Stress-reduction or stress-immersion?
Many who work in the NHS are facing unmanageable levels of workload and stress-related problems.
We hear a lot about the use of mindfulness as a psychological therapy, of how it has come to be widespread in the NHS, as well as some concerns about its over-application and the challenges of quality control.This article from a very experienced mindfulness teacher working with NHS staff explores these questions, the realities of NHS staff stress and the limits of applied mindfulness in an overstretched system.
‘What can we do for you today?’ asks my GP.
‘I’ve been getting headaches’, I venture.
My GP starts to look at the screen in front of her.
Although this GP doesn’t seem to remember me each time I show up in her surgery, I like her: she gives her patients additional time and seems to genuinely want to help. She takes my blood pressure; she asks me about my job and we talk about the stress of working in the NHS as we generally do when I see her. She sympathises with the workload until she hears how many hours a week I work, which is apparently paltry compared to how many she works. She tells me she can’t keep up this pressure much longer.
‘You’re a clinical psychologist aren’t you?’
‘Yes.’ I reply.
Back to the screen.
‘Are you depressed?’ she asks. ‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘But you are anxious’ she returns.
‘Maybe Amitriptyline would help.’ ‘Fill these out.’
She gives me the PHQ-9 and GAD-7 – forms which I give to some of my patients. I know the forms well so scan them and recognise I would fall well below clinical levels on both.
‘I really don’t think…’ I begin.
‘Have you read this?’ she asks triumphantly.
She thumps down a well-turned copy of Don’t sweat the small stuff by Richard Carlson on the space between us.