Teen Sexting - A Criminal Offence

02 Oct

This report states that both young men and women experience peer pressure to share sexual images of themselves in the phenomenon known as 'Sexting'. The study highlighted the pressure young people experienced from their peers to engage in sexting and the importance of their voice in developing ways to prevent and deal with the problem.  

Boys can be ostracised by their peers or called 'gay' if they fail to participate and show their friends images of girls on their phone or computer. Girls also feel under pressure to share images of themselves, especially if they have also viewed images of girls they know. A US survey found over 51% of girls had sent sexy images or messages as a result of pressure from a guy. 

However, this is not just harmless fun between teenagers. Some young people have been charged with child pornography (in 2007, 32 teens in Victoria, Aus were charged with child pornography offences) and placed on the sex offenders list for having explicit photos of young teens on their phone or computer. It is illegal to have a naked or semi-naked photo of someone under 18 on your phone or computer, to forward it to someone else and you can be charged even if the photo is of yourself and you agree to it being sent. Most young people are probably unaware of this and that a pressing 'send' could have devastating consequences for them and their lives. 

What may have started out as an exchange between two people can end up being shared between many at a school or even worse on the internet, with some even making their way onto porn sites. One girl's images ended up being shared around local schools and she was harassed, called names and bullied thereafter resulting in her commiting suicide. 

Young people are under pressure to fit in with the group, to do what their peers do so as they are not ostracised, excluded, teased, made fun of or laughed at etc. It can be a very powerful force that seems to make people do things against their better judgment and which if left to their own devices they may not choose to do. They may feel that it is not right for them, that they are not really comfortable with it and yet they feel forced or compelled to go along with it.

It takes a strong teenager to be able to say no to peer pressure, someone who has the self respect and self honouring to listen to what they truly feel and follow that - rather than the external pressure to conform. Perhaps the best thing we could teach young people would be to listen to what they really feel and to honour that, to be able to say no and stick with it. To know that even if that meant losing a few so called 'friends' that would not be the end of the world - for a true friend would respect your choice and not force you to do something against your will. 

There is of course more to the underlying reasons that young people engage in sexting. It is a way of seeking intimacy without actually forming an intimate relationship, without taking the risks that would potentially involve of being rejected or getting hurt. The desire to avoid being hurt or rejected can lead people into all sorts of difficulties when it comes to relationships - something perhaps many of us can relate to in one way or another.

However, imagine if we instead empowered young people to feel and know first not just that they are worth loving but that they are in fact love and to honour that by being self-loving, self-honouring, self-respecting. In that way they can feel for themselves the true harm of sexting and that it is coming from an emptiness and the seeking of love, affection and intimacy but in a way that is not true.  The more they realise, know and live that they are love, the more they will be open to forming an intimate relationship with another who is also self-respecting, self-honouring and self-loving. 

However, it is not just about teaching it but living it - not just talking the talk but walking the talk.  Thus a more powerful way for young people to learn from parents, teachers, relatives etc  is by how we treat them, how we are with them, by how we listen and respond to them, whether we truly see and 'meet' them, respect them or ignore them, dismiss them, talk down to them etc. It is for each of us to live in a self-loving, self-caring way ourselves and to offer that way of being to young people by reflection that they may choose it for themselves. 

Feel free to share your comments or insights re teen sexting.

Recent Posts

24 Aug

Being Gentle with your Body..

Many people associate looking after their body with pushing themselves hard in the gym - lifting heavy weights, doing lots of repetitions, running fast or using a cross trainer at full pelt. This is reinforced by the feel good factor that comes with a session in the gym and the adrenaline /endorphin rush. Of course it's not just in the gym but there are many forms of exercise where we push the body as hard as possible.

Not only that but in day to day life we can do every day movements and actions in a way that is hard, rough or aggressive without even realising we are doing it. We bang doors closed, turn on taps or even leave cups and plates down in a way that is hard or rough without even noticing. We perform so many activities on autopilot, often completely unaware of the actual quality we are performing them with.

We might think this doesn't matter - that our bodies are designed to work hard and to do whatever we require in whatever manner we choose and that the body will cope.

But what if it's not that simple? What if it does matter?

What if every movement and action we make with the body affects the body in ways that can be good for it or bad for it?   What if the quality with which we move and perform tasks has a bearing on the health of the body?

Consider the possibility that when we are being hard, aggressive, rough, pushing, driving etc that our physical body is being detrimentally affected by bringing that hardness into the body, affecting its overall suppleness and flexibility. This happens over time of course – so we don’t even notice it is happening and we end up assuming those stiff, tight, hard muscles or joints are just part of getting older, wear and tear and might even dismiss it as just being ‘the way it is’ as we age.

So what if there was a way to live that could enhance the body’s wellbeing and maintain its flexibility and suppleness?

By bringing attention to the quality with which we move and perform activities we can begin to notice when we are being hard, rough or aggressive and observe how that feels in the body as we are doing it.

We can choose to bring in the quality of gentleness to our movements and activities. We all know what gentleness feels like, we all have some idea of what it is to be gentle, so it is easy for us to apply this in our every day lives. We may begin to notice ‘that wasn’t very gentle’ or ‘that could have been more gentle’ as we go about our daily activities. Even feeling how you place your feet on the ground as you walk – do you stomp hard or gracefully glide? Notice if your forearm muscles are tight, tense and hard as you brush your teeth as hard as possible or are they relaxed with gentle movements back and forth? Observe how you close cupboard or car doors – do they bang closed or are they gently apposed? What is the quality with which you chop vegetables, stir soup, wash the dishes? Is there a lot of clashing and clanging when you work in the kitchen or is the sound of silence barely disturbed?

The interesting thing is that we as do this and focus on making our movements gentle, the level of what we call gentleness deepens – in other words, what is gentle for me now, in 6 months time will have deepened to a new level of gentleness, perhaps even making my starting point seem not so gentle!  And it just keeps unfolding – there is no end to the depth of gentleness we can bring to ourselves and our bodies. This also deepens our level of appreciation for our bodies and what they do for us. We no longer want to push them hard in the gym or strain them with heavy weights but instead choose more gentle exercise and lighter weights – maintaining fitness but not compromising health.

Furthermore, as we live and apply this, we realise that our bodies just love being gentle and being treated with gentleness – they just seem to soak it up and melt away all that hardness and tension we have been carrying and living with. Gentleness is caring, and by being gentle we are caring for our bodies instead of pushing them beyond what is natural for them. Just like most things in life be it a car or TV or other equipment that we treat roughly, with disregard and lack of care, they tend to get broken or worn our more quickly than if we genuinely care for them, look after them and are gentle with them – so too it is for our bodies. But we can’t just go to the shop and get a new one like we can with equipment – so how much more important it is to invest in looking after your body, caring for your body, being gentle with your body – it will thank you for it.

I love this Eunice. It's a

I love this Eunice. It's a great reminder that when we get caught up in the doing of things, which frankly life seems to be all about sometimes, it's easy to forget about looking after the body that is doing all the doing. Push push push is all the mind does. I'm excited to see how much my gentleness can deepen. If there is not end… what happens! Wow!!

well put Gayle, surely it

well put Gayle, surely it does stand to reason.

Eunice I like where you say

Eunice I like where you say that we can't go out and get a new body like we can with a TV. So true. This blog reminds me how precious my body is and how everything I do with it affects if it's going to work well or not.

Being gentle with your body

I really enjoyed reading this blog. Eunice what you share about moving your body in gentleness is continually unfolding for me. I try and stay aware of it all day and I am constantly setting new foundations for what gentleness is as I go deeper with it. For me gentle exercise is a joy as is going about my daily tasks in gentleness. There is a whole new level of connection, joy, space and harmony in each day as a result, escalating my self appreciation and vitality. This in turn is ever offering me an opportunity to evolve a more deeply tender, loving relationship with myself and then so outwards to all my relationships.

gentleness

Thank you Eunice for another thought provoking and action inspiring blog! I'm even trying to type in a gentle way after reading your article. As you have pointed out, when we focus on making our movements gentle, the level of what we call gentleness deepens. This is really fun to become aware of. After reading your article I was also pondering on the wider effects of being gentle. Because we can feel the effects in our body, doesn't it stand to reason that these same effects will be felt in the world at large? So our gentle movements aren't just for ourselves but for the whole of humanity.

I always enjoy what you write

I always enjoy what you write Eunice and the stop it brings me to to ponder on your words. Such common sense and practical and simple ways to support ourselves,and our bodies. The investment in caring for ourselves in such a deepening manner surely prepares us for a much more vital old age as well and could take a huge amount of pressure off the health system.

A great reminder Eunice of

A great reminder Eunice of the power we have in our own hands to take care of our selves at an ever deeper level. Starting with the simplicity of being gentle in our daily living as we go about things we do within our day. Great to notice how the simple introduction of being gentle affects our well-being.

