Mark Aitken: Hello and welcome to the Nurse and Midwife Support Mindfulness podcast, and why your health matters. I’m Mark Aitken, your podcast host for today. I’m the stakeholder engagement manager with Nurse and Midwife Support. I’m a registered nurse, so I understand the world that you live and work in. Nurse and Midwife Support is the national support service for nurses, midwives and students. The service is anonymous, confidential and free. You can call us anytime about any issue that you need support with: 1800 667 877 or contact us at nmsupport.org.au
My Guest today is Lucinda van Buuren from The Mindful Nurse Australia. Welcome, and hello Lucinda!
LvB: Hi Mark!
MA: Great to be here today in your lovely home Lucinda, thanks for inviting us to make the podcast here.
LvB: You’re welcome. I’m so excited to share this great topic with you, I think that mindfulness and self-care for nurses and midwives is just such an essential part of our profession.
MA: I completely agree. You’ve got a fantastic story Lucinda about how you came to mindfulness and how you created a business out of that experience. Would you tell our listeners please about you, The Mindful Nurse Australia and explain what mindfulness means to you?
LvB: Ok, well, I’m a registered nurse that worked in the theatre. I experienced a lot of family situations about 7 and half years ago. I had grief, loss of loved ones and also the loss of a marriage and children separating. So quite a chaotic and hectic time. I wasn’t really coping, and I certainly couldn’t cope with my nursing at that time. Through my experiences I learnt life coaching, then mindfulness and meditation and also a bit of reiki. I learnt that everything was already inside of myself. Then I went back to nursing and I’m passionate to share this with other nurses, midwives and everyone in that profession.
MA: Thank you for sharing that Lucinda, that sounds like a very challenging journey that you’ve been on. I imagine that many of our listeners would have been on a journey where they had a lot of challenges in their lives. What were things about that journey that helped you move forward, as opposed to staying in a place that wasn’t good for you?
LvB: Well, I learnt that there was so much stuff inside of me. That we can change the way we think, we can change our own circumstances. No matter how big the storm is, you can find a way to get calm within yourself and I’m very passionate about that. That brings in mindfulness and I really want to share how that has helped me on my journey. Hopefully it can to help others.
MA: What does mindfulness mean to you?
LvB: Mindfulness, to me, means awareness and observation. Being able to really see clearly, what really is going on and being able to decipher the mind that is busy with different thoughts which might not necessarily true. I know in NLP they call that emotional hijacking, so just being able to really have clarity and being able to see things clearly. And staying in that moment; you’re not going backwards, you’re not staying in the past and you’re certainly not projecting yourself into the future. You get to live every moment, right where you are, which is so powerful and so special.
MA: Indeed, and you said NLP. For our listeners who don’t know that acronym, what does that mean?
LvB: Neuro linguistic programming.
MA: Thanks for clarifying that. You’ve spoken to me about the power of the moment, and reconnecting to those moments of mindfulness to reset and enable you to pause and refocus and recharge and move forward. What do you actually mean by the power of the moment?
LvB: Well the power of the moment is being in the right, here and now. Whatever is right in front of us. From my perspective, in mindfulness, I’ve done a lot of work around the stress response. This is why I work so passionately with nurses and midwives because we not only have our stress, but the stress of the patients. We’re continually surrounded by stress. The physiological understanding of the stress response is that when we are in a stress response there are actual brain pathways, we can’t access the best version of ourselves. When I understood that, and you can actually start on a physiological level, start realizing how are we going to calm this stress down so that we can start performing like the best version of ourselves. That’s where I learnt, and then I learnt mindful techniques to intercept that stress and then to be powerful in that moment. That’s when you really have the clarity of being able to just be in that moment; with whoever you’re with, whoever you’re working with, wherever you are. The choices that we can make, those are choices where we can make change, in the moment. If we learn to make those changes, in the moment, time and time again, then it takes us on a different path for our future. We can create a different path for ourselves, in our lives.
MA: I love that concept, that you might be running around in the work that we do as nurses and midwives. Getting everything that we need to get done, done. But you actually need to create a sense of now. You might be waiting for some test results for instance, and you’re on the phone and you’re starting to feel anxious because you’re starting to remember the other five things on your list that need to be done almost straight away. Then that is evoking a stress response, and you’re thinking, why isn’t that person hurrying up and giving me those test results? And yet, you can evoke mindfulness and that moment of mindfulness. Being able to bring you back to the present and breathe through that to create a situation of awareness around thinking, ok, I’m waiting for these results and I need to be in this place waiting for them. Those other five things are going to happen once I get those results.
What advice do you have for nurses and midwives who are in that space, that situation and they are wondering how to put in place this moment of mindfulness? How would you do it?
