Clinicians, conferences and Clangers: how a cartoon can turn into the dream self-care programme.

May 25, 2017

FEELING TIRED?...
 
Have you ever been through periods of inexplicable lethargy and wondered what it was all about? Are you going through a period of in decreased energy at the moment? 
 
I attended the Annual Conference UK National Institute of Health and Care Excellence last week, and started thinking of the impact of these high intensity events on my energy levels. My sensitivity has increased quite a bit since last year as a result of having a relatively simpler and calmer life and because I've deliberately wanted to fine tune my coaching acuity. So I had to manage my “conferencing time” and allow for plenty of rest.
 
If you’re going through a period of tiredness, it’s easy enough to understand the physical aspect of a change of your external circumstances, but the internal shifts (psychologically and emotionally) tend to get underestimated and neglected.
 
Things can get oversimplified as: “I’m starting a new job and need to get used to it”. You probably wouldn’t articulate the experience as: “I’m integrating my identity as mother with that of teacher/creator and developing another aspect of myself as the moderator to help balance things out”. Or: “I’m moving from introverted technical expert to leader and messenger in the world, and I’m coming up against a lot of inner-resistance”.
 
These inner-shifts require a significant amount of energy to process – like a chrysalis in a pupa before it becomes a butterfly -  because of the profound adjustments that literally rewire your brain and change your emotional and psychological experience. Your physical posture might change and thousands of little modifications in your interaction with your environment occur and become new habits.
 
Sometimes you might find that nothing has changed in your external circumstances and still feel tired, in which case it could be one of those deeper shifts that occur in the life of a human being. For example, research shows that, in Western society, individuals in their thirties tend to enter a career crisis that can last until 55 years. It’s important to understand that nothing is “wrong” and be conscious of this sort of shift and how to handle it. Otherwise, you may come to erroneous interpretations that can make matters worse, the experience unpleasant and miss the opportunity for growth and happiness inherent in the process.

 
THE DREAM SELF-CARE PROGRAMME
 
If, like most people in the West, you live a fast-paced, post-modern lifestyle, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics of happiness and wellbeing. You can end up striving endlessly for one thing after the next, and ignore the subtle signals from your body saying a rest or a pause is needed while some inner-adjustments are made. It’s best not to override these signals as they tend to get stronger and eventually knock you sideways...
 
Prevention is better than cure so invest in developing good habits around self-care. This is where Clangers come in…
 
I’d never heard of Clangers until last week’s NICE conference but I’m told by a very reliable source – a very well informed and eminent occupational health physician in fact – that they were cartoon characters of the 70s. Dr Phil Hammond, a doctor specialised in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (alongside being a committed campaigner for patient rights, a hilarious comedian and an emcee for the NICE annual conferences) has put together a helpful acronym to cover the basics of self-care. See below (those of you familiar with Tony Robbins human needs psychology will spot the overlap with the six human needs).
 
C: Connect
L: Learn
A: be Active
N: Notice
G: Give back
E: Eat well
R: Relax
S: Sleep
 
These are all evidence-based principles of wellbeing. They date back to ancient philosophy and now that they are supported by science, the ideas are slowly seeping into the healthcare world. We are starting to wake up to the importance of mental health and wellbeing as pillars of our approach to healthcare and moving away from hospitals as the centre of the healthcare system (not least because of the unsustainable cost as societies age and become more health aware).
 
You’ll probably find Clangers to be self-evident truths. The important thing is to put them into practice on a regular basis, and check in to see if anything’s missing when you’re feeling tired.
 
The one that deserves a bit of attention is “Notice”  i.e. pay attention to what is going on both outside you and within you. This is where a mindfulness practice is essential as it strengthens your ability to focus and see into the deeper nature of things. It’s the practice that can make the single biggest difference in your life as it helps you to cut through the mental noise and increase the level of clarity in your life and decision-making.
 
Legend in the making: Dr R, a super-dedicated General Practitioner and partner in her practice, found that she wanted to explore different career options but was having a hard time moving forward. By working together to slow down to understand the bigger picture (inner and outer) and become more mindful of how habitual patterns were getting in the way of action, she finally took some big decisions that freed her up to pursue her passion while looking after her needs.
 
 
HAVE YOU TAKEN YOUR PULSE LATELY?
 
When was the last time you sat down and did an MOT on yourself – physically and mentally? In France, there is the concept of “bilan” which has great merit as a self-care practice, in my view. The closest word in English might be “screening” or “check in” but neither really correspond. Perhaps, Clangers will do.

 

Until next week,

 

Amina

 

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