Well that didn’t go as I thought

 

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You will remember on Monday I was planning on inspiring a group of teenage boys to consider Nursing as a career.

I have worked with children for the past 25 years, so you would expect that I would understand how teenagers react to something that is new and maybe challenges their view of the world. Well I would have thought that too, but no I didn’t. For some reason in my head I had them all having a light bulb moment, and thanking me for raising their awareness and asking me where they sign up. I imagined my self being the Robin Williams character in ‘The Dead Poet’s Society’, but no one stood on their desk and shouted “Captain, my Captain….” with me staring wistfully into the near distance, with the hint of a tear in my eye. Who was I kidding!

Twelve boys came to my lunchtime tutorial/assembly. I thought to myself wow, that is a really good response. I then looked at them and saw twelve sets of arms crossed and 12 sets of eyes looking at me (not in a good way). Do you remember that feeling that I described I had before my Rotary Club talk? Well this was like that but slightly more terrifying (teenagers are way more intimidating than 60-70 year olds). My mouth went dry and all my plans went flying out of the window. I reminded myself, that I knew my subject, I knew what i wanted to achieve, so just step off and go for it. So I did, they sat there and listened very politely to me. Then I asked them what would stop them considering to be a nurse. I was met with a wave of silence. My initial reaction was to throw my marker pen on the floor and run. But I am a professional, so I stood firm, and held the silence, I held it for slightly longer than is comfortable, the silence was broken, and thankfully it was not broken by one of the teachers present in the room. A young man proclaimed that Nursing is for girls, then another boy stated it was not as good as being a doctor. All the expected, yet still very depressing gender stereotypes came flowing. I noticed that there was only 3-4 boys that were contributing, but that was fine as they were playing their part well. So I wrote down all that they were saying on the white board.

Lunch arrived, it then became abundantly clear why the silent majority in the room were there. That did make me smile, and I must admit the samosas were really nice. Whilst they were enjoying their free lunch I invited them to think about a man that they looked up to (a role model). The same 4 took part the rest ate their sandwiches and samosas and stared out of the window (the room did have lovely big windows, perfect for staring out of to be fair). Once they had finished eating I wrote down some of the attributes they thought were worth aspiring to. Then I asked them if they were ill, what attributes they would expect from a nurse. I got the obvious sexist wise crack, although it was toned down. “She has to be good-looking”. I agreed it helps if your nurse is good-looking whether that nurse is male or female, they should have a friendly look on there face, be smart and well presented, so yes good looking is very important. I mentioned that because I was quite proud of my adult response to a teenager clearly trying to wind me up. They then listed some very useful attributes, that they have to be kind, caring, hardworking, etc.

We then looked at the lists I had produced. I went through the barriers to becoming a nurse and corrected some assumptions, such as salary and some of the activities that nurses can now do. We then had a look at the attributes of their role models, and wondered if any of those would be useful to a nurse, and then some of the attributes of a nurse and whether they would be out-of-place as attributes of their role models, such as being strong-minded, clever, hardworking, physically strong, kind, a listener.

I left them with a question. “If a female friend of yours told you they wanted to be an engineer would you think it strange?”

Over half the room couldn’t wait to get out of there, clearly thinking, ‘well that is 30 minutes I will never get back….’

I was never going to get more than that response from boys who have never considered nursing as a career. That is fine, I was probably the first person to challenge some of their assumptions on careers and gender. It is so important that these unhelpful and quite frankly harmful assumptions about what men can and cannot do is challenged. Otherwise we a just putting our young people in boxes and not giving them a chance to explore all the options that they have before them.

A leap of faith

I don’t normally write a blog during the week, as I am usually too done in to think of anything useful to write. Tonight however I feel inspired to write a bit about my day today and to talk about an event that happened nearly a month ago, something that I found myself talking about today, with my coaching guide and friend Anthony.

Lets start with today, as that builds into the story about my adventure a few weeks ago. Today was module 2 of the internal coaching course we run and Anthony delivers for us. It is an accredited course and provides us with qualified coaches to support our workforce (these qualified coaches are also our workforce). This is the third course we have run and the second one I have supported as the coaching lead. I always find the build up to these days quite stressful and I am always anxious the night before and in the morning just before the day begins. I want coaching to take off in our Trust and become an integral part of our culture, therefore I want everyone to get the most out of the training that we offer.