LvB: Well, for me, if you go to my website I have lots of free resources. I check it out all the time, because I am just so passionate about sharing it. But one of my big things is reset breathing. I call it reset breathing, some people call it yoga breathing. Some people call it abdominal breathing. I like the term reset, because for me, it is like hitting a reset button. It’s all within us. We have it. It’s quick, because nurses love quick, we don’t have time for much else. The perfect thing about it is if you’re in that stress response and your sympathetic nervous system is activated, with this breath, we’re actually going to stimulate our vagus nerve which will bring in our para-sympathetic nervous system and calm everything down. You have the physiological mechanism of knowing that you can actually bring this back when you want. It’s so easy to do. Would you like to run through this?
MA: Sure, let’s run through it. This will be a mindfulness exercise to give our listeners a sense of how this can be created.
LvB: Yep, ok. We’re going to talk about the reset breath; it’s abdominal breathing. Deepak Chopra, who is a bit of a guru in the self-help sector, he’s a doctor. He talks about placing your left hand a couple of inches below your belly button.
MA: I’ve just done that, so listeners if you want to do that with us this is your opportunity.
LvB: Then we’re going to put our right hand on the outside of our right chest. Ok. When we’re going to take a big deep breath in, our left hand, we should feel our abdomen push out. Then we’re going to keep breathing in until we feel the expansion of our rib cage with our right hand. We’re going to do that for about four counts. That’s when we inhale, we’re going to feel our abdomen blowing up. Then we’re going to feel the expansion of our right hand.
MA: So that’s pushing our belly out with the inhale breathe, rather than what many of us normally do, sucking it in with the inhale. It’s the opposite to what many of us are used to.
LvB: I’m sorry, all of those flat stomachs have got to go out of the window for the reset breathe.
MA: We’ll lose the vanity around it.
LvB: Here comes Buddha.
MA: That’s why Buddha’s got the belly.
LvB: Yes. Then we’re going to exhale. On the first part, we’re going to feeling our rib cage decrease. We’ll feel out right-hand decrease, and then we’re going to feel our abdomen decrease. It’s like, if you can visualize, the inhale is filling up your cup. We’re going to start from the bottom, obviously, the water is at the bottom of the cup. Then we’re moving further up towards your ribs. When you’re drinking out of the cup, which is going to be your exhale, you’re going to feel the top of the water (which is your ribs) go and empty out the bottom of your cup. We’ll do that for five breaths.
Now I just want to say, be really kind and gentle to yourself. Everything takes time to work. If you didn’t quite feel the expansion of your rib cage, just keep persevering. It’s a really important tool. Now we’re going to take that one step further. We’ve just made two parts of that to the breath, now we’re going to take it to a third. We’re going to move our left hand now to the centre of our chest and we’re going to keep our right hand on our rib cage.
MA: That’s hand off the belly, and that hand to the centre of our chest.
LvB: Now, we’re going to create a three-part breath to this abdominal breathing. Same thing as the first two parts, we’re going to inhale, expand your belly. Then we’re going to expand your rib cage. The third part is where your top hand is, at the top of your chest, you’re going to lift up and you’re going to feel a slight lift in the top of your chest. That is your complete abdominal breathing. We’re going to try that for a count of three.
LvB: Well done, for everyone trying that at home. If I could say anything, I would really try to encourage everyone to try and practice that breath and get it going really well. Because when you stimulate that vagus nerve, you have the ability to calm your body down instantly. It takes one breath, and you’re breathing anyway. The better you get at it, the quicker it works. It’s so imperative in those times of stress. The beautiful thing is, as nurses and midwives, we’ve got pulse oximeters everywhere. Play with it! Put one on your finger and watch your pulse rate go down the more you breathe, so you can see it working. You can see it go down, the more you breathe. So you can really test this stuff out.
MA: And if you don’t have a pulse oximeter, you’ll know its working because you’ll actually feel restored. You’ll feel calmer and you’ll actually feel more relaxed. That’s great Lucinda, thank you. You talked about your website where people could find some of these resources: www.themindfulnurseaustralia.com.au
Why did you start The Mindful Nurse Australia?
LvB: When I had all of those hardships going on in my family life; I’m quite a perfectionist in my nursing, and I really struggled to be able to feel like I was achieving what I wanted to in nursing. Because I had so much stress, I thought I was going to leave the profession. And I actually nearly did leave. I love nursing!
MA: As most of us do, which is a part of the reason why we do it.
LvB: Then I realized, when I learnt these skills for my life, that they could be used everywhere. Because I did used to take what happened in nursing personally. I would be affected and I would take a lot on. I realized when I learnt that in my family life that I could really help do stuff in our profession, it was a key to life.
