Spring Edition 2018

Edition 4 — Looking after your mental health

Welcome to the spring edition of the Nurse & Midwife Support newsletter.

This edition is about one of the many areas of your health we are committed to supporting: mental health. Some nurses and midwives tell us that they're concerned about their mental health or the mental health of a colleague and are uncertain about how to address the issue.
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Podcast: Your mental health matters
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By Mark, Anne and Sonya

Thank you to all who listened to our first podcast. Your feedback has been positive and useful so we decided to make another podcast. This podcast is about mental health.

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It was great to have a very experienced mental health nurse and a nurse/midwife as my guests on this podcast who share their insights into mental health.

The mental health of nurses, midwives and students is important. Mental health is not only necessary to living a full life it is vital for nurses, midwives and students to ensure a well-functioning health care system. There are important elements to maintaining mental health. Listen to our podcast and let us know what you think.

We are also interested in your ideas for future podcasts; please send us an email with your thoughts: sepo@nmsupport.org.au

You may even wish to be part of a future Nurse & Midwife Support podcast! If you are interested please let us know.

Happy listening!

Speakers

Anne is a Nurse & Midwife Support Telephone & Online Services Clinician

Anne registered as a nurse and a midwife in the 1970s.

Anne has extensive experience in nursing and midwifery including working in management, research, community nursing, project management, neonatal high dependency nursing, palliative care triage and alcohol and drugs.

Anne is committed to giving back to the nursing and midwifery professions.
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Sonya is a Nurse & Midwife Support Telephone & Online Services Clinician.

Sonya has over 30 years experience as a registered nurse and has worked in both hospital and community settings. She has worked in drug and alcohol nursing, aboriginal health, disability services discharge planning and aged care. The majority of Sonya’s career has been in mental health.

Sonya is passionate about supporting the mental health of nurses, midwives and students.
 

What is mental health, and why is it so important?
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By Mark Aitken, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Nurse & Midwife Support

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The World Health Organization describes mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Mental health isn’t automatic. We all have to attend to good mental health. Sometimes, that means trying to change your perspective on your troubles:  take a glass half full approach, rather than insist that the glass is half empty. Celebrate your life, the good times and what you have. Other times, you might need to acknowledge that the weight of your problems is too much to carry alone and reach out for help from a trusted friend or professional.

Tips for good mental health:

  • be informed ─ there are many resources to support you:
  • eat well
  • maintain good sleep hygiene
  • engage in physical activity
  • socialise
  • reduce drug and alcohol intake
  • set realistic goals
  • relax
  • change your self-talk
  • develop assertiveness skills
  • be kind to others
  • have fun, and
  • reach out if you need help.

If you have questions about mental health, we want to hear from you. Our business is to support nurses, midwives and students across Australia — no matter the issue. Check out our website or phone us on 1800 667 877. We are here 24/7.

Look after yourself and your colleagues.

Your health matters!

Best wishes
Mark Aitken RN
Stakeholder Engagement Manager
 

The MANE tips for maintaining your mental health
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By Dianne Lee, Registered Nurse, Nurse and Midwife Support

Dianne Lee is a registered nurse (also a registered psychologist and marriage celebrant). Dianne has worked for 46 years in public and private hospitals and clinics, community health, universities, criminal justice and forensic mental health settings.

woman reading a book

M is for Meditation and Mindfulness: do one thing at a time. Fully focus on the present moment. If your mind wanders, return gently to your breathing and the activity — whether sitting, dancing, knitting, painting, running, gardening, reading, or socialising. 

A is for Attitude and Awareness: bring warmth, compassion and vitality into your interactions with others — and yourself. Turn that warmth towards your own self. Be loving and gentle, and challenge the critical repetitive chatter of the mind. Develop awareness that thoughts are largely misleading and, with practice, they can be changed.

N is for nutrition: move towards a diet of fresh, unprocessed foods. Healthy food brings life to every cell.

E is for Exercise: find a form of exercise that resonates and embrace the beauty and rhythm of movement.

Nurture yourself in whatever way adds colour and movement to life. Your body and mind will sing with happiness. 

A nurse's personal experience with stress and anxiety
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By Ben, Registered Nurse

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We often take our mental health for granted until we don’t have it. This was the case for me.

Like most nurses and midwives, I had a busy life. You could say I thrived being busy.

