Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

Who most deserves your kindness?

Being kind to others is invaluable, the lifeblood of a caring community and a world we want to live in. But those of us who practice kindness are often too busy being kind to others to think of our own needs.

I have posted previously about how a simple act of kindness can make a huge difference in The best cuppa ever. Today I want to explore being kind to yourself.

What brought this on? I recently completed The Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course for those who haven’t come across the term yet) run by The International Writers’ Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa.

To allow myself to take the time out for this course during a period that was already heavily committed with family and work commitments required me to be kind to myself — acknowledging that I needed help to get back into novel-writing after a hiatus due to major life events and that it was okay to take the time out to participate. And it was fantastic — a perfect focus for my current work-in-progress and just what I needed to inspire and reinvigorate my writing (even if starting every assignment felt like drawing teeth).

As I browsed through the course instructors’ farewell discussion posts, one written by Monica Bergers stood out. This is the extract which triggered me to write today’s post, which Monica has kindly given me permission to share:

“Keeping your writing process sacred–be kind to your shitty drafts, be kind when you feel lazy. Honor your creative impulses just for the fact that they exist. Doing this will help build that thick skin we’ve been talking about when it comes to rejection. But let’s agree to this: we shall not reject ourselves or our writing. Ever. Make a pact that you will never abandon yourself, and you will be on your way to achieving that satisfying feeling of perseverance. It’s what all successful people have: steady persistence in a course of action, especially in the face of obstacle, setbacks, or disappointments. Writing is perseverance.”

Monica Bergers

There is a lot more in Monica’s wise words than just kindness to oneself, but for me it was the aha moment — the key to me to even reading that post on the day I submitted my final assignment and completed the course requirements.

(If you are interested, in late 2018 the IWP is now running a MOOC for  Stories of Place: Writing and the Natural World.)

What are the signs that you may need to be kinder to yourself?

  • How many of us set ridiculously high standards for ourselves, and waste an extraordinary amount of energy beating ourselves up for any and every perceived transgression, be it minor or major?
  • Or are so perfectionistic that we struggle to do anything at all for fear of failure? (Which is, of course, inevitable when we can’t tolerate the slightest hint of imperfection within ourselves.)
  • Or are reluctant to speak up for ourselves in a confronting situation?
  • Or can’t let go of something we wish we’d done better?
  • Or blame ourselves for circumstances beyond our control? Even if we are doing an admirable job of accepting and making the best of whatever has happened?

Do any of these sound familiar?

Okay, so lots of us have experienced one or more of these feelings. Mindfulness is a powerful technique which may help address some of these by allowing yourself to be aware of and non-judgmentally experience the moment. (I have written before about the synergies between mindfulness and creativity.)

But can we be truly mindful, non-judgementally accept how we feel without showing some kindness towards ourselves?

We do stuff up sometimes. We all make mistakes. Even if we are trying our best at the time. Or other times, we took our eye off the ball for a split second. Or we may have not seen the bigger picture. Or stick our heads in the sand because on some level we didn’t want to see or couldn’t cope. Yes, there’s a lot of clichés here because sometimes clichés describe the human experience well — and we’re all human.

Some mistakes have awful consequences. Some of them impact on others as well as ourselves. Some things we can make amends for. Sometimes we even end up being thankful for a mistake that took life in a different direction. But we can’t always rectify them.

Sometimes we feel paralysed. You can’t change that you didn’t act yesterday, but you can make it a priority to do things differently today.

Winter blossoms

So my challenge to you is to be consciously kind to yourself …

Not every now and again. Be kind to yourself every day. This is not about making excuses. This is about being honest and understanding yourself, and treating yourself with the same respect that you do when being kind to others.

Being kind to ourselves doesn’t come naturally to many of us. At best, it is a learnt skill.

  • Admit that you made a mistake, and examine why without berating yourself, and explore how you might act differently. Be kind to yourself to learn and grow.
  • Acknowledge what you are about to embark on might not turn out the way you hope. But pick up that pen or paintbrush or instrument or book that appointment and do it anyway. Take it one step at a time if need be. Revise your approach if needed. But be kind to yourself and allow yourself to risk producing crap, because who knows what you might achieve.
  • Put your needs first at times. You can still be kind to yourself and to others as well. Sometimes you have to look after yourself to be there for others. Be kind to yourself to nurture yourself and others.

