Thursday, 29 December 2016

Maradona, a Broken Home, Sugar Puffs and Freddie Mercury: the making of a strong independent woman


I was saddened to read about the 10% rise in homeless families this Christmas, compared to last year. There has been more than 300% increase in the number of families being illegally housed in bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation since 2014, thought largely to be the result in an escalation of private rent increases making it impossible for parents to be able to afford to stay in their homes.

But this isn't a case of me being a middle-class, young-middle-aged woman in a nice house, tutting and shaking my head in despondent gloom.

I was once in this situation myself, so reading about what these families are going through some thirty years after I was, makes me upset, to say the least.

A little share about my experience...

We (my parents, my brother and I) were living in a lovely house, in a beautiful coastal town. It was 1986: the year of Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer , the Chernobyl disaster, the Challenger tragedy; and Maradonna's Hand Of God controversy.
It was also the year that I packed away my 11 year-old self into boxes, to put into storage, for what I thought was going to be a few weeks, but turned out to be thirteen long, life-changing months. Every toy, book, keepsake and cassette tape (I smile as I remember my over-played Queen's Greatest Hits album, my Now That's What I Call Music 6, my colouring pens and books, and the kid's Ghetto Blaster I used to play my music whilst lying on the bed with my homemade patchwork quilt my mum made for me, in my Laura Ashley wallpapered room...well it was the 1980's...); our two cats and our two cockatiels, which went to the vets - I am still assured all these years later that they didn't go "to the farm", but were gladly re-homed - everything else we owned was packed away, except for enough clothes to last a few weeks, because we thought we'd only be in the bed and breakfast accommodation for a maximum of six weeks.

How wrong we were.

My parents split up and my dad moved to London to work, whilst my brother and I stayed with my mum, to live in a run-down B&B in the town. We went from a 6-bedroom house to a modest room with a couple of bunks, a double bed, a sink and a tiny little black and white TV. At first, it was a bit of a novelty, but the novelty wore off very quickly, especially by the following weekend when we discovered that we were only entitled to breakfast and an evening meal. My mum was an early-bird, so we were up and dressed by 8am on a Saturday, eating Sugar Puffs in the dining room before heading off to the launderette to wash the few clothes we had.
The launderette turned out to be our only contact with the "outside world" at weekends - aside from the owners of the B&B, who seemed to just about tolerate us living in their house. As time went on, I dreaded weekends and school holidays, which soon became a mixture of the worst kind of boredom mixed with an insatiable hunger headache and jealousy as we met the "real" guests in the B&B, the ones who were paying to come on holiday to the seaside, with children who told us all about their trips to the beach, the arcade, enjoyed ice-creams and paddling in the sea, and lovely family meals in cafes and restaurants.
My mum became very depressed, my brother and I argued a lot, and we had our own emotional reactions to our new-found circumstances. I remember wondering what the point of "me" was. At the age of 11, I distinctly remember questioning the point of my own existence, pondering upon whether I would ever see my belongings again, whether I would be able to invite friends to my (non-existent) home, whether I would be able to be a normal child again.
Six months later, we moved into a very small, very damp and dilapidated winter-let. Mouldy net curtains hung in the ice-laden windows; a tiny fireplace was our only source of heat as we huddled around it to watch The Waltons on a Sunday! I was thankful for Sunday roast chicken and spongecake, but our belongings were still packed away, our clothes were becoming too small for us, some of which were replaced; my brother developed whooping cough. A few months later we were back into the same B&B for a few more months, where we endured the same as before. In the meantime, we were adjusting to life as a broken family, with no home, a depressed mother who was increasingly turning to alcohol for comfort, meanwhile wistfully waiting for our dad to come to visit. We eventually moved into a lovely council flat for a year or so, which is in the same road as I moved into, eight years ago. The irony of coming full circle is not lost on me, and for each time I walk past the flat we lived in back in 1987, I am reminded of these things: the sixpence we found in the garden one day when digging for treasure; the kind lady and her young son who lived in the grounds who I talked to in order to try to make sense of the horrid time we'd lived through; the now non-existent telephone box I used to desperately contact Childline one day when mum was at her absolute lowest point, where I was scared and felt the weight of the world upon my shoulders and felt as though it was collapsing around me.

I am also reminded of my strength; my conviction to believe that something would change. OK, I imagined that someone would come to rescue us, that someone would come to make mum happy and that this person would be really kind to us. I became engrossed in adult fiction over one summer, because mum wouldn't engage with us, so all I had for entertainment was my few beloved cassette tapes, my ghetto blaster, and my mum's bookshelf to tuck into. At the age of 12 I prolifically read, wide-eyed in a mixture of curiosity and naivety  as I consumed The Thorn Birds and If Tomorrow Comes during the summer holidays. In fact, these books served as a convenient form of escapism, in between my self-choreographed interpretive dance to my Queen album...needless to stay, the summer of 1987 was interminably long, painful, and boring. My brother and I would raid the kitchen cupboards and eat golden syrup and hot chocolate powder for lunch whilst mum indulged her sadness in her dressing gown, listening to her vinyl collection in the lounge. The strength I had resembled hanging on to a cliff edge for dear life: I am uncertain where I would be if I had lost my grip and fallen.

So what has any of this got to do with mindfulness? What bearing does any of this have on my work, or my adult life?

Our childhood experiences shape us into the adults we become. Some of these experiences allow us to bloom in positive, sunlit ways; other events cause us to bloom in the darkness, only to reveal our beauty when we choose to be seen, or when someone notices we are there. I feel that I am in the latter. These events I describe caused me to shrink, to hide away, to believe that I was not worth investing in, not worth the time or effort to listen to or to nurture. But something changed within. Something inside of me told me that I HAD to keep going. I have Freddie Mercury to largely thank for this, whose music inspired me and kept me going in my darkest of days. Without my clumsy, calamitous interpretive dance to Bohemian Rhapsody (I admit to an embarrassed face-palm at this point, by the way) - the lyrics of which I clearly understand now, but as a child could feel the emotion and deeper meaning behind the dramatic score - I would have retracted deep into my self, to a deep, dark place where I would probably never had the opportunity to understand my own emotions and make sense of them, let alone develop the empathy and understanding to be able to connect with those around me; nor the gratitude to know that I always had something, even if it wasn't what I wanted - remember, you can't always get what you want, but you often get what you need...
You see, I remember deeply feeling the despair my mum felt, because I was vicariously living it. I felt my brother's frustration and sadness, because I was feeling the same.
So, as an adult, I am particularly passionate about helping children who are going through difficulties in their lives. I can identify their emotions in a number of ways: as a healthcare professional who has worked with children in my jobs for a number of years, as a former child, as a mother; and as a mindfulness and meditation tutor to children. The mixture of all of these ingredients in my life have helped me help others, which I strongly believe is my purpose in life: to heal one person at a time, in order to help make this world a better, brighter, more peaceful place to be. It gives me the greatest of pleasures to be able to gift a child the opportunity to heal from the inside out. For every child I work with successfully in some way, I also heal a little part of me, which is ultimately what makes me who I am, as well as helps someone else see and love who they are and who they choose to become. I work with adults doing inner child work with powerful and inspiring results, too.