Being Gentle With Your Body

Eunice, this is lovely, I can feel myself getting more and more gentle as I read your words! What a simple, practical reminder to look after our bodies using everyday examples like how we chop food or close a car door. 'Gentleness is caring, and by being gentle we are caring for our bodies instead of pushing them beyond what is natural for them.' Beautiful.

Being Gentle with Your Body

This is a beautiful blog Eunice. I can relate to all you have said. Up to 8 years ago I was always being told by my (now late) husband that I banged doors and turned taps on in a very hard manner, but I could not see it and would not accept it. Later I came to watch what I was doing and found that indeed I was being quite rough, but had not realised it. I realise now that I had been a very frustrated person at that time. By gradually becoming more aware of this, I slowly began to 'gentle down' my movements until now I do everything in such a beautiful gentle way, and I feel absolutely awesome.

being gentle with the body

Great blog, it's a gentle reminder of the ways i can be gentle with my body and how it is something that just keeps unfolding allowing me the opportunity all the time to deepen further.

Being gentle with your body

I love this blog, it presents another way of living that is so supportive of us and how we can live. Thank you.
04 Jul

The Art of Healing through Living..

The word ‘medicine’, comes from the Latin ‘ars medicina’ and means the ‘art of the healing’.

So what if medicine wasn’t just about pills, potions and surgeries but also included ‘the art of healing' through living?


So how do we heal through living?


The Key Principles to Understand are that:

  • every human being has an essence of love/stillness
  • we live as if this essence does not exist or as if we are in separation to it and thus we have issues like low self-worth, not being good enough, always needing to do more, to achieve more and so forth
  • we make daily choices that are not from this essence of stillness but may be from the mind, ideals, beliefs or our emotions without due regard for the body
  • these choices harm the body over time as they are not of the same quality of energy as our essence is
  • The Body is the Marker of Truth and reveals all our choices (SB) - in other words, aches and pains, illness and disease and suffering of all kinds has more to do with how we live than we care to imagine, accept or acknowledge 
  • by making daily choices from our essence of love and stillness we can re-harmonise and heal 
  • listening to the body (rather than the mind) and honouring what we feel is key to living in a way that is healing and honouring of the body
  • healing is not always physical but involves the whole being and occurs when we return to who we truly are - divine beings expressing in a way that is loving and caring for the whole. Thus no choice would be made that is toxic or harming to the body. It also means that one can heal, heal the root cause, return to one's essence, be harmonious in one's being and still have physical disease present in the body
  • by making loving and caring choices based on the truth of who we are, we bring more love and harmony to the body and that is healing.

 

What sorts of choices heal? 

All choices that come from our true nature or essence of love and stillness have a healing effect. Likewise all choices that arise in separation to our true nature will have a harming effect. All areas of life are important – as we are affected by everything all of the time so there is no escape or time off. The quality with which we perform our daily activities of living and expressing all have an effect on the body. Such activities include:

 

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Moving
  • Exercise
  • Communicating
  • Making love
  • Walking
  • Working
  • Writing
  • Relationships

 

By bringing the qualities of care, gentleness, tenderness, nurturing and kindness to all our activities and expressions we can embody these qualities such that they become our living way. Whilst we each have the same essence of love, how that is expressed in the world is unique to each person.

In addition, the art of healing also embraces all that modern medicine has to offer and considers it all part of our healing journey – where we may need medication, surgery, physiotherapy and so forth in addition to addressing our daily choices of living such that those too are healing.  

Thus we can each develop a way of living that is healing and which is unique and personal for us and our needs and our lives: the art of healing through living.

Simple

If you asked most people what listening to your body means they would not have a clue. Your simple list shows a path that can be obtained be anyone to choose a different way to live in their fullness.

Thanks Eunice

This article is so clear and concise about how we create illness and disease in the body through not addressing our emotions/reactions to life, and how we can re-connect back to a natural loving way of being that we have within us but sometimes ignore.

Wonderfully simple

Thank you Eunice for this wonderfully simple article about the medicine that we can each provide for ourselves. I love the clear tips about how to “develop a way of living that is healing and which is unique and personal for us and our needs and our lives” and the explanation that it is an art.
28 May

Stoning of a Pregnant Woman..

This article in the Guardian reports on the stoning of a pregnant 25 year old woman in Pakistan because she married a man she loved. She was stoned to death by her father, brothers and other relatives. The stoning murder took place outside a court! Her father described it as an 'honour killing' because she married without their consent. He also said he had no regrets. 

How twisted and distorted is it to consider such murder as an 'honour killing'? There is no honour in such acts of atrocity. It is appalling, horrific and for us in the Western world, almost beyond comprehension how such an act could occur, and occur in broad daylight outside a supposed centre of justice - a court.

The article states that often such crimes involving violence against women are not fully or properly investigated by police or the men get lenient sentences or even acquitted. All of which smells of an underlying current of misogyny in the police force and judicial services such that the perpetrators are not held to account as those in authority in some way feel it must be ok or justified to be violent to women and kill them resulting in half-hearted investigations and sentencing. A vicious circle where those supposedly upholding the law and justice are perhaps as complicit in the crime by not taking a strong stand against the perpetrators. 

Acts of evil are given free reign when we do nothing, when we say nothing, when we stand back and say 'it's not my problem.'  It's all our problem. We are all responsible for the society we co-create together, for the world we co-create together. If we only see this as a problem in Pakistan then we are lost, for we are not recognising that we are one humanity and what is done to one is done to all.

We are all interconnected - we are not separate islands or peoples. Dividing people according to skin colour or religious beliefs is a complete fallacy that only serves to perpetuate such evil acts in the false belief that 'they' are different to 'us'. We are all equal, we are all the same in essence, yet with our own unique expressions. 

The men who committed this crime in Pakistan have been brought up in some way to believe it is ok and acceptable to be violent against women and even to kill women should they not obey their controlling ways. We maybe think "well what can I do? - that is in Pakistan - there is nothing I can do". Well think again. It does not require us rushing off to Pakistan for there is plenty we can do in our own backyard. For example, speaking up and calling to account when we hear misogynistic or slanderous remarks being made against women. This can happen in subtle and not so subtle ways - yet how often do we just let it pass as we don't wish to create a fuss, to stand out, to be seen as prudish or righteous? 

Being aware in our own relationship dynamics of any power plays, controlling and dominating behaviours, bullying, being belittled or attempts to humiliate or make lesser in any way. Taking a stand and saying this is not acceptable - I do not deserve to be spoken to in this way, I do not deserve to be treated in this way, and stating it clearly - do not speak to me in that way. Dealing with misogyny requires not just addressing the men who have those tendancies and the beliefs that have led them to beleive it is ok but also requires women to not cower in the face of it, to stand up and say no, no more. 

We may not get stoned in the western world for being a woman, but the levels of domestic violence in this country tell us there is plenty of work to do at home. And that is only the violent tip of the misogyny iceberg for the ways that many men still attempt to control, demean, bully, dominate, humiliate and impose upon women are manifold - and it will continue so long as we lie back and allow it. 

I too have been guilty of that - I have often given my power away to men and allowed them to control or dominate. Thankfully I am now more aware of it and so I can begin to say no....when I feel it is happening, to have the self-worth to speak up and call it out.

Of course, I am no man-hater, indeed I love men and I am not here tarring them all with the same brush! I know there are many men who truly love and respect women as they are and do not need to control or dominate them.

However, this post started with the stoning murder of a woman in Pakistan - an act that can only be brought by those whose hearts are closed to the true beauty and grace of women. Whose minds have been fed lies and mistruths to justify their abhorrent position undoubtedly contributed to by certain religious beliefs that favour a domineering patriarchal society. Such beliefs that men are somehow superior to women are still well and truly present in the western world, often also fuelled by religious belief. So let us not just point the finger at others and clear up our own doorstep - until all the men in our society truly recognise the equality of women and cease their misogynistic ways.

Any belief that does not recognise the true equality of women and men is man-made not God made - for God is love who loves all equally irrespective of gender, sexuality, race or religion.  

Feel free to share your views and thoughts in the comments section. 

