Mark Aitken: Hello! And welcome to the Nurse and Midwife Support self-care podcast. Your health matters. I’m Mark Aitken, your podcast host for today. I’m the stakeholder engagement manager with Nurse and Midwife Support. I’m also a registered nurse, so I understand the world that you live and work in. Nurse and Midwife Support is the national support service for nurses, midwives and students. The service is anonymous, confidential and free. You can call us anytime about any issue you need support in relation to: 1800 667 877. Or contact us at nmsupport.org.au My guests today are Marie Louise and Kerrie Otto De Grancy, founders and directors of the Evolve Yourself Institute. Welcome, and hello Marie and Kerrie!
Marie Louise: Hi Mark!
Kerrie Otto De Grancy: Hi Mark, it’s so good to be here.
MA: Great to have you here. Marie, would you please tell our listeners about the Evolve Yourself Institute?
ML: Well, we educate nurses and midwives in the space of self-care, self-nurture and learning skills, strategies and processes to fill our own cups. We educate in self-awareness, offering tools, strategies and processes that enhance a more whole life.
ML: I personally am incredibly passionate about helping people to see themselves more clearly: having more handle on their emotional states, their body state, what their mind does, how it is that they can use their mind and really bringing the practices alive in life. So it’s a very practical experience, we don’t have to go somewhere else to learn these things, we can find all of these strategies within ourselves. But it does take some guidance, and that’s what we love to do. The Evolve Yourself Institute is all about enhancing a person’s wellbeing.
MA: Well that’s wonderful Marie, thank you so much. Kerrie, would you please tell our listeners about your role at the Evolve Yourself Institute? And what self-care actually means to you?
KODG: Sure, thanks Mark. I have the great privilege of working alongside Marie Louise and our team. Business operations is where I’m at, but I have a huge passion for self-care, particularly for nurses and midwives. I’ve had some very personal encounters and scenarios where I’ve been exposed to the front line and seeing what incredible work these beautiful humans do and how important having to fill your own cup is, first, and I can see that that’s something that’s not necessarily always taken care of within the healthcare services industry. So, seeing that change is a great passion of mine. In terms of what self-care means to me, look, personally, it’s to know that I can jump into the world in the best way, shape and form possible. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s like a savings account in the bank, you add to it each day. Self-care is something that becomes a part of your daily routine and it’s built into your life. It’s a secondary thing. That’s the holistic approach; from what you eat, to how much you sleep, what you put into your mind in terms of thoughts and emotional state. The whole package. So yes, self-care to me is very much a priority. Especially as a mum in the service industry.
MA: Thanks Kerrie, would you say that you got to your self-care philosophy easily, or has it been a journey for you? That you have to revise and tweak a bit to get it right? It sounds like you’ve got it right.
KODG: That’s a great question Mark. I think with anything, we do evolve. But for my personal journey, I think that having people around you that are unwell or struggling, whether that be the elderly or the young, the great learning is observation and from when I was very young I was fortunate enough to be very sporty. I think for anyone that’s athletic, you probably have the advantage that you’re more aware of your body. You’re more in tune naturally. So I had that advantage, but with that I could see how I had a lot of energy and could identify that those things did come down to food and obviously exercise. So with those processes and going through school and then life, most definitely I’m very fortunate to have an advantage in that regard. Then it did evolve through being exposed to the food industry and then mental health. Through sport, I really recognised the importance of having a strong mind so that through injury and performance, when adversity hits you have that resistance and evolving that through breath and mediation. That was quite a natural process for me personally. Fortunately, that has been a great foundation for what we do today.
MA: Yes, and it’s that ability to bounce back I think which is really critical here. You’ve described really beautifully how you’ve set yourself up to be able to do that. We talk a lot about resilience in nursing and midwifery as a key skill. What we reflect on, also, is the fact that sometimes people, they fall over and they find it a bit more difficult to bounce back because of everything else that’s going on for them. So, what would you say to those people that are having an experience where they’re struggling to regain their resilience, and they just need a bit more support?
KODG: Learning skills to pause and have that space, go back into yourself and breathe, that is definitely a practice (like anything). If you’re in that position to build a beautiful support network around you, to be able to reach out and have that courage. In terms of resilience, it’s something that builds up over time and when we find that self-trust within yourself and coming back to the tools like breath, being able to communicate, getting out in nature, simple things that will bring you back into the moment and stop getting carried away by our minds. That’s where I really think the unfolding comes about: moving your body, shaking it up. There are some really simple things that can really support people without going overboard and making it really complex. It’s that self-worth, which comes from a really great self-care regime. Would you add to that, Marie?
