Stress management Stress Management and General Relaxation

Stress busting tips for Midwives (well anyone in fact)

My top 20 stress-busting tips

With the recent reports on the increasing incidence of work-related stress in the NHS, these 20 stress-busting tips may go someway to helping Midwives (and anyone for that matter!)

What first prompted you to become a midwife?  I imagine the words passion, inspiration, support and empowerment would have featured in there somewhere. Back then, I doubt that words like stress, paperwork, guidelines, protocol or workload entered your mind when considering your future plans. However, more than likely, if you are working in the NHS, these are the norm and as a result, you may be experiencing some degree of stress related challenges.

So to give you a little helping hand, here are my top 20 stress busting tips to help you cope with work related stress and which may also then help you reconnect with the reasons you became a midwife in the first place.

Now not all of these may appeal to you so pick and choose – even if you implement just one stress busting top a day you will begin to feel more relaxed, more in control and better able to deal with the daily stresses and strains of midwifery.

  1. See things in their true perspective – stress can make you feel more sensitive, vulnerable and lacking in self-esteem.  It is so important to keep things in perspective and not to take things personally. If you are not dealing with a potentially threatening situation, take a step back and think, will this really matter next week? Is it really worth me getting stressed about?

2. Take the lid off the pot – talk about the stress you are going through rather than bottle it up. Get together with colleagues for a good natter and whinge – it is a great way to off-load and to realise that you are not alone.

3. Lower the worry rating – worry is such a wasted use of energy.  If you can do something about it now then do it.  If you can’t do anything about it now then mentally park it or write it down so you can spend a few moments worrying about it later if you really need to, and then move on so you can get on with your daily routine without the burden of worry.

4. Set up a mutual appreciation group with your colleagues so that each day you have to say one nice thing to each other – identify one good quality, one good action.  Once you start saying and hearing them it can really lift your mood and self-esteem. All too often stress leads to and is compounded by lowered confidence and a lack of self-esteem. Everyone needs a boost now and again so start the ball rolling and tell your colleagues something positive about their skills or actions!

5. Focus on the positive.  Every day spend a few moments thinking about all the great things about your job, no matter how big or small – great muffins in the canteen, some colleagues, some of the women you care for, the smell of newborn babies or the sound of a breastfeeding baby. Being appreciative and thankful of even the tiniest things, it can help reduce stress.

6. Create a protective bubble – this is something I have found incredibly useful as a way of protecting yourself from negative or challenging experiences. Before going to work, imagine you have a protective bubble all around you and any negative experiences, words or actions just bounce off leaving you unaffected.

7. Ask for help – as women who care for others it is often very hard to ask for help.  However, sometimes getting a little help from a colleague or manager is enough to take the lid off the bubbling stress pot. Speak up if you’re experiencing a problem, and talk to your manager to find a win-win solution. Remember, it’s part of their role to help you do this.

8. Take time out to RELAX.  It is amazing how many people do not see this as a priority.  Think about ways you like to relax and then put them on a list on the fridge door so you are reminded every day to take time to relax.  Even it is just for a few minutes

9. Coping with difficult colleagues – one of the challenges that can cause stress at work is being in close proximity to difficult colleagues. One thing to always remember is that no matter how much you would like, you cannot change them or their personality.  The only thing you can change is your reactions. So the next time they say or do things which wind you up, take a moment, take a deep breath, accept that you can not change them and provide a calm response which prevents you from getting riled up.

10. Get some fresh air during your shift – not always easy but it is so good to help your blood flow, to breathe fresh air, to re oxygenate and to just “Be” for a bit.

11. Make a list of the things that stress you out – again no matter how big or small.  Go through each one and think of alternative responses. Think of things you can do to prevent the stress from building in the first place.  One thought that always works for me is to remember “and this too shall pass”.  No matter what you are going through, it will pass, it will be over and you will get through it.

12. Feed your body and soul – work toward filling your body with food with gives you energy, vitality and a sense of well being. It is all too easy to reach for the chocolates or biscuits as a quick fix, but when you can, fill up on fruit, veg and protein, drink lots of water, drink smoothies, have bags of
healthy snacks. Avoid processed carbs, especially sugar as they are a real stress inducer as your blood sugar levels go all over the place, they contribute to increasing your weight and are highly addictive – not great for beating stress!

13. Make a to-do list – sometimes the sheer volume of things that need to be done can cause a stress response. So chunk it down, make a list of what you have to do and then check back to the list so you can tick things off. This helps to increase your self esteem and give you a boost as you can see on the paper that you really are getting things done.

14. Create mini spa moments in your day – these need only be for 2 minutes. Stop what you are doing, take three deep breaths. Focus on how your body feels. Notice if there is any tension and just wriggle and relax that part of the body.  Next massage the fleshy bit on your palm between your thumb and forefinger. This helps to relax and disseminate and tension.  Next using both your thumbs, massage the top ridge of your eye socket at the top of your nose then work your way around the eye socket. All the time keep taking deep breaths.  You can also visualise being on a beautiful beach in your favourite garden whilst massaging.  Then circle your shoulders a few times one way and then the other. And finally, end with three deep breaths. You can even do this whilst doing a wee!

15. Plan ahead – if you have a stressful situation coming up then use hypnosis techniques and take some time BEFORE hand to run through the event in your mind and visualise or imagine yourself coping brilliantly, staying calm, focused and positive.  Just by imagining this a few times your mind will gravitate towards those actions when you go into the situation for real.

16. Learn to say no – once again many women who care of others find it hard to say NO. if you are feeling overwhelmed then do not take on any more shifts, committees, or projects for the time being. As you may tell others, no one is perfect so remember to include yourself in that bucket. Saying no is OK. Saying no to yourself is also OK – you do not always need to fix things, to go the extra mile, to sort out other problems.

17. Identity your triggers – in the job of a midwife, there are many factors that cause stress which you can not change, however we all have some buttons which get pressed and trigger off stress where others may not be stressed.  Take time to notice what has caused you to feel stressed. Identify those triggers then think about ways you could act differently, or maybe ways that others act and then copy them. There may also be more practical things you can do eg if stress comes from hunger, dehydration, lack of fresh air.

18. Take time out to be kind to yourself – again a bit tricky if you are a working mum or work long hours and many shifts. However giving yourself little treats at regular intervals gives you something to look forward to, helps you nurture yourself and helps you relax.  Schedule in bubble baths, an hour to read a good book, coffee with friends, an hour to browse fun you tube clips, a visit to a local garden centre, a manicure. Actually, put them in your diary and make them happen.

19. Learn quick, easy stress reduction techniques – one of the techniques I teach on all my hypnosis tracks is the “321 relax” – it sets up the suggestions that every time you hear or say the words 321 relax, you take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and allow a growing sense of confidence to build. You can create other triggers so that every time you squeezed your finger and thumb together you relax your shoulders, take a deep breath and so on.  In the beginning you can do this consciously but the more you do it the more automatic it becomes.

Midwife's Companion smaller

20. Listen to my FREE Midwife’s Companion track!! This is a 30-minute hypnosis relaxation track specifically for midwives. It helps with so many of the above points as well as many more suggestions on dealing more effectively with stress in your role as well as stress in your personal life and it is FREE for midwives!

So which one is your favourite?  Do you have any more stress-busting tips to add?

I would love to hear from you in the comments below or on our Facebook page

Maggie Howell

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