Go here if you are in need of a foodbank; check with your local supermarkets or churches if you would like to donate food to families and individuals in need.


Nikki Harman is a Connected Kids™ trainer and tutor, teaching mindfulness and meditation to children as well as those who care for or work with children of all ages. Nikki is the founder of The Inner Space Project, teaching mindfulness to adults, is a reiki master practitioner; and is a part-time registered nurse working in the NHS. Nikki has written a course specifically for healthcare workers who work with children and is available to teach in the NHS and privately. Nikki has also written a book on mindfulness and her life experiences, due to be published this year. Contact her for more details on booking a session or a course with her.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

teach mindfulness meditation in hospitals!


I believe that we are in the midst of a changing culture within the NHS. At work, I see burnt-out staff, stress levels as high as ever and clinicians struggling at times to deliver the care they really want to give to their patients. At the same time I see a high demand of patients who are urgently in need of care, but are also sometimes not prepared to take ownership of their health. Some see that it is up to the NHS to "fix" them. This belief contributes to the pressures the NHS faces and so it sometimes appears to resemble a tug-of-war between staff and patients set within the political arena, stoked up by the media and fanned by disillusionment, thereby increasing frustration and stress within the workforce and fear and unrealistic expectations from patients. This has to change in order for the NHS to survive into the future. Notice I am not going to get into the politics, here - that's for another post! :)
For me, as a nurse and as a mindfulness coach, I want to help facilitate positive change within the clinical environment. I passionately believe that teaching staff to connect with themselves through mindfulness meditation will benefit not only the individual, but their colleagues and the patients, too. Teaching mindfulness meditation to patients to help them with anxiety, pain, phobias or other emotions in a clinical environment could have far-reaching benefits for them and create a different atmosphere at ward level, which will have a positive effect on others.
I have written a one-day course as part of my Connected Kids™ training for healthcare workers who work with children in the clinical setting (ward, outpatients, theatres). This course will teach staff about mindfulness, meditation, how to apply to their practice as a tool for implementing care and will teach them how to write and deliver their own scripts to their patients.
If you are interested, please get in touch with me at innerspaceproject1@gmail.com.
Please do share with your NHS friends, family and colleagues!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Eggs


Intention-setting is a powerful way to bring what you want to create into your life and live it as authentically as you can. Intentions are individual ideas and dreams that are meaningful and important to each person. To have an intention, however, is different to setting an intention. So someone could say, for example, that they intend to find that new job they want because they're unhappy where they are at that time. But in order for that to happen, they need to set the intention and make it happen by taking steps to create it into reality.

So here is an exercise for you to try if you would like to combine some mindful intention-setting with exploring your creativity.


  • Buy a box of 6 eggs - the best quality you can afford, because that enables you to be investing in yourself. You'd ideally want to be enjoying organic, free-range healthy hens eggs because they were free to live according to their means, rather than eggs from hens who were restricted in their lives in some form or another. 


  • For the next six days, you are going to use one of the eggs each day. You could choose to boil, fry, poach, scramble, make an omelette or a pancake or add to other recipes. 
  • For each day, set an intention. To start with, get a piece of paper and write down a few that you'd like to see become a reality - one that you feel inspired by, something that fires you up inside. Think big! This is meant to be a fun, creative exercise
  • Before you start, make sure you are clear on what your intention is for the recipe you are going to make. Keep things as simple as you like, or as detailed as you feel - spend a few minutes sitting quietly, listening to thoughts and emotions that come up for you, breathe into your abdomen and relax into the moment.
  • Begin to make your egg dish for the day. As you do so, focus on your intention, creating it into the recipe as you go. Then take your awareness to the cooking process itself: use your senses to connect with the egg's changing form as it cooks. Notice any thoughts and emotions that come up for you at the time. It's helpful to write these down as you go or after you finish eating, for you to look at again, later.
  • Enjoy your egg as fully as you can - taste each mouthful mindfully and slowly. As you do so, reflect on how the egg has changed its form through your intention-setting (cooking it) and that you have created that change within the egg (your life) and you are consuming it (becoming the intention).
  • After you have finished the box of eggs, spend some time reading the thoughts and emotions that have come up for you as you have written them down. Observe any patterns that have come up for you as you go, and consider the relevance of these in your everyday life.
  • If the egg doesn't turn out as you expect it to each day, don't worry about it - allow any feelings to come up, then let go of them - sometimes things don't always work out the way you intend them to, but you can still put your energy into trying, as you have nothing to lose by doing so!



Nikki Harman is a Connected Kids™ mindfulness tutor, adult mindfulness coach and reiki therapist.
Go to innerspaceproject.com to find out more



Thursday, 20 October 2016

Music and mindfulness


Anyone who plays a musical instrument will know that it can be a totally absorbing experience. This activity involves the musician's total focus, concentration, listening, motor co-ordination, muscle memory; and the ability to play at a certain rhythm, decode the information and turn it into the sounds of something quite beautiful for they and their audience to enjoy. This TED-ED talk explains the fascinating neuroscience of playing an instrument. It is a shame our government still isn't fully recognising the essential value that learning to play an instrument brings to the overall learning, because I believe that academic performance would improve if music had a greater influence in the curriculum taught across the key stages - as well as having happier, more creative children!

So as a Connected Kids™ mindfulness tutor, I am keen to teach my young clients ways in which to engage in activities mindfully and have a great time whilst they do so. After all, we don't have to sit quietly and still in order to meditate: children really benefit from using their energy creatively. 

If your child plays an instrument, give them the opportunity to experiment with it as well as to practice their learned pieces. Connecting with their instrument in other ways, such as giving it a fun name, putting stickers over it (if it belongs to them!) or other ways of personalising it allow the child to make a greater bond with their instrument, which can make them look after it more carefully, be protective of it, or be proud of it. These feelings create a sense of belonging and care within the child. Learning to play an instrument is as much about having creative fun as it is about becoming proficient at playing it, developing concentration skills and learning.

