Podcasts

In Mindcast

Neelam Solanki – Junior staff experiences during a global pandemic

Neelam Solanki is an Assistant Psychologist working within the National i-THRIVE Programme Team at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, and has also been working on Together in Mind. Neelam shares her experiences of being a relatively junior member of staff through periods of great change and uncertainty, and its impact on her wellbeing and future.

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Hello, my name is Neelam Solanki and I’m an Assistant Psychologist working at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. I work primarily within the National i-THRIVE Programme Team, however, I was redeployed at the beginning of lockdown to work on a few different projects within the Trust, one of which was here at Together in Mind.

I started at the Trust in February 2020 and was working in my role for about four weeks before we went into lockdown, and my experience from there on has been a little bit “all over the place” to say the least. I found that I was only working for about two sessions (a day) per week in terms of my actual job role, and otherwise I found that I was being asked to help whoever needed it for whichever project, whenever they needed it. Initially this was really exciting and it meant that I got to know a lot of people within the Trust who otherwise I may not have met, but after a while it became exhausting and anxiety inducing as I felt more and more that I did not really have a place, a purpose, or a defined role.

Over the last 6 months, I have been reflecting on what it means for me and others in a similar position as a relatively junior member of staff, and the unique tasks and asks we’ve had which we may unlikely have the experience, the training or the foundation of knowledge to prepare us for. But then, there’s the catch-22, because the fact that we’re not particularly tied to a job role and don’t have a particular job to do that no one else can do, we can be more flexible about supporting other teams and projects. COVID has enabled me and so many others to become sort of a ‘jack of all trades’ but of course the other half of that phrase is ‘master of none’. I am so grateful and genuinely excited about the new experiences that have been presented to me, but it has been difficult to feel settled or like I fully know what I’m doing. And I’m certain that this isn’t just the case for more junior members of staff, COVID has meant that everyone has felt unsettled and lost at some point.

Another consideration is that as an Assistant Psychologist who intends on applying for clinical training later this year, everything that I do in my job is for the purpose of giving me the relevant experience and skills and knowledge and confidence to be an attractive candidate. Although there is some safety in the knowledge that all of the other hopeful assistants in the country are likely feeling the same way, there is still that feeling of dread that we don’t have a safety net. Developing my psychological skills hasn’t been a focus over the last period, so then what do I talk about in my application? What does this mean for my future?

It’s hard not to think about the 5,500 final year medical students who had to graduate early to join the workforce, as the need to manage COVID was, and still is, so high. I cannot begin to imagine what the impact of suddenly transitioning from student to doctor would be, particularly on their confidence and feelings of preparation, and what a hit their mental health and wellbeing could have taken.

During these times, things like inductions, training, support, and supervision have understandably taken a backseat because there are more pressing issues, however the impact of this is that the more junior workforce lack the confidence in themselves and the feeling of ability to do the tasks we are being asked to. For me, and in particular after taking the wellbeing quiz on Together in Mind, my profile came out as ‘More Frantic’ which made complete sense. The panic of feeling displaced, not particularly useful but also feeling as though I’m giving 110% to multiple teams all day every day took its toll.

But it is not all doom and gloom. The opportunities have been amazing and truly insightful, and although it might have taken a few months, the relationships that I’ve been able to build with such a huge range of people from different teams, divisions, disciplines and organisations feel positive and strong. I do not think that I’m particularly qualified to advise anyone who may be feeling this way at all, but to keep to the trends of the last 6 months I’m going to do it anyway: always ask for feedback. Talk to your line manager when it feels like too much. Say no if it’s not manageable. Resist the urge to want to prove yourself at every opportunity – it’s exhausting. Take breaks! Take that FULL lunch break away from your screen.

The point of being a junior member of staff if that eventually we hope to be senior members of staff. It’s hard to forget our goals when everything is so unsettled but the one main take away I’ve learnt is to use every experience to my advantage and learn, learn, learn. And to have frequent pet breaks. And to never run out of milk for tea. And have a really well-stocked snack cupboard.

Good luck to everyone and well done for coping as well as you have. Thank you for listening.

