Health and wellbeing
It’s a sad truth that those in the caring professions, are often not focused on caring for themselves. Giving their all with patients or clients, they can find themselves on edge when with their colleagues. All the extra time and patience, alertness and making allowances, the sense of human responsibility involved in any health care, rests upon practitioners and staff, who may find it challenging to allow themselves a real break. In time, the effects can be felt by themselves, and their colleagues.
Breathe Therapies clinical director Shelley Perry and her team realised that it was time to practice what they preach, and institute a regular breather. With a small team of dedicated staff to cope with growing clientele and an expanding list of services to offer, it had begun to feel as though there was always too much to do, and priorities vying for urgency made self-care difficult to accept. Stress always lurking. Shelley knows that a good manager should do something about it, and was interested to see how much difference, if any, an hour or two at work devoted to destressing and refreshing, would make, to herself, and her team. So Breathe Therapies staff have just finished their first year of a programme of ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ designed to facilitate relaxation, communication, and wellbeing.
In putting the programme together Shelley wanted to have more than one type of session, so that staff could experience a range of potential new good habits, develop new skills, and find what worked best for them.
For many people, a busy schedule can mean little chance to experience the benefits of nature, or get the exercise which we might need. Shelley felt it was important, from her own experience, to get outside and allow the body a chance to take over from a busy mind. Matt Gibbs, who once worked at Breathe, was happy to oblige by leading walks. Not just any walks: he has established himself as a guide in Nordic Walking - a technique closely related to cross-country skiing, which uses poles as aides, resulting in using the torso as much as the legs while you move, improving breathing and fitness without adding any strain. Fresh air and good company do the rest. Finance assistant Zak found the refreshing activity ‘helps you clear your brain and puts you in a positive frame of mind. It always makes you feel better equipped to work when you come back to your tasks.”
In contrast to these invigorating sessions, they brought in Claire Patterson to lead the staff through some Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) which helps to process and offload the emotional tension which hides and builds up in the body, leaving you calmer, and physically released. EFT involves tapping meridian points along the body to release and channel energy, whilst processing underlying emotions with reassuring affirmations. It seemed strange at first, but soon became popular with the team. Clinical coordinator Jazz found them ‘Super relaxing!’, and receptionist Ruth declared: “Learning the rudiments of Emotional Freedom Technique has given me a key to help find release from tension caused by negative emotions both in and out of the workplace. I’m really grateful we’ve had a chance to try it.”
Art Therapy was a change of pace and a chance to engage different parts of the brain and emotions. Hazel Leech, student art therapist, explained that “Learning about psychotherapeutic aspects of art therapy is a great opportunity for understanding what the clients are being offered, as well as a fun group activity promoting relationships at work.” She brought into the workshops aspects of developing self-awareness, and problem-solving – but above all, variety, expressive communication, and fun. From fantasy creatures to essential suitcases, staff really enjoyed the sessions and how Hazel “encourages us to be innovative, and shows no judgement how our artwork turns out. Art therapy shifts my focus from worries to calm, fun thoughts using a variety of colours and different materials. It feels good to get creative,” as Kelly, a clinical administrator, observed.
In a recent study, Deloit found that mental health cost UK employers £56bn in 2021, and investment in wellbeing had a fivefold return. Breathe Therapies haven’t done a statistical study, but their experience of the programme as building good relationships between staff, not to mention returning to their tasks recharged, and with renewed clarity, suggests it was a beneficial exercise. They are currently planning for their next programme of wellbeing sessions, and the team are looking forward to it!
Breathe Therapies, being in the business of caring, haven’t of course, stopped with their own staff. As well as individual therapy and interventions, they offer a Corporate Wellbeing Programme, bespoke for any business. Any company interested in investing in their own staff wellbeing, would be welcome to have a discussion about what might suit the needs of their workforce, and access a package of group wellbeing sessions, targeted workshops, and individual sessions as required. Further information can be found at: Corporate Mental Health and Wellbeing - Bespoke Programmes (breathetherapies.co.uk)