“Give yourself permission to check in with yourself”: a personal trainer’s advice
Personal trainer Stephen Hale-Worrall shares his tips for self care and looking after yourself as a nurse or midwife.
As nurses and midwives, you are constantly giving to others. There can be long hours on your feet as you check-in on patients, plan for their care, and look after their wellbeing. And if you’re not on your feet, then you may find you are stuck at a desk for an extended period of time.
But what about your own wellbeing?
The trouble is, that no matter how much you love your job, all the care that you show for others during your work can take an emotional and physical toll. Giving yourself permission to check-in with yourself, is necessary to help keep you energised, as well as keeping your body and mind feeling strong.
Before we begin, allow me to take you on a journey.
Imagine that the day-to-day stressors, such as those you face at work, are hills along a path. Sometimes the hills are small, or few and far between. While other times they are bigger, or they come so rapidly that we find ourselves struggling to find even terrain. It is at these times that even the smallest hills seem like mountains. Similarly, if we don’t give ourselves enough rest between climbs, we can be left feeling exhausted from all the climbing.
So, how do we do help ensure that the hills don’t become mountains and we get ourselves back on more even terrain?
Well, three steps are all you need!
Below you will find three simple activities that you can complete before a shift, after a shift, or even in the middle of the busiest of shifts. You should access this guide whenever you need, and with continued practice, you will help to feel more focused, relaxed, and energised throughout your day.
Have a read of each step first, then give it a go yourself.
1.Time to pause for a moment.
Perhaps you are feeling frustrated, or angry? There may be a shortage of staff and you have taken on extra work. Perhaps there has been a particularly challenging emotional moment?
You may have heard of the term grounding. Well, it’ a simple and very effective tool to bring you back to the present moment if you find yourself getting caught-up in it all. It may also help to release any stress and tension that you are feeling.
The first few times you do this, you’ll need to find a safe spot where you can be still for a few moments. You can sit or stand, whichever feels right, and if you feel comfortable, you can close your eyes.
Now, see if you notice your feet on the ground. Or if you are seated, feel your body where it contacts the seat. Notice how strong that connection is. Your feet anchored firmly to the ground, like tree roots bearing deep into the earth. The winds may blow, but just as the tree is strong and resilient, yet flexible, so are you.
When you ground yourself, it gives you the time (and space) to step back and observe what is going on. From there you can assess your next action or movement. You become less reactive, and it’s a quick way to reset that stress that has been building up.
Carry this image in your mind throughout the day, so if you feel you need to, you can quickly notice your feet and let the wind blow right past you. Soon, you’ll be able to ground yourself just about anywhere, at any time without anyone even noticing you are doing it.
2. Next, we are going to use the breath to slow your body and mind.
Have you ever stopped to notice your breath? It’s something permanent that is with us throughout our life, but how often do we pay it any attention? When you pay attention to your breathing, you can almost instantly change your state of physical and mental state.
For the next few moments, put everything else that you need to do aside. Now, see if you can notice your breathing. How does it feel? Is it slow? It is rapid? Is it shallow or deep? Once you notice, give yourself permission to just ‘be’ for five more rounds of breath. Thoughts may come to mind, or you may feel like you need to rush back to an urgent task. That is ok. Allow any thoughts or urges to pass. You can return to them once you have finished.
One complete, ask yourself how you feel. Hopefully you noticed that you can be still and just sit with your breath, even if there are tasks to attend to. With practice, you can do this sitting at your desk, standing in a line at the shops, or even in the shower.
The more often you do this quick reset, the easier it becomes and the greater sense of balance you will feel. Perhaps try it before you leave at the end of your shift or use it to help you wind down on the train ride home? I promise it will make such a difference to how you feel when you do arrive at your destination.
3. And finally, let’s get rid of the tension in your body.
Have you been experiencing aches and pains after a long shift? Repetitive tasks lead to imbalances in our body, which can lead to pain. Or with long term over-use, you may find yourself suffering an injury.
Giving the body a break from the repetitive tasks is easy with this quick set of exercises you can do on the spot. They will leave you feeling lighter and refreshed, ready to take on the rest of your work! Before you begin, it is important to note that if you are experiencing any pain then do not commence the program or and seek the advice of a physical therapist first. Otherwise, just move through the steps slowly and gently.
As you start the exercises, take two deep breaths. The breaths will help your nervous system to release some of the tension in your muscles straight away.
Working from the ground up, you’ll continue to release the tension as you go. Perhaps take your shoes off if you are somewhere you can do that? You will find a helpful video guide at the end of this article that will take you through each exercise.
Just one round of eight repetitions of each exercise below will be enough. Complete in both a clockwise and counter clockwise direction where applicable, and on both sides of the body:
Ankle rolls. Plantar fascia release (use a tennis ball or similar). Hip circles. Shoulder circles. Standing cat and cow. Head turns. Upper back and neck stretch.
It’s also important to remember the wrists and the hands (like we did with the feet) as pain and dysfunction can originate in those distal parts and travel to the hips, shoulders, and spine leading to more serious injury. You’ll also find the following exercises handy if you have been using a computer or sitting at a desk for an extended period of time:
Carpal rolls (make figure-8 rotations). Flexor/extensor stretch. Finger and palm release.
It’s important to note that with the hand and wrist exercises, you only apply a gentle pressure to the palm and the wrist. Please be mindful, that if you have any current wrist pain, I would advise that you speak to a physical therapist or GP first before commencing.
If you can do these exercises just once a day, you will notice the difference. Doing them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner is even better! While seated at work, ensure that you are getting up to stand every hour at a minimum to prevent injury and keep you motivated and energised.
So, now that you have given the above a try, I’m hoping you can see why it’s so important to check-in on yourself and your wellbeing. Keep doing the fantastic work!
This article was written in partnership with FitFinder, the first marketplace for all health and fitness instructors.
If you would like to learn more about how to take care of your body, or organise a full session with Stephen, simply go to: https://www.fitfinder.com.au/trainer/stephen-hale-worrall
For your first session, use the code Nurse50 to receive $50 off your first session to give it a try!