ML: Yes, I think that not everyone is fortunate enough to have experienced a life where they have gained certain strategies, or a foundation of prioritising self-care as a daily practice. I suppose that’s where the System of Self was really founded on, within the Evolve Yourself Institute. It really noticed and became aware, within my own life experience and my family’s life experience, and then the doorway of realising that not everyone is that fortunate to see self-care as a priority. In the service industry, within a service mind-set, it is very hardwired. When you choose the profession of looking after other people, or could even in my situation with my mother, she actually looked after 8 children and that was her priority. Of course, self-care wasn’t in her awareness. Us children were her priority and the focus for her. If something’s not filled up, within her system, she didn’t look after herself to the upmost and whenever you’re genetically predisposed it will show up. In my situation, it was mental health. For others, it could be diabetes, it could be heart. So, those things that are where stress related illnesses really hit their peak and their pivotal point does have repercussions. Learning ways, within a self-care mind-set on how it is that you prioritise tools and strategies to make that happen in your life is a shift. We’ve hit a pivotal point in our lives where stress related illnesses and anxiety and depression, we are a country that prescribes more anxiety drugs than anywhere else in the world. Nine people a day are committing suicide. There is a dire epidemic and it’s a silent epidemic. With a service mind-set, it’s really flipping it on its head and saying, how much do I give to others? Am I able to give to myself as well? I suppose that’s the very foundation of what System of Self was created on, in recognising that our inner world and outer interrelationship worlds are not separate to each other. The compassion I give to someone else, which nurses and midwives are incredible at, unfortunately don’t know how to give themselves the same amount of compassion. The same amount of care, the same amount of love. It’s really, bringing awareness. We love sharing that space of awareness. We really feel that an empowered life comes from a well life. It definitely starts with prioritising self-care, then the ripple of that self-care, self-nourish, that has profound effects on not only yourself, your family, the people you touch, those that touch you, I mean you only have to get out in the garden for an hour and you come back and you feel like you’re someone else.
ML: You could have had an incredibly stressful day and you tap into nature and you notice that nature is tapping into you. It fills you up.
MA: That’s really profound and I’ve done the Evolve Yourself Institute course, I’ve done your online course and your workshop and it certainly was very profound for me and very connecting. If people are looking for tools to enable them to take that step into embracing and owning their own self-care and driving at it, then you’ve got some great tools to enable that. We’ll talk a bit more about that shortly. Nurse and Midwife Support, we’re in the space of supporting nurses, midwives and students around whatever issue they need support in relation to. We’ve now been providing the service for just over 18 months and nurses and midwives have really engaged and started using the service. There’s over 390 000 of us across Australia. It’s a lot of people. When I present at Nurses and Midwives now, I talk about the importance of self-care, but I also talk about the fact that (and you talk about this too Marie) that we’re hardwired to care. We’re hardwired to care and that’s a part of the reason that we go in to nursing and midwifery. But we’re normally hardwired to care about other people. We’re often not very good at caring for self. This is where this message is vitally important. So why do you think a service like Nurse and Midwife Support is really important for nurses and midwives?
ML: So often, in our minds, we think that we’re going through things alone. We’re not always aware that there’s so many other people who are experiencing the same spaces of vulnerability and it could have an impactful moment in the day. Nurses and midwives are full of impact moments, so it’s a bit like a coil within our bodies. We wire that coil up so tight, and if we don’t have avenues or spaces to be able to share through story or through feeling connected from heart to heart listening or being heard, how many times we feel that we need to be heard and seen and notice that, wow, I’ve had a tough day. Being able to ring someone, who is maybe a stranger, you can share some really private things. In our minds and bodies, we’re not used to sharing vulnerable things and that’s not a big part of the culture. So, to ring and have accessibility to say, I’m not feeling that well, is a great turning point to actually recognising our own emotional states, or our own states of disease. Then feeling like we’ve been heard and we can then process that. We’re not used to process, either.
ML: So, whenever there’s an impact moment in our lives, there’s a certain process which distributes through our bodily functions. The bio-chemistry of stress (or an impact moment) is that we shoot a big hit of adrenaline, a big hit of cortisol, and it sits in our bodies memory. Now if that piles up and piles up and piles up, it’s going to burst like a pimple. And that pimple pops too often when we’re genetically predisposed to it, as I was in my mother’s case. There’s a great learning in prevention, and Nurses and Midwives Support is a beautiful avenue, or a doorway, a welcoming committee, so to speak, to say that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together. Being human means knowing vulnerability, knowing loss, knowing stress. So to actually feel really connected, I think Nurse and Midwife Support is wonderful. It’s hit a space of dis-ease. We need to have a certain lifeline for nurse and midwives, it’s wonderful that it was created. It’s a great service, doing an incredible job. It sends people into doorways of more preventative care. It has the accessibility to programs out there that are doing wonderful jobs and it’s great.
