What matters to you?

Here is another blog I wrote for work. I have written about self-care before but I thought I would share this more widely. Times are difficult at the moment, it is really important to pay attention to ourselves on a daily basis, to make sure we don’t get lost in all that is going on.

Winter is with us, last weekend saw the start of meteorological winter. It is dark more than it is light, the wind is biting cold, everyone is coughing and sneezing, everyone seems to be in a rush to sort Christmas, and work is hard. Working in the NHS is always hard, but it always feels harder this time of year. 

So if you consider my previous blog about how our performance is variable even though we are all trying our best. Then it is not too much of a leap to assume that during this time of year quite a number of us will not be performing at our best.

It is dark when we go to work, it is dark when we go home, we are full of cold, we are worried about Christmas and we have the pressure of an increased workload. So it is important to pay attention to ourselves and each other, to ensure we able to perform effectively to continue to deliver the excellent care we do. 

The first thing we must do is pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis, and are we doing those things. This does not mean adding extra stuff into your day. But recognising what you already do that makes you happy, for instance I walk my dog everyday twice a day, that time with my dog makes me happy, I talk to my mum on the phone everyday. Remember there are things that you do at work that make you happy, that might be talking to relatives, providing cares to a patient, or completing a piece of work that really makes a difference. Take a few minutes each day at the end of the day before you go to sleep and do a little inventory of all the moments in your day that made you happy, no matter how small, or how silly they may seem, after all you are the only one who needs to know what made you happy today. Notice how that makes you feel. Normally we go to bed and ruminate over what was not good (which you will also do, it is after all our default position), just spend a few moments consciously taking stock of joy. If you do this everyday it will give you more balance, and allows the light sit along side the dark, giving them equal billing in your mind.

In the morning when you wake up, and maybe feel less than enthusiastic about coming to work, spend few moments whilst getting ready just connecting yourself back up with why you do what you do. What caused you to dedicate your life to caring for people? When I ask this question, I ask it of all of you that work in the NHS, because no matter how far removed you feel from patients, everything you do makes a difference to our patients.

What matters to you?

What core value do you use everyday, that gets you to work?

What values do you have, that when you live up to them fill you with joy? 

What values do you hold than when you witness them not being lived up to, by yourself or others make you sad?

Work is a large part of our lives, it is vital that we do a job that is in line with what we value (what matters). So knowing what matters to you and how that motivates you to do the job that you helps you dig deep when work is hard and everything feels like it is against you. 

Let people know what matters to you, and ask your colleagues what matters to them. Sharing your values strengthens them, and strengthens the connection within the team. As mentioned in my previous blog it is important that we are able to support each other and hold each other to account, and this is much easier when there are strong connections within a team.

When we start looking after ourselves we become much better at caring for others

We all have a choice

I read a tweet this morning by Paul McGee (@TheSumoGuy) that invited us to make a choice today. We could choose to be grumpy about whatever was irritating us or getting in the way of our life, or choose to be grateful for what we have and what is around us.

I was out walking the dog when I read this tweet and it made me think of my surroundings and look around at the beauty of where I live. I took this picture.

Now to you, you might be thinking, that is nothing special, but to me it sums up a walk through my village on a Sunday morning in the summer, and how lucky I am to live here. 2 minutes earlier I had been irritated by someone saying something annoying on Facebook and by my dogs insistence on sniffing every blade of grass. This tweet reminded me to not forget the reasons to be grateful.

I and I am sure most of you find it easy to focus on the negative, to expect the worst, look for what is going wrong, expect that people cannot be bothered to do a good job. This is our default setting, this was how we were taught to think. These neural pathways have been trodden on for years. So seeing life through an alternative lense is not easy, new pathways need to be formed. Also it would not be helpful at all to have a wholly positive outlook in life, for one you will seriously piss off your friends and family and two it is just dangerous, you have to keep your threat sensors on. The world is tough so you must be aware of dangers around you.

What is important is to have a choice, of an appropriate response and give equal air time to the negative and the positive.

There is a lot in my life right now that makes me feel sad and grumpy, and so it should because it is horrible, so I have been practicing everyday to give it air time, to appreciate the emotion, but not to stay there for too long. I have been trying to look for what there is right now to be grateful for, and boy there is an awful lot to be grateful for, in fact a lot more than there is to make me grumpy or sad.