I don’t fully settle until the participants are all there and Anthony is in full flow. Then I know Anthony will work his magic and we will all be inspired to get out there and coach. I make a habit of being as involved with the days as I can, so I will chip in with discussions and work with the participants during coaching practice. This often results in me being coached and today I was coached 3 times (how lucky am I) by 3 wonderful coaches. I always pick subjects that are real and all 3 sessions were related to my journey as a coach, writer, educator and speaker. As the module was on performance coaching I explored with them the blocks to my performance and how I can work round them or remove them. The major block I have is the feeling of not being good enough. Something that most of us recognise, and this inadequacy is incremental, so when you achieve the milestone that was beyond your reach, you tell yourself that is the limit and there is no way you can achieve the next goal. This for me is writing my book, being paid to speak at events, and joining up clinical supervision in our trust with coaching to create a seamless supportive network for all staff at all grades. All of this seemed just beyond my grasp. But after they had skillfully questioned me and raised my self-awareness, I started to piece together some action plans and recognise what I had already done to start this journey. It also became obvious to me what I do when I am passionate about achieving something, I trust my ability and take a leap of faith. My journey with coaching so far has involved a leap of faith, or as Brene would put it ’embracing my vulnerability’.

That brings me nicely onto the story of my adventure around a month ago. I may have mentioned this before, but it fits nicely with taking that first plunge into uncertainty. I had been invited to speak to my local Rotary Club during their weekly meeting, about what I do. I eagerly agreed and set to putting together a killer presentation on connected living. I must say the presentation looked fantastic. Now when it came to the day of the talk I had second thoughts about the presentation, it just didn’t feel right, I was worried that it would go on too long, so on the way to the venue I thought about the conversation I had, had with the member of the club who had invited me. She had mentioned that they had done some work on visioning but had not really progressed anything into meaningful action. So I decided to ditch the presentation (probably). When I got to the venue, my mind was made up, the room was not suitable for a Powerpoint.

I sat through the meal making small talk with the President and the other members on my table, whist trying not to look too terrified, then I had to sit through the meeting trying to hold back the feeling of nausea I was experiencing. Eventually I was up. Can I say at this point, what a wonderful bunch of people they were. They were so friendly and welcoming. At that point however I did not see them like that, they all for a moment seemed very sceptical. Perhaps they could smell my fear and were just waiting for the car crash of a talk to begin. I started with a brief introduction and that I was going to coach them, now they looked really sceptical. Then I asked them the first question and they were off. I think I asked them about 5 questions in total and they did the rest. Within 30 minutes they had a plan, and they had even managed to explore some potential pitfalls they might experience and how they would manage them. It was quite remarkable to watch. Coaching in action. Just before I asked that first question, I did not know which way that talk was going to go. I decided to trust myself and make that leap of faith. If I hit the rocks, I would have felt embarrassed and very silly, but I would get over it. I jumped anyway and ended up in deep water. Sometimes you have just got to put faith in yourself and take the plunge if you ever want to change how you do things. Being coached today reminded me that I have done this before and it paid off, so why not keep doing it, especially for the big things. So watch this space.

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Encouraging Men into Nursing

Over recent years I have noticed fewer and fewer men choosing nursing as a career. In fact in my own speciality of Children’s Nursing we haven’t trained any men in training in Hull for a number of years now.

There is so much men can offer as a nurse that it would be terrible to see us disappear. Not only do we provide support and dignity for male patients, we are also positive role models for young men. We demonstrate that it is OK to be kind, caring, and compassionate and it not effect your worthiness as a man.

This is where I feel the problem lies. Over recent years there appears to be a polarisation of the gender paradigm.

Men are supposed to be strong and resourceful, providing a home and protection for their family. There is no room for care and compassion as they are too busy being strong. Care and compassion are female traits, and therefore should be avoided, for fear of being labelled as weak or even worse gay.

Were as women are encouraged to be kind, caring, nurturing and all things homely with no room for drive and determination. However we also expect women to be successful, clever and beautiful, but not pushy.

We expect men to be strong, but now we want them to be sensitive and in to be in touch with their feelings and share their worries but not be weak.

If we listen to the paradigms our society creates for us no wonder young people want to keep things simple and opt for the old view of male and female roles. Men become engineers and soldiers, women become teachers and nurses.

So with this in mind how do I present nursing to young men as a worthwhile career choice.

I have had some thoughts on this and it centres around looking at themselves first and their value base, along with their view of the world, and then challenging their possible view of nursing, including highlighting values they share with nursing. Hopefully providing a paradigm shift for a few in the room. But most of all encouraging those present to be comfortable with their view of the world and showing them that they do not have to feel shame if their view of the world does not comply perfectly with the impossible ideals our society imposes on us.

If I get 2 or 3 young men interested in nursing and create a debate I will be happy.