In Mindcast

Dominic O’Ryan – Dropping Anchor

Dominic O’Ryan, Lead Psychologist with Substance Misuse Services at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. Dominic contributes some thoughts and practical guidance about how to find ways to pay the necessary attention to how we are in the context of a global storm that has in some ways come to feel like just the way things are.

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My name is Dominic O’Ryan and I am Lead Psychologist with Substance Misuse Services at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.

There are times when we might feel that everything is running away with us …

We feel lost and distressed.

At these times it’s helpful to pause for a moment, to drop anchor…

Dropping anchor won’t make any storms go away, but it may allow us to notice what is happening, gather our inner resources and make steps towards self-care and action.

Our mind might tell us that it is not worth pausing because the risks are too great. If we stop even for a minute, we might become even more lost. We might discover something that we couldn’t bear, or we couldn’t manage.

Notice these thoughts and be kind to them. They are there to try and protect us from harm.

And then we can sit up or stand, plant our feet firmly on the ground, adopting a posture of someone being attentive. And alert. And kind.

Acknowledge what other thoughts are here? Are there thoughts about being overwhelmed? About not being able to cope. Maybe thoughts about never being good enough.

Maybe there are no thoughts in particular.

And rather than trying to change the thoughts or push them away or chase after more worthy thoughts, just notice what is here now.

And notice the feelings that are present alongside them. Maybe give these feelings and emotions words that describe them for you. Notice worry. Notice fear. Notice sadness. Notice anger with ourself or others. 

And just connect with and notice what is here in the body. Become aware of what’s happening in the body.

Perhaps notice a heaviness. Or the breath being short or shallow.

Notice the heart racing. Notice tension or holding or bracing.  Or stillness.

And be aware of immediate behaviours, perhaps avoidance, procrastination, perhaps too many biscuits, being snappy with colleagues or giving too much of ourself to others without attending to our own needs.

And then at that moment, allow the thought that maybe, just for now things are okay.

Bring to mind purpose, intention, values.

And then bring to mind just one or two behaviours that map onto those intentions and values. Behaviours that can be started and embodied straight away.

Perhaps taking a break, going for a short walk, sitting quietly for a little while longer. Or maybe there’s an email or a brief report that could actually be finished in a relatively short period of time, if only it could actually be started.

Perhaps something about turning towards a colleague. Asking them for something or offering them some kindness.

Whatever it is, whilst it may only be a small action it can still be a valuable action.

And maybe it is important to drop anchor a few times each day. And that’s alright. It’s okay to pause. And it’s certainly alright to check in on our intentions and values and sense of purpose.

And it’s always alright to turn to friends, family and colleagues to make connections, offer help and ask for help.

To be human. 

In Mindcast

Jane O’Rourke – 4 Minute Triangle Breathing Exercise To Feel Refreshed And Rested

This four-minute triangular breathing exercise is for when you want to feel more rested and rejuvenated. Jane O’Rourke is a Yoga and Meditation Teacher, and a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist with Children, Young People and Families. She teaches Yoga4Trauma within the Trauma Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

Wellbeing Quiz Profile: #MoreFrantic

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Hello, my name is Jane O’Rourke, I’m a Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist and a yoga and mindfulness teacher. Today we are going to be practicing triangular breathing. It’s a way of helping us to slowdown in our day, just finding a few minutes for ourselves to slow the breath so that we can slow our minds, a feel a little bit of steadiness and calm.

So finding a comfortable posture so you can be standing if you like, or maybe if you would like to sit in a chair, find a cushion and sitting on the floor, making yourself comfortable. Softening the jaw, relaxing the shoulders, softening the space between your eyebrows so there is no tension being held in your face. And then just noticing how you are feeling in this moment, I like to call it an internal weather check. So noticing how you are feeling physically, any tension being held in the body and noticing how you are feeling too. It can be really helpful to name what those feelings are.