The stuff that makes me really sad is important and big but is out of my control, so all I can do is articulate what I am feeling and give it the attention it deserves, amazingly that gives me the space, and energy to appreciate all the wonderfulness I have in my life. So in a way I am grateful for the bad stuff, as it has made me really examine what matters to me, I wish it hadn’t happened but it has and therefore I need to accept what it is, and move on. So I have chosen to be grateful, but only when I have chance to be grumpy. Being grumpy takes me to the place where I can see what I am grateful for.

Thank you @thesumoguy for your inspiration.

It’s been a while

Well what can I say? Life has got in the way a bit recently and I just haven’t had the time or the inclination to write.

If I am honest it was more the inclination. I have spent a lot of time wrestling with my emotions and appreciating those emotions. I will not be going into detail about the specifics of what is going on, as it is not all my news to share (I am physically well). What I am prepared to share is my rumbles and wrestles with my emotional state and how I am managing, or not my resilience.

For quite some time I have been writing about resilience and how I endeavour to maintain my resilience based on what has been written. On that very base level being realistic, value driven and creative works well, but I what I did not know was how well this theory held up when something really important and challenging happens.

So far so hard. Maintaining all elements is tough. When you are going through difficult times, rarely do you get a full picture of what is happening to you in one go. That is something have experienced over the past couple of months. The attacks that lay you low, seem to come from different directions without you seeing them and do not come complete. It just so happened that I have been reading and still am reading Raising Strong by Brene Brown. Brene describes it (as ever) wonderfully when she explains that her research shows that our minds hate incomplete data, so will always make an attempt to complete the story. We also like familiarity, so the fictional part of the story tends to fit a narrative we have adopted about ourselves and our world. Then if you think our minds are hardwired to protect us, then it makes sense that the story will often take a worst case scenario arc. And can I tell you, this storytelling is relentless and really does test your resilience. Realism goes completely out of the window, these fictions beat up your values and remove any kind of creativity.

Do not despair, these stories that we tell ourselves do not have to take over our thinking. Adopting these stories is a default setting, however we can make a conscious decision to ignore them and stick with uncertainty. Uncertainty is not a comfortable place to be, but what it is, is real. It does not crush your hope or give you false hope, it lets you wrestle with and identify those emotions you are feeling. I tell myself stories about what is happening to me everyday, several times a day. When I catch myself doing this I bring myself back to the not knowing, and ask myself what I do know, and sit with what I know and my emotions.

My emotions make me feel sad, they are painful at the moment, and so they should be, I am going through a difficult, painful part of my life. For most of my life, I have held the truth that emotional pain and discomfort are bad. I am now beginning to shift my paradigm. Emotional pain is inevitable as is physical pain, not only is it inevitable it is essential, as long as it is transient. For many of us it is. When I accepted and embraced my discomfort I found it easier to embrace my happiness. I find it easier to laugh and have positive emotions, whilst still feeling sad, in fact I have found myself laughing about the circumstances I find myself in. I know it is easy to say ‘accept the pain’, but it is a damn site harder actually doing it. I still do not enjoy feeling sad, and I hate not having the answers, but the stories I tell myself don’t make it better, in fact they made me feel worse. It felt like a spiral of despair. Uncertainty to me feels more optimistic, it is real, it reminds me that I am alive as are my loved ones, so lets live our lives and not let our thoughts get in the way.

Thank you for reading. Writing this out has certainly helped me, I hope you get something from this too.

Week off to re-charge

I had rather an eventful week last week, popping over the other side of the country to see a member of my family who was poorly. They are fine now, and I am certain it was more for my benefit than theirs. My mind is at rest, and I have now stopped letting my imagination get the better of me.

You may remember in my last blog, that I have started a course on strategic coaching, and I was doing some research in preparation for writing my assignment, on coaching and mentoring in an organisational culture. So everyday this week I have spent a couple of hours continuing the research and making copious notes, on organisational culture, coaching and mentoring policies, and people strategies to name a few of the subjects I have been immersing my self in every morning this week. So for many of you that may sound as dull as ditch water. For me it has been restorative and enlightening. I know! I’m a boring bastard! When I have not been writing I have been re-acquainting myself with one of my favourite writers Brene Brown. Before I went to Chester I ordered Rising Strong, so it was waiting for me on my return. If you are feeling less than resilient at the moment, if you have been knocked down and are struggling to get back up, then this is the book for you. Have you seen her Netflix special yet? If not seek it out, I laughed, cried and felt inspired.