MA: Thanks Marie. I love the way you describe us like the welcoming committee. I’ve heard us described that way before, but I really like it. That’s one of my take-aways for today, Nurse and Midwife Support as the welcoming committee. I agree, I work for the service and I am passionate about providing support to nurses and midwives and students. I’ve been a registered nurse for 34 years and there are many times in my career where I would have liked to have had a service like this. To be able to call somebody and speak to people who knew the world that I lived and worked in, and just speak openly and anonymously. But you know, we just kept going until we hit the point of not being able to go any further. Many nurses and midwives experience what is commonly known as compassion fatigue, or burn out. We really want to be in the space of supporting those people. But we also want to be in the space that you described, of health promotion and early intervention. Self-care is really that space of health promotion, it’s even before early intervention, because if you look after yourself then you will be naturally healthier. I’ll throw this question to both of you, and I know you will both have input into it, but your program is based on five pillars. Would you like to describe those a bit, for our listeners? So that they get an understanding of how you’re talking about self-care?
ML: Well we’ve created a program which is a methodology and it has five pillars so that when you engage with them on a practical level (the experience of filling up your own cup) you have more awareness of your inner technology: more of your mind, more of your emotions, more of your bodily functioning. We have five pillars: one of the pillars is mediation. Meditation has the ability to really break down old patterns of conditioning in a way that allows more presence to rise and more of an innate experience of who we truly are. Using the tools, so it’s a tool it’s not a dogma or a religion, it’s a tool that can be embraced on a daily level as a daily practice. You don’t have to run to the Himalayas. It’s engaging in meditative practices. With the depth of knowledge that we have at the Evolve Yourself Institute around meditation, it allows for different meditations for different outcomes. But just engaging with one practice of mediation a day will allow your innate power to rise through you. Which is quite profound, over a certain period of practice, that fundamentally has the ability to rewire your brain. So no longer do you have to be wired in stress and dis-ease. You can actually disconnect those wires and find a calm, relaxed state so your body can regenerate, renew and be reinvigorated. So one of the pillars being mediation, and Kez you might want to share one of the other pillars.
KODG: Sure. Another pillar is movement, which is of course one of my favourites.
KODG: I mean, with our bodies, we touch and then we hold onto stress. It’s in our cellular memories. Movement has the ability to move that, those energy emotions and get the emotion flowing, shaking it off. I mean, it can be as simple as a simple jig and dance in the tea room.
MA: Which you know we’re fond of.
KODG: Absolutely. You know, I’m a big fan of the morning ritual Mark. I’d love to see every human taking on a morning ritual. Whatever that looks like to them, whatever it takes to set up for the best day possible. For me, number one is meditation followed by movement. That can be a walk, a walk around the garden even, as Marie mentioned returning to nature can be good. Or doing some push ups in your bedroom, it can be quite simple to get moving. A good shake. We have a shaking technique that we love to teach. Movement is very important, so that’s another very strong pillar for us.
ML: And education. Science is changing within the education pillar, science is changing all the time. We have the availability to have information at the tip of our fingers, we don’t need to know much about how a computer works to be able to master it. Learning what our biochemistry is doing, what our brain does, our neural pathways, little patterns within our own system. Fundamental education about our inner technology, that constantly grows through the resources that we have through technology and so forth. We use the latest in research and science and try and keep up to date with it and share information about our inner technology, being our mind and brain emotions. So that’s another pillar. Then we have breath. Breath is another great pillar, very powerful. Breath is the very fundamental root that actually allows our body to function. It waters our garden, we love calling our body our garden so when we get stressed in places of dis-ease we use short and shallow breaths. It becomes automatic, these short and shallow breaths. Just engaging with a couple of practices that bring our breath alive and into all of our systems when we’re off the field. When we practice off the field, you get more field results. Those are the little bits that you bring into your day. So breath, movement….
KODG: …and REFLECTION! Great businesses reflect every day, once a week. We lose sight of reflecting on our own patterns and our own behaviours. What serves us and what doesn’t serve us. Whether it be within ourselves, or in our relationships or our workplace.
ML: And incorporating gratitude into those reflections. The daily practice of gratitude and that is a great way to incorporate with what can I be grateful for today and that’s beautiful to intertwine into your day. Whether it be the first thing in the morning, to set you up, or the last thing at night to ease into rest. Reflection can be quite confronting, sometimes. Starting with gratitude is a really nice entry point into your day.