If your child doesn't play an instrument, playing anything rhythmic like the cup song, banging sticks on a railing or gate, clapping, shaking lentils in a plastic bottle; or blowing into the tops of bottles filled with different levels of liquids can help to develop these musical skills, but is a fun, expressive and mindful activity.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Broken Bone, mending minds


My daughter, (above), was happily bouncing on a trampoline a couple of weeks ago, when she landed awkwardly after landing a little half-bounce...not even a big jump; no fall onto the ground - just a little jump. She heard a loud "click" and then had lots of pain. I didn't know about the big click she heard until she mentioned it in the emergency department, but until then, I had assumed it was a soft tissue injury, as I couldn't see any obvious signs of a broken limb, and the swelling went down with some ice packs, rest and pain relief. She even managed to hobble a bit.
This has been haunting me ever since. I had assumed that it was a soft tissue injury and as I know my daughter very well, I also assumed that as she has a low pain threshold, that she was feeling panicky about being in pain. So although I was sympathetic to her pain and helped her, I also asked her to try to relax and enjoy the rest of the day, as we were at a party.
 As the hours passed, she settled down but then awoke in more pain, so I did take her to the emergency department where her leg was x-rayed, and yup...there it was, plain as day: a nasty fracture. For my daughter, the moment where the surprised staff told us the findings - surprised, as they initially thought the same as I did - validated everything she had already feared and all that I had not been prepared to consider. It hurt her that I hadn't believed her.
So the last week or so has been spent getting to grips with what's happened, what is going on, and wondering about the future. We have all cried, laughed, hugged and supported each other to accept what is going on. We have no idea how the leg will heal, as it is a nasty break, so we are preparing to consider how things might look for my daughter in the future. It feels like grief in a way. We are facing a different view to the one we were looking at before the accident, but we are also living a different life now, too. A wheelchair is her best friend. She has started at secondary school, coming in on day one with a bright blue plaster, in a wheelchair, on crutches and having to learn about a new building, new classrooms, new teachers, students, friends, rules, and all the while in a vulnerable position, sat down in her chair with her leg stuck out in front of her! The school have been fantastic at supporting her, and her friends have been keen to help her get to classes and at break times.
I am so proud of her achievements, because of the extra pressure she has been faced with. She has dealt with it so well. She has been strong and determined. I have been doing lots of mindful work with her, as well as with myself. In the end, what it comes down to is this: learning to adapt to a new situation brings positives out of negatives. The pain, the frustration, the inconvenience, the fear over what might be. My guilt, my willing her to get better and to mend fast, my love for her which dissolves any fear for her. My sadness for her, which comes in waves, and which I allow to come up, feel it completely, then let it go, is healing in some ways. Her anger, her cries of "it's not fair" when she can't pick something up from the floor, or get through a door, or when her leg is hurting, or when she wants to just get up and run around with her friends, she sees as a motivation for getting better, rather than to pity herself. She has a strong, bright spirit that is teaching her resilience, patience, determination, and strength. My mindfulness work with her is helping her to tap into these positive qualities, those of which she did not know were there and are so strong, and which are helping her to cope with these big changes at the moment; and she is able to talk about her frustrations, fears, worries and the negatives, which we are paying attention to but are not allowing to consume her. We are looking forward to drawing inspiration from watching the paralympics, too. For me, I am learning resilience, determination, patience and that my love for her goes far deeper than I ever knew. I am learning from her that the more she is held back, the further she will fly when she is free to leap...just as long as it's not on a trampoline...

Nikki is a Connected Kids™ tutor and apprentice trainer. Contact Nikki at innerspaceproject1@gmail.com

Saturday, 2 July 2016

"It's Not Fair!" - the path to self-sabotage is paved with good intentions


A little share for today...

When I was 7 years old, I was sitting at a table in my classroom, doing some handwriting practice along with several other children. I remember that I was holding a well-chewed, thick red pencil. My teacher came to our table and looked at everyone's work. He looked at each piece of paper, and praised each child in turn. When he got to me, he told me I needed to improve my writing as it was not "good enough". My embarrassment turned to shame and then to anger, as he rewarded every other child at my table a lovely blue Berol handwriting pen for their superb efforts. He then told me that I couldn't have a pen yet as my writing was too scruffy. Within me I could feel the injustice, as I looked at my own page, blinking back the tears, my voice of indignation screaming in my head, "But that's not fair!". I was doing what I believed was my best efforts, at the time.
I have carried this experience throughout my life in one form or another, telling myself I must try harder, I must do my best; for each knock-back or rejection I have had my young voice shouting "It's not fair!" within me.
When I look back at the handwriting experience, I see two things.
Firstly, how that teacher's remarks and actions shaped how I have been perceiving my life ever since - that I have to somehow prove to myself and/or others that I am perfectly capable - even very good - at some things. But apart from the self-imposed sabotage of my efforts in life, others who are the "source" of the rejection or criticism are just feeding off my own sub-conscious fears, because they are picking up on them.
Secondly - and this is what makes me chuckle - is that because I am stubborn and determined not to prove anyone else but myself that something is "wrong", I end up succeeding, anyway! I am the one who has been creating my own obstacles to success because of what I believe to be true about myself. It is that little girl within me who is protesting "But it's not fair!" who is my motivator to make something exactly as I want it to be. To make things "right".
So, with regards to the handwriting practice - guess what my 7-year-old self did? She went away and practised her writing for years. We never seemed to have enough paper at home to write on, so many of my children's story books are filled with graffiti'd handwriting, ranging from the names of all the children in my class, to horrible remarks about my little brother, bossy comments about the book itself, etc...all to practice getting my handwriting as I wanted it to look. In my teens I enjoyed calligraphy as a hobby, which inevitably got my handwriting better as time went on.
I am happy with my handwriting, nowadays. I relish writing upon a fresh, crisp, clear piece of paper and I still use the beautiful fountain pen my lovely friend gave me for my 21st birthday.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Pastures New


Last Autumn I made a pact with this ailing meadow: that by the following Spring, we would both be in bloom. In the cold, grey light of October, as I absorbed the detail of the dying grasses giving way to muddy, rain-sodden footfall, I asked the meadow to bloom stronger than before, the following year. The meadow replied with a forceful sea-breeze, cruelly blowing hard raindrops into my cold, red cheeks. Initially put out, I then took the rain to hold the emotion of my side of the pact - that which I needed to open up to in order to grow; and the wind to strengthen me each day, to blow away the cobwebs, the dead grasses, and to carry the seeds of change and renewal into beautiful growth. 

Six months ago I was coming through a long period of uncertainty, at a time when every day seemed to bring me some great challenge to overcome. There were days I felt a nervous anticipation as I left the calm peaceful sanctuary of my bedroom, albeit with a reluctance to face the day, to face other people, to deal with the storm I was travelling through. The days when it would have been easier to sit in my meditations, to enjoy the peace within, to be surrounded by my own familiarity. I knew then, as I know now, that being a practitioner of mindfulness and meditation means bringing it into the everyday, not just to enjoy, contemplate or experience the moment I choose to be aware of, but to approach negative situations in the same way. To be empowered by the moment itself.