It has been a week where I could work at my own pace, where I could just allow my anxieties and worries wash over me. Where I could just let myself be me.

I spent the other evening trawling through Spotify to compile a playlist, as you know I love music and often bang on about my eldest son’s band (incidentally they are playing in Manchester on 30th April at The Castle Hotel, please pop along and say hello if you are in the area), oh and now my youngest is in a band now, so I will be boring you all about them soon enough, I have heard some early demo’s and they are pretty awesome. Anyway as I was telling you I spent the other evening compiling a playlist of new music. There is a lot of really good music with something to say at the moment. So if you are interested in music and if like me it holds mystical restorative powers for you, I have included a link to this playlist for you.

Ahh April Playlist


I hope you enjoy the playlist, I generally use music to help me be present, it suspends my thought process as I let the sounds wash over me, I can then focus on what is happening to me at that moment, how the music interacts with my senses and allows me to tune into my environment. I have started running again. I wish I hadn’t stopped, as it has been harder than ever to get going with it again. I am using a couch to 5k app, and it is really helping me, but so is using my playlists, they don’s stop the discomfort but they help me reconcile it, and gets me through that initial discomfort. I am beginning to feel they I am making progress, which is good really as I doing the Hull 10k in June (no pressure). Wish me luck!

All in all another good week, roll on the next, and lets see what adventures that brings.

Happy Birthday My Old Friend

This week saw the 70th Birthday of the NHS.

The NHS provided the Midwives and GP that brought me into the world. It trained the surgeon, anaesthetist, nurses, ODPs, play specialist, porters, caterers and cleaners that looked after me when I had grommets inserted into my ears, to get rid of my glue ear.

When I was 16 the Nurses, Doctors and Physiotherapists at City Hospital in Chester inspired me to be a Nurse.

When I was 18 I moved to Hull and trained as a Nurse, at the Hull District School of Nursing.

When I was 21 the NHS gave me a job as a Staff Nurse on a Children’s Ward.

When I was 23 the NHS trained me to be a Children’s Nurse.

The NHS took me on as a nervous homesick boy and turned me into a compassionate, competent, professional Clinical Nurse Educator and Coach.

The NHS has been by my side, helping me become all I am today for the past 29 years.

The NHS has and always will provide outstanding health care to all and for free at the point of access. This is an incredible achievement. In fact is is miraculous, when you think of the scale, and the incredible progress that has been made over 70 years.

There are people who have experienced major trauma or sepsis in recent years who are alive, that would not have survived even a decade ago. Some of the routine work carried out in the NHS today would have been unthinkable when I started my career at the end of the 80s. All of this is done with challenging finances, and under the glare of constant political and media scrutiny.

NHS is not just a health service, it is at the heart of who we are in the UK. Let’s not take it for granted, and let’s never lose it.

Thank you NHS for being there for me all my life.

On Thursday I attended The Hull and East Yorkshire Health Expo. This is an annual event showcasing healthcare in Hull and East Yorkshire. This is our chance to show the breadth of services the NHS provides locally and the diverse career opportunities available in the NHS. This year’s event was incredible with it being the anniversary of the NHS. I had a great time, getting people to make smoothies on our smoothie bike, meeting and greeting and talk about careers in Nursing.

I know this has not had much coaching content, but I wouldn’t be a coach if it wasn’t for the wonderful NHS. So I needed to celebrate this incredible national treasure.

Being a Parent

Being a parent is a privilege, on the whole it is wonderfully rewarding experience, watching your child grow, and develop.

However it is also exhausting, stressful, and sometimes terrifying. We are after all hard wired to protect and nurture our children, we can’t help it we just do it.