MA: Indeed, and as you know I really connected with that element of the program. I mean, I connect with all of it. Because I think it’s all encompassing, but that daily gratitude or those moments of gratitude when you might be having a conversation about something that’s going wrong and you can actually flip it into something that’s going right and something that you’re grateful for. It really does change the conversation.
KODG: Well it’s not actually changing the conversation with another person. It changes the conversation that you’re having with yourself. There’s a biochemical reaction within your bodies state when you acknowledge really beautiful things. You feel different, right?
KODG: No wonder you like it.
MA: Kerrie we have many students and graduates call Nurse and Midwife Support, do you have some specific tips for them and how they incorporate self-care and your five pillars into their very busy lives? Often, they’re in a space of transition, a space of excitement, a space of anticipation. But sometimes they’re in a space of, I’m feeling out of my depth and I’m struggling here. So, what advice do you have for them?
KODG: I can relate, being a student at various points in my life and feeling those exact emotions Mark. Going back to breath, which Marie mentioned is one of our pillars, it’s such a simple thing to do and to say am I breathing? Where is my breath going? That is a really great point in any scenario for any human really. That’s number one and a great starting point. This isn’t just for students and graduates, but scheduling in time. Students are obviously familiar with timetables and know where they have to be. Just to put into your calendar, almost everybody has a smartphone today, a great tip would be to put micro moments into your calendar. Two little reminders, one in the morning and one at the end of the day, saying am I breathing? Do your breath work. Have a five-minute meditation, download an app. Download the EYI meditations, and in those five-minute spaces bring yourself back to the moment. It calms your central nervous system. It allows that little bit of space, so you have that clarity of mind to make those decisions in the next step. That little gap. So, put it in your smartphone. Coming back to your breath and then even finding an accountability buddy. Finding a friend or a student or a graduate and asking if they are feeling these things. Ask if they will come for a walk with you once a week and having that as a little downtime. So, creating those moments and personal habits.
MA: Love it.
KODG: I think those are a couple of tips that would be a good starting point.
MA: They’re great tips. I talk a bit about creating a self-care care plan. Because as nurses and midwives we develop care plans for our patients, our clients, our residents, people we care for in whatever area we work in. So I say to people, we do this all the time. We’re really good at it. Why shouldn’t we do this for ourselves? Write your self-care care plan down, which is really what you’re saying.
KODG: The magic morning, get that happening! Start your day so that your cup is full so you can step into any scenario and feel fully charged, knowing that you’ve given yourself that time. That can be an extra 5 minutes in the shower for meditation, movement, breathing, gratitude, writing down what you’re grateful for.
MA: Whether you’re doing shift work, many of our nurses and midwives do, so their mornings are our afternoons or their mornings are our sleeping times. Because it’s flipped, I think it’s symbolic, that morning moment, whenever your “morning” is. Whatever way you’re working. Create that space and that time in your life to give something to you. Really great advice. Thank you. I cannot believe we’re almost at the end of this podcast, because there’s so much we could talk about. Today we’ve talked about Nurse and Midwife Support, and the Evolve Yourself Institute and the importance of self-care. You’ve both done beautifully outlining the EYI program and the five pillars and how this program can assist nurses, midwives and students to look after themselves. We’ve explored the daily practice of gratitude, Marie you talked a lot about the importance of mindfulness and re-setting our brains. I think that’s a beautiful gift that we can give to our listeners. The gift of incorporating this into our daily practice. Do you each have some final words of wisdom? No doubt you do.
ML: Yes, look I think everyone just looked at themselves and said, how much am I giving to somebody else? How much do I give of myself to other people? Can I take one of those gifts that I give to someone else and give it to myself. I think that will really transform your life, because as a nurse and a midwife, you know what it’s like to give to others and it will really nourish and nurture the greatest gift, and that is yourself. So, find a bit of love for you.
MA: Love it, love it. Kerrie?
KODG: It would be the same as Marie, but to say to take that step. The first step is often the most confronting, even if it is for yourself. To take that first step and then one step after, everyday keep building on that.
MA: Good, and if you need a hand to take that first step, you can call Nurse and Midwife Support anytime, 1800 667 877. Or check out our website, nmsupport.org.au we’ve got some really good tips that could assist you. You could call us and talk about how to get your self-care on track, how to tweak it or even how to write your own self-care care plan. If you found this podcast useful, please share it with other nurses and midwives and students. Thank you very much Kerrie and Marie, you’ve been great guests. Look after yourself and each other, everyone, and we’ll speak to you next time. Bye!