So onwards in kindness and not just to others …

Do you find it difficult to be kind to yourself?

Have you been able to change that, and if so, what have you found works?

What have been the benefits of being kinder to yourself?

I would love you to share your experiences and ideas in the comments below.

I hope you find this post useful. Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

Disclaimer

© 2017 Jacquie Garton-Smith

 

Copyright: Vector Image by StockUnlimited

Imagine yourself in someone else’s hospital bed (or chair)

Copyright: <a href='http://www.stockunlimited.com'>Vector Image by StockUnlimited</a>

Have you been in hospital before? What was it like? If you haven’t, spend a moment thinking about how it must feel.

Hospitals are scary places for a lot of people. A person who is normally confident in their home or work environment may feel completely un-empowered. Add pain or other unpleasant symptoms, boredom, constant noise, stress about what is wrong and whether you will recover and to what condition, inadequate information, lack of continuity in staff, and we have a potentially volatile situation.

Now imagine being sleep deprived, extremely unwell, very young or very old, being isolated from your loved ones, not fluent in the language spoken (and that’s before you get to the medical jargon), confused and/or not able to communicate clearly for some other reason.

Even those of us who work in healthcare often feel powerless and frustrated when it is our turn to be patients or a relative of one. I can only guess how intimidating it must be when the hospital is an even more foreign environment.

I have recently spent a bit of time bedside in hospitals and at doctor’s appointments with relatives and it has caused me to pause for reflection. At the same time I have seen a groundswell of health professionals and others wanting to do better for  Change Day Australia and have realised what a fantastic opportunity it is. Positive change doesn’t have to cost a lot nor take a lot of time.

slide 3-3

My challenge to health professionals and other staff is to try to imagine what it is like to be the person in front of you and to try make their visit a little easier for them. You may not be able to walk in their shoes, or lie in their hospital bed, but try to visualise what they might be going through.

6 simple steps to better know and help our patients:

1. Introduce yourself by full name and position the first time you meet anyone (ie the patient or their relative) – #hellomynameis.

2. Make eye contact.  I know it is so obvious but I have seen people deliberately avoid doing so. An excellent way to make someone feel worthless.

3. Spend time getting to know a little about your patient and their family, especially their carer(s). In General Practice we often get to know our patients much better (and usually in their more natural state). You may not have the length of relationship in hospitals but you may be surprised to find out something more about the hospital-pyjama clad individual you are attending and help you work with them to better health. Who are they in their real life? What interests them? Is the man of few words in front of you running a multi-million dollar business? (I joke not!) Or a concert pianist? Or scared because his Dad had a heart attack at his age? Is the glum lady who looks ready to bolt terrified because her family who have come down to the big smoke to go into hospital never come home? Or is she worried about who is looking after her dog while she’s in here? Does she have a gorgeous sense of humour once she trusts you? It may help you to understand better where they are coming from, what they fear, what they understand and what they still need to know.

4. Explain. In language your patient can understand. Get an interpreter if needed. Information truly is helpful. We know only a proportion is taken in especially when bad news is delivered or someone is under a lot of stress or very unwell , so check their understanding and be prepared to have to explain some key things again.

5. Allow time for questions. Every visit. What you think your patient will be worried about is not necessarily what they want to know.

6. Visit regularly, especially when you have said you will (and apologise if you have been delayed). Your patient knows you are busy but is almost certainly hanging out for every review and update.

We don’t have to be health professionals to make changes to improve health. Anyone and everyone can to something (or many things) to help the health and wellbeing of others.

While I was studying, I worked for a family-owned department store in Perth called Aherns who trained their staff to, amongst other things, chat freely with the elderly people who came through the shop if they had time. The managers explained that they recognised that for many it was a rare social outing and for some, the only conversation they might have that day. Thirty years after my training with Aherns I still remember this. I still think my six years working with them gave me a better foundation in communication and dealing with people than my medical degree and subsequent studies did.

I have recently been made aware of the HUSH Music Foundation and would like to applaud Dr Catherine Crock and every contributor for their efforts to make hospitals more relaxing through music. I’d love to see this rolled out elsewhere. I’m sure there are other great examples and would love to hear about them.