My life included a challenging and rewarding job, study, supportive partner, family and many friends.
I consistently extended myself.

I accepted extra responsibilities at work and helped my family and friends. I felt stressed, but stress is part of life and I was managing my priorities.

Things changed when my job became bigger. The organisation I was working in promoted me to a senior nursing role. I took on extra programs with the allocation of new funding and my job required me to be on-call, 24/7. Calls from work between 2 am and 4 am were a regular occurrence; sleep deprivation became my new normal. If we couldn’t replace unplanned leave for the after-hours manager, I filled the shift.

The shift that broke me required me to be the emergency manager. I attended an emergency with an agitated and aggressive patient who assaulted three staff. I also became injured while intervening. I ignored my injury — I had others to support.

I supported staff, communicated with the police, medical staff, families and the executive on call. I organised critical incident debriefing. I followed up staff, wrote reports, missed meals, sleep and neglected my own needs. The incident seemed endless.

I returned to work the next day feeling exhausted. Over the next few months, I became highly stressed. Not the ‘normal’ stress of life but that type of stress that doesn’t let you rest; that controls and consumes you. I became irritable, hypervigilant, tearful and anxious.

My manager noticed the change in my mood and we had a confidential chat. I finally received much-needed acknowledgement of my experience — and support.

The support that assisted in my recovery included:

  • emotional care— being listened to and heard
  • paid personal leave — acknowledgement of my experience
  • sleep—rest is vital to recovery
  • regular nutritious meals — good nutrition aids healing
  • exercise—movement creates calmness, and
  • time with loved ones — this anchors us.

My GP supported me and we discussed a mental health plan. It formed an integral part of my recovery. The plan provided me with access to government subsided sessions with a psychologist, an invaluable part of my recovery.

My journey back to good mental health has been a process. I changed the way I work and live. I learned to set boundaries.

Most importantly, I no longer take my mental health for granted!

Feelings aren't facts: Understand your anxiety
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By Samuel Eddy

Many nurses, midwives and students call Nurse & Midwife Support concerned about anxiety. It’s not surprising — anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. According to Beyond Blue, on average, one in four people — one in three women and one in five men — will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. In a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.

We asked our friend and supporter, Samuel Eddy, to share his views on anxiety.

Samuel is an executive coach and wellbeing trainer who helps organisations and individuals manage stress and anxiety, tap into creativity and innovation and make positive changes in culture, career, business, well-being and work/life balance.

woman in nature

This is what Samuel said:

We often talk about anxiety in the context of mental health. To a certain degree, it makes sense. One of the symptoms of anxiety is excessive worrying, which occurs in the mind — hence the reference to ‘mental’ in mental health.

We pay less attention to the idea that anxiety lives in the body just as much in the mind. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest it is the body that often triggers anxiety, worry and fear-based thinking. So the question I pose to you is:

If you didn’t have unpleasant physical symptoms of anxiety, such as nausea or adrenaline surges, would negative and fearful thoughts feel so powerful?

The many physical symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations, sweating, muscle spasms, blurred vision, dizziness and nausea can be very distressing to experience. These symptoms are triggered by the body’s stress response and are designed to generate fear in order to get our attention. The problem with anxiety is that often there is no real and present danger. The physical symptoms seem to arise out of the blue and can have many triggers such as the environment, memories, smells or even people.

So are the physical sensations of anxiety merely symptomatic of a mental health problem, or are they an integral part of perpetuating one? I suggest the latter. My own personal experience of anxiety and the work I do with clients has taught me that understanding how our bodies can lead our thinking astray can be pivotal to recovery.

Stress that builds up over a long period of time can cause our nervous system (which includes our mind AND body) to become highly sensitized. This means that even the slightest anxious thought can trigger an unpleasant physical symptom, in turn triggering an exaggerated emotional reaction. It is the physical symptoms that make us feel so awful that bluffs us into then engaging with our fearful and negative thinking, and so the cycle continues.

Understanding this allowed me, and now many of my clients to start to break the anxiety cycle and not let how they feel dictate how they think.

If you experience anxiety or are concerned about your mental health and want support call Nurse & Midwife Support 1800 667 877 or check out the resources on the website.

Reach out
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If you need support our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

If you’d like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.

You can order promotional materials from orders@nmsupport.org.au.

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