And then, begin to imagine a triangle in your mind. So let’s start at the bottom corner of the triangle and breathing in for 1, 2, 3, hold the breath as you imagine in your mind’s eye coming up to the top of the triangle for 1, 2, 3 and then breathing out for 1, 2, 3 as you come back down to the bottom of the triangle. Breathing in, 1, 2, 3, holding the breath for 1, 2, 3 as you come up to the top of the triangle, then breathing out for 1, 2, 3 as you go back down to the bottom of the triangle. Breathing in 1, 2, 3, hold the breath for 1, 2, 3, as you come up to the top of the triangle and then breathing out 1, 2, 3. Breathing in 1, 2, 3 holding the breath for 1, 2, 3, and then breathing out 1, 2, 3. Breathing in 1, 2, 3 holding the breath 1, 2, 3, then breathing out for 1, 2, 3. Last time, breathing in for 1, 2, 3, hold the breath for 1, 2, 3 and then breathing out for 1, 2, 3.

And then just allow the breath to go at its own pace, so not forcing anything, giving yourself a few moments now just to ground a little more, feel the steadiness of the earth beneath you… and lets finish by doing this internal check-in once more, just noticing how you are feeling in this moment physically, what emotions are arising for you, everything included, nothing excluded. Just noticing how the breath is now, just taking the last few final breaths here doing this exercise and you can stay a little longer if you need or whenever you are ready coming back into the room in your own time.

In Mindcast

Lydia Hartland-Rowe – Wellbeing Quiz

Lydia Hartland-Rowe introduces the Wellbeing Quiz, explaining why we have created this new resource, what we hope it will do and how we are thinking about the current situation. You can access the quiz on the Together in Mind website home page and we hope you find it interesting.

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Hello, my name is Lydia Hartland-Rowe. And I just want to say a bit about the quiz that we’re adding to the website today to explain what we hope it will do and how we’re thinking about it.

The aim of this website, part of a project across North Central and Northeast London to provide resources for staff support in the context of the pandemic, has always been to respond to what we’re hearing about how people are and what they feel they need in the NHS and social care sectors. Some of that was a bit easier earlier on in the unfolding of what COVID-19 has brought us when such stark events were taking place and it was, on the whole, not difficult for people to know what was having an impact on them, what might help and where the strain and stress were located.

For some people, of course, those who are working face to face with people who are ill and dying of the coronavirus, and those working with people whose lives have been changed by contact with the virus may still be working in very similar ways to the ways they have been since March or April and that’s even while in London anyway, the official guidance since lockdown has changed and keeps changing. But for many of us as we get used to new ways of working and relating to each other, it can seem as if the most acute times are over and that we ought to be able to get on as we were before without being slowed down or affected too much by the events of the past few months.

But what we know from those with expertise in the field is that the most important time to be alert and ready to notice and think about the impact of having been exposed to potentially traumatising events is after they’re over. And this is of course quite complicated with COVID-19 for a number of reasons; one quite simply is that trauma is felt differently by different people for different reasons. The same event can be experienced by one person as deeply unsettling, shaking their core in a way that can feel profound and hard to recover from and by another, as something undeniably difficult but recoverable from.

Sometimes within a team of people, these different responses will also reflect something about the team as a whole. So one person’s vulnerability is important because it recognises the vulnerability within the team, and someone else’s resilience shows that this is also part of what the team has to offer, and both are important. We don’t always know what it is in our experience and in our own individual and personal way of processing our experiences from very early in life that will make the difference between being at any moment, someone who remains fairly steady in the face of events while noticing their severity and someone who feels more fundamentally shaken up. And the cue that causes the shake up can be something very particular and not apparently obvious, either to the person that happens to or to colleagues and friends.

Well into that highly personal situation that is the different ways that each of us responds to the same events that we live through comes the other really complicated ingredient that with COVID-19 we just don’t know what’s coming next. We know more than we did six months ago but there’s still so much uncertainty, not just in relation to the behaviour of the virus itself, but in terms of its impact on global society and on family life all at once.

That’s the context. And it means that this is a time when it’s really important to be keeping a thoughtful eye on how we are and on how those around us seem to be managing.

In the early stages of the pandemic, trauma experts talked about the importance in the immediate aftermath following a traumatic event of watchful waiting. Well, clearly, we’re not quite in that place anymore now that COVID-19 and its impacts has been with us for some time. But just because we’re no longer at that acute point, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t still important in ordinary ways to be aware of how people are and alert to what different experiences people are having on an emotional level. So being ready to support and enjoy the resilience and capacity of those who are feeling well and healthy, while at the same time being open to noticing where people may be struggling and what the signs might be.