Therefore, the subdued, flowerless meadow reflected a deep part of me that I was only too aware of. In one sense, this meadow looked as though it was dying; however the beautiful reality was that it - as always - is teeming with life through the insects, birds, hedgerows and other wildlife which is reciprocally nurtured by her. Underneath the dull-looking landscape, growth and repair was busy at work, new life was coming into being. The Autumn may have robbed the meadow of her old life, but the Spring would bring renewal, change, growth and beauty. 

I have heard some of my clients or friends ask me how difficult it is for me to be positive, all the time. There is an interesting assumption that, in order to be mindful, we have to see only the good things, to ignore the negative stuff.If we were all to do that, then not only would we be resisting the change, but we would be stifling the beauty which arises from going within to the baron meadow. To explore the mud, the dead grasses, to clear them and plant the new seeds to enjoy the growth, to allow change and beauty to shine through. To learn to accept the hard times, deal with them, then let go.

I'm not always positive. I have days when the world seems muted, when I feel as though I am in a void of negativity. Instead of succumbing to it, though, I plough my way through, examining, weeding, digging deeper to find the growth. All negative experience can teach us so much about our relationships with ourselves, as well as others, and of the experience itself. Sometimes it may seem not so much a meadow, but more of a swamp: a soupy, gloopy mess of stuff to sort through. But even swamps have life and growth. 

Yesterday I visited the meadow for the first time in a while. She was proudly resplendent in cowslips and emerging clover. Showing off her beauty, the cowslips gently waved to me in the Spring breeze, like a crowd cheering on their team. Incessant chattering from the birds in the hedgerows, coupled with the quiet buzz of curious insect life existing happily amongst the floral landscape, non-judgementally shared the moment with me. For a while I lay on my tummy as I photographed this cowslip. The ground felt warm and comforting. I felt invited and welcomed. I felt life around me, within me. The meadow seemed to be smiling with me, affirming with me that I too had grown since Autumn, that I too was teeming with opportunity for further growth, change, and that I am starting to bloom. 

As the saying goes, "change is the only constant in life"

Nikki Harman is a mindfulness tutor to adults and children. Contact her at innerspaceproject1@gmail.com or visit www.innerspaceproject.com




Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Mindful School

Me, speaking about mindfulness and getting students involved in mindful activities at the school


I've been teaching mindfulness to the year 11's in my local school, in preparation for their exams. Starting in February just before half term, I've been going in once a week to offer optional mindfulness sessions, given scripts and information to key staff for use during the week, and have been seeing students individually. I have also started lunchtime mindfulness to the teaching staff.
I have been auditing the sessions, which have shown improvements in the students. I am looking forward to going through the questionnaires the students and staff regularly fill in, but already there are significant improvements, particularly in anxiety levels - across both groups.
I am very happy to work in primary and secondary schools/colleges. Please get in touch to find out more!

Nikki Harman
innerspaceproject1@gmail.com
www.innerspaceproject.com

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Mindful Handshake


The Mindful Handshake is intended as a greeting to ourselves: it is though we are are shaking our hand to make contact with how we are feeling in a given moment. It can be used at any time, but particularly if fears or anxiety are becoming out of control.
To carry this out, please trace one hand with the index finger of the other, starting with the thumb, moving slowly and mindfully to each digit on the hand, using the following as your guide (remembering that the guide is within):


If you're unable to work through each digit, just pick one to focus on

Thumb: Think, "Am I becoming under the thumb (negative thoughts are beginning to take control of this moment)? Am I starting to become controlled by doubts, worries or fears?"

Index Finger: Point out the facts of the moment. What is true right now? Look for the good points as well (Look for the positives as well as seeing the negatives)

Middle Finger: Sit on the fence: observe what is happening to you, within you and around you

Ring Finger: Listen out for alarm bells - fears, doubts worries creeping in - see them, feel them, thank them, then "ringfence" them. Let these go

Little Finger: One little step at a time. Moment by moment

Palm: Palms up - what we give out, we receive. In other words, if we perceive everything in a negative light, then we are more likely to respond negatively to what's happening in any given moment.
Avoid "crystal-ball gazing" to predict an outcome, which we can do in times when we are anxious or worried about something. It can be easy to let the negative thoughts take control of our perceptions of an event. Be aware of this, so that you can check in with yourself and ask yourself what is happening right in the moment.

Fingerprints: What is in our nature? What are the habits we have learned? What can or cannot be changed?


Important: This is intended as a guide only. If you are experiencing anxiety or fears which feel like they are happening more often than you would normally experience; or if you are feeling that you cannot control these emotions, or yourself, friends or family are becoming concerned about your emotional well-being, please make an appointment with your GP. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Enough Is Enough: knowing when to stop


Look at the photo above. Isn't it a beautiful view? I took it last week, during a walk with my two children. We were planning to go to Old Harry, on the Jurassic coast, then head into Studland to catch the bus back home.

We packed a picnic, lots of water (but as it turned out, not enough), a camera, and our sense of adventure. Seemingly intact, we left home and made our way along the beach.

We hadn't even made it to the bottom of the road before my 11 year-old daughter began to complain. Actually, we had had a morning of everything being not quite right in my daughter's world. I had tried to enter into her space, to try to help lift her out of her sense of irritation and negativity. She didn't want to invite me in, though, so she remained where she was, and I hovered around the outside, hoping for a free pass, or at least the offer of connection.

I kept things upbeat: "what a beautiful day it is!" (it is the SATs season: both children are sitting them this term and so I can almost confidently assume I have learned to use the recently-controversial SpAG exclamation mark correctly) I repeated, smiling, nudging and hugging both children. "We are so lucky to live here. Let's enjoy the day". My remarks were met with "I'm hungry and thirsty. When can we stop to eat?" We had only just left home, being fully watered before we set foot out of the door.
We decided to stop after we had walked for half an hour. In that time, we made one toilet stop, a water bottle refill, a rucksack adjustment and two shoe-lace re-ties, scattered with cries of "I'm hungry!", "My feet hurt" (what, already?), "When can we stop?" and "My eyes hurt". I confess that I uttered at least two of these statements. My 7-year-old was buying into the sense of adventure, but my 11 year-old was still in her own space, to which we were neither invited to join nor a party to, but rather the sounding boards for her irritation.

We enjoyed our lunch whilst admiring the view overlooking Swanage bay, on a bench which seemed to have jumped forward a few feet since we had last visited it; actually it was due to cliff erosion which had reduced the distance between the bench and the cliff edge. We had a lovely lunch, the mood lifted and we joked about being "hangry".

