The Dragons took part in a workshop at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It was organized by the London Student Psychiatry Conference. This landmark event brought together students and trainees from medical schools and services across London to explore “Psychiatry in a World City”.
One topic was self-care and well-being. The dragons were used to share a narrative of the demands made on these young doctors.
The relentless blue dragon energy of study, performance, competition and perfectionism. These are the best and the brightest minds – but high perfectionist traits plus high conscientiousness can be a toxic combination in a system with no end of need . Energy management is essential. See this great talk by City mental health campaigner Geoff McDonald.
The on-going red dragon energy arising from tiredness, endless and more complex demand, low control in a changing system, and variable support. Strong tribal and cultural narratives about “pushing through” and self-sacrifice can make it particularly hard to share openly the very real personal emotional challenges of working in mental health. This is being addressed by the great work of the Practitioner Health Program and also highly recommended viewing – Brian Goldman on how “Even doctors make mistakes“.
The scarcity of even basic greens (sleep, nutrition, time to rest and digest), and the challenges of finding time for deep connection and contact that restores and nourishes. The allure and utility of “fake greens” (netflix binges, comfort eating, lost in social media) to regulate emotions was discussed. Tools like the Transitional Pause can be used to check in more often to see what we need and take any opportunities (no matter how small) to self-care and slow down.
We were lucky have in the session a therapy dog – providing some immediate green (#pettherapy). Pets, and nature, are great ways to regulate the vagal nerve and activate the soothing system.
More practical for the busy working healthcare professional could be a Mindful Shoulder Roll. A quick exercise, ideally repeated throughout the day, that releases tension in the shoulders and neck, connects you to your body, attunes you to your emotional state and trains your attention (if done deliberately as a mindful movement).
Can we keep the intention for self-care in the forefront of our minds when working with others? How do we hold the balance of own/other care? Especially at times of “high risk”? A commitment to regular self care, an awareness of our triggers and “emergency greens” regime for those inevitable high stakes moments, and permission and language to be deeply thinking and feeling healthcare professionals.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about our Get into the Green workshops for leaders or teams. Transitional Pause training is also a favourite for GPs, community teams, peer support services.