We also know from trauma experts that there are some typical ways in which responses to trauma show themselves in really ordinary ways that don’t necessarily become problematic, but might be worth recognising and being aware of.

So this quiz is aimed at giving you a chance to pause and get a sense, broadly, about where your current ways of responding to what’s happening now might show themselves. It’s not a diagnostic test, but just a chance to stop and notice how you’re managing, what direction your responses to experiences seem to take you in, and where you might turn for resources if you were to feel that would be helpful.

We worked with our trauma lead here at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust to develop the quiz and some broad profiles describing typical ways that we might be responding to things at the moment. We’ve added the Wellbeing Quiz Profiles to the podcasts and resources they align with using a hashtag and the profile title in a similar way to how hashtags are used on Twitter. This will enable you to search for podcasts and resources that align with the profiles that are produced once you’ve completed the quiz.

We’re also asking you if you want to let us know what role you’re in and where you work, so that this anonymous information can help us to understand more about patterns of response, and need for staff support in our different organisations. I hope that you find the quiz of interest and of use and as always, we welcome feedback and suggestions.

In Mindcast

Jane O’Rourke – Self-compassion and Self-care 5 Minute Breathing Exercise

Needing more self-care? Jane O’Rourke leads us through a self-compassion breathing exercise to help nurture and steady ourselves. Jane is a Yoga and Mindfulness teacher and a Psychodynamic Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist. She teaches Yoga4Trauma at the Tavistock Clinic.

Wellbeing Quiz Profile: #MoreFrantic

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Hello, my name is Jane O’Rourke. I’m a Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist and a yoga and mindfulness teacher.

So start by finding a comfortable posture. It might be that you want to sit on a cushion or in a chair or perhaps lying down, whatever you feel you most need in this moment.

And start to take a few slow, easy deep breaths, just to let go of whatever you’re carrying around with you today, any emotional baggage. And then either closing your eyes or, just gently lowering the eyelids and then start to bring your attention to your breath. The intention here is to bring a friendly attention. So noticing where you’re breathing most easily. It might be that you can feel the breath most at the tip of your nose, perhaps as a cool breeze on your upper lip. Maybe you’re most aware of your chest, or your belly rising and falling. So bringing a gentle curiosity to the sensations of the breath. Just feeling your breath here for a while. And then when you notice that your mind has wandered as minds do, just come back to feeling your breath again…

Just let your body breathe you. So no holding of the breath or trying to change it in any way. And now put your hand on your heart reminding yourself that you’re bringing a kind attention to your breathing. Our breath is with us from the moment we are born until the moment we die. So our lifelong companion. So allowing yourself to appreciate this breath that sustains us. Wherever we go, whatever we’re doing, it’s always there, it’s there to help us when times are difficult, if we need to slow down, if we need to ground and steady ourselves.

So bringing curiosity and enormous gratitude for this, this breath that gives us life and then exploring how it feels by perhaps putting the other hand on top of the hand that’s already there, on top of your heart. And feeling this as a compassionate gesture for yourself, looking after yourself. Bringing a tender awareness to your breath, be really present to how you are in this moment, looking after yourself.

Not worrying about how many times your mind might wander, just gently returning it back to the feeling of your of the breath underneath your hands. And then gently resting your hands on your lap, just noticing how your breath is now.

Give yourself a few moments to experience the sensations in the whole of your body. A curious observer of what’s happening in your body in this moment. And staying here for as long as you like and then whenever you’re ready, coming back into the room in your own time.

In Mindcast

Henry Smith – Supporting Social Work Students During COVID-19: Stories from (the) Frontline

Henry Smith is a Principle Practice Tutor with Frontline. Henry discusses how Frontline have supported social work students during the pandemic, and the way students and colleagues creatively adapted to new ways of working.

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Hello, my name is Henry Smith, and I’m a Principal Practice Tutor for an organisation called Frontline. Frontline is a social work charity that trains students in social work practice a qualified route into social work. We mainly focus on children and family social work. And I support units of students based in children’s services departments.