After a while we continued on the path up towards the top of the hills. Things were going well until my daughter felt she couldn't continue up the steep steps. I patiently encouraged her to carry on, one step at a time, but after another 10 minutes of complaining, bickering with her brother and getting cross with the steps, I felt it was time to stop. I tried to explain that it was OK to find it difficult...that not everything is easy nor intended to be, that the pain and difficulty we can experience can often end up giving us a completely new view and experience. After another round of sibling conflict I decided that enough was enough, so we turned round and walked back down the hill.

The lessons for me?
I have learnt that sometimes, it's easier to quit whilst I'm ahead. I learnt that the view we had on the midway point of the big scary hill will still be there to re-visit another day. Some days are meant for just climbing half-way up the hill, which is the successful point - that getting to the top of the hill isn't always the indicator of success.

I have learnt that my daughter was able to articulate her feelings because she felt safe and listened to, and because she is strong-willed in her own ways, which I am honour-bound as a parent and as a woman to listen to and respect. She is strong, fit, healthy and persistent: so the fact that she was telling me she couldn't do this walk to the top of the hill and beyond was an indicator of her own strength in admitting to herself and to the world outside her own space that "enough is enough".
I have learnt that my own projection of failure to meet my goal for the day (to get to Old Harry, walk into Studland and catch the bus home) to my children is not helpful for them or for anyone; and I have also learnt that I too felt that "enough is enough" when I caught myself spiralling into negative self-talk and buying into the cortisol-adrenalin mix that was swirling around me in the past week or so prior to this walk.

The view: oh what a beautiful view! The ability to see with clarity, to understand and gain an alternative vista had lifted me out of my head and into a beautiful possibility to turn things around from a negative into a positive.

To know is to understand, but to feel is to reach within the depths of empathy, compassion and sample the richness of experience from a higher perspective.

If we can accept that there is not always a right answer, a right way to do something, that things can go wrong; if we give ourselves permission to make the mistakes, then we can learn something beautiful from them.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Litter Picker


As I was driving up the road in Swanage today, I came across a huge pile of what looked like sugar lumps, but was actually polystyrene. I was in a bit of a hurry, as this weekend is a bit busy. I hesitated: should I stop to pick it up, or should I carry on?

I decided to stop to pick it up. The cubes of polystyrene were strewn across the road, being blown about by the sea-breeze, less than 200 metres away. I knew that collecting the rubbish was the right thing to do. After all, around 44 percent of sea-birds eat plastic, and polystyrene absorbs water so that it sinks to the bottom of the sea, meaning these and other plastic-derived pollutants are prevalent in our oceans. Well done, clever humanity, for polluting our oceans and aquatic life...

What does this mean to humans? Well, the fish eat the plastics, as well as swim around in plastic-polluted water. People eat fish, who are consuming plastic derivatives. Hmmm. I don't really eat much fish, partly for this reason.

What did surprise me (but perhaps shouldn't have), was that nobody offered to stop to help me pick up the hundreds of polystyrene cubes that someone had left in a nearby car park, presumably for the council to collect (if the wind hadn't dropped it all in the sea, that is). Unfortunately someone had partly driven over the box. forcing it to break up into tiny pieces.

One person did stop to watch me begin picking up the pieces, saying, "Oh dear, that is going to take you a long while, isn't it?!" before he continued his walk into town. It wasn't my rubbish! I was just doing  my bit to look after my lovely little spot in the world, which I would like to keep safe for wildlife and for the residents and visitors who enjoy the sights, the sea, the food...the fish...the plastic...?

So, if you want to consume non-plastic items, if you want your local and greater environment to stay beautiful (or even to begin to do so), please pick up your litter. What's to stop you picking up a piece of someone else's, too? We can also reduce the amount of plastic-wrapped items we buy; manufacturers need to reduce this too.

Practice being mindfully in the moment, as you consider how you are helping others, as well as yourself. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don't leave it up to someone else. We all have that responsibility. We all have the opportunity to help each other and the planet.
Thank you!

Saturday, 5 March 2016

"Mindfulness sessions to keep doctors and nurses healthy"


An article in today's Mail Online today reports that NHS England are to offer financial incentives to NHS trusts in order to improve health and well-being of staff.
The focus on improving staff sickness includes targeting mental health, muscular-skeletal problems and obesity by offering a range of programmes, including mindfulness. 
As an NHS nurse I am pleased to see that the well-being of staff is being taken seriously. The NHS is going through a tough period whereby healthcare professionals are feeling the pressure from many different areas. It is taking its toll on all staff who work within clinical and non-clinical roles. 
As a tutor of mindfulness, I am positive that introducing this practice to NHS staff could have a great impact on the mental health of staff. I have drafted a mindfulness programme specifically for clinical staff, which combines my knowledge, qualifications and practice as a mindfulness and meditation practitioner, and from my experience and observations as a nurse with 23 years of clinical experience. I am keen to roll it out to NHS trusts to see how it could impact staff well-being, and how it can benefit patients, both indirectly and through teaching mindfulness techniques to patients, as well.

Nikki Harman is a mindfulness tutor to adults, a Connected Kids™ children's mindfulness tutor; and a registered nurse, working within an NHS trust. visit www.innerspaceproject.com, or contact Nikki at innerspaceproject1@gmail.com


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Mother's Day

My children, when they were small(er)

