, sit quietly and read for ten minutes, or run a bath. I am an introvert and so I need quiet, peaceful time to recharge. Different activities ‘energise’ and ‘recharge’ people. Find what is right for you. If you feel you have time for ten minutes in the middle of the day, then it can be helpful to build in an activity which will help you to take stock.
Some weeks it seems impossible to balance work and life – even ‘out of hours’. It is really important to earmark a little time to recharge – even if it is at the beginning of the day or on days off. I use the app ‘Headspace’ and find that 10 minutes of meditation helps to quiet my mind.
3. Plan ahead – setting ‘daily intentions’
I am a planner. I work in 12 week cycles, at work and in my personal life – always knowing what goals I want to achieve. My 12 week goals are broken down into monthly and weekly goals which I monitor. Not everyone wants to plan in this detail, I respect that. However, I do think knowing where you want to get to and what you want to achieve each day is important. Even spending five minutes on your journey into work thinking about the day ahead is useful. Setting daily intentions for the day ahead helps create structure and purpose. It also helps you to remain focused when those every day distractions occur. Thinking ahead can help you to mentally rehearse the day which can help anticipate and prevent stress. Working through scenarios and the action you might take helps. I find setting daily intentions helps to change habits - habits form the architecture of our lives and can be difficult to change.
Being active is great for your physical health and fitness, and evidence shows that it can also improve your mental well-being. We think that the mind and body are separate. But what you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your mental wellbeing. Exercise comes in all different guises from taking a walk around the hospital site, walking the dog, washing the car, the dreaded housework; it doesn’t have to involve lycra and sweating in a gym! But it can. There is also the NHS couch to 5K program that we’ve been operating in the Trust this year, as part of our #Flourishatwork programme.
5. Journal writing – ‘note to self’
I keep a journal – I don’t write in it every day, more like every few days. When I’m under particular pressure, I always make a quick note of the 3 things that have been good during the day. Sometimes these are really small things like a big welcoming smile from a volunteer or member of staff as I come in to work in the morning. It might be an unexpected positive message, or even a glimpse of bright sunshine caught during the day. Noting things in this way serves as a reminder that even during the most difficult of days, there are positive things happening. Looking back over past entries helps me maintain perspective too.
When I launched #Flourishatwork, it was largely about supporting staff to be as healthy and well as they can be at work, and as a result, we have shared a good deal of preventative information, particularly around the health benefits of physical activity and good nutrition. It’s been tremendous to see the support of staff in getting involved in the recent couch to 5K initiative.
It was a little contentious for some at the time, but last year, we were one of the first NHS Trusts in the country to remove high in sugar soft drinks from being sold in our hospitals and one year on, there are press reports that NHS England, are looking to remove large packets of confectionery from hospitals, something again, we are ahead of the curve on.
Given the pressure the NHS faces, inevitably there are additional demands on us all to do more. Every week I am hearing about staff doing just that. Change affects us all differently. The way that individuals respond to change has been well researched. We all pass through a cycle of emotions as we deal with change and its consequences - but one of the key factors as to how we cope includes our individual resilience or 'bounce back ability’.
My ask of you all as we head into winter is to be mindful of your own health and well-being - and that of your colleagues. I’m working with my team now on what else do we need to do, to remain resilient, both operationally and personally. As always I would welcome any views or ideas.
A big thank you from me for your continued support and high standards of work across all areas.
And finally, in the spirit of being physically resilient – we are doing very well with our Flu vaccinations, but if you haven’t had yours yet, I would encourage you to do so to protect yourself and others.
I hope you found this blog helpful.
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