Welcome to the Summer 2022 Edition of the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria Newsletter, the theme of this newsletter is ‘Creating Positive Change’.
We are conscious that the decision by Victorian authorities to call a “code brown” for all metropolitan health services and six of our major regional hospitals due to the COVID-19 Omicron wave continues to have a profound effect on the lives of everyone associated with the nursing and midwifery professions, including their loved ones. We know that our nurse and midwife colleagues are experiencing complex challenges, in and out of the workplace, that have impacted their physical and psychological health, and that this will continue to test their resolve for some time to come.
Whilst it is our hope that by now every one of our colleagues will have had the opportunity over the holiday season to stop, rest and rejuvenate we know that for many this was not possible. This can result in entering the new year feeling exhausted, even overwhelmed, by what they have endured through the past 2 years and by the thought of what they will face in 2022. That is why in preparing this newsletter we have avoided including content heavy in detail. Rather, we provide offerings which are practical and what we believe will be easy to digest, implement and have potential to positively impact the health and wellbeing of the reader.
Thank you for everything you do and remember NMHPV is an independent service which is free to access, confidential and provided by nurses and midwives for your sensitive health needs. We are here to support you with any matter, no matter how big or small, that is impacting your health and wellbeing.
In addition to our individual counselling support, tailored health and wellbeing forums and other various interactive seminars we remain committed to deliver our ‘NMHP Champion Training’ in 2022. We are yet to lock in the training dates due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, and will make an announcement as soon as we can.
I hope you enjoy the newsletter and remember, in these times it is common to feel overwhelmed, in need of a helping hand and someone to talk to. NMHPV can provide that for you. I wish you a safe and healthy 2022.
Creating habits that assist us with goal attainment, focus and intention can be really helpful when faced with change and making decisions that affect career and life. The pandemic has brought chaos into many of our lives, and finding ways to combat the stress with healthy habits is one way we can bring a sense of control back.
Change is inevitable. Why not grab it by the horns and use positive habit formation to make it work for YOU?
Nurses and midwives inevitably encounter life changes and transitions during their working life. Starting a family, changing job, retiring or confronting other unexpected difficulties such as illness, relationships or financial challenges — any of these can leave you feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
You can’t always know when life will throw you a curve ball, but proactively preparing for life’s challenges with deliberate intentions and healthy habits may assist you to weather the storm. Forming healthy habits that benefit your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing can help you to feel more in control of your life and your choices during a time of change. Instead of feeling stuck and overwhelmed, falling back on ‘automated’ healthy habits that you have developed means you can engage in self-care that assists you to feel more resilient, strong, and healthy.
Let’s take a closer look at habits…
What is a habit?
A habit is a behaviour that is usually repeated unconsciously in response to an environmental cue. For example, leaving your running shoes at the front door is a ‘cue’ for you to go for a jog or a walk. Having chocolate biscuits on the bench is a cue for you to eat them! Removing a trigger for an unhealthy behaviour and replacing it with a healthy one is an effective way to change a habit.
Habits are important because they free you from having to make constant decisions about routine daily activities like brushing teeth, driving, and getting dressed.
Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than before: Mastering the habits of our everyday lives tells us that habits are "the invisible architecture of everyday life”. During times of stress, or when it is challenging to sustain the attention needed to persevere with newly adopted behaviours, people usually revert to an old learned behaviour, demonstrating an attention bias for ingrained habits that have become the ‘default mode’.
Rubin explains that this is natural human behaviour, and not something to judge yourself for — there’s an old saying in neuroscience, ‘neurons that fire together wire together’.
Knowledge is power, understanding this can be the first step towards positive habit change. Rubin’s research shows that habits develop easily, tend to be self-stabilizing, and can override good intentions. This is especially the case when you feel stressed or fatigued.
How can we change habits?
Rather than trying to ‘get rid’ of unhealthy habits, research has found that replacing them with healthy ones is key.
Repetition of a behaviour leads to new habit formation, and especially at the beginning of trying to make a change.
Take small steps, don’t try to change too much at once, and make the change as simple and enjoyable as possible. For example: Wendy wants to stop watching TV and instead get fit. She starts by putting the skipping rope at the front door as the ‘cue’ to start skipping. She also makes a specific plan to jump for 3 minutes 2 days a week when she gets home from work, and gradually increases the time spent skipping from there.
Doing an activity at the same time each day also helps to form new habits more easily. For example, eating a piece of fruit with breakfast or going for a walk every day before work helps build the action into your routine.
If a healthy behaviour can be made habitual, it is less likely to be disrupted when motivation diminishes, which is often the case during times of stress or big life changes.
Big life changes can also be a golden opportunity for us to create new positive habits. A divorce, an illness, or a move to a new job can be good motivation for us to really learn to take better care of ourselves and improve our diet, fitness, or spend more time with ourselves in healthier ways.
How long does it take to build a habit?
Research has shown that changing habits takes approximately 2–3 months. This might seem like a long time, but in the grand scheme of life, spending this period developing good habits can lead to lifelong positive changes.
The last two years has been an extraordinarily challenging time for nurses and midwives in Australia. Living and working through the pandemic and enduring multiple lockdowns has taken its toll on our health on a number of different levels. You may be feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, burnt out and mentally and physically drained. Providing the body with good nutritional support is one way you can help to alleviate these symptoms and help to improve cognitive function, sleep, and mental health.
My interest in nutrition was spurred on by health problems I had in my early twenties. They included fatigue, acne, anxiety and mood swings.
I was lucky enough to come across an amazing clinical nutritionist who helped me uncover some answers and helped me to solve my health issues through