MA: So you did some training, you did what nurses and midwives do. You engaged in your lifelong learning and you did a coaching qualification. Then you did a masters in coaching. Now you coach other nurses and midwives who are looking for the skills and the support to be able to improve their wellbeing?
MA: That’s wonderful.
LvB: And the coaching focuses on heart values, and a process called the heart process. So it’s about really honoring yourself and learning a lot about who you are, what makes you tick and where you want to go, how to bring all of that into fruition. And it’s wonderful.
MA: Well that’s great! And I know that you talk about this journey for you and your daily practice of your self-care routine has really enabled you to feel that you’re able to provide better care to your patients. Can you talk a bit about that? How that caring for self has enabled better care for patients?
LvB: Absolutely. I think, when you truly learn to honor yourself, you also in turn honor everybody. When I see the people I look after, I am completely in the present for them and what they need. I’ve learnt to step out of myself. For my self-care practices, with work, I don’t always meditate when I’m not working but when I am working I do 40 minutes meditation before I go to work and I always do 40 minutes meditation at night. What I’m doing is I’m clearing my head, setting myself up for my day, clearing the path for my work and for all the people that I work with. Then at the end of the day I’m releasing everything. That has been such a mechanism of resilience and self-care. It’s profound, the extent to which it changes your life.
MA: And those tools help you navigate every element of your life? And help you remain healthy and well?
LvB: Absolutely. I work in the operating theatre, so sometimes it’s not my stress, it’s other people’s stress. It’s very powerful, to be able to help calm everyone.
MA: Now stress is a part of life for many nurses, midwives and students. Particularly when they’re studying and perhaps juggling work outside of their study. Also graduates, who are transitioning from student to graduate life. What do you say to people when they say, I’m really stressed by my work and I’m seeking some strategies and support to be able to manage that stress? What kind of, three or four tips would you give them?
LvB: Well firstly, I would try and come internally and make sure that we’re not on a cycle of stress. Again, learning the reset breathing. Learning to just calm and to actually see whether it is stress or if we’re on this cycle. I know, for me, I was definitely in a state of chronic stress for many years of my life. I didn’t know it, but I was. I was attached to drama and a lot of different things. We have two parts of our brain; we have the implicit part of our brain, which is learning and it starts very young (from birth). It’s that part of our brain that is completely unconscious and it’s retrieved unconsciously. It’s like the riding of the bike. You don’t get on a bike and think; now how will I ride this? You just get on the bike and go. It’s like driving a car, every time you get in the car you don’t think…
MA: It comes automatically.
LvB: Yes, lots of things become automatic. So sometimes our stress response is also automatic.
MA: Oh, indeed.
LvB: And the power of mindfulness is actually being able to intercept that in the moment without judgement. And having the clarity to understand if it’s real stress, or do we need to break the cycle? That’s where mindfulness and meditation actually alters the pathways in the brain. You start getting quiet, and getting still, and working out where exactly we are first.
MA: Yes, so some of your tips would be mindfulness and meditation. Take it on as a daily practice and incorporate it into your routine. Learn it so that you can put it in place when you’re experiencing a stressor in life, or work, or both. That brings you back to self and the moment and your body. I imagine diet is a really important part of that. So eating healthy, nutritious whole food. Making sure, as a nurse or a midwife that might be doing shift work, that you have that organized so you can take those healthy meals to work with you. You’re not going off to the cafeteria and eating something that’s possibly something you don’t want to eat. You might want to save the treat for your days off.
LvB: Yep, definitely.
MA: Making sure that you get adequate hydration, which I think is really important for nurses and midwives. Because we’re busy, so we need to make sure that we’re hydrating. And exercise, the importance of ensuring that exercise is a part of your daily routine. Is there anything else to add in there?
LvB: We’re heading into self-care, and really honoring yourself and seeing yourself as a priority in your own life and doing things that you love. A part of coaching is trying to work out who you are, and working your way to ticking those boxes of who you are. Because sometimes that can be a really significant cause of our stress. If we’re not honoring ourselves then we can create our own stresses, so we really want to look after ourselves but we’re somehow not doing that.
MA: I really like, honoring self. I think that is a really powerful concept to connect with.
MA: That you are the most important person. At Nurse and Midwife Support; we talk a lot about filling your own mug first, because we have our own Nurse and Midwife Support mugs. As nurses and midwives, when we get to have a drink we need to make sure it’s a decent one. Whatever our beverage at work is. We recommend people drinking water in its most pure form, to rehydrate the body and the mind. So, self-care, it’s a concept that we talk a lot about. What does it actually mean to you?
