Workshop: Stress Management for Nursing Staff


This workshop is relevant to all industries.

-With Nicholas Chapman

Introduction

Using the Alexander Technique as the core of the stress management work, these workshops are aimed specifically at the nursing environment. Stress has become a big problem in the workplace. The HSE have issued its first ‘enforcement notice’ against an NHS hospital for failing to protect doctors and nurses form stress at work. There are a number of well documented cases where a nurse has been successful in suing a hospital or nursing home for considerable sums. Whatever we believe about these issues there is a clear need for the management of these organisations to take seriously the threat of stress in the workplace. But what can we do about stress? How can we deal intelligently with something as abstract and seemingly unquantifiable as stress?

A Brief History

F. Matthias Alexander (1869-1955) was an Australian actor and teacher. He originally developed the Alexander Technique as a method of vocal training for singers and actors in the 1890s. While Alexander was developing his method of voice training, he realized that the basis for all successful vocal education was an efficiently and naturally functioning respiratory mechanism. So, in teaching voice, Alexander focused primarily on helping the breathing mechanism to function more effectively. Because of his focus on “reeducating” the breathing mechanism, some of Alexanders’ students, who had come to him for vocal training, found that their respiratory difficulties also improved. These improvements were recognized by medical doctors who began referring their patients with respiratory ailments to Alexander for help. In this way, F.M. Alexanders’ technique of vocal training developed into a technique he termed “respiratory we-education.”  Alexander had also made the discovery that breathing and vocalization are part and parcel of how the body functions as a whole. Habitual breathing and vocal patterns are parts of habitual patterns of general coordination. In fact, many problems we see as involving just one particular part of the body, e.g. stress, lower back pain and “RSI,” are often symptoms of larger habitual patterns of malcordination.
Just as people had found Alexanders’ “vocal” technique helped them with their breathing problems, so a number of his students found his method of respiratory re-education helped them with other physical difficulties like stress. Basically, Alexander had evolved a method for learning how to consciously change maladaptive habits of coordination. (Coordination includes movement, posture, breathing, and tension patterns.) He had come to the understanding that the mind and body function as an integrated entity, a rather unusual realisation for that time. Alexander found that habits, whether “physical” habits or “mental” habits, are all psychophysical in nature. He observed that how we think about our activities determines how we coordinate ourselves to do those activities, and, equally, how long-held habits of excessive tension and inefficient coordination affect how we feel and think. In a relatively short period of time, Alexander evolved his technique from a method of vocal training into a method of breathing reeducation and then into a comprehensive technique of psychophysical reeducation. His technique deals with the psychophysical coordination of the whole person, or what he termed more concisely as “the use of the self.”

Outcomes

The workshops take on a practical and theoretical basis. This means that whilst experiencing a definite and strong sense of decreased stress and increased well being, the participants are able to learn ways in which they can themselves reduce stress in their working lives; they are able to see more clearly what stress is and how to prevent it from developing into something more serious. However if stress has built up over time it is possible to use the methods taught in the workshop to start the process of unwinding, clearing accumulated stress, in fact very quickly and efficiently.

The experience of removing stresses both at the workshop and afterwards, alone, is a developmental process that has a variety of benefits. Not only in the obvious sense of increased well being, but also in the way one feels about
the workplace and oneself in it. People, who have had the opportunity to learn these stress management techniques fully, have found that their ability to perform the different functions of their jobs has vastly improved. It is well documented by the HSE (See Research  Report 273, www.hse.gov.uk) that stress can lead to a variety of musculoskeletal problems, as well as the obvious effects on mental health and therefore the ability of staff to fulfill their functions within the working environment.

The workshops will provide the individual with the ability not only to deal with stress, but also to improve aspects of maneuvering and handling. The training that a nurse usually experiences in this area is very useful. However it is actually limited as it does not take into consideration the workings of the psycho-physical. In other words, the relationship between the brain (mentation) and the musculo-skeletal system, as it effects the actual functioning of the individual. For example, imagine a nurse trying to move a patient. The usual consideration would be to maneuver the patient by considering the position of both oneself and the patient. Using the Alexander
Technique one is taught not only to be physically aware but also to be mentally aware in a way that is experiential and therefore difficult to explain in a document such as this. We touched on this in the workshop at Bridgeside  Lodge (Forest Healthcare), when we introduced the idea of inhibition*. Before we moved or did anything we would say NO, no to tightening our muscles. This unnecessary tightening of muscle is the crux of both our levels of stress and our ability to perform physical functions, not only safely but with absolute certainty that we are not at risk of injury. Alexander Technique is about developing a continued awareness of our own bodies via our mental state, which is why it is an excellent tool for reducing stress and increasing effectiveness in the workplace. As well as learning inhibition the workshops will introduce direction. Direction is a means whereby we can develop further our control over our stress levels and improve our physical capabilities in the working environment.

Using the Alexander Technique will lead to a stress free work place where individuals are far more conscious of themselves both physically and mentally and whilst experiencing an increased sense of well being, will actually become far more efficient in their daily activities.

*Not to be confused with the Freudian use referring to anxiety, but the original use of the word; the action or process of inhibiting or being inhibited (from an action or activity).

Biography

Nick Chapman is a fully qualified Alexander Technique Teacher and is a member of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, the main body overseeing the technique in the UK.

Training took place at The Constructive Teaching Centre in Holland Park. The founder of this school, Walter Carrington was, until he recently passed away aged 90, one of the leading exponents in the country for the Alexander Technique. He trained under FM Alexander, the originator of the technique.

Since graduating in 2000 Nick Chapman has taught individuals and groups, developing the work by studying also Yoga and Reiki, into a stress management method that is both comprehendible and effective. The main outlet for the group work has been nursing staff, though workshops have been taken to a variety of different industries. A recent article in the Nursing Standards magazine (See attached) discussed the workshop that took place at  Bridgeside Lodge Nursing Home. The workshop, although only an introduction was very well received.  One nurse who had said very clearly at the outset that, ‘this sort of thing wasn’t her cup of tea’ was astounded and said she would definitely use these techniques in the future.

Workshops and Prices

A.Drop in workshop cost £250

One hour session Max 12

The aim of this workshop is to relieve stress and there is minimal learning involved. Participants will perform a relaxation and will experience an increased sense of well being and a reduced stress level.

B.Introductory Workshop  Cost £475

Two Hour Session Max 12

This is an introduction to the Alexander Technique. It will establish a working method for reducing stress and develop ideas around movement habits that create stress and interfere with basic functioning.

C.Beginner and Advanced  Cost £875

2 x Two hour workshops Max 12

In these two workshops we are able to develop a deeper understanding of the technique and its application to stress. We are also able to begin to understand the implications of the work in maneuvering and handling, learning how to move consciously, avoiding stress and the risk of injury.

D.Complete course Cost £1400

6 x Two Hour Workshops

This is a fully comprehensive introduction to the Alexander Technique. All of the working methods of the technique will be introduced. A significant reduction in stress will be noticed and the participants will be taught a complete method for maintaining this reduced stress. Whilst also having learnt all of the techniques participants should have a clear idea about how to apply the technique to maneuvering and handling. Practical exercises, based on real nursing situations will be explored. Back pain and general muscular pain will be significantly reduced.

Refresher courses will be available at a reduced rate for staff that have completed the six week course.