So the changes that came as a result of COVID-19 happened very quickly for our students and for me. When Boris Johnson announced a lockdown, we suddenly went from seeing families face to face, and me meeting them face to face, to everything being remote. We had to adapt very quickly to a lot of new technology, and suddenly I was meeting participants via apps like Zoom and Skype. And a lot of our participants, the students on the programme would be, would have relocated for the programme and many were living in shared houses, and would be really working from their bedrooms, particularly a small number of participants who were isolating and wanted to continue with the programme. So we felt enormous duty of care in terms of supporting them through this very difficult time and, and helping them progress with the course that they wished to continue.

So I think for the participants on the programme, there was a sort of, lots of mixed emotions, there was a kind of fear for themselves due to the impact of COVID and that they might catch it, for the families that they were supporting and for their own families, but also a fear of what might happen to the programme, would they be able to complete their social work programme. They were nine months through their qualifying year when this struck, and there were lots of uncertainties, uncertainties that we couldn’t initially provide solutions for and we had to have a number of conversations around trying to sit with this anxiety of not knowing while we worked with social work England and the local authorities they were placed in to work out how we could get them to qualify.

And a couple of practitioners, the practice educators who worked with the students reflected to me that it was actually very hard for them in terms of they were worried about families and their, they would want to help families and that’s a lot of their professional self as a family, as a social worker would be to help families and to support them, but they could no longer do this because of being isolated in the lockdown. And they were reduced to contacting families via phone and feeling a little bit inept, and I think they found this very difficult and big challenge to their professional selves.

So how do we react to this, both me as a practice tutor, tutoring the students, and as an organisation? Well, very much the attitude was the show must go on. We are the largest qualifying routing to social work and to reduce that flow of social workers into the system at such a crucial time, when we are probably going to need more social workers, would have been very counterproductive. And the participants were very keen to proceed as well. So I had weekly meetings with my participants, particularly as some were so isolated, and were really, as I say, in bedrooms and in shared houses with people they didn’t know that well, unable to see the families. We made some social events, we did quizzes, I upped my pastoral support, we did some extra teaching, sticky stuff around the Black Lives Matter movement that was happening at the same time. We took time to share the technology we were using with families, programmes like Jamboard and TikTok, my participants were doing some fantastic work with families around that and making sure we weren’t breaching any data protection.

So what we saw was some great creative work and actually many of the families that had been due to close to the children and family social work teams actually requested that they, their families were kept open in order to provide extra support through COVID, and what I saw was social work students helping families make sense of some of the confusion and advice around COVID-19, supporting families with routines now that school is not in place, and particularly for parents who hadn’t had a good experience at school and didn’t feel very comfortable teaching their children, helping them, sending them educational resources and supporting them with how to manage that.

As well, these families who were still open, there were risks involved and there were concerns about the family’s welfare and just making sure we weren’t getting false positives from online visits and talking with children over digital platforms in terms of their wellbeing. But happy to say that the programme is close to completing and all the participants have passed the programme and I’ve seen some great social work along the way. Thanks for listening.

In Mindcast

Charlie Beaumont – The Value of Sport and Exercise During the Pandemic

Charlie Beaumont is a Consultant Child Psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic and Head of Psychotherapy in Islington CAMHS. Charlie reflects on the impact of COVID and the lockdown period on the experience of, and enjoyment of sport.

Wellbeing Quiz Profile: #DoingOkay

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Hello, I’m Charlie Beaumont Consultant, Child Psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic and Head of Psychotherapy in Islington CAMHS. I am known by friends and colleagues for my enthusiastic interest in sport both participating, and spectating, with interest in a broad spectrum of events.

As the gyms and swimming pools and stadia of the country have been closed since March because of COVID 19, and as we eagerly await reopening, however tentative and limited, I would like to share my own response.

COVID-19 first made an impact on me when the Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta caught coronavirus and Arsenal’s game, due to be played the following evening, was cancelled, swiftly followed by the suspension of all premiership matches. At the time I remember some sense of relief that the football association had taken it upon themselves to stop playing football when most of Europe was in lockdown, whilst the UK government hesitated.