Outline of Chapter 1 of Connected Living (Your Well Being)

Connected Living

As a lot of you will know,  I have been talking about writing a book about connected living. Yes another book about success. Although I shy away from defining what success is and leave that up to the reader, other than suggesting if you want to have a life that is positive and fulfilling you are less likely to be able to do that alone. Therefore we need to start making meaningful connections with the people around us and beyond. Before we can make these meaningful connections, we have to connect with ourselves and that starts with making sure we are healthy and remain healthy, both physically and mentally. This chapter outline concentrates on our well-being that can often be left by the wayside. If you have read my blogs before, you will know that this is a subject close to my heart.

So below is the overview of that first chapter. Enjoy, and feel free to offer me feedback.

Your Well-Being

Since becoming an adult I have struggled with my mental health and well-being. Over the years this has manifested itself in a number of ways, ranging from general anxiety, self-hatred and physical symptoms. I was going to say I manage to avoid a dependency on this journey, but that would not be strictly correct. From the age of 16 until I was 44 I had an addiction to nicotine and I definitely used that as a crutch. Throughout my adult life my depression manifested itself as a physical ailment, generally I would present with joint and back pain. The pain I was experiencing was very real, however maybe not as severe as I felt it was. All the diagnostics came back negative each time. Eventually I was referred to the community pain team. This team was made up of a nurse, a physio a doctor and a psychologist. Each member of the team would take it in turns to triage new referrals. I was triaged (luckily for me) by the psychologist, who ended up continuing to see me. He started me on my journey of recovery from my back and joint pain and on my journey for managing my mental health and well-being. I recognised that my back pain was a useful framework for my poor mental health to take hold of my life, it also provided a shield for hiding my shame.

I had 4 sessions with the psychologists where we talked about how it all started and eventually how I found the pain useful, actively seeking it out to give me something to hide behind. When the negative thoughts were too much I would concentrate on pain in my back, telling myself and all those around me that is was the pain that was too much to cope with, allowing me to withdraw from the world. In my eyes it gave me a legitimate excuse not to be at work, to be grumpy and sit in front of the TV. Being away from the world does not help your depression however, the pain is still the same, the only relief is that you don’t have to interact with people.

As I said though these sessions changed my relationship with my back pain. For the first time I had permission to talk about the real reasons for my pain. It was just like shining a light on those childhood nighttime demons that lurk in the corner of your bedroom. When you shine that light you realise it is just a dressing gown. I started talking about the triggers for my pain, that made them somehow smaller. This was not an overnight sensation, however it showed me what was triggering my feelings of anxiety and how that manifested itself in me becoming tense and therefore creating that pain. Some of the anxieties were connected to unhelpful habits, others were reactions to what Professor Steve Peters would call my Gremlins. Gremlins are unhelpful negative memories associated with certain situations, places, sounds and smells. These gremlins would trigger those anxious feelings. By recognising these triggers I could start rewriting those memories with benign memories. Most of these gremlins were not based in fact but came from assumptions I was making about my relationship with the place I worked and the people I was working with. This was a long slow process but I did start to rewrite those memories. I now do not experience anxiety when I approach my work place. I still experienced pain for a good 3 months after being discharged from the pain team, but my relationship with the pain had changed and I no longer used it as a shield, I was beginning to manage my feelings by facing them. I stopped catastrophising the pain and accepted that my back was hurting because of the tension I was creating and once I relaxed,  the pain would subside. I was then able to carry on with whatever I was doing and eventually the pain would diminish.

With regards to my anxiety I still have episodes of anxiety and low mood, sometimes on a weekly or even daily basis. The difference now is I do not deny these feelings, I am now willing to accept that this pain is psychological. It is still pain and I feel it as I would any other physical pain. Pain killers are not going to work, I once tried antidepressants when I first acknowledged that my mental health required attention. I am no longer on antidepressants, I came off them under the supervision of my GP. So far in this chapter I have been reluctant to call what I was suffering from depression. Now in my blogs I have called it depression, but then when I here about what people who suffer from depression go through I am more inclined to think I have low mood and anxiety as a result of not paying attention to my mental health, which is very different from having a diagnosed condition. My GP called it mild depression, and prescribed antidepressants for a few months in the first instance with regular check ups . In the end I was on them for a year. In hindsight I was grateful for them, they gave me the time and space to get use to paying attention to my mental health. Once I had come off them I felt able to be open about my feelings, and start looking for ways to look after my well-being. As I said I do not believe I was depressed or mentally ill, I believe I was mentally unhealthy, just as I was physically unhealthy. Essentially I had been neglecting myself and was paying the price for that.