I remember my first Mother's Day. My daughter had just turned a year old. I remember reflecting on that first year of our new life; that of my little girl, and how I had changed so much in that time. All for the better, I felt, but I was insecure about how well I was doing as a parent. I wanted to know that I was doing the right thing, making the right choices, giving her enough of my time and love. Going to work made me feel guilty. I felt like I was the worst mother in the world for leaving my baby in a nursery next to where I worked, from the age of 5 months. Every lunchtime I would go to the nursery to breastfeed her, and deliver the milk I'd expressed earlier on in my morning coffee break for her afternoon feed. I would then return to work, to sit in my office, catch up on admin and eat at the same time, before carrying on with the afternoon clinic. In that first year of life as a mother, I poured 100% of me into my baby, and somewhere found some extra to pour into work. At home we played together, read together, slept together (sometimes - back then co-sleeping was not recommended and we were advised to put her into her own room when she was 6 weeks, instead of the 6 months I was told about when my son was born, four years later). We went everywhere together.
My baby girl was, and still is, a livewire. She was the only baby amongst those of my new mother friends whose baby would remain awake after a feed; more than that, as soon as she had finished her feed, she wanted to look around, soak up everything around her, and would get noisily impatient if I had the audacity to slowly sip on a cuppa and chat. I'd enviously look at my friends' sleeping babies in their buggies, wondering when my daughter would discover the delights of frequent napping. She never did. One day when I was at work, the nursery staff phoned me to ask if I could come to see if I could settle my little one down, because she had been awake the entire day and had not stopped crying for an hour. Wracked with guilt, I left my work (having rushed through seeing a couple of patients) to get to the nursery. I found my 6 month old daughter, blotchy, red-faced and clammy, screaming into a pitch black room in a cot. As I picked her up I could feel her stiff body slowly unwind into a softened stance as I tearfully whispered to her. She settled down, then began crying again as soon as I put her down into the cot. I had a full clinic to see, with expectations upon me. I felt so torn and guilty, I had no idea what to do for the best. I eventually left, feeling the trauma of seeing my baby so upset and overtired, but without being able to do the right thing for her. On the days I worked, I would tearfully load her into the car seat and drive to work, feeling the guilt of leaving her with the nursery. Things took their toll, however; our first Christmas as a family was spent with myself and my daughter having pneumonia. I have a photo of her in a baby swing at the park we went to just to try to do something fun on Christmas day. She looks ill and exhausted. What were we thinking?!
 It took several months for both of us to get used to being apart, but we managed it in the end. I think she found it more fun than I did, though. Ten years on, my daughter is a beautiful, confident, strong-willed girl who is still very much a livewire and requires lots of physical activity to keep her ticking over at optimum levels. She's bright, happy and has a strong sense of injustice. The guilt I felt all those years ago has given way to relief that I have not harmed her in the long term. In fact, those days gave her independence, some self-resilience and coping mechanisms which we are constantly fine-tuning and exploring. My son enjoyed the luxury of me being at home with him for the first two years, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, full-on 100% conscious parenting. He too is happy, empathic, resourceful, self-resilient, we are close and he makes me laugh every day. Which is a good sign, as this morning he told me he wants to be a comedian when he grows up, because he likes to make others laugh.
So, back to that first mother's day. Having gone through that first year, I was hopeful for some sort of recognition. I don't know what I really expected, but my husband had not made any effort to make that first mother's day memorable or special. Whereas I had taken our baby to a pottery shop to get footprints placed onto a big mug, bought a card and some chocolates for his first Father's day; I woke up to nothing. I remember trying to rationalise with my perceived selfishness for expecting something - after all, isn't Mother's day another consumerist opportunity - but I felt hurt that I had been overlooked. I felt that I was the Big Mug. I tentatively mentioned that I would have liked a card. He left the house and returned later with a card and a bar of chocolate. In my mind, I wanted to go out for lunch to celebrate life as a parent for a year (we had a March baby), to go for a lovely walk, to feel wanted and special and to soak up that moment. My husband did not think this way. Eventually I persuaded him to take us out for lunch, but he got stressed out because everywhere was booked so we ended up somewhere he didn't like. We ate in strained conversation, before we returned to the car. Overcome with disappointment, I gave an angry outburst that I felt I deserved more. He reacted by telling me I was selfish to expect so much from him. I wanted to be on my own, at that point, as I felt so overwhelmed and confused. He dropped me back at home, drove off with our daughter and left me to cry and sleep for a couple of hours. In looking back at this, I know much of this reaction was down to exhaustion, and feeling shamefully empty despite me knowing that I had no need to feel that way.
Since that first year, I have been wary of celebrating mother's day for myself. I made that conscious decision to not expect anything, but to be grateful for everything. The best gifts I have are from my children. I love the hand made cards, the messages, the objects they create secretly at school (although my younger son has disclosed that the clay teddy bear he has made at school is not for me, this year, but for his big sister - who he believes is more deserving of it than I am - fair enough I guess!). Last year the children spent most of Mother's Day with their dad, my now ex-husband. It was also my daughter's birthday. I felt exactly as I had that first year, only more bereft, not of gifts, but of not fulfilling my role as a mother; and guilt because the children used their birthday money to buy me a present, because their dad had refused to take them out and buy them anything, despite their apparent repeated requests for him to do so. They had expected him to help them, as I had given them some money to buy his birthday and Christmas presents.
So, this year is going to be different again. I will be celebrating Mother's Day. But I don't expect cards, presents or being pampered. This year I will be celebrating my children, who have taught me how to be a mother. Being a mother, it turns out, carries with it the expectation of frequent and repeated acts of selflessness. From the moment a woman becomes a mother, there will always be a part of her that will devote anything or everything to their child, whether it is compromising on sleep, time for herself, self-pampering to levels enjoyed in pre-parent days, financial or friendships; there is always something for a mother to offer. I will be reflecting on the lessons my children have taught me. The adaptations I have made in my life not to find the path of least resistance, but instead to walk the harder path, in order to change and grow, so as to contribute more to each challenge and overcome it. Mother's day isn't about me, I realise. For me, it's a day of recognising the roles women play in life for their children, and the rewards are those little cold hands waking us at 4am, the snuggles and the hugs, the smiles, the achievements made through persistence, having encouraged perseverance; the best gift I can give my children, aside from love and time, is to tell them every day "I believe in you". On Sunday, I will be going out for lunch with my children, but I will be celebrating them, thanking them for making me the woman I am today.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Little Bird

video
I am writing a book to go with the mindfulness course I have started to teach. Entitled "The Gem In The Dust, the six-week course focuses on different themes for each session. 
I wrote it with the backdrop of my own experiences. Four years ago I thought I was happy and complete in my life: I was married with two lovely children, living in a lovely house by the sea, in a beautiful part of Dorset. But actually my life resembled an old, worn sofa, with a groove I was stuck in - until one day, a spring poked up and made me stand up, get out of my comfort zone and be uncomfortable for a while. Well, a long while, actually. I ended my marriage, and now I am a single mum juggling family life with a job as a nurse; my work as a reiki master; a mindfulness tutor, writing courses and teaching children as a Connected Kids™ tutor. I teach others to find the powers within them to get out of their comfort zone as much as they feel able to, to find their sparkle and shine, to share with the world in whatever way they want to do so, using mindfulness and meditation. 

This video, which has taken me a lot of courage to share publicly, I hope will inspire others to find their own way of making positive changes in their lives, to be the person they feel they are inside, or to discover aspects of themselves they never knew existed, explore them positively and see where life will take them. It could be the smallest change to a life-changing decision - it's up to the individual to see where they will go with it. 


Interested? Contact me at innerspaceproject1@gmail.com

Nikki Harman RGN is a registered nurse working in an NHS trust; and a mindfulness tutor to adults and children. visit my website for more information


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Mindful NHS

A relaxing mindfulness session I led for NHS staff 

This week a report presented at The Mindful Nation launch revealed that if Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was practised by those suffering with chronic pain and depression, there could be a saving in the NHS of £15 for every £1 spent. The Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) recommend mindfulness as a treatment for patients. This surely must be welcomed into a National Health Service at a time when so much change and disagreement is taking place? 