 

 

Public Murder by Stoning of a Pregnant Woman by family members

Thank you Eunice for posting this shocking article and much needed call to action for us all, on every level to call out mysogony. As I looked into this story further it has also come to light that the womans husband had murdered his first wife, strangling her to death, to get her out of the way so he could marry Farzana. He received no sentance because the family 'forgave him' - which put him beyond the law. The womans family had also previously murdered another of their daughers after a 'fall out' with her husband. Farzanas extreme case was not isolated. Nor is Pakistan alone in these horrific crimes against humanity. Papua New Guinea has an appaulingly high level of extreme violence towards women, husbands who cut off limbs with bush knives, women accused of witch craft burned to death or beheaded after being gang raped, and so the list goes on. Reports estimate that at least 70% of women in PNG will be raped or sererely assulted at least once in their lives. The police, on the whole, do nothing, and are also often involved directly in the violence. As you say Eunice, in the UK or Australia we may not widely accept women being stoned to death, or burnt alive, or children being gang raped or having limbs cut off....but if this is the extreme end of the violence towards women, we must stop and ask ourselfves several questions....1.does an act of misogyny further 'down' the spectrum make it ok? Or does it all possibly contribute to the extreme end of the spectrum and make its existence possible? and 2. How are we each of us personally contributing in our daily lives to this global phenomena of devaluing women, on any level? I love where you say: 'And that is only the violent tip of the misogyny iceberg for the ways that many men still attempt to control, demean, bully, dominate, humiliate and impose upon women are manifold - and it will continue so long as we lie back and allow it. I too have been guilty of that - I have often given my power away to men and allowed them to control or dominate. Thankfully I am now more aware of it and so I can begin to say no....when I feel it is happening, to have the self-worth to speak up and call it out.' I have stopped after reading this Eunice to name several ways I might take the next step in cherishing and valuing myself as a woman - and in so doing, knowing THIS if globalised will eradicate the whole phenomena of women being less, being objects, being possesions. If we each as women claim our own worth as the fair and radiant beings we all naturally are - without needing to look a certain way, or prove ourselves with deeds, or appease, or comply or 'not rock the boat'then all points along this spectum of horror will one day be no more. Women (and men too) are precious beyond our current understanding.

What we can do about violence

Eunice, I appreciate your simple "what we CAN do" offering. It is the responsibility of every person who is still free enough to speak out to pull up anyone near them who may be slipping into beliefs which can get so far away from our true humanity. I always felt pain in my body as a child when my brother would say the saying "sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me". It is a pure lie. Words can hurt and can lead to broken lives.

Stoning of a Pregnant Woman

Thank you Eunice for your article - this is just beyond comprehension how these men can justify killing their own family member. And as you said, so much violence against women is happening all around us - I know it's huge here in Australia as well. We do need to stand up and say: "Enough is enough." We are so much more than that sort of behaviour - men and women. Indeed we all need to say "No, this is not acceptable under any circumstances". Violence, bullying and any sort of controlling behaviour against women and girls is totally unacceptable.

Eunice, Thank you for

Eunice, Thank you for speaking out about an issue that came to light in the media this week and helping me to understand that it is the responsibility of each one of us to call out when we see or feel people being treated with disrespect or abuse no matter how big or how small. It is not only men, husbands, fathers and brothers treating women disrespectfully...In any one week stories are exposed of men and women treating each other with complete disregard. Men abusing children in many different ways, either leaving another wounded, broken or even killed. Family members turning on each other, colleagues competing against colleagues, teachers disrespecting students, church leaders looking the other way when members of their flock are being abused. Right down to sports people going onto the field with the intent of beating by force for the glory of a win. It can seem overwhelming and easy to switch off and become absorbed in our own world and our own lives. When this happens it can allow another to disrespect or abuse us in many subtle ways, because we have been led to believe that is the way it is. More and more I can feel that this is not the way it is. We are all deeply loving and capable of honouring ourselves and others in all of our interactions. This week I called out a colleague who verbally turned on me in the work place. It felt very uncomfortable and I chose to ask for help in dealing with the situation. This was not easy for me as I didn't want to cause a stir or create a fuss or open up to something I felt I couldn't handle or deal with. Yet it felt right to speak out. By doing this and really feeling into my pattern of silence, I felt supported by the people I turned to for help. The hard feeling I was having and racing mind subsided leaving me feeling more clarity and more able to serve the people I work with. Thank you for reminding me that co-creation of a world based on equality and love can be simple and starts with me saying no when I observe and feel myself or another being treated less than who we truly are.

collective consciousness

yes - thank you Gayle - you are quite correct. I agree at first glance speaking up in our own families and territories may not seem to be doing much for such atrocities - but it is step by step as we co-create a collective consciousness that says no to all forms of abuse, violence, misogyny and more. It's not going to happen over night but bit by bit we can all do our bit to say no to any form of abuse, misogyny and so forth. One thing is for sure - silence has never worked in ending abuse and it never will - it only gives free reign to it and so by remaining silent we too become complicit in the act of abuse. OUCH. If the world is to change then we have to change to make it so - we each have a responsbility for the world we co-create and we can start by saying no, speaking up, calling to account anytime we hear or witness even so called minor episodes (that are not so minor!) or incidences of disrespect, abuse, misogyny and so forth. 

speaking up is part of the process of change

Dear Eunice, Thank you for speaking up about an unspeakable subject. News stories such as the one you have written about - a young woman being stoned to death by her father and brothers - are so abhorrent that many of us don't even want to hear about them. We close our eyes, we close our ears, we close our hearts. And who does that help? It doesn't help the murdered woman, it doesn't help the murderers see the error of their ways, it doesn't bring about justice and it doesn't help us as individuals, because we just learn to live in a shut down way. Speaking up, at first glance, doesn't seem like much help either. But on closer examination, I now feel it does help. It helps the collective consciousness of humanity if people will stop and acknowledge that what has happened is wrong in every sense - regardless of country, national acceptance, or religious practice. We can't run off to a foreign country and even if we did, what could we accomplish once we arrived? But what we can do is pause, find that still place within ourselves in this harried world, call out what is not right. Call out what is not love. It is a small step that will become bigger each time we do it. Thank you for your article and allowing me to see my role in this news story.
27 Apr

Self-care for Medical Students: Reflection by Hassan Farooq..

In only two weeks, having gained much in the way of insight into self-care I have begun a process of adapting and trialing changes to my way of living. Some have already borne fruit whilst others will take more time and discipline. This reflection will outline the ways in which I have adapted my lifestyle to become more caring to myself and hopefully as a result, to others. 

 

Diet

The first week focused on diet, sleep, exercise work and the energetic state of being. Diet was perhaps the easiest change to make. Having presented on the“milk myth” and listening to presentations on gluten and sugar I attempted to change my diet to exclude or at the very least limit foods that are affecting my state of well being. At the time of writing, I have successfully limited my intake of milk and chocolate to “cheat days” which is just one day a week. Initially it seemed like a chore to replace milk in my diet but fortunately I soon found a suitable alternative which is not much of a compromised on taste. From this modest change, I have in the space of a week noticed that my skin is in better condition which is perhaps co-incidental but pleasing nonetheless. Surprisingly, sugar in the form of chocolate was not tough for me to cut out. I am not a big chocolate eater anyway and usually only consumed chocolate when bored. Simply removing it from the house was enough for me to go a week without even noticing. The last food related change I made over the week was to go caffeine-free. I enjoy my coffee but hardly ever drink it as a pick-me-up, so it made little sense to continue drinking it and allowing it to put me in a higher energetic state. Changing to decaffeinated coffee made a big difference as I don’t experience the warm restlessness and energetic excitement I would otherwise get with each coffee. Not long ago, decaffeinated soy coffee would have sent a shiver up my spine but now it has effortlessly replaced my regular coffee, perhaps for good.

Sleep

Moving on from food and definitely just as important has been my attempts to rest sufficiently by sleeping earlier. I would consider myself a good sleeper however I am quite sensitive to the effects of a lack of sleep. Before starting this module, I was getting by on approximately 6 hours of sleep, not listening to my body when I was tired and just getting on with it. During the last week, I attempted to get into bed by 11PM giving me 7-8 hours of sleep. The results were no surprise to me, waking up energetic was great and barring one day I managed to keep it up. Ideally I would like to get to bed even sooner, perhaps half an hour earlier, which would give me time in the morning to do other things rather than just getting ready to leave the house. I enjoyed the time I gained in the morning for the week as it was time that I had more focus and fewer distractions. Making effective use of this time could pay dividends and make up for time that feels lost in the evening, making the following day less hectic and rushed. In addition to the noticeable benefits in energy I was pleased to find various health benefits associated with regular, fulfilling sleep. From reduced risk of psychological illness to potentially reducing the risk of cancer, sleep seems to be a small price to pay for the protection it offers.

Challenges - staying present

Moving on from aspects that I found success with are some changes that I struggled with and need to work on. Gaining more focus was one of my primary aims after experiencing gentle breath meditation (GBM). GBM allowed me to clear my mind of thoughts that were not important at the time. Thoughts that I could not act on or address. This exercise quietened a lot of the “background noise” from my mind which instantly brought me into the current moment and all the sensations associated with it, bringing me back to “centre”. Often I find myself drifting away from centre as the day progresses and this was a handy way of getting back in less than five minutes. Practicing this during the last two weeks has not been easy because I forget to include it in my day. However, on the occasions that I have carried it out, I have benefited from the clarity and sense of calm it brings me.