When our children are young we develop eyes in the back of our heads, and survive on a few hours sleep (mums especially). This behaviour can be confused as neurosis. We all remember that look on the GP’s face when they see you in the surgery for the tenth time in a month with baby David’s rash, cough, funny eye, etc, etc…

Then before you know it they are starting school and you turn into a blubbering wreck. This doesn’t last and soon you start to relish school, some of you live the time to get back to work others relish the support network that develops at the school gate. You start to connect with you fellow neurotics. It is they say good to share your pain.

This network can be a double edged sword, with stress and anxiety creep in when you realise that Tabitha and Sebastian are on a higher reading book than Dave, and Sebastian is tipped to be the next David Beckham playing for the local under 7s. You start taking David to football, horse riding (good for balance), chess club ( intellect), and Guitar lessons (he could be the next Ed Sheeran). Your exhausted, Dave is exhausted and to be fair he is shit at all of them.

Within a blink of an eye your child is leaving Primary School and heading of to High School. And you thought starting Primary School was stressful!

The first 2 years at High School are fairly benign. Then puberty hits! This coincides with GCSES. You might call it a perfect storm. Hell on earth is more like it. If you have boys (I have boys so it might be the same with girls, I don’t know) the first thing you notice is the smell. They start to sweat a lot! Then they stop talking at length and barricade themselves in their room, making the smell worse. Every now and again they will come down, so you ask them how school is going, how is revision going, what subjects might they want to study in 6th Form. You know show an interest in their lives. Big mistake you get accused of interfering in their lives and interrogating them. So you answer back and before you know it you are in the midst of a full blown row, started by asking how they were!

Then they go and do something that stops you in your tracks, that might be something kind and thoughtful, or pass their exams, or produce something amazing. Your heart swells and you remember how proud you are and how much you love them.

As they get older you spend less time in contact with them, but the same amount of time worrying about them. There comes a time when you realise that they are not children anymore, and your role as parent is going to change, and pretty soon it will be more of a distant role. I am at the start of this stage and let me tell you emotionally it is draining. I am having to come to terms with a change in the way I support them, and it is hard.

Each of us is going to experience parenthood differently, and parenting one child is different from parenting the next. So everyday as a parent is a pioneering day. We are always on virgin territory, we are never going to be experts in parenting. Just when you think you can apply what you have learned from experience, you child bowls you a googly.

So give yourself a break, stop comparing yourself to your friends and family. Every family is unique. Also remember your child is new at this too.

If your are stressed and tired, but feel so proud that you could burst then you are on the right lines.

Enjoy your journey, you only travel this way once.

Music on my commute to and from work

It’s been a while since I shared a playlist.

I am not sure if anyone listens to them, but I really enjoy putting them together.

With it being Mental Health Awareness week it is important to remind ourselves to give some attention to our mental health. One suggestion is to do something everyday that you enjoy, if you can it is best to spend an hour doing something that makes you happy. Now putting together this playlist took slightly less than an hour. So I have another 45 minutes left to fill today. Now that is fairly easy on a sunny Saturday. However during the week that can be a little more challenging. Trying to fit a an hour in our busy days can feel a little indulgent. Trust me, it isn’t, it is vital, vital for your health and well-being.

So if it is we have to be a little more imaginative about how we fit that time in. Firstly though we all need to examine our days, and think about those activities we do in a day where we derive enjoyment, that could be spending time with our children, taking the dog for a walk or cooking. Create an inventory of enjoyable activities, once you start you will realise how happy you can be simply by appreciating the things you already do. When you add them up you may be halfway there. Now cherish those activities, and if you need to move them up your importance order.

Once you have created your inventory, then look at those redundant parts of the day, such as your commute to work. My commute is about an hour a day, 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. To fill that time I know put my music library on my phone on shuffle and sit back and listen. Now I have a couple of playlists that automatically update with new music that is downloaded onto my phone, so when engage the shuffle option I can listen to a song for the first time. Therefore that anticipation of not knowing whether I am going to listen next, it could be an old favourite or a new classic is so exciting.

My boring 30 minute commute is transformed and flies by. So why not in the car, on the bus or train put your music on shuffle sit back and see what happens. For me I have nailed in hour of happiness.

Because I like to share here is a playlist made of a shuffle I did this morning, not on a commute but sat on my sofa. Have a listen if you like, if you don’t that’s ok too, I have had my fun.

My commute shuffle