The thing is, that each time I read about the benefits of teaching mindfulness to patients I get a little frustrated (so I mindfully work through this, of course). To be honest, the crux of my frustration can be pin-pointed to these things:

1. I want to make people feel better. That's my job. That's my nature. I have seen the benefits of what I teach first hand, to adults and children. It seems that I am having trouble convincing the powers that be that I can have a positive influence on patient care and the well-being of staff. This is something I need to continue to work through in my own space. The whole process is teaching me more about who I am and how I react in my inner and outer worlds.

2. I want to be given the opportunity to develop a programme for staff to learn for themselves and then to teach with patients. I have it. I can do it. At the moment, nobody can hear me! I'm reaching out but the offers aren't forthcoming. What's going on? 

I feel that the NHS needs to change its culture in order to work forwards and make progress. In 2014-15, 39% of NHS staff had time off because of work-related stress. That's nearly 1 in 4 members of staff. I believe that before we can begin to teach patients mindfulness, we need to focus on staff well-being. I'm here. I have drafted a whole programme for NHS clinical staff to teach them mindfulness techniques. Hello!
As a nurse who qualified in 1997, I have seen many changes, and yet so much has stayed the same. It's time to look after ourselves, to give ourselves compassion, to listen to our inner fears and stressors, to learn how to adapt these into positives and reflect this in our professional relationships and in our delivery of care. I know what stress feels like, I work in demanding clinical areas, I've been in more senior roles in the past, so I get it. I now see things from an all-round perspective, so I do really understand the problems staff face. But I can also see ways to change the way the problems are perceived. 

I believe it begins with connection, what I call the seventh C of compassion in practice.The connection of human spirit within the nurse and patient relationship is what weaves the sometimes achingly beautiful compassion, care, courage and commitment into the art of nursing. Connection is the thread that holds everything else together. Without connection, the most basic, yet most complex circumstance is flawed. Mindfulness involves making that connection with ourselves, as well as with others. 

How many reports and recommendations will there be, in order to influence change? 


Nikki Harman, RGN, is a nurse working in an NHS trust. She is also a Connected Kids™ tutor and a mindfulness tutor to adults. Nikki is writing a book about mindfulness and teaching her new course, The Gem In The Dust. Contact Nikki at innerspaceproject1@gmail.com


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

"Me" Time


January has been a hard month. Cancer has affected many of us in different ways. It is almost impossible to not hear this word being spoken, sworn at, whispered, cried over, mourned over, or feared. January, it seems, has been the month that has proclaimed the word over and again; the bitter wind bringing the disease sailing into the conciousness of millions, not just in the public domain, but for those who have lost friends or relatives, too, for those who have been diagnosed, for those who care for others. 
If you have cancer, as a nurse, I can help you with your pain. I can help you feel comfortable. I can listen to you, advise you, find further sources of help for you. I can hold your hand, I can make you laugh. I can let you cry and shed your tears. I don't judge you. I hear you, I'm here for you.

From my experience as a nurse, friend, or relative of someone with cancer, I feel that it is a deeply intense, personal experience to those who are going through it. To me, it seems that life for them has taken on a new meaning. Time seems to change, either slowing down or speeding up. It seems that suddenly, life doesn't "fit" in the way it did, before. 

So as a mindfulness tutor with adults and children, I find that life takes on a new meaning for those who begin to practise mindfulness in their day. Each person takes on a new, deeper, or perhaps even lighter view of the everyday. For anyone going through the stages of dealing with cancer, I perceive it to be this way, too, although with a more tangible, emotionally-attached experience. Everybody has their own way of handling their diagnosis and treatments, as it's whatever feels right for them that is important. Sometimes people don't always know what to feel or do; they see how people change towards them when they tell others about their diagnosis;some they lose as friends, others rally round and gather close. Some just want to be living as normally and fully as possible. 

If you have cancer, the following is for you. Please note that this is a general mindfulness and meditation, and certainly not designed to "fix" you, but for you to give yourself the love and attention you deserve. Be gentle with yourself, and feel the strength in your life.

If you would like a session with me either 1:1 or over Skype, it will be much more specific and tailored to you. Please also consider writing a journal after you do these activities, as it can help you work things through.

For the next week, when you wake up, lie quietly in your bed for a few minutes, and try the following:
·        Focus on your physical sensation – how do you feel?
·        What are your first thoughts?
·        What do you see around you?
·        What emotions are you feeling?
When you have considered these, then take a few moments to practice being in the present:
·        Acknowledge any physical sensations
·        Accept your first thoughts, thank your mind for showing them, and then focus your mind on the very moment you are in (i.e. I am lying in bed, I am warm, I am getting ready to sit up and get out of bed)
·        What can you hear? Try focussing on one sound, preferably one that doesn’t invoke feelings of anxiety or stress!
Next, sit on the edge of the bed:                                                                                                                   
·        Place your feet firmly on the floor, giving you a sense of feeling grounded, or connected to the moment
·        Sit with the spine straight, but not rigidly
·        Take a slow, deep breath in. Breathe into your abdomen. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Take several slow, deep breaths (but don’t make yourself dizzy!)
·        Rub your hands together, place them over your eyes, feel the warmth from your hands, the tingling on your palms
·        Rub and pat your arms, feeling the tingling sensations. Repeat with your legs
·        Feel the sensations of being “in the moment”
Finally, when you have completed the exercise, say to yourself “I am grateful for being in this present moment, I am calm, I am grounded, and I have connected with myself”. Then, as you stand up, stretch, smile, and start your day!

Here is an exercise to try either during or after treatment:
Begin by sitting or lying comfortably. You may wish to close your eyes, or you can keep them open, focusing on an object or image in front of you, or gaze out of the window.
As you take your next breath in, have a curiosity about how the breath travels into your lungs, and leaves again. Be aware of your breath, taking it slowly and slightly deeper into your lungs, all the way down into your abdomen. Be aware of your shoulders, allow them to relax, lengthening the distance between them and your ears.
After a few breaths, take your awareness to your feet, and as you breathe in, scrunch your toes tight, and relax them as you breathe out. As you take your next breath in, tense your calf muscles, relaxing them as you breathe out. As you move up your body with your breath, be aware of how each part of your body is feeling. If there is pain or tension, breathe into it, hold the breath for a few moments, and then blow or "huff" the breath out, either slowly or quickly, depending on what you would prefer. Move up the body as you feel able, until you reach your forehead. Frown on your breath in, and relax as you breathe out.
Now spend a few moments breathing normally, feeling the chair, floor or bed supporting the weight of your body as you relax into it. Is there anywhere that feels uncomfortable or painful? If there is, try to focus on the area. Be aware of the sensation and feel of the area. Try not to tense up, but remain as relaxed as you can, whilst accepting the sensations. Imagine a colour - it could be any colour you like - see it as a fine, gentle mist, slowly coming into the area you are focusing on, and absorbing into your body. Perhaps it feels warm, or cool, bubbly or fizzy - let it happen without thinking about it. As it moves into your body, see the mist as engulfing the pain or sensation, and gently dissolving it, melting it, or consuming it, somehow. The mist becomes denser. like a fog, then lifts itself out of your body, and drifts away. Notice if you feel any different, now.
Next, imagine the warm sun is shining on you. You can feel the rays on your body. See these rays as coming into your body, lighting up every cell in your body with golden sunshine. Imagine each cell has a smiley face, so that you are filled up with happy faces and a warm glow! Enjoy the peace of this moment, for a while.
When you are ready, take a few deeper breaths into your abdomen. Feel the chair, floor or bed beneath you, and wriggle your toes and fingers. When you feel ready, rub your hands briskly together to generate heat and warmth, and place over your eyes. Blink into the warmth, and then, when you feel ready, open your eyes and feel yourself back in your room. Bring your feet to the floor and feel the connection between your feet and the earth.