Coupled with GBM was ‘conscious presence’, another concept that I found interesting as I could relate to the often “absent” way in which I carried out day-to-day tasks. From my understanding of it, conscious presence involves being in the moment and taking in all the sensations of the activity being undertaken. I, on the other hand deliberately distract myself whilst carrying out activities such as showering, cooking, and ironing. This is because I get bored with mundane tasks and like to keep myself entertained. This was perhaps limiting my ability to engage in the experience fully. I wanted to gauge the benefits of being conscious through these tasks and to not only carry them out better but to enjoy them more also. This is a lot easier said than done, often I found myself turning to music or TV to avoid the boredom. I noticed that I used these activities to catch up with TV and to entertain myself when I wasn’t able to at other times of the day. However, the quality of this time is low and perhaps that is why I always feel unfulfilled by such experiences. I see conscious presence as a means by which I can find fulfillment in many of the things I do, however I must forget to multitask and re-learn how to uni-task again. This will take time as it is a habit developed over years.

Barriers

In enacting changes, I faced many barriers, such as a lack of time and money. These perceived barriers were not as large as I might have thought, not when I’m motivated at least. I have always felt that if I want to do something, that I will always find time to do it. However, if I feel indifference towards or want to avoid an activity then invariably I will not find the time to carry it out. Lifestyle changes can be cumbersome and unfortunately fall into the lateral category. Being aware of this, I bit the bullet early and just rolled with the punches. Cost seemed like it may be an element, particularly relating to food. However, with a little more caution shopping and less spent on junk, I found that I could shop for a week on the same amount as I had budgeted. This in my case was a pseudo-barrier. Time as I said is only an issue for me when I am unmotivated, but I started sleeping earlier, waking earlier and as a result not losing any time at all whilst feeling better for it. Having said that; this is only true for when I am in Belfast, returning home is likely to upset my routine and maybe clash with my family and their habits. Of course conscious awareness and GBM won’t be affected but the way I eat when I am home may. This does not mean it has to. My family is always very supportive and perhaps I could adapt with them and help them to care better for themselves. This would give me great joy, as not only will I be more comfortable making self-caring choices at home but my family can do the same.

Conclusion

As this reflection illustrates, I have managed to adapt to a better way of living in some ways whilst other detrimental habits still linger. This however is not a disappointment to me. It is an area in which I can continue to grow and improve. Having already noticed benefits to some changes I am very motivated to see the effects of this in the medium to long term. On the whole, this SSC has opened my eyes to conventional and non-conventional wisdom relating to health and the person. Although still struggling with the concept of energies, I have been stimualted by the views shared with us during the module. Interestingly, I wonder what trajectory my self-care would have taken had it not been for this three-week personal dissection of my lifestyle?

Reflections on Self-Care

Dear Hassan, I came across you post today and utterly enjoyed reading it. Your honest and very practical approach is inspiring and refreshing. It shows that Self-Care is easy and doable if we approach it one step at a time. Thank you for sharing! And thank you Eunice for your deep care and incredible service to humanity! Sincerely, Judith

Hi Hassan, I thoroughly

Hi Hassan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this (and all of the reflections thus far) and love what you say about "uni-tasking". I was the queen of multitasking and it has been an interesting process to come back to being with one thing at a time and with a conscious presence enjoying what I do so much more. I have noticed a spaciousness with that and so much more time available to me now which continues to amaze me. We have been reflecting on these reflections in our Self Care Group in my workplace and have been struck by the honesty, the willingness and the wisdom that shines through in all of these writings. To be attended by doctors who are developing deeper a true understanding love and care for themselves first, and because of that, naturally extending that same love and care and understanding to those they care for, feels like a true gift to humanity. So very inspiring. Thank you to all of you and to you Eunice.
05 Apr

Self-care for Medical Students: Reflection by Nicola McFarlane..

 

The module was the top of my list when I made my SSC choices because I always like to try a module that offers a different aspect of the medical course.  I like to have a wide variety of knowledge and am always open to new ideas and I thought this module would offer me an insight into things I had not experienced before.  In terms of my own self care I was interested to see how well I was really looking after myself and to see how I could improve.  In terms of my future patients, I wanted to be able to offer advice not just based on drugs and conventional medicine, but to be able to help them in other ways which may or may not have been taught on the current medical curriculum.  We are taught that the patient is more than just their condition and that in order to be a good doctor we must treat the whole patient, but I was still unsure as to what this meant before I began the self care module.  Another reason the module appealed to me was because it was coordinated by a doctor.  This was quite important for me because as a doctor I knew Eunice would be able to relate more than most people to the problems medical students and doctors encounter which prevent them from being self caring. 

At the beginning of the module, we were faced with a question on what self care meant to us.  Looking back at what I wrote, having come to the end of the module,  I found it interesting to see just how little I knew about self care before.  To me self care meant looking after myself mentally and physically because to look after other people, I had to be healthy myself.  A healthy lifestyle for me meant eating the right amounts of different foods to maintain a balanced diet, getting about 8 hours of sleep per night, exercising regularly and having time to wind down and relax.  All these things are obviously very true however I have come to realise self care is so much more than those basics.  The aspects I have chosen to reflect on are diet and sleep because I feel learning about and changing these have had the biggest impact for me.

Diet

I consider myself to have a healthy diet.  I cook everything myself from scratch so I know exactly what goes in my food and I eat as little fat and sugar as possible.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy coke, popcorn and chocolate at the cinema every now and then but in general I’m not a fan of take aways or any other food that has high fat, high salt contents which make me feel quite ill soon after eating them.  Over the past few years however, I have developed what can only be described as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, after ruling out other causes.  I didn’t suffer greatly with it at first but after some months it became so bad I had no confidence when going out anywhere, opting for jeans and a top rather than a dress which showed just how bloated I was every time I ate a meal.  I was in pain after eating, had altered bowel habits and yet I couldn’t work out what it was that was causing the discomfort.  I tried eating more fibre, taking fibre supplements and more recently have moved on to peppermint oil before meals but nothing seemed to be working.  During the self care module we explored the pros and cons of different foods and I realised there might have been a link with something in my diet and my bowel problems.  I tried making a change in my diet for about 5 days at a time and didn’t initially see any benefit with the exclusion of gluten or wheat but I did notice a difference when I eliminated dairy from my diet.  I didn’t actually realise how many times a day I took dairy products until I was consciously making the decision to stop them and I found it difficult at first, but after a few days of eating my meals and not feeling as sore and bloated afterwards, I realised there was a link between the dairy products and the way I was feeling.  The changes, despite being small have been very evident to me but I know I will not see major results until I continue for another while and my body is completely dairy free.  Because dairy was the last thing I tried to eliminate I am still on my dairy free diet and intend on staying dairy free as much as possible.  It is difficult when you’re out for dinner or when someone makes you tea and serves it with milk, but I know it will just make me feel unwell if I take it and on occasion I’ll most likely just put up with it.

Caffeine was another major problem for me with me consuming around 12 cups of tea a day.  I really enjoy the taste of tea and always thought I mainly took it for the taste, but after some experimenting with decaffinated tea over the module I have discovered my need for tea is very much a caffeine addiction, regardless of how much I enjoy it.  We were given the option of having deccaffinated tea during the break each day and I decided to take a break just once each day to test out what other kinds of tea I could potentially enjoy.  This led to me slowly cutting my caffeine intake each day by 2-3 cups and having a decaffinated version instead.  I still have my cup of caffeine in the morning but eventually I would like to be able to enjoy tea without the caffeine addiction.

Sleep

Growing up I never had a good sleep pattern.  Music, figure skating and voluntary commitments meant my homework and studying was often started at 8 or 9pm each night, finishing at around 2am with me getting about 4 or 5 hours sleep before getting up to do it all again the next day.  Looking back now I can see how unhealthy it was and how exhausted I always felt, yet it has continued like that ever since.  I always considered myself to be my best and most productive at night time and yet during this module I have discovered that it is not actually the case.  We learnt that the optimum time to go to sleep is 9pm according to our physiological body clock.  To me this is not practical with the modern way of life, however I did decide I was going to get into bed around 10pm to read a book and try and get to sleep earlier each night, setting my alarm 45 minutes earlier than usual in the morning to try and get into a new routine.  At first despite getting into bed to wind down it took me a long time to fall asleep, but after a few days of an earlier alarm I felt increasingly tired after just a few pages of my book at night.  Soon after starting the change in routine and going to bed earlier I discovered I was actually waking up before my alarm every morning, something which I never managed before.  I began to see the benefit in the new routine; I now had time to make and eat breakfast in the morning rather than doing the usual of throwing some tea into a travel mug and running out the door. I made healthy filling lunches to do me later in the day and I didn’t feel stressed by the time I got to where I was meant to be.  There have been exceptions over the past few weeks where I have gone to bed extremely late and as a result have either struggled to get out of bed when my alarm has gone off or I’ve just slept through it completely and obviously these will continue due to modern life and busy schedules, but in general I have now made the decision to continue with the routine as much as possible because the benefits definitely outweigh any social implications.

Overall I greatly enjoyed this module and found it a lovely change from the normal clinical side to the medical course.  I was able to take time out to explore what was best for me and I know I will be able to incorporate this new knowledge in my life from now on.