Being at a football match the previous week, as I sat in the crowd of 60,000, I had wondered to myself whether it was entirely sensible to go a mass gathering when there was a virulent and highly contagious virus beginning to spread across Europe.  Two weeks later as the country was placed in lockdown, I began to have a more profound sense that I was going to really mind the absence of any sport to watch, which has been a staple of my everyday life since I was a small child, but I would also miss the ordinary participation in sport which had always been a part of my life.  My sporting life was going to have to change.

In addition, I worried how my children would cope. They had all been committed rowers often training 5 times a week: how were they going to fill their time? They were used to getting up very early, often before dawn in those dark March days, spending a part of every day with their friends and their coaches on the water or in the gym, and if not on a sports field of some description with a ball.

Being a football fan, when things are difficult you quietly enjoy the struggles of  others teams: so there were many rather too eager conversations about what irony it would be if Liverpool, who had been waiting to win the title for almost 30 years, were denied by the virus. 

This feeling soon passed, and rather than points and positions, runs and innings, I came to be obsessed with death rates and infections, vaccines and PPE. Questions about when football might start again seemed trivial, in the brave new world of loo roll shortages, and empty supermarket shelves. 

Interestingly conversations about football continued in the absence of the leagues: a regular Zoom quiz about football was quickly established. I even the purchased cones and training equipment to practice skills in the park. 

The absence of my exercise makes me aware of how often I use sport as way to shut down and escape from the moment. In my mind, being consumed by and passionately involved in sport helps as a way of maintaining a sense of perspective in life.  Football can really teach one about losing, however painful, and perhaps losing something together with fellow fans, or team mates, is easier than losing something alone?

I miss the odour of cheap burgers and greasy chips, as we approach the ground. I miss the smell and noise of the crowd. I miss the lunatic fan who hates all of his own team’s players. I miss the small children complaining about the game and hugging complete strangers when a goal is scored. 

My sense of relief that football has returned is immense: it is not the same as before, but at least it is back. You realise how important the presence of fans are for the game – it’s life blood in a way, but I also find myself being just as bothered about how my team play now.

The exercise, my personal regime, has been more complicated. When lockdown began I decided I would train every day. A new YouTube workout every morning with some bright young things contorting their body into impossible positions, and then me trying to imitate with the eager assistance of the dog.

My wish to hold on to the exercise came in the face of anxiety, terror and also a worry about how long the virus would continue to limit our lives in a myriad of ways. I wanted to hold onto doing something physical, pushing myself and not just giving up and feeling “what’s the point”. At times, this is indeed exactly what I have felt.  But in the main, trying to hold on to the idea of some form of exercise, and to be active most days, seems to have allowed me to stay in a more positive mindset than some.   

In my sporting life before lockdown, I swam at least twice weekly, but the highlight was my regular Friday football game, 11 a side, played with a groups of fellow middle aged men, always with an injury, and often a pint. I also cycled around 50 miles per week, just for transport.

So what has replaced this major part of my life? Regular walks with the children, the quality of interactions between adults and children seems to have been one of the great gifts of lockdown, we are no longer in a rush to training, or cricket, to swimming or the dock. I have seen this in others too. For the children, sporadic training seems to be the pattern, it seems much of their training was about friendship and shared endeavor, though they have competed in a virtual regatta against a club in Boston Massachusetts.

So what will remain in my memory, when this is over, will be a couple of evening trips to the beach after work, for a late swim with my family. We all swam, liberated, in the sea, for ages, and then hungrily ate fish and chips, on the shore. The beach was deserted by the time we got there, and we relished the freedom of the water. Similarly we walked an unknown path in the Essex countryside, we would not have ventured so far, had the parks and marshes of London not begun to be crowded as the summer heat encouraged conviviality, and gathering, whether permitted or not. It was beautiful and freeing, and we saw no-one other than within 100 metres of our parked car. Of course this took place once permitted as lockdown has gradually lifted or loosened.

I will be delighted to return to the football stadium, and the swimming pool, but I’m grateful for some memories which wouldn’t have otherwise been made. My children will be grateful to see their friends and they will be back on the water next week.

