Writing for Well-being in the NHS…

Participants at the NHS Nursing and Allied Health Professionals Conference for Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust in Southampton were recently invited to ‘Write their Mind’ with reflective writing taster sessions on offer in the Well-being Hub.

Throughout the day participants from across the spectrum joined me for some lively sessions where they were thrown in at the deep end, with a warm-up of a 3 minute ‘Free-write’, followed by some simple quick-fire writing exercises to stimulate thought and conversation.

What I was truly touched by was how quickly the majority engaged – in an environment that was buzzy and not as quiet as might have been ideal… the ‘free-write’ threw many into confusion, as the lack of structure gave no guidance whatsoever other than to write without stopping and without allowing the critical mind to jump in and try to rubbish their attempts!

Short exercises were chosen that required participants to consider how they feel when battery levels are fully-charged, say – following a summer holiday, and what that ‘best’ version of themselves might say to a far more frazzled, burnt-out winter version. Of course, a recurring theme within this kind of environment was concerned with remembering to be kind to ourselves, that life was generally one of manic multi-tasking and participants shouldn’t beat themselves up, but could ask for help and support whenever they were struggling.

A common theme that participants were eager to dissect through discussion was a tendency to be the ‘doer’, not just at work, but in the home as well – and perhaps there was space to encourage family members to pull their weight in the home so that they didn’t end up doing all the housework and clearing up. In the workspace, many wrote about the constant conflict of feeling a duty to offer help where it was needed – being in a caring profession reinforced this tendency – as opposed to taking care of one’s own needs and sometimes allowing others to come forward instead.

Plans are afoot for Write your Mind workshops to go ‘on tour’ in the new year with an NHS well-being roadshow across selected sites around Hampshire.

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