So lovely to hear the

So lovely to hear the openness to experimenting with a few changes and to hear the impact these had for Nicola. Our body and listening to it is so very important and I would imagine that a tough,busy schedule such as that of a, medical student, makes this a challenge at times. On the flip side, taking care of ourselves is the true support required when in such a schedule. Awesome to bring this into awareness for these students.
19 Mar

Self-care for Medical Students: Reflection by Amy Irvine..

Amy Irvine - My Journey in Self-care

Throughout this SSC, I have been mentally stimulated and challenged in ways that I have not been accustomed to with other modules in medical school. This has served as a pleasant change from the scientific nature of clinical based modules and I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the module and the thought-provoking concepts that have been discussed. I initially ranked this SSC moderately high out of a combination of curiosity, the yoga component and the reasonable workload. On further thought this might have also been due to my instinctive nature to assign my mental and emotional health a high priority. This has been the case for many years as I have closely observed the detrimental effects that not looking after psychological health has had on members of my family.

During the initial introductory session we were asked to write down what self-care means to us and measures we currently take to self-care. I found the concept of self-care hard to articulate as it encompasses many different areas and our teaching until present had not encouraged any thought on it. At the beginning of this module, my concept of self-care consisted of a state of mental and physical well-being including emotional stability and awareness. The end point of successful self-awareness would be calmness in your soul and peacefulness in your heart with the ability to rise to and deal with challenges. Measures I previously took to self-care were exercise, formation and maintenance of good relationships with friends and family and what I considered to be a relatively healthy diet. I also try to learn something from every experience; both good and bad, and use this to help in the future.  I identified areas that I needed to improve my self-care; a tendency to undereat when stressed and to dwell on past issues. Consequently, the main elements I wanted to get out of participation in this module were to learn simple techniques to improve my self-care and to identify and improve areas in which I lack self-care.

Diet:

As mentioned previously, I would have described my diet as moderately healthy and I have been making small changes to improve it since moving away from home 3 years ago. I buy lots of fresh vegetables each week and choose lean meats such as turkey to form the basis of most meals. I do not buy crisps or confectionary and consumption of carbohydrates is limited to brown rice/pasta/bread. However for self-experimentation I chose to give up bread and rice completely at the start of week 2 after my colleagues delivered a presentation on the detrimental effect gluten has on your body. Dr Minford also highlighted the possible relationship between gluten and migraines and so (as a migraine sufferer) I thought this was worth the effort to observe any beneficial result. I struggled with this dietary change more than I had anticipated and after discussion in class I realized that although my intake of these foods was low and I felt no cravings as such, the momentum of my lifestyle was what proved hard to overcome. I had to adjust components of the meals I was so used to making and replace the rice/bread with a substitute. The observations I noted within my body started almost immediately with respect to how I felt after a meal. I had subconsciously normalized feeling ‘’sleepy’’ after dinner, and now I certainly noticed a lack of that sleepy feeling. Now, 10 days on, that has developed into an energy and as a consequence I am more productive after I eat dinner.

Yoga:

Having previously attended a yoga class, I was somewhat familiar with the basic movements and principles but nothing more. I was looking forward to our first yoga class and was intrigued to see if there would be any difference from being from a self-care perspective. Initially, I found it hard to relax as I am usually quite rushed in the morning and my mind is busy planning the day ahead but once I had achieved a sense of calm I was able to maintain it quite well. On moving my arms up and down gently I was shocked at how heavy they felt and it startled me to think how little I notice the weight of my arms throughout the day. Moving on from attempting to be at one with our bodies, I thoroughly enjoyed the sequence of movements and was able to remember it easily and so focus my mind on the fluidity of the actions and the stretch in my body. After each set I felt my muscles loosen up and was more comfortable moving between the positions. After the exercise, I had difficulty relaxing and was easily distracted by the sound of someone snoring. The next yoga session one week later had a larger focus on conscious presence, gentle breath meditation and body scanning. I knew I was much more unsettled from the offset and consequently found it very difficult to relax and concentrate on becoming at one with my body. At the next session I prepared by going to bed early and trying to remain gentle and not rush throughout the morning. I felt this hugely benefited as I fell into relaxation quicker than before and was able to maintain it for most of the session. Overall, I really enjoyed these yoga classes with the emphasis put on gentle movements and would consider taking another yoga course in the future. 

The culture of medicine:

This module prompted me to think a lot about the working environment that I am beginning to be exposed to. My initial desire to study medicine was fuelled by my interest in science, love of interacting with people and aspirations to succeed. I never doubted my suitability for this career or gave thought to the impact it may have on me. After discussing in class the nature of the culture of both medical school and the career, it highlighted a few interesting points for me. Medicine is demanding, stressful, unforgiving and based on an altruistic manner. The proportion of doctors who suffer from substance abuse, alcoholism and have attempted suicide is much higher than the general population and other professions. I had not realized the advice coming directly from the GMC states that ‘Good doctors make the care of their patients their first concern’ - without mentioning ways to handle the effect this will certainly have on a persons self-care. This conflicting advice shocked me, how can doctors give a true quality of care without first having that care for themselves? The importance of self-care really hit home for me here. We will soon be entwined in a very toxic system and although there is some movement to change it, it will take time and the change must being with the people. At this stage in my life, exposure to toxic environments has been minimal but it is easy to see how quickly things escalate and I feel that I have learnt some very valuable lessons from taking this module.

Emotions:

The main learning point I took away from this module with regard to emotions was the harmful effect absorbing or reacting to other people’s emotional states and also the need to express our true thoughts and emotions. The exercise we did on empathy was interesting as it somewhat contradicted our previous teaching in medical school. As students we are told to empathize with patients, to put ourselves in their shoes in order to better understand the situation and comfort the patients. However, when we confronted our peer’s sad stories by just listening and being our loving selves they responded by saying that they felt comforted and listened to more so than when we were empathetic. Over the past week I have been applying this to conversations I have had with friends, and although they haven’t commented on my response, I feel the conversations have taken a positive direction. Another learning curve taken over the past few weeks was the realization that I can be fully in control of my emotions and do not have to let others actions dictate how I feel and react. Previously, when asked why I was angry, I would blame a person’s actions, or a particular situation. Now I am in the process of implementing the attitude that I alone am responsible for my emotions and I can control them (not without effort).

Overall, I found this self-care module to be exceptionally interesting as it challenged me to think outside of the conventional box on a whole variety of topics. It raised questions for me that perhaps touched on a nerve and gave me the opportunity to evaluate these in terms of my own self -care. Above all, it allowed me to see the importance of dedicating time and effort to taking care of my physical, mental and spiritual health as the cost of not doing so is too great to ignore.

03 Mar

Self-care for Medical Students: Reflection by Niamh Kelly..

Introduction

I choose the self-care module this term as the title stood out among all the ‘usual’ module choices.  While reading the abstract for the module the keywords ‘body awareness’, ‘holistic health’ and emotions/feelings’ struck a chord with me as I have always strived to understand more about myself and feel that self-care is something I could always improve on.

During the introduction day I defined self-care as ‘feeling good about oneself’, ‘relieving stress, worries and anxiety’ and ‘having a positive mental attitude’.  All of which I believe are important, however, my understanding of the meaning self-care has changed to encompass something much deeper and more fulfilling than these statements.  From a young age I have had some level of understanding about self-care which I feel that I have obtained through education at school and at home.  For example, I have always eaten well, maintained a moderate level of exercise and knew the importance of a good night’s sleep.  I therefore rated my current level of self-care at 6/10. However, having engaged in a self-care module I realise that my current level of self-care falls far short of this value and I am using this experience as a stepping stone to live and practice self-care.  I was shocked to learn on the first day that 1 in 2 GPS in the UK show features of burn out and realised that one day this could be me.  It seems completely unrealistic to think that a doctor who is not fully self-caring and self-loving can deliver true care to patients.  It is clear to me that we must begin with ourselves and learn how to be fully nurturing and loving before entering a world where we strive to deliver the best care we can for others.

Observations

Over the first week I practiced listening to my body and tuning into what it was really feeling.  I have noted even from before starting this course that I have an addiction to caffeine, sugar and bread and so I decided to experiment with myself in the first week and live without these.  I have often used these types of food as a reward or ‘treat’ for achieving targets.

Diet

The biggest sacrifice for me was caffeine- not only do I enjoy the taste but I love the uplifting feeling it gives you and the ‘kick’ it delivers.  Thankfully I do like herbal teas so I used these as a replacement for my usual cup of tea or coffee in the mornings and throughout the day.  It wasn’t long before I felt terrible and suffered from dull, unrelenting headaches a few days after not having any caffeine.  Being my usual medically orientated self I tried to explain the headache by some other logical explanation, until I accepted the obvious fact that I was experiencing withdrawal from caffeine.  I was shocked that a substance such as caffeine could make my body feel this way and knew that it could not be healthy for me.  We don’t always need research to prove something is bad for us; if we listened to our bodies we have all the evidence we need.