This chapter is not about mental health or ill-health it is essentially to help you pay attention to your well-being. If you believe that you may be depressed or suffering from anxiety, then speak to a health professional. If you think you are suffering from any illness that is having a debilitating effect on your life then you need to be assessed and diagnosed by a Doctor, whether that is appendicitis or depression they are both potentially life threatening illnesses that require assessment and treatment immediately, take it seriously and get yourself checked out.

If you are feeling essentially well or just a bit clunky and under the weather then this chapter may well help you stay mentally healthy and even make you feel significantly better.

When I was looking around for ways to help me,someone suggested I have a look at the work of Martin Selligman. He is one of the founders of positive psychology. Positive psychology looks at the psychology of a healthy mind and the behaviours and conditions that encourage that state. I discovered his book Flourish in which he describes what extensive research in the US suggests are the conditioned required to mentally healthy. The research suggests if you have an abundance of the following then you will flourish and be less likely to access mental health services;
Positive emotion

Engagement

Relationships (that are positive)

Meaning  (in your life)

Accomplishment
Positive Emotion

I remember looking at this measure and thinking that is easy, I have always had an abundance of positive emotion. I love a good laugh, I am always cracking jokes. That was true but when I looked deeper I asked myself how often I smiled, I mean really smiled. How often did I look at the world and see more than just my surroundings, how often did I see my beautiful surroundings. I remembered being on holiday in Thailand and having my breath taken away by the beauty of the country. I asked myself since then, how many times had I felt that. I struggled to be honest. I can tell you now every time I take my dog for a walk, go for a run, or just look up at the sky I feel joyful and grateful for living in a beautiful country. I listen to music and smile, I laugh out loud daily. I feel joy when I see family and friends. I smile when I see or hear that a friend is doing well.

Ask yourself do you smile, feel joy and laugh on a daily basis?
Engagement

Do you find yourself during your day taking part in an activity that requires no effort or thought? An activity that you enjoy for the sake of it, for the pure joy of it. Whilst writing this I was wondering, what I do that is engaging. I suppose once I get out there,  running is engaging, but I have to get out there and I have to get into the rhythm of the running before it becomes mentally effortless. Reading a good book I suppose creates the most engagement for me, and most of all researching for this book, reading about how the mind works, how we behave and what makes us successful and effective. I love reading about this, I love talking about it as well, I love giving masterclasses and lectures on this subject. That creates the most engagement for me. I can spend hours prattling on about how to empty your bucket, understand your stressors and connect with each other. I love it, it energises me and the better the response from my audience the more engaged I become. So there we are that is my engagement. This stuff, my passion provides me with engagement.

Do you look up and realise hours have gone? One commonactivity that creates engagement is catching up with a best friend over a coffee that leads to several coffees and then a race across town to pick the kids from school, because you completely lost track of time, catching up on old times. Some of you might get engrossed in a good book, sometimes that might be a new book or an old favourite. Whenever there is a new Jack Reacher story I will pre-order it and devour it as quickly as possible, I will binge read it in about 2 sittings.  Other people love to curl up with a favourite book, something they have read over and over again, it gives them comfort and transports them to another time, without any effort or too much thought.

Music is another way to create that engagement, either playing or listening. Music like many engaging activities also creates a positive emotion. It is obvious really that for you to be engaged in an activity that you enjoy it.

So do you take part in engaging activities regularly?
Relationships (Positive)

Loneliness is a real problem in modern society. In 2018 The Office for National Statistics  released a report on the characteristics and circumstances that are associated with loneliness. The findings are not unsurprising but stark all the same. 1 in 20 adults reported feelings of loneliness between 2016 and 2017.

You are more likely to experience loneliness if you, are single or bereaved. People with long-term illnesses are also more likely to experience loneliness. If you live in rented accommodation, and feel disconnected with your community you are more likely to be lonely. What was quite striking for me was that people aged between 16 to 24 are more likely to be lonely than any other group.

Being single or bereaved, having a long-term condition and even disconnection with the community are unsurprising causes of loneliness. At first glance though the fact that young people are more likely to be lonely than older age groups is surprising. I don’t know about you, but when I imagine lonely people I think of a little old lady or man sat in a flat, not a young adult. In fact over 75s are 63% less likely to report loneliness. That really surprised me. The ONS provides a couple of explanations; a) older people have developed a resilience to loneliness, as a result of adverse life events; or (and this will make you sit up and notice) b) most of the lonely people are already dead before they get to 75%! According to the ONS loneliness increases mortality by 25%, so being lonely reduces your life expectancy. It is vital not only to your state of mind, but to your life that you seek out positive relationships. You won’t only be having an impact on your life, but the life of the person you are connecting with.