In Mindcast

Jane O’Rourke – 3 Minute Breathing Space

Jane O’Rourke guides us through a 3 minute Breathing Space. By turning towards our experience we can release and let go of tension. Jane is a Yoga and Meditation Teacher, and a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist with Children, Young People and Families. She teaches Yoga4Trauma within the Trauma Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

Wellbeing Quiz Profile: #MoreFrantic

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Hello, my name is Jane O’Rourke. I’m a Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist, and I’m a yoga and mindfulness teacher.

So, come to a sitting posture, where you can find your sit bones on whatever you are sitting on, whether it is a chair or a cushion, so you can sit nice and tall, so a strong erect spine. And if possible closing your eyes or just lowering your gaze.

And then start to bring your awareness to your inner experience. So this is like an internal weather check, so asking yourself what’s your experience in this moment… what thoughts are coming up for you… perhaps even putting it into words, what your thoughts are and acknowledging what feelings there are here in this moment. And in this way we are turning towards whatever it is that we are feeling, so any sense of discomfort or unpleasantness, and maybe some pleasant thoughts too, just acknowledging whatever it is you are experiencing right now. And then what body sensations are here right now, perhaps just scanning through the body, picking up any sensations of tightness or discomfort, just acknowledging your experience.

And then just starting to direct your attention to the breath, focusing on the physical sensations of the breath itself… moving in to the sense of the breath in your abdomen, noticing the contraction of the breath and the out breath and the expansion of the abdomen on the in breath. And in this way we are using the breath as an anchor to the present moment. A smooth in breath, a smooth out breath.

And now expanding your awareness to the whole body, perhaps imagining in your mind’s eye your body here, your posture, noticing your facial expression, and if you become aware of any difficult sensations, breathing in, on the in breath to any discomfort, and breathing out on the out breath, a releasing and letting go.

And then whenever you are reading, coming back into the room in your own time.

In Mindcast

Jane O’Rourke – Short Breathing Practice For Easy Calm And Relaxation

Jane O’Rourke guides us through a breathing practice for when you do not have much time but would like to relax and calm down. Jane is a yoga and mindfulness teacher and a Psychodynamic Psychotherapist working with Children and Families. She teaches yoga4trauma in the Trauma Unit at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

Wellbeing Quiz Profile: #MoreFrantic

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Hello, my name is Jane O’Rourke. I’m a Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist, and I’m a yoga and mindfulness teacher. Today we are going to do a really simple practice for when you don’t have much time but you would like to steady and calm.

So coming to a seated comfortable posture, so it might be on a chair or maybe you can find a cushion to sit on on the floor. And the aim is to try and get a nice straight back, so find your sit bones, so your spine can rise nice and tall and your shoulders can slide down the back, and your neck can be nice and long. And I invite you to put a hand over your heart, and the other hand, the finger tips just touching the floor, or maybe on your lap so you can feel the steadiness of the support of one hand and the other hand is in touch and supporting yourself. And then start to allow the breath to settle and relax, and just being in touch with how you are feeling in this moment.

And then I am inviting you to bring your focus to the breath at the tip of your nose. This is a really simple exercise, just being aware of the breath as it enters the nose, the in breath, and as it leaves the body through the nose on the out breath. Noticing the texture of the breath as it comes in and the slight warming on the out breath. Each breath a new breath of life, bringing oxygen to every cell in the body and a releasing and letting go on the out breath. And don’t worry if your mind wanders off as minds do, just gently bring back the focus to this next in breath coming in at the tip of your nose. Feeling the rise and fall of your chest on the in breath and the out breath and the steady rhythm of your heart. And then when you have taken your last out breath, placing both of your hands on your lap and just taking note of how you are feeling in this moment, and stay here for longer if you like, otherwise gently taking your time to come back into the room in your own time.

In Mindcast

Heather Chambers – Growing Up Black

Heather Chambers is an Assistant Psychologist working in the Camden MOSAIC CAMHS’s team for children with disabilities. Heather shares her powerful poem and an accompanying commentary to frame the poem that asks important questions about how all of us can actively do, say, and think things differently when racism is active – our own, or someone else’s. View the transcript to see the images that accompany Heather’s poem.