In class we had discussed the vicious cycle we can enter with caffeine; a concept that had never crossed my mind.  We drink caffeine during the day and get a poor night’s sleep.  Waking up the next day unrefreshed we rely on more caffeine to get us through the day- not having let our bodies achieve the full amount of rest it needs, and so the cycle continues.  This leads to the depletion of energy.  This made a lot of sense to me and I experienced this first hand in the second week.  I went for a coffee with a friend late in the evening; not because my body wanted the caffeine but to please my friend.  Although I enjoyed the coffee, I suffered the consequence of not being able to sleep that night and having a very unproductive following day. This had a knock on effect on me throughout the entire week and my reliance on caffeine increased.    

I lasted from Monday until Thursday without bread, benefitting from the lighter feeling that I had particularly after lunchtime, when I usually felt bloated and heavy after a sandwich or roll.  On Friday however, I went for lunch with a friend and had bread with my soup.  My body felt heavy and full and I felt ‘wiped out’ after this meal.  Doing a debate on the effects of wheat on the body helped to   confirm why my body felt this way after eating bread.  

Surprisingly sugar wasn’t as hard to cut out of my diet.  My usual craving for a sugary treat after dinner soon disappeared as I actually listened to my body and knew I was full.  An understanding behind why I enjoyed that sugary treat may lie in the fact that I stay up too late and my body gets tired and needs fuel to stay awake.

When preparing a meal I now think ‘what am I eating, why and how am I preparing it’.  

Self-care tools

I used ‘stop, connect’ feel’ when I was driving or just sitting doing work.  On several occasions I felt that my body was tense, especially my shoulders.  I also became aware that I was clenching my stomach in very tight.  By using this tool I was able to recognise these things and relax my body.  My favourite tool to use during the day is ‘conscious presence’. I understand the need for this mind- body connection in terms of the depletion of energy that occurs when our minds are elsewhere.  It was surprisingly difficult to use this tool even during simple tasks such as brushing my teeth or in the shower as I find myself relentlessly planning ahead or dwelling on the past.  It worked best when I was walking and I actually got a sense of happiness and I felt centred.  I understand that by using this on a day to day basis, we can remain fully present throughout the day in confidence. 

Self-talk

I have noted that my self-talk has been negative; something that I have struggled with for a long time.  I am my own worst enemy and tend to have a critical and judgemental inner voice that says things like, ‘You're lazy, unmotivated and not confident enough’.  I know that my negative self-talk comes from things which I have experienced in the past including failed family relationships and a family bereavement that has made me look at myself in a different light.  Realising that I am love and that I deserve to be loved will help me connect back to myself and to accept who I am in light of my past experiences.   

Challenges

I find that my challenges lie mostly in what other people think of me and the choices that I make.  I have come to realise that this comes from a lack of acceptance of myself and perhaps the lack of connection with my inner self.  For example, I often drink on nights out purely to be in with the crowd.  I also eat unhealthier if other people are indulging in treats such as chocolate.  I find it harder to make self-loving choices particularly about food when I am at home at the weekends.  Here, mum has bought plenty of bread and chocolate that is easy to access in a moment of weakness. Whereas, when I am living in Belfast I choose not to buy these things and therefore find it a lot easier to resist.  Another challenge that I face is my daily emotions.  I can be overcome at times with sadness and worry if other people think that I am a negative person.  I believe that I need to accept the past and allow myself to feel rather than think all of the time. 

Class

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the creative session the most in this module.  My initial reaction to this session was a feeling of dread and pessimism.  I have always felt like an ‘uncreative person’ and I was afraid of being embarrassed. However, I enjoyed making my collage of happy times and found it therapeutic and it brought me back to being a child again when I used to love doing arts and crafts.  I realised that I am open to try something different and was able to appreciate everyone and not compare myself.  My self-talk following this day was positive. 

The debate on alcohol highlighted for me how bad it actually is. ‘We only need one hangover to know alcohol is bad for us’.  This statement has stayed with me and reminds me that alcohol is something I should try my best to avoid.  I also enjoyed learning how the environment can influence our long-term health and enjoyed researching the ACE study.  I was not completely unaware that such things can affect health however; I have a greater understanding and awareness of this now.

Conclusion

This course has been an eye opener in terms of how important it is to love oneself and to live in a way that is nurturing and self-loving.  I understand the importance of trying to connect with our inner self and to remain present in everyday life to reduce the depletion of energy that this brings.  I plan to continue to practice and live the tools and techniques that I have gained in this module and ultimately be able to deliver the same quality of care to patients that I give to myself.    

Clipping Path

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I enjoyed reading your

I enjoyed reading your experience with self-care awareness very much Niamh. In parts they reminded me of my own journey down the self-care avenue. And yes, there have been bumps and predominantly self created obstacles but all in all it has been more than worth the effort! All the best in your pursuit of deepening the care and love of yourself.
23 Feb

Self-care for Medical Students: Reflection by Patrick Farrell..

 

Before starting the self-care SSC I had delved a little into the world of Buddhism, under the thinking that learning to meditate would bring me peace and direction as I was finding myself regularly frustrated and at a loss to what I was making of my life. I had only read in fits and starts and hadn’t given any real commitment to the idea. I therefore saw the self-care SSC as a chance to spring-board myself further into the realms of body awareness and living a life that would bring me joy. I would have had a lot of anger and frustration on a daily basis, and would have been very self-critical upon personal reflection. The idea of taking proper care of yourself and being true to yourself before dealing with other people really hit home for me.

The area that I feel I’ve made the most progress with over the 3 weeks has been my own self-belief and self-confidence to do the things that I feel are right for me. This began as early as the first week as I learnt the importance of observing rather than absorbing during my interactions with other people in my life. I had always found this a real drain on my motivation and enthusiasm on a daily basis. I have felt for too long that I was neglecting my own belief that it was important to speak only when you had something to say, rather than a constant babble of mainly nonsense chatter, and this was something I struggled to implicate in my living. From the confidence in my self-belief I was gaining each day I began to implement this into my daily life, and immediately felt a strong sense of satisfaction that I was being true to myself. I have always found that I prefer my own company more often than not and I felt liberated as I started to make more time for just me to be with me.

I began to implement several lifestyle changes and methods discussed in class into my own daily living. Over the 3 weeks I experimented with alcohol consumption, having a night out when I was completely sober and a night when I consumed alcohol. I found that I actually enjoyed the sober night more, I did largely similar things both nights, and woke up the next day with no feelings of regret or shame that were present upon waking up from the alcohol infused night. This experiment stemmed from our group discussion on alcohol consumption where I was arguing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. I was troubled to learn that the alcohol was causing me to become a chemically-fuelled version of myself, and leading me away from making decisions based on what was best for me. I was drinking poison. I will certainly exercise strict control on the alcohol I consume and not see it as a necessary ingredient for a good time.

I found the gentle breath meditation, yoga and exercising of conscious presence invaluable tools to waking me up to how my body was feeling throughout the day, and I began to check in and reconnect more often with how I was getting on. I am quite inexperienced with these techniques of body awareness and still find it difficult to maintain my focus on the task at hand, but I have been bolstered by the small improvements I have made in not multi-tasking as often and trying to fully check-in to what I’m doing, so I am confident I will continue to improve with regular practice.

Even before I started the SSC I would have taken care to eat a nutritious selection of food, but I wouldn’t have paid attention to the finer details, that could be the cause of afternoon sluggishness, general tiredness and changes in mood I was often experiencing. This was the area that I struggled to observe changes in how I was feeling despite making a number of changes to what I was putting in my body. I will continue to experiment and observe and along with continued conscious presence I will be able to pick up on the subtler changes that I haven’t previously noticed. I managed to cut out caffeine and unnecessary added sugars in my diet quite successfully, again stemming from group discussions in class. Also the addition of more vegetables and fruits has been welcomed along with a greater enthusiasm improve my ability to cook a wider variety of my own food from fresh ingredients. This will be tested thoroughly as I begin my clinical attachment schedule again next week, but is something I feel is very important and I will devote a considerable amount of energy to tackle it successfully. 

I have been quite unsuccessful in adapting a new sleep routine of an earlier bedtime and a corresponding earlier wake-up time. I have felt this impact on my general tiredness throughout the day but feel it is the result of a long habit of neglecting sleep. I have been tired most days coming home from class which has sapped any enthusiasm to study in the afternoon, so I usually begin to study in the evening and consequently go to bed late then struggle to get out of bed in the morning. This is a cycle I aim to break out of and something I feel will be important not only for my general vitality but also my enthusiasm to make the most of each new day.

I saw a lot of sense in our teaching about love being the true energy of human beings, and how our actions in our past and present lives play a big part in what happens to us both now and in the future. From this I also learned the importance of living your life in the present moment and not wasting energy on dwelling on the past or looking into the future. I’d come to a point in my life a couple of years ago where I was looking for answers, feeling that I was letting life slip by without enjoying it. So I began to look for different sources of information away from traditional Christianity, and found books of Buddhism and enlightenment and they made sense. But my motivation for continuing further with my research was lacking and I felt as though again I was just sort of drifting through my days. I had great excitement therefore when I saw the details of this SSC, how it was a continuation of themes I’d been learning about and interested in, and after as little as the first few days I knew I was in the right place. I was being taken on steps further down the path of my own understanding, and the themes we discussed seemed to be familiar thoughts that I’d had before but had just forgotten or hadn’t fully formed. I certainly saw the utmost importance of taking care of yourself, and putting your own care at the top of your priorities.