If you see the same person everyday, on the train or the bus, or in the lift, start with a smile, then progress to a hello. Now not everyone will respond, but there will be people willing to connect that will say hello.I can think of a number of people who I have connected with, and have a positive, friendly relationship with, that started with a smile and a nod of the head. If you think about it all our relationships start with at least 2 people who have never met before (even your mum and dad). Be bold give them a smile, let them know that you believe there is more that connects you with them, than disconnects you.
Meaning

Does you life have meaning? Is there a purpose to what you do everyday? Putting it another way, what gets you out of bed in the morning? What gives my life meaning in the first instance, is being Dad to my boys. Being a father is an integral part of my being. Next is caring for people. For most of my adult life nursing has provided me meaning. Nowadays I do very little hands on nursing and spend my days as a nurse educator and internal coach.

Essentially all of these roles (Parent, Nurse, Educator and Coach) all provide the same meaning for me. That is caring for and supporting my fellow human beings. I hope I have a positive impact on the people I meet. Being an active positive member of the human race is my meaning. It is as simple as that.

When I had poor mental health and spent time away from work, I was disconnected from my meaning. I didn’t feel I made a positive contribution to the people around me. At the time I was a Ward Manager and was deeply unhappy with what I perceived my role to be and started to disengage with the job. There was a clear gap in my view between my values and what was expected of me. My job no longer had meaning as far as I could see. When I was a Staff Nurse I was caring for my patients, using empathy and compassion, something I felt comfortable doing. I assumed that being a Charge Nurse meant that I would extend this care to my staff as well as my patients. However at the time these attributes were not valued for managers. Coming to work and not being valued had a terrible effect on me and I could not see any meaning to what I was doing and who I was. My mental health suffered and eventually I became so unwell I went off sick. I was not ready to be open about my mental health at the time. My poor mental health manifested itself as back pain. Nurses notoriously have bad backs, so the normal aches and pains became unbearable pain. I would find myself in unguarded moments holding myself with so much tension to create more pain in my back. I couldn’t stop it, I needed the pain so I did not have to engage with the world. Being of sick removed nearly all meaning to my life. I only had being a parent to hang on to, but I didn’t always recognise it. It was a vicious circle the more time I spent off work the less meaning my life had. The less meaning my life had the worse my mental health became. At the time I was not aware that any of this was going on in my head, I had convinced myself that my back was the problem.

As you know there was a happy ending for me. The psychologist who saw me and helped me realise that my poor mental health was driving my back pain, gave me a way back into the world and reconnecting with my meaning. This didn’t happen overnight as you know the struggles with my poor mental health continued for a while longer. My journey to good mental health is relatively recent. Since combining both my nurse educator role and coaching role, I have developed a clear sense of meaning in my life. Becoming an internal coach has given me the confidence to start a blog and do some life coaching, which have all added to this sense that my life has meaning because I contribute positively to the human race.
Accomplishment

What have you achieved? It doesn’t have to be a dramatic achievement, like a first class honours degree or running the London Marathon (although there are plenty people I know who have done this). Accomplishment means you have achieved what you set out to do. It does need to have been challenging though. It needs to have required effort on your part. We have all achieved something in our lifetime. Can you remember that feeling you got from that sense of accomplishment, being able to complete something you have never done before?

On many occasions this accomplishment comes along side the other PERMA components. For instance learning to play a musical instrument or singing in a choir creates positive emotion, engagement, possible positive relationships if you are in a choir or a band, even meaning as music entertains others. Then when you can either play a piece of music that is recognisable or you sing with your choir at a concert, you have accomplished something.

The question is do you challenge yourself to accomplish something most days? It does not have to be really hard, but should challenge you. I go for a run at least once a week I don’t run far or very fast but I do it, and every week I accomplish running at least 1 or 2 miles and even 3 miles. I always aim to exercise for 30 minutes and push myself each time to be out for a little longer. Every week I write at least one blog, to me I have accomplished getting my message across, hopefully bringing some light to someone’s darkness. When it is published on my website I look at it and think, I made that. What have you made this week?
Often all we need to do is take stock of PERMA to realise what a full, and rich life we lead when we actually break it down. As Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, we often live in a world of scarcity, where we never have enough of anything, we could all do with more of something. If you do a quick inventory of your life using PERMA it can often be evident that you have enough and you are enough.

Another little checklist I like to use comes from Brene Brown, and that is her BRAVING checklist. Often when our well-being is low it is because our self-worth and self-esteem has taken a battering. It is however nearly always ourselves that is the main assailant. It is then worth considering how much trust we have in ourselves. This BRAVING checklist helps you address any trust issues you may have with yourself.