View transcript

Hi, my name is Heather Chambers and I am a black Assistant Psychologist working in the MOSAIC CAMHS’s team for children with disabilities. I’m sure by now you’ve all either seen or heard about the very public way in which George Floyd was killed. Like many other black people I’ve spoken to, his death and the way in which he was killed, touched something deep within us. It was something strong and unique, and it was something that united us all in our blackness. It was a united understanding, a united understanding that not only could George Floyd have been any of us, but also that his experience is us. When I watched his killing on national TV, I felt a pain like I had never felt before. I grieved for someone I had never met. I grieved for the world and the human race.

This pain and this grievance led me to think about my own experience of racism, and what that looked like growing up as a black female in the UK. I collected these thoughts into a poem, and I’m going to share those with you today.

Portraits, affixed to the wall of a gallery, tell the story of lands and great leaders of time gone by. Every great period of time has a story to tell. Every great period has something to solidify the greatness as a memory, to permeate that particular moment in time, so that when the future arrived, we would all remember, said greatness.

But do you remember my greatness? Do I even remember my own greatness? Are portraits of my ancestors affixed to the walls of the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, The British Museum? Are the true stories of British colonialism plastered inside the pages of English history books?

So much of my history is lost. I don’t even know, and don’t think I’ll ever even know my true surname.

Surviving slavery was greatness, surviving racism for 400 years is greatness. Surviving being black is greatness. Being black is laced with the magnitude of greatness. And yet, somehow, I do not see this greatness anywhere. I do not hear it. People do not speak of it. The greatness that is so strong and solidified in my heart has been tarnished with a view of weakness.

You see, I exist in a world in which black history is more than just a month. It lasts for a lifetime. I exist in a world in which people act surprised when I start talking. And proceed to tell me how well-spoken I am. I exist in a world in which I’ve witnessed my brother be stopped and searched by police countless of times, just because. I live in a world in which my teenage self was branded as a bully, because I was strong and vocal enough to stand up to the real bullies.

I live in a world in which I am told all lives matter, and that racism no longer exists. However, if all lives matter, tell me this, why are black people still being killed?

I live in a world which saw the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution passed in December 1865, abolishing slavery for good. I live in a world in which 155 years after the supposed abolishment black people are still being spoken to, and treated like slaves. I live in a world in which George Floyd was allowed to be murdered in cold blood. I live in a world in which this injustice is apparently justice. I live in a world of constant trauma, fear and labelling. I live in a world that is not free. I live in a world that is not for me.

I know that many of you are shocked to see what is going on in America. But I’m not. I’m disgusted. I’m horrified. I’m angered. But I am not shocked. I have grown up around racism. I’ve experienced it first times, countless times, both as a young girl and as an adult. I have lived with it.

I know it exists, and I know it is wrong, and it needs to stop. Society must wake up, open their eyes and start smelling the racial coffee. Stand up for your brothers and sisters, speak out against racism. Be the voice that we need people to be.

So Black Lives Matters does it? In what way does it matter? Ask yourself, how will you show that it matters? How will you educate yourself on black history and what it means to be black? How will you stand up? How will you fight?

The time has come. Let’s fight with our mouths, fight with our words, and fight with our art. Let’s use our voice to make a difference. Let’s make a change. Growing up black was never easy. But I one day hope for a day when it will be easy for the future black generations to come. Because Black Lives Matter.

Thank you for listening to that poem. I just want to note that, although those are my reflections, those experiences are true of many black people across the globe.

And to close I just wanted to draw attention to two words, response and retaliation. In the past when I’ve tried to confront colleagues or friends about racism, they have often retaliated defensively. And their response has often been one of invalidation. The way in which we respond and retaliate to racism is crucial in bringing about change. Responding with empathy, openness, and a willingness to listen to people who have experienced racism first hand is crucial. Similarly, actively looking for racism, challenging racist behaviour, and not staying silent and complacent, are positive forms of retaliation, which are also crucial to change.

I’m tired, and black people are tired. We’re tired of talking and fighting this fight. Talking about being black or being a part of the BAME community, fixing racism, this is not the sole responsibility of those people. It never was. It’s the responsibility of everyone, including white people. To leave you with this, I want you to ask yourself, the next time you witness racism or hear someone say that you’ve been racist towards them. What will your response and retaliation be?

Thank you for listening.