I would probably say that the most dramatic change I’ve noticed over the 3 week period has been the vast increase in my own self-love, not in the sense of vanity, but rather my complete satisfaction to be exactly who I am. The genuine sense of joy that came just from being true to me was staggering. My critical self-talk stopped and my own self-belief grew and grew, as I finally realised that if I didn’t believe in myself how could I expect anyone else too. Admittedly it’s still an early stage, and my ability to care for myself is very inexperienced but it will only improve. I now feel armed with the tools that I need to make sure that I’m not neglecting my needs, that I am listening to my body and I have the courage and the belief to do what it asks. 

I loved reading your

I loved reading your reflections Patrick. Seeing how you approached these 3 weeks, experimenting with your new discoveries and sharing them honestly is deeply inspiring. I particularly like the parts when you say 'This is a cycle I aim to break out of' and 'my complete satisfaction to be exactly who I am.' - clear examples of your self empowerment. Stunning.

Reply to Patrick Farrell

This is a great blog to read, it's given me an altogether different view of doctors! Your depth of understanding is conveyed very well here, and so great that you are learning to feel the deeper side of life rather than run with the crowd. Thank you for stepping up to take self and patient care to another level. Ariana Ray, UK

Patrick

Thank you so much Patrick for sharing your reflections of the SSC. I found it such a beautiful blog to read. I love that you are discovering your self confidence and belief to be able to do the things that are right for me, not with any disrespect to anyone else, simply honouring the fact that you are tired or don't want to talk or go out sometimes. Wonderful examples. Thank you so much.

patricks reflection.

I love what you have written here Patrick and the way you write with such clarity. This bit; "I was being taken on steps further down the path of my own understanding, and the themes we discussed seemed to be familiar thoughts that I’d had before but had just forgotten or hadn’t fully formed." It feels to me like you received a lovely gift and by choosing to undertake this beautiful programme the gift was actually given to you by your self :-). it seems like a remembering rather than something new to learn which means that it must be something that is naturally within us waiting for us to reconnect to and reactivate should we choose to do so. I'd love to hear more.

self-care

I enjoyed immensely reading about your experience Patrick and all the little (big) steps that you have been making towards greater self-care during those 3 weeks. And it is absolutely wonderful to hear of your enthusiasm to continue to apply greater care for yourself so that in turn you can provide that same level of care to those you will be serving. All the best in your endeavour and if after all the years of you medical studies you don't feel that that's it - may I suggest you take up writing ;) It is absolutely beautiful. Thank you again.

This is awesome Patrick. A

This is awesome Patrick. A true confirmation that Self-care topics should be part of the curriculum for all medical students. Great work Eunice for introducing this. Just imagine if all health care professionals had a deeper understanding of self-care and what a difference it would make for their patients.

Patrick's reflection

What surprised me the most about Patrick's reflection was how quickly he could re-turn to living from this re-newed sense of self. After many years of being in the world without awareness of how he was living, without making self-loving choices; a brief introduction to self love techniques and 3 weeks later he is able to completely 'get it'. Now this gives me hope that humanity can make new choices, if people like Patrick are giving them the reflection of how they can care for themselves. So inspiring. Thank you to the Soulful Doctor and Patrick for continuing to build the wave of self care in medical training.
16 Feb

Self-care for Medical Students..

During the first three weeks of January I ran an SSC (student selected component) called "Self-care for Medical Students" for third year students. We are seeing unprecedented rates of burnout in the medical profession and the rates of addiction and suicide are higher than for the general population. Clearly something is amiss when those who are supposed to know about healthcare and wellbeing are in some ways worse off than those they are caring for. The culture of medicine is altruistic, with the GMC stating under professionalism that patients must always come first: 

“Patients need good doctors. Good doctors make the care of their patients their first concern: they are competent, keep their knowledge and skills up to date, establish and maintain good relationships with patients and colleagues, are honest and trustworthy, and act with integrity and within the law.” 

However, nowhere in this statement does it suggest or require that doctors should care for themselves. We cannot give what we do not have - and so it is vital that doctors know how to truly care for themselves so that they can provide that equal quality of true care for another. Many of the habits and coping skills or lack of them are established at medical school and thus it is important to make medical students aware of the importance of self-care. Indeed the earlier people receive this message in life the better, but that said, it is never too late to develop a more loving, tender and caring way with ourselves. One of the key principles of self-care is knowing that we are worthy of giving ourselves that love and kindness because we are in fact love, that is our essence. And so by reconnecting to this essence we can learn to be guided by our own innate wisdom, to listen to our bodies and how they feel rather than over-riding them with our minds to do things that are not truly caring for the body. 

Below I outline some of the topics and skills that were covered during the course but not all. Over the next number of weeks I will share (with their full permission) with you some of the reflections written by the medical students at the end of the module regarding their experience of putting self-care into practice. They were encouraged to see it as an experiment - to see themselves as a living science, making choices and observing the consequences of those choices on how they felt, their energy levels, their vitality, wellbeing and so forth. It was totally up to them which areas of their life they would focus on and bring a deeper level of self-care to and what changes they would make.  I very much enjoyed reading about their experiences and I'm sure you will too - stay tuned for more!  

 

Outline of Module

The module aims were to develop self-aware and self-caring medical students who provide true care to their patients by knowing it for themselves. It combined the intelligence of the mind and the wisdom of the heart. It is based on 3 key premises:

1) In order to deliver true care to another, one must first deliver that care to one’s self in equal measure. We cannot give what we do not have.

2) Each of us is worthy of giving deep love, care and tenderness to one’s self.

3) Choices of daily living are a great form of medicine, leading to improved self-care.

 

Topics covered included:

1)    Who is the self that is being cared for in self-care?

2)    What are the stressors and barriers to self-care in the medical profession?            Exploring the psychoemotional world of doctors.

3)    Holistic and energetic understanding of the human person.

4)    Exploring how mind, body, heart, spirit and soul interconnect.

5)    Learning to read your body – the body as an honest marker of disharmony

6)    Effect of emotions of physical health and wellbeing.

7)    Psychoneuroimmunology, epigenetics and psychosomatic medicine.

8)    Diet, sleep, exercise, work, energetic state of being: impact on health.           Developing routine and rhythm.

9)    Health Myths.

10) Promoting peer support, having a GP and accessing appropriate care.

 

Practical Sessions:

1)    Energetic awareness

2)    Gentle Breath Meditation

3)    Body awareness – yoga

4)    Conscious presence – mind/body awareness and connection

5)    Gentleness in action

6)    Walking the talk

7)    Role play – compassionate presence

If you would like more information on the selfcare module then please just email me or use the contact box.

The next posts over the coming weeks will be from some of the students reflections on their experience of the module and putting the understandings and tools for self-care into practice.  

This is wonderful Eunice. As

This is wonderful Eunice. As an ex-nurse this would have been an invaluable module in my training. I love the testimonials that follow too. Very inspiring. It would be great if this could be taken by med students everywhere.

This is such an amazing

This is such an amazing initiative and one that should be incorporated in all schools and universities.

Self-care for Medical Students

It is so lovely to read about this initiative. As a young medical student and doctor I felt crushed by the demands of the system, and to know that there is at least one person who is willing to make it about love above all else,and to change the system from within, brings tears of joy to my eyes. Thank you, Eunice.

It is so refreshing to read

It is so refreshing to read this Eunice. How super important it is to have the professionals that are taking care of us, also taking true care of themselves. So often is the case that they leave themselves till last and therefore compromise the quality of care they are able to offer? I look forward to hearing from your students.

Brilliant

So Brilliant Eunice that you are providing this education and training; you are the PERFECT person for the job, having lived this transition back to true health through self care and self love yourself. I love "we cannot give what we do not have", this absolutely needs be one of the first teachings for any healthcare professional.

This is SUPERB, super

This is SUPERB, super inspiring and absolutely brilliant that medical students are plunging into self-care waters. We definitely need those who care for us to take truly good care of themselves, and not just because we want greater care as patients but also because as you say we are all worthy of deeper love and tender care, medics included. Little while ago I was talking with a 4th year medical student and he was sharing that they (he and his fellow students) would deliberately keep track to see who'd drink more coffee to get them through a day...some were on 12...15...! That's an awful lot of caffein for any body and in one day. He explained that it was the only thing that could keep them going the pace they do. I very much look forward to reading what your students have to share about their personal experiences.

Self Care for Medical Students

I felt excitement and relief all at once when I read about this project. Excitement that an essential component of caring for patients is being introduced to western medicine through showing medical students how to care for themselves. And relief that this will eventually trickle throughout the system(s) and be felt by people in need of medical care. Thank you to the Soul-full Doctor for adding another bullet point to an already impressive list of accomplishments in the medical profession.
28 Nov

The Fragmentation of Medicine ..