Boundaries: Do I respect my own boundaries? I am clear about what is okay, and what is not okay?

Reliability: Am I reliable? Do I do what I say I am going to do?

Accountability: Do I hold myself to account?

Vault: Do I respect the vault and share appropriately? I am sharing too much? Am I sharing something that is not mine to share?

Integrity: Do I act from integrity? Do I do what is right over what is expedient?

Non-Judgement: Do I ask for what I need? Am I non-judgemental about needing help?

Generosity: Am I generous towards myself?
Before we can even think about connecting successfully with others, we must pay attention to our well-being. When we strive for success it can be very easy not to pay attention to ourselves. If we do this we will pay the price. Paying attention to your well-being is not just vital to success, it can be the difference between a long and happy life or an early death.

Our well-being is heavily dependant on our relationship with shame and vulnerability.

A Monk, Ruby, a Neuroscientist, Gaz, Midfulness and a Lot of Human Factors

 

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I am a little bit done in this weekend. This week has been pretty full on.

I have been trying to think what I did during the day on Monday, and I am really struggling to remember exactly what I did do, it is a bit of a blur. I remember meeting up with Janis and Ann-Marie to discuss what we were going to discuss during our work shop at the Chief Nurse’s Conference on Friday (I forgot to put that in the title). No then nothing I have no clue without look at my diary what I did in the afternoon. I know I was busy but, it’s not coming. If it comes to me later I will tell you. It’s beginning to bother me now.  It will come to me.

Anyway on the evening we went to see Gaz Coombes in concert at The Welly Nightclub (the same venue my son Ben played at the week before with his band). For those of you who don’t know who Gaz is (other than the subject of my wife’s desires) he is a singer songwriter and ex-front man of Supergrass (A popular indie rock band from the 90s and 00s). He was thoroughly entertaining despite the fact that his guitarist who we presumed was a stand-in got a little over excited and needed to be helped off the stage during the encore. The only problem is that I am normally tucked up in bed in my PJs by 9 pm on a school night, and we didn’t get in until 11 pm. I just knew that this was going to put me out for the rest of the week.

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On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I was delivering a Human Factors training day to new registrants. Just over a hundred new registrants (Nurses) have just started with us at the beginning of October. For the past 4 weeks they have been taking part in an extensive induction programme. As there are some many of them they are split into smaller groups of about 20. Therefore I have to repeat my day on Human Factors day 5 times. So I did 3 days this week and 2 days next week. I love doing this training, it covers a lot of the subjects I am passionate about. Patient safety, stress management, leadership and teamwork. I throw myself in to every day. At the end of every day I am spent, so by Thursday I had nothing left to give. I could feel myself running out of steam in the last hour of the session.

Thursday night myself, Lisa and my colleague Debbie were going to see Ruby Wax on her How to Be A Human Tour. She was quite brilliant. I love that she is so raw when she delivers, so she stumbles over her words occasionally and shows us all that she is just as vulnerable as the rest of us. The second half of the show has Ruby come out with a Monk and a Neuroscientist. Now the Monk (sorry I forget his name) at one point was talking about meditation and mindfulness, and what he said really grabbed me. I have used mindfulness from time to time and try to do it when I run. I will often beat myself up as I don’t seem to be getting better at it. And this is what grabbed me, it is not about getting better at it, it is just about doing it often. Now the premise of mindfulness is concentrating on the here and now rather than worries and thoughts that are going around your head. One technique is to count your breathes to concentrate just on your breathing, your mind will wander, and when you notice that it has wandered you bring yourself back to counting your breathes. Now the monk said that each time you bring your attention back to your breathing you set yourself free from that thought. The more you bring your attention back to the here and now the more you set yourself free. I love that idea. No doubt like may of you I am a world-class worrier, now I know that I can set myself free of these worries is a game changer for me. Then the neuroscientist chipped in a said that if you do this often enough you will change your brain, as the neurons and their connections will shift as you practice mindfulness. I can tell you this was a revelation. With enough practice and making mindfulness a habit you can change the way you think.

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So another late night on Thursday, but it was worth it. On Friday I tried to cram responding to my emails into an hour unsuccessfully before I went off to the Chief Nurses conference, we me and my good friend Janis were doing a workshop on Clinical Supervision. Rosie one the Matrons was opening and closing the workshop, then myself and Janis gave a brief presentation with some simple activities, then I interviewed the lovely Ann-Marie a ward Sister who has had Clinical Supervision for the past 10 years. We all repeated this 3 times. I can tell you by the 3rd time we were all the verge of losing the plot. We had a great day and it appeared we got our message across about the importance of clinical supervision and the impact it has on professional practice. From the conference I went across the city to do some coaching, with an inspiring young man. Even though I was done in, he managed to re-energise me. By 8 pm I was sat in front of the TV beer in hand. What a week, one of those weeks where you achieve so much, I feel tired but fulfilled and wholehearted. Roll on next week and more adventures.