Namaste,

Nikki Harman

innerspaceproject.com
innerspaceproject1@gmail.com





Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Mindful Nurse

It is 5.30pm on the last Friday in January. I am driving through heavy rain, the velvety darkness looming ever closer as I edge my way through rush-hour traffic to get to work, 26 miles from home. Storm Gertrude is fully embracing the thrill of the moment, her blustery vengeance rocking my car along the bypass. As I arrive at work and walk to the entrance, I am peppered with hard rain, so that by the time I get into the hospital corridor, my face and head are wet; the contrast of the dry, warm air is like standing in front of a recently-used, warm oven, devoid of a freshly-baked cake that was there before: slightly comforting yet tinged with melancholy, as I remember it's a Friday night and I am at work instead of spending time with my children.
As a bank nurse, I am employed by the NHS trust I work for, but don't have a permanent contract. I choose to work on the bank because it suits my life as a single parent. There is only so much help I can comfortably ask for, and I feel that I should be present in my children's lives as much as I can be. It also slots into my commitments to running my business as a mindfulness tutor. But I do miss being a part of a team, and I miss being given the responsibilities I used to have.
Tonight, I am assigned to work in the Emergency Department (ED), where I work regularly, and somewhere I enjoy. It is the busiest, most intense place to be at times; very fast-paced, with anything and everything coming through the doors at all times of the day.
I scamper to the canteen to grab a sandwich, eating it quickly on my way back to the ED, as I have only 5 minutes before I start work. At 6 pm I walk into the department and see the queue of patients on trolleys, waiting to be handed from paramedic to the hospital. There are no beds to assign them to at the moment, as the wards are waiting to discharge patients or wait for clinical decisions to be made. The nursing and medical staff are busy; very few have had time for a break. I am asked to go to help out in "minors", where people who self-refer come to be seen, and where the GP referrals come in to be assessed or assigned speciality beds.
This area has been short-staffed all day, so there is only one nurse triaging and handling the GP referrals. I am given a list of patients to get to ward beds as soon as possible, in order to free up cubicles for the other patients coming in through the doors.
I spend an hour or so transferring patients to wards, handing over to a wide stress-spectrum of staff. All of them are tired, busy, hungry, some are finding it more difficult to hide than others. I then return to the ED to help with triage.
A couple of hours later I am asked to perform a procedure I have been trained to do but haven't done for a year or so. I feel slightly under-confident but fairly sure I can remember how to do it. I begin well, and then I feel the doubts creeping in. My stomach tightens and my confidence wavers. Having already talked it through with a senior colleague, I then ask her to come to supervise me. She takes over, doing the procedure exactly as I would have done it. I feel stupid. Why didn't I believe in myself? I try to explain this, but it's too busy, and the colleague is also due to finish her shift. My feelings of stupidity continue to niggle away at me for the rest of the shift.
4 and a half hours later, I head to the staff room for a 20 minute break. I sit alone, half-aware of some rubbish on the TV that someone had forgotten to switch off before leaving. I hear the rain and the howling wind outside, I check the time and I feel tinges of emotions coming up. I reflect and ponder on the events of the shift so far, then head back out to carry on. More patients coming in, more to take to wards, more to triage. I try to work as effectively as I can. Stock hasn't been replaced during the shifts due to business, so it means going off to re-stock whilst seeing patients. This slows everything down - especially when I don't know where something is kept, and can't find a member of staff to ask.
My shift is supposed to finish at midnight. At 11.55pm I realise this is unlikely. There is still a fair amount of things that need doing on the patients I have been preparing for the wards and have been clerked by the doctors. They are important things like giving intravenous antibiotics, administering analgesia, performing procedures. My colleague has taken over triaging, and she is busy. It would make things more difficult for her and the patients if I left. I decide to offer to stay for another hour, to try to tie up as many loose ends as I can. My offer is taken up. I spend the next hour getting things as organised as I can, before leaving at 1am. This was a good shift.
My drive home is even more perilous than the journey in, not least because I am feeling tired. I am feeling frustrated, too. I mull over the events of the shift, conversations, reflect on what I could have/should have done, I try to see events from the perspective of the other parties, and conclude that we, as an NHS body, are stressed. We, as an NHS workforce, are at capacity and beyond. We, as people, are not valuing ourselves enough, we are not giving our own self-care, we lack self-compassion, not just individually but as a whole. I know this to be true of me, because my inner monologue on the way home was twenty-five miles of negative self-talk, and one mile of self-appreciation. An unusual ratio for me, as I was holding on to feeling stupid about the failed attempt at the procedure I was asked to do.
We spend so much of our working lives engaged in processes, care, standards and unrealistic, target-driven restraint enforced by madmen in suits, who sit in the upper echelons of political power, exercising what seems to me to be some form of delusional magnanimity whilst bankrupt of integrity. These are the people who are slowly but surely dismantling health care workers like a six year-old plays with Lego characters. Metaphorically speaking, bits fall off, bits get re-attached, torsos and heads are changed about, some are thrown back into the bucket, others are trodden on. Some are super heroes and carry on, intact, others are strong and many are simply doing their job as best they can, coping with whatever comes their way. These nurses I worked with tonight are heroes in their own way, as they are doing their job as best as they can. They are feeling the pressure. I felt sympathy for them; there is so much more good stuff to them. If only they could see that within themselves, too. I try to have sympathy with government and ministers, but I find it difficult.
So as I mindfully work my way through shifts, I remind myself of the importance of making sure I feel a connection with everybody I work with; but I feel such a need to reach out to the staff I work with, teach them mindfulness as a form of self-resilience and in care delivery. I understand. I get it, because I know the anger, the stress, the fatigue, the food and drink-deprived headaches and full bladders and achy legs and backs.
 I love being a nurse, not for the pitfalls - for the privilege - and there are so many.  It's just not always easy to see.