I have witnessed many changes within medicine over the last 20 years – one of which has been the increasing fragmentation of medicine despite  the introduction of the importance of holistic medicine. This fragmentation is across the board and exists on many levels.

Fragmentation by Specialising 

As our knowledge of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pathophysiology, pharmacology and the many varieties of illness and disease has expanded, it was recognised that it was not feasible for all doctors to be expert and up-to-date in every area of medicine and thus increasingly doctors have focused on one area or speciality. This has the advantage of doctors being able to concentrate on an area in which they can become expert, but the disadvantage that they lose skills and knowledge that apply to other specialities. Apart from those who work in remote locations and who may, because of their work location, have to be true generalists, the numbers of doctors to whom that name could apply are increasingly few. We tend to focus on parts or on a particular body system or age of patient – eg the heart in cardiology, the skin in dermatology, the blood vessels in vascular surgery, the large bowel and rectum in colorectal surgery, the mind in psychiatry, the gastrointestinal system in gastroenterology, care of the elderly or paediatrics – and on and on the list could go.

Whilst I see and understand the advantages for both patients and doctors of specialising, I wonder if the pendulum has swung too far? By dividing medicine into its many parts and focusing on them, have we lost sight of the whole of medicine and the whole of the patient? By concentrating in one or two areas, we become less comfortable addressing issues or conditions that are outside those areas and so we refer to other doctors in the relevant speciality. In an age when the multi-symptomatic man is increasing, such a patient can end up being seen by many doctors focusing on the parts, with no one doctor addressing the whole of the patient and their needs. This occurs despite there supposedly being a greater awareness of the importance of holistic medicine – which in truth is a term that is often bandied around as a good thing to do, but in practice is rarely applied, where all aspects of the patient are considered in illness and disease manifestation and treatment. Whilst sub-specialising was developed with good intentions of having experts that could offer the best care for patients and to make the practice of medicine more manageable for the doctors, is it possible that in doing so we have in fact moved further away than ever before in providing true holistic care? 

Fragmentation of Relationships by Ways of Working

In addition to the increasing fragmentation of medicine by systems/organs etc we also have had more fragmented ways of working. When I was in training, we worked in teams for periods of occasionally 3 but usually 6 months, and some later and more specialised training positions could be for 12 months. As a house officer (the most junior level of doctor, just after graduation), there was a good sense of camaraderie in the team, with everyone playing their part and when all the parts worked well together the team as a whole functioned well. We worked an on call system that could be onerous, but facilitated working as a team, as we were present every day together on the ward. The introduction of the European working time directive and reduction in hours of work for junior doctors has led to shift working, which has crucified team working with different doctors coming and going and a lack of consistency and continuity in team working. This has many detrimental effects where junior staff have a lack of ownership of patients and a reduced sense of responsibility and accountability.

We all lose out on the interpersonal relationships that can be established by consistent team working.  Consultants become frustrated by the constant turnover of new faces and having junior doctors who do not know the patients and who are just covering for a day or two. This is a situation that adds more stress to both the consultant and the junior doctor. Most junior doctors want to do a good job and it is also not easy for them to be continually passed from team to team and to have to get to know the vagaries of working of each consultant and to get to know a fresh set of patients to care for every few days. Of course all of this impacts on the quality of patient care and so patients too are definitely affected by the increasing fragmentation of working patterns of doctors. I am not suggesting that we go back to working onerous hours – just highlighting that in attempting to solve one problem (onerous hours of work) is it possible we have created many more, all of which impact the quality of care for patients?

The Fragmentation of Self

We have a tendency in medicine to blame the current systems of working for the high levels of burnout, stress, addiction and suicide experienced by the medical profession currently. The fragmentation of medicine is a contributing factor. The systems have been designed and emerged from people – the problem is that those systems were not designed with true care of the human being foremost. Thus it is not necessarily systems per se, but the fact that they have emerged without a focus on true care for the human being – be that human being the patient or the doctor. We cannot hope to have a caring medical system if it only focuses on care for the patient without care for the doctor. Medicine as a whole, contains both patients and doctors and to care for only a part is detrimental to the whole. Perhaps if we shift our focus away from ‘patient’ or ‘doctor’ and make it about the human being, irrespective of the role being played then perhaps we may make some in-roads to designing and having systems that are caring for the whole and not just a part. 

However, this change has to first start within ourselves and will not come from expecting or demanding that managers and politicians do it differently and come up with better systems. As doctors we need to realise that medicine is something that we do, but it is not who we are – we are human beings.  As human beings we take on the role of a doctor who is recognised to be someone with a set of skills and knowledge about the human body, health, illness and disease. In the same way a lawyer is a human being who knows about the laws of the land, or a farmer is a human being who knows about crop rotation and animal management and on and on the list could go. We must not conflate what we do with who we are.

I used to think that what I did in my private life and what I did in my professional life were two separate things that did not impact on each other. So long as I was professional at work, then I could do what I liked outside of work and it would not impact work. I had different hats I put on depending on where I was and what I was doing. My surgeon hat went on during the day and my party hat went on during the evening/night. I thought at the time this was ok but I now know that it is not. Many others may also have their work hat and their home hat – thinking that we have different parts to play according to what we are doing. This is also a key part of the fragmentation of medicine – the fragmentation of ourselves according to what we do rather than just living who we are all of the time. The doctor and the human being must become one and not exist as separate parts. In so doing it is obvious that how we live outside of work also impacts how we are inside work.

The microcosm reflects the macrocosm – if we are divided in how we see ourselves and separate the doctor and the human being, then it is no surprise that this fragmentation is reflected throughout medicine in many different ways.

If we are to have a truly holistic medical system rather than the medicine of many parts, then we must start with ourselves and end the separation of being a doctor and a human being.  We only need to be who we are no matter what we are doing – just be a human being and make that the focus of deep care.

How would this play out in life?

Well it would mean that if someone chooses to learn the practice of medicine and to work as a doctor, then it would be important to realise that choice comes with a certain level of intensity and pressure of work, that it is a stressful occupation and thus that intensity means we need to adjust our lifestyle accordingly. How we live every day impacts our ability to cope with that stress and is affected by every day simple things like what we eat, how we exercise, our emotional state of being, what we drink and so on. Instead of burning the candle at both ends as I did, it would bring a degree of care and responsibility that before going in to do a long operation we would make sure we had a good night’s sleep beforehand. We would structure our holidays throughout the year to ensure we had sufficient breaks from the intensity so we did not become overwhelmed. The ways are myriad in terms of changes we can make to our lifestyle in order to support the level of intensity and work required as a doctor.

Focus on the Human Being.

Furthermore, if we made the focus about the human being and not what we do as a profession, this would go someway to dissolving the arrogance of the medical profession that holds itself superior or in some way special to other healthcare professionals. There would be a much greater acceptance of the parts played by other healthcare professionals that go to make up the whole of medicine and thus they would be afforded the respect they deserve as equal human beings who have a skill set that is a necessary part of delivering whole healthcare. This would lead to more harmonious and respectful working relationships with human beings relating to other human beings rather than ‘doctors’ and ‘nurses’ for example.  Of course this arrogance doesn’t just exist between different professions but occurs within the profession also – whereby surgeons will consider themselves more important than physicians and even within surgery there will be subspecialist arrogance to contend with as well.

Thus we have plenty of work to do to break down these false ideals and barriers to true collaborative and harmonious working relationships. As long as we continue to give focus to the medicine of many parts and practices that perpetuate the fragmentation of medicine in whatever form that comes, then we cannot expect to deliver whole medicine or whole patient care. If we continue to believe that doctors are in any way special or different to other human beings and that we can as doctors wear different hats at work and at home then we will pay the price for perpetuating that separation both personally and professionally. 

We are human beings first and foremost – working as a doctor is what we do but it is not who we are. By making the focus of care the human being and applying true care to both our working and home lives (as we are a human being in both places), we will be more ably placed to provide that same quality of care to those human beings we call patients and to change toxic systems and ways of working from within by knowing what it is to care for the human being first and foremost irrespective of the role adopted. 

Fragmentation in Science

Hi Eunice, a great observation you share here. I have found that the very same thing is happening in science, resulting in specialties and sub-specialties to the point that the science almost becomes unrelatable to anything in life - or only .000001% of it. Perplexing, since science is all about life. This is probably due to the fact that science has become a mind-driven field, resulting in a fragmented self as you say. However, I have found that when I feel science with my inner-heart (instead of just my mind) the topic becomes enriched and suddenly all-encompassing; I can feel the purpose of that topic/science in life and what it might mean on a larger scale. Wouldn't all of science, and medicine, benefit from such an approach! Thank you for beginning the conversation about this.

You have raised some great

You have raised some great points Eunice. Thank you for highlighting these issues so clearly.
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