Wrestling with Foggy

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I haven’t been for a run for 2 weeks. I had used a variety of excuses including rain, tiredness, and not enough time. I tell you this has definitely had a detrimental effect on my well-being. If you had asked me last week how I was doing, I would have said, I am fine, in fact I am doing great, and on the whole I was, but what I didn’t notice was that my stress bucket was getting dangerously full. I wasn’t emptying my bucket, effectively. I wasn’t paying attention to my daily hour of happiness, part of that is giving myself head space going for a run. Not going for a run is a double-edged sword, I don’t get my headspace and on top of that I feel guilty for not going for a run.

This past week was quite an important week for me, with a couple of things that were happening that required me to be vulnerable, and in the words of Brene Brown, dare greatly. So not being mentally on form was problematic. Firstly I was meeting our Chief Nurse to discuss Clinical Supervision with Janis, then on Wednesday I was booked to give a talk to the local Rotary Club, I was also delivering a Discovery Insights (a system we use to help individuals and team understand how themselves and others prefer to behave, to help them better connect with each other and improve team productivity) session for a team of Specialist Nurses. I was also worried about another work stream that was not going completely to plan (which ones do?).

I woke up on Monday morning at about 4 am with my old friend Foggy having a field day, beating the crap out of my self-esteem. It felt like every muscle in my body was in spasm. All morning, all I could hear was a continuous loop of negative self-talk. I had butterflies in my stomach and had no idea how I was going to survive the week.

Well I got through Monday, I dug deep and when I met the Chief Nurse, and when I went to deliver the Insights session, I showed up I dared, said what I needed to say, the sky didn’t fall in, what I had to say appeared to land how it was intended. Gladly I had Janis alongside me with the Chief Nurse, and she gave me that boost of confidence. The Insights session was just me, and to be honest at the beginning of the session I did feel like running out of the room screaming. I didn’t (obviously), I took a deep breath jumped in and trusted my knowledge and experience, it worked I did it, the nurses laughed when they were supposed asked questions looked interested and had a plan for what they were going to do with this information. In fact I got an email the next day from one of the nurses thanking me. That didn’t stop Foggy telling me they were just being polite and in fact you were just useless.

Fast forward to Wednesday, they day of my talk with the Rotary Club. To be honest the day was a complete blur. I remember having a sore throat and wondered if I was coming down with a cold. Just adding to my anxiety, I now had an image of me sneezing over everybody and having a coughing fit during my talk. On the way to the talk after work I decided to change my plan and not give the talk I was going to, as after talking to the lady who had invited me, it became evident that they were after some solutions for the future of the club. So on the bus on the way there (I always use public transport, I tell myself it is because I am eco-friendly, in fact I am just scared of driving) I formulated a new plan of a mini-coaching session. By the time I got there Foggy was stomping on self-confidence, I was barely holding it together. So after I had met all the members present we sat down and had a meal. What a delightful group of people they are. The meal and normal routines took about 40 minutes. That was possibly one of the longest 40 minutes in my life. No no matter how lovely they were, I was barely present in the room, I was desperately trying to push Foggy back into his cupboard, whilst trying not to listen to his negativity. Then it was my turn to speak, I did what I did on Monday I just jumped right in and hoped for the best. It was either going to be a car crash with no one wanting to respond to me or they would embrace it and start talking about what they needed to do. I declared at the beginning of the talk that I had no intention of doing all the talking. I think in total I spoke for about 10 minutes of the 35 minutes I was up there. They were fantastic they fully embraced it. I asked a few questions, and then they were off, by the end they had a plan of what they were going to do next and a commitment to action. I was amazed by how much they got done in such a short space of time.

Despite spending so much time in the arena and not having stuff thrown at me, and people shouting obscenities at me, I have still managed to feel completely useless all week. The only reason I am able to write this today is (I believe) because I have been for a run. Yesterday I had resolved that I would not write anything today, as I had nothing worth saying in my head. Yesterday I got written feedback from an old coachee, telling me how much she had benefited from my coaching, both personally and professionally. I so wish I hadn’t opened it until next week. All that positivity was wasted on me yesterday. I just didn’t register it as anything worth celebrating. Now today I feel so happy that I helped someone realise how vital they are.

