A moment of CALM: de-stress with new wellbeing workshops for student nurses and midwives


It’s well known that in order to properly care for others, we must first take care of ourselves. I’m sure many of us have shared that advice with our friends, family, patients or their carers, yet how good are we at following it ourselves?

As the term progresses and the list of assignments builds up, it is tempting to put our health and wellbeing on the back burner. There are so many competing demands, especially as many of us juggle uni work with part-time jobs, family commitments or other personal issues. It can be overwhelming at times: every student nurse I have spoken to has felt the pressure at one time or another, yet you can often end up feeling quite isolated, thinking ‘is it just me?’ Believe me, it’s not.

Don’t fear – help is at hand! After feedback from previous students, a brand new project has been set up to support students throughout the year. CALM has been designed been designed specifically for student nurses and midwives, aimed at tackling some of the regular issues we might face during the course.

On offer is a four week Mindfulness course starting this afternoon which will give an introduction to mindfulness and share techniques to cope with anxiety and stress. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, switching off from the endless distractions and learning to calmly accept the emotions and thoughts that fill our minds. Over the four weeks you will be given an introduction to acceptance and be taught some simple stress-busting tips including how to carry out a body scan and breathing exercises. You will also learn how to recognise stress cycle and ways to build mindfulness into your everyday routine.

On top of that are drop-in sessions on money management, for practical tips on how to make your bursary and student loan go further, and a session on housing for anyone who wants advice on finding accommodation that fits our hectic schedules. A series of free sport and fitness classes are also in the works, so watch this space!

meditation-1000062_960_720Starting this afternoon, the Mindfulness course will run every Wednesday for the next four weeks between 1-2pm and there are a couple of one-off money management and housing sessions planned for the rest of this semester. You can book a place on any of the sessions here or contact Eve Foster at sso.intern@manchester.ac.uk – and if you’re interested in the Mindfulness course, it’s fine if you can’t make the first session today.

Don’t forget that the university also offer a fantastic counselling service and a massive range of wellbeing and relaxation courses, from daily meditation sessions to longer courses on low mood and self esteem. There are also plenty of online resources and apps like Headspace that can help you unwind and de-stress.

You don’t have to become a incense-burning zen master to build mindfulness into your everyday life. Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe says in this TED talk that we only need to spend 10 minutes doing absolutely nothing to feel the transformative effects of mindfulness.

So kick back, switch off and just breath.

What a difference a year makes…..a message to those starting uni in September

This time last year I was 2 weeks away from packing up my beautiful little counselling room and walking away from a career which I had worked in, enjoyed and become competent in for 15 years and I COULDN’T WAIT!

office-1Don’t get me wrong I loved….LOVED being a therapist and in some ways it defined me but I had pondered long and hard about the decision to change careers and it had been an exhausting slog getting to the stage where I felt confident to finally end my practice and leap into this new world of placements, essays, exams, university life, uniforms, night shifts, long days, hospitals, babies, women, families, doctors, midwives, HCAs, colleagues, blood, faeces, vomit, paperwork, paperwork, paperwork and STRESS but I was ready I WAS READY TO GO …or at least I thought I was!

What would I say to me this time last year:

“read everything you want to read which isn’t midwifery related because in a year you will feel guilty every time you pick up a non-midwifery related magazine/book”

“knit what you need to knit, sew that skirt and dress you’ve been desperate to get on with and RUN for hours in the evening when the kids are in bed whilst you still can as that time will swiftly become ‘study time'”

“play with your sons, read with your sons, cwtch them at bedtime and in the mornings before school because these are times you won’t be around for and you will be intoxicated with guilt for all the times you could’ve done this and didn’t. Enjoy taking them to school and picking them up as this will soon become a treat not a chore”

“go and visit your parents and explain to them that the next three years are going to be tough and you will work weekends and when you aren’t working weekends you will be studying over weekends as you have worked all week and yes, this is dreadful as dementia is slowly taking your dad away but drink him in now, absorb him and how he is in 2015 as 2016 will bring a bit less of him”

