Maintaining Emotional Wellbeing
Clinical placements are an opportunity for students to integrate the knowledge learnt at university with real-life experiences so they consolidate the skills needed to competently practice in their field. Students in field placements may have not yet acquired mature coping strategies to handle client situations which evoke strong emotions and may have yet to learn how to negotiate organisational demands which create stress (Litvack et al, 2010, p.229). Likewise, the clinical educator may be pressed for time, faced with their own personal issues in addition to work and have organisational strain to deal with. Maintaining your emotional wellbeing or ‘mental fitness’ during the education process is imperative to ensure a positive learning experience for the student and positive teaching experience for the educator.
Practical tips on how to maintain your own emotional wellbeing during placement
Self-care for health professionals: Building resilience, enhancing work engagement and preventing burnout
You can register to view this webcast by Dr Anne Poulsen, an Occupational Therapist who has over two decades of experience in the field of workplace health and wellbeing. It takes an hour to watch but is worth investing the time. Dr Poulsen (2013) summarises a range of evidence based self-care strategies for health professionals to build resilience and prevent burnout. A key message is that burnout often occurs over time so health professionals need to invest in their own self-care well before the emotional and/or physical wellbeing is compromised.
She describes four major components affecting wellbeing and resilience: the ability to Detach, Relax, Obtain mastery and Gain control. Within these categories, several valuable strategies enable health professionals to maintain wellbeing:
- Set boundaries – consciously shift your thoughts away from work at the end of the day, leave notes/laptop/emails at work
- Try to remain in the ‘Here and Now’ – reduce thinking about yesterday or what else needs to be done tomorrow
- Incorporate ‘breathing space’ - Include adequate time away from your student during placement. Organise a session with another practitioner, provide them with project work, documentation time, reflection time so that you can catch up on what you need to do
- Stop to savour – pause to consider a good moment, communicate positives with others
- Consider three good things that happened today
- Consider the use of ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ – with the team and student, actively discuss what is working well, list achievements
- Take two deep breaths regularly
- Allocate 10 minutes per day to abdominal breathing
- Consider the use of formal relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation 30 minutes per day. Griffith University has a list of links to various forms of relaxation for you to choose from (e.g. progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualisation and focus)
- Consider starting regular Yoga
- Take real breaks - sleep, naps, a holiday
- Find a hobby
- Build a network. Ensure you have enough support yourself – supervision or mentoring with a peer professionally as well as including an active social network outside of work
- Identify your strengths to energise
- Consider ‘Job Crafting’ – actively evaluate and change job components to align with identified strengths
- Participate in lifelong learning - this can provide access to additional opportunities and improve self-confidence and critical thinking ability amongst others
- Become self-aware and politically adept so you are able to identify potential stressors and manage them in a timely fashion
- Learn to say ‘no’ – assertive communicators are less likely to get swamped yet still maintain professionalism
- Set one goal – when we have something to work towards, we are motivated to continue and achieve
- Reward yourself – at the end of a placement, make sure you do something positive for yourself. You deserve it.
Work-Life Balance: Dr Anne Poulsen
A shorter more informal discussion provided by Dr Anne Poulsen on how to maintain a work-life balance through incorporating general principles including gentle exercise, relaxation and good nutrition are imperative during times of increased workload are described in a practical blog.
The ‘Here and Now’ - Mindfulness
Although mentioned by Dr Poulsen as part of maintaining emotional wellbeing, Mindfulness is a clinical practice in its own right. Mindfulness refers to a state of mind focused on the ‘here and now’. It is a practice linked to maintaining wellbeing in a variety of settings, from businesses to home, and can be used as a clinical tool or for your own emotional wellbeing. We are often distracted or worried by ‘what would happen if’? or ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ Mindfulness encourages us to be present in the current situation, concentrating wholly on what is occurring at that particular moment in time. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness, provides an operational definition in this clip.
To get started on your journey, read the World Happiness Forum’s “Mindfulness in 10 Easy Steps” including learning to meditate, breathing, reducing stress and simplifying life, building awareness and inspiration.
The Mind Gardiner® is a pair of authors who also practice within the Mindfulness approach and have several purchasable books regarding cultivation of a healthy mind. They have three blogs that can assist to build your ‘Mental Fitness’ within very short timeframes:
These are quick and practical techniques to get started on a mindful pathway, reducing the risk of stress, burnout and compromised emotional wellbeing.
Supervision and Self-Care in Practice
In addition to mindfulness and self-care principles described, the Mental Health Professional Online Development website has compiled a formal Supervision and self-care in Mental Health Services learning module on how clinical practitioners can understand the challenges of working in the Mental Health setting specifically and importance of self-care. If you are able to access this website, it is an option for undertaking formal training in this area.
Dr Anne Poulsen (2013). Self-care for health professionals: Building resilience, enhancing work engagement and preventing burnout (Webcast), The University of Queensland & WLBS- Qld Pty Ltd. Retrieved from http://webcast.gigtv.com.au/Mediasite/Play/30b0d15ddb504243ac9584694844ada11d?catalog=5ab62a2f-4400-46bc-9f6f-95f5b51209911