Lets end on a happy note. I stole myself to go for a run this morning. Even though Foggy told me that I was slow and fat and that I would be laughed at by everyone down our street. I jumped in accepting that there might be some people who may be amused by fat arse bouncing down the street and by the sound of my wheezing as I struggle to control my breathing. I also know that most people will not even notice me, as they are too busy worrying about their own lives. Most people have got too much shit going on in their lives to notice some fat middle-aged bloke pounding the streets.

So I ran for 30 minutes (I walked a bit too), and it felt amazing even the pain and breathlessness was great. Foggy has gone back in his cupboard and I feel strong enough to share my feelings in this blog.

Actually writing this blog helps me put it all into perspective. I love writing this blog, so it does form part of my hour of happiness.

Even you find things getting on top of you, have a look at your day and starting adding in activities that make you happy, if they add up to an hour everyday you will start to feel better. (If you struggle to find anything positive, then please don’t keep it to yourself, share those feelings with someone who is close, also make an appointment to see your Doctor, there is help out there, don’t suffer in silence)

The comfort of a good moan

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I love a good moan. Moaning is comfortable, its comfortable because it is easy. All you have to do is sit in judgement with no responsibility, and ultimately don’t take action.

We all love it, but we really do need to limit its use to being the precursor to problem solving, to move away from the thing that irritates us. After all that is the function of moaning.

I am not saying that we should spend all our time action planning and trying to solve all the ills of our world (unless you really like doing it of course). However we do need (myself included) to examine how many times we moan about a certain subject.

If you find yourself repeating a moan about the same subject, try asking yourself the following questions:

How much discomfort or inconvenience does this irritation cause?

Would my life improve if the irritation was no longer there?

Do I have the ability to change the thing that annoys me?

If the answer is yes, do I have the will to change?

If the answer is no, what can I do to adjust my feelings towards it?

Can I adjust my view of the world to make me more tolerant of this irritant?

If you cannot be bothered to ask these questions of yourself, then at least consider the impact you are having on others when you moan about this subject. Are you becoming the topic of someone else’s moan.

When we moan, it generally is at the expense of someone else, therefore it gets in the way of connecting with each other. We end up concentrating on what makes us different and not what connects us. We may momentarily connect with someone who shares our moan, however this is a relationship based on being unkind, and judgemental. When you walk away from that person they may wonder what you say about them when you are with other friends. That in my book is not the basis of a positive relationship.

If you want to keep your moaning to one-off occurences, so you don’t have to ask yourself a series of questions examining how much of a moaning Minnie you are then may be adopt my favourite Brene Brown checklist BRAVING (you didn’t really think I could go a whole blog without mentioning my favourite researcher). BRAVING will help you view your world and those who inhabit it differently and reduce the frequency of your moaning. It is important to be irritated by things and people, however it really isn’t okay to moan without doing something about it. That is just unkind. BRAVING will help you confront those irritations and solve the issues that cause them.

Boundaries: Be comfortable with letting people know where your boundaries are. What you are happy to accept and what is not acceptable to you. If people don’t know where your boundaries are, how do they know how far to go? If other people’s boundaries are not clear, then ask them.

Reliability: Make sure it is the same you that turns up every time. When you set your boundaries, stick with them. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If people don’t know which version of you they are getting, are you just setting them up to irritate you.

Vault: People need to know that if they share something privately you that you will keep their confidence. They also need to know that you are not going to share others secrets that are not yours to share, including moaning about others actions or behaviour along with potential reasons. This erodes trust and encourages a gossiping, moaning culture, which in turn drives more disconnection.

Integrity: Choose what is right over what is comfortable or convenient. Have a conversation with the person that you want to moan about. Get to know them, maybe learn why they did the thing they did. Talk to them about how you feel. Telling each other stories about yourselves creates trust, creates a space for empathy to live. Lean in to the discomfort.

Non-Judgement: Be prepared to offer help without judgement, rather than criticise or moan about them. Will to accept help without judging myself.

Generosity: Have the most generous view of the people around you as possible. Have a generous view of their intentions. We cannot read people’s minds but when we start a conversation with someone to make a connection it is important that we view them in a positive light, rather than the source of our problem. Our starting point needs to be positive. We then give them an opportunity to live up to our view than live down to our negative view. After all we are talking to create a connection. If they do not live up to it, that is fine, we can decide not to connect. If we don’t connect it is important to accept that we don’t connect and not to dwell on it. We cannot get on with everybody, and that is fine. We should not fill our lives with that person, just to give us someone to moan about. Remember positive relationships is vital to good mental health.

If you want to explore this further and get yourself out of your cycle of moaning drop me a line.

matt@mattycoach71.com