“go out with your husband-he’s a good, decent man and over the next 12 months he is going to prove time and time again that he can and will step up and be both parents to your sons and keep the kids fed, the house clean, the washing basket empty and the animals fed and you sane(ish) despite you doubting his ability to do any of these things at this moment in time”

“invest in the right people. You have amazing friends in your life, some will still be around this time next year and some won’t-friendships have seasons but you will meet the MOST amazing friends on this course and, along with a couple of decent friends already in your life, they will hold you and wipe your tears and tell you that you can do this despite you truly believing, in your soul, you have made a massive mistake. The friends you make over the next couple of months will be your ticket to making it through the next 3 years and hopefully the rest of your career because your midwife sisters are the ONLYpeople who truly understand what it takes to make it through this career choice. It is HARD but MY GOD it’s worth it”

“and most of all EMBRACE every opportunity….you are going to be scared at times, really scared; you’ve been really scared in your life before and you’ve managed to get through it but this will be a different fear; this is a fear of failure, a fear of actually causing harm because you don’t know what you’re doing, a fear or letting your family down, a fear of letting yourself down but don’t let the fear get in the way of being in the moment and experiencing every opportunity that comes your way because this job you are training for, this career, this vocation is a gift and a privilege and NOTHING that precious comes without a price”

Would I have heeded any of this advice….NAH! I was too excited but it’s nice to look back on and reflect!

To those about to start university-yes you’ll have doubts and you will probably cry and wonder if you’ve done the right thing at points over the next 12 months (& beyond I would guess!) but always force yourself to go and do your next shift as you just never know what might happen on that shift that confirms you’ve done the right thing! Plus-if you need support its there don’t be alone in your worry.


Be running up that road, Be running up that hill

Coming back to uni after a fortnight off was quite exhausting indeed! It was from the sublime to the ridiculous with deadlines for essays and presentations looming, exams lurking around the corner (first one in 8 sleeps….eeeeek!), skills to keep on top of and just the small matter of placement 3 days a week! PLUS the usual life things getting in the way of all the uni/placement stuff like children’s birthday parties, parents kids & husband with various health issues going on, stress with having 3 little children in school with all the drama they bring home (primary school seems far more dramatic now than 30 years ago but maybe I am gazing myopically through rose tinted specs!), money worries, dog worries, cleaning, bills, “am I being a good friend?”, “am I being a good daughter?”, “am I being a good sister/mother/wife/WI president/runner/student/midwife”….seriously MY HEAD HAS BEEN FULL!!!!!! Even writing that has caused by heart rate to go slightly tachy!

stressed cow

I went for a run earlier and was thinking about a blog to do with juggling and keeping too many balls in the air which got me thinking maybe I shouldn’t be training for a 20 mile trail run in September and I started to feel guilty…..yes GUILTY….for running!!! “I should be at home revising for my exam/ I should be spending time with the boys they are back to school tomorrow/ I should be writing my skills up” …and so it goes on the should word! That vile internal dialogue or, as we used to talk about in therapy terms, the critical parent! I could feel stress rising in me on my lovely long Sunday run, my favourite run of the week.

running clock

Then the magic of the run kicked in! I reach a lovely zen type place when I am running, it’s after the initial exhaustion of the warm up when my heart rate is increasing & I am finding my pace but before the heavy tired legs kick in in the last couple of miles. The middle of a run is where I find my peace and my mind quietens to a still I rarely reach elsewhere. It was during this zen time that I remembered a running gem of advice that suddenly seemed to apply to ALL areas of my life “just be in this mile Sam….don’t worry about the next 15 miles you are going to run or how painful that hill is going to be that you know is coming at the end of this run just be in this mile right now” …mindfulness at its best. Just be in the here and now as this is the only reality we have.

The past has gone and the future is yet to come we only have right now.

This is true of everything (not just running!!!).

I am going to be in just this mile and not worry about the exam after this one or the assignments due in over the next few months or the skills I still need to do as it feels overwhelming which causes me to be less productive (except at procrastination-I am GREAT at that!). I am going to be here and now taking life one mile at a time. I know the deadlines are coming and I am organised enough to know I will meet those deadlines, stressing about them won’t stop them coming!mindfulness

I can only be in this mile, right now, breathing, experiencing and being.