We may not all have that kind of creative talent, but don’t underestimate the value of smiling in the lift, helping with directions or introducing yourself to the person next to the one you are visiting and asking if they need anything while you are picking up a paper for your loved one.

What have been your experiences with the health system?

What would you most like to change about health care?

What can you do to make a difference for someone else?

Change Day is a wonderful chance to commit to do at least one thing to improve health. Imagine the difference we can make if we each promise and do one thing!

What will you pledge?  Be creative! Or copy – we don’t mind. Please check out the pledges on Change Day Australia website. You also may find inspiration from my last post on kindness or an earlier exploration of health and creativity.

Unknown-5

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

Disclaimer

© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith (Change Day images thanks to changeday.com.au; Cartoon Copyright: Vector Image by StockUnlimited)

(updated 13 April 2016)

The best cuppa ever

I have been reflecting on the importance of kindness recently. What strikes me is that acts of kindness can be random or intentional, big or small, but even the small ones can make a huge difference.

One stands out for me many years after it occurred.

When I was a junior doctor working at a large tertiary hospital, a number of the rotations required us to do overnight ward cover. These could be gruelling, particularly covering medical specialities where you would be the only doctor in the hospital looking after some seriously unwell people with very complex conditions on a number of different wards all over the site. You can’t plan the work to any great degree as the job is to respond to things that come up and need urgent attention. Weekend nights could be especially tough as the usual medical teams often hadn’t been in to review their patients during the day.

Sometimes I have nightmares that I am on overnight ward cover again, well over two decades later.

It was working one of these shifts on a Sunday night that I had a list of tasks longer than anything I had ever imagined. I was dashing up and down stairs (the lifts being archaically slow) trying to get at least the most urgent jobs taken care of before the next calls came in. Around 4am I headed back the Renal ward to review a patient with kidney failure who had developed a high fever and needed assessment, blood tests and treatment started asap.

I had a number of other equally unwell patients and didn’t know if I could physically get to do all the things I had been called to do over the remaining four hours of my shift. Despite being a hard worker and relatively efficient, I felt ill with the sheer pressure of the workload.

Having seen the patient, I only had moments to sit down to complete the paperwork. As I sat down, one of the ward nurses appeared with a mug of tea in her hand. I think my eyes may have become teary as she put it down in front of me and said, ‘You look like you need this.’

Mug and medical equipment 3

It cost her only a few minutes of her time but it made all the difference. Even though it was ordinary hospital tea it tasted incredible. It did recharge me, not just from the sustenance, but from the fact that someone cared enough to both notice that I was exhausted and overwhelmed and to do something to try to alleviate how I was feeling. Even in the healthcare industry, we could do more to look out for each other.

I can still see her face but I can’t remember her name. I don’t know if she has any idea how much her kindness helped me that night.

This humbling act of thoughtfulness stems from the deeper well of kindness that, when demonstrated, helps individuals and communities. Kindness helps bring out the best in us, be it in family or friends, a co-worker or co-creative, an acquaintance in person or online, or someone you don’t know. We won’t always know that our kindness has been appreciated but it is worth doing anyway.

How has an act of kindness made a difference to you?

How can you make a difference to someone else by being kind?

Do you have a good “cuppa” story?

Can we do more? Change Day 2014 is a fantastic vehicle for change:

slide 3-3

Could kindness be a key theme in your Change Day Australia 2014 Pledge?

Looking after others should be core for health professionals but we don’t always look after our patients, our colleagues or ourselves as well as we could. We don’t have to be health professionals to make changes to improve health. Anyone and everyone can to something (or many things) to help the health and wellbeing of others.  Please check out the pledges  on Change Day Australia 2014 website for further inspiration.

I see a lot of kindness in the creative community as well as in the health industry. I thank you for the kindness that you have shown me.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. Although I am confident I can attribute the benefit to the kindness rather than the chemical effects of the tea, here’s an interesting article by Jeremy Dean on Tea: 6 Brilliant Effects on the Brain.

If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

Disclaimer

© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith (Change Day image thanks to changeday.com.au)