LvB: Well, self-care, there’s a beautiful acronym that I love. We’ve got self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-respect and self-esteem. Self-esteem is really coming back in line with honoring yourself. When you’re happy with who you are, you’ll have a healthy self-esteem. But self-care can be a lot more than people actually recognize; what actually constitutes self-care. On my website, I haven’t got it on there at the moment but I’ll pop it up there as a free resource, it’s called a mindful self-care journal. There’s all different types of parts where we can be a part of our self-care journey. For example; employment and professional self-care, that’s a part of you making sure your job is where you’re meant to be. You can take that responsibility, and you can feel really satisfied. That’s a part of self-care; knowing where you’re meant to be. Now they’ve bought that into the code of conduct; so self-care is important and we have to abide by that now. I think that’s a wonderful way of them bringing that in to help, because as nurses and midwives we really do need to care for ourselves. We’re worthy!
MA: I agree, and I think that code of conduct for nurses and the code of conduct for a midwives is a really powerful way for people to connect with the fact that the organization that’s regulating us professionally is actually requiring us to connect with our self-care, health and our wellbeing.
LvB: Yes, it’s wonderful. So with that self-care journal, I actually talk about employment and professional self-care. For example, I’m quite a perfectionist archetype. I can feel myself stressed if I’m unsure of a piece of equipment, if we get something new and I’m not quite sure how to use or work it. So I’ll come home and get on YouTube and do my own research, because everything is on YouTube! I’ll find my own way of knowing how to do it. That lifts my stress straight out the window. I use my stress, now, to my advantage. It’s my little trigger, because that’s who I am. I like knowing how to do things well.
Then we’ve got our physical self-care, we’ve got our psychological self-care. That’s where we’re going to gain clarity and build resilience. Again, finding things that honor ourselves and finding relaxation time. Enjoying good company with friends. We’ve got emotional self-care. This is where we’re allowing ourselves to express our emotions, and also Mark you talk about debulking. Debulking is where they’re coming from and what’s going on. How we can make them work for us; are they constructive to our growth or are they sometimes blocking our growth? How can we work through them? This is all, again, all of these things, when we start to look inside we come back to that self-care. The first part of self-care is self-compassion. Don’t judge yourself. We’re always growing. Our purpose in life is to grow, and that could be at snail pace and that is perfectly fine. It’s not a competition. You’re never in competition with anyone, only yourself. You just try to be a better person than what you were yesterday. Then you’ve got spiritual and soul self-care. Again, honoring who you are, what you believe and what makes you tick.
Then we’ve also got relationship self-care. Sometimes I think this gets overlooked, but it is actually very important because it affects the workplace. It affects everything. As you gain clarity and calmness and you calm down in mindfulness you start seeing and looking at how you do respond to different people. And how you engage in your workplace or in your lives. And it is really powerful.
MA: Which is really a part of mindfulness, isn’t it? Being mindful about how we interact in the world and how we present in the world.
MA: So that’s a great resource. I love the mindful self-care journal. Can you give our listeners your website details again please? So they can access that, if they want to.
LvB: Yes, it’s www.themindfulnurseaustralia.com.au
MA: Thank you very much. Well I cannot believe we’re come to the end of our podcast. Time flies when you’re talking to a great guest like yourself.
LvB: Thank you.
MA: So today we’ve talked about Nurse and Midwife Support. We’ve talked about The Mindful Nurse Australia, who is Lucinda and her innovative business. We’ve talked about mindfulness and the importance of it and trying to find a way to integrate it into the work that we do. To create moments of reflection, of pause, and to be able to reset. We’ve talked about the power of the moment, and the importance of self-care and provided some tips on self-care. Lucinda has shared the wonderful self-care journal, which as we’ve said is available on her website. You can actually find some more self-care information on the Nurse and Midwife Support website (www.nmsupport.org.au). Or you can call our 1800 number; 1800 667 877 and speak to any of our nurses or midwives about your self-care journey, or your plan, or if you’re wanting to set up self-care for yourself. We’re available anytime to speak to you about that. Lucinda, just one last question that I ask my guests. If you could speak to young nurse Lucinda and tell her some words of wisdom, what would they be?
LvB: They would be to not be scared to ask for help. And to be kind and compassionate as you would want to be treated. I love Nurse and Midwife Support. I hope we all get really comfortable with ringing that number and really helping each other. I think it’s time that nurses, we really need to support each other and find the nicest, friendliest loveable nurse that you’re working with on the ward and team up with them. Choose someone that’s going to give you a really good support.
MA: And help you fill up that mug?
MA: That’s great advice Lucinda, thank you very much. You’ve been a great guest, I know our listeners will benefit from your wisdom. So thank you for making time for us today. If you found this podcast helpful, please share it with other nurses, midwives and students. Look after yourself, and each other, and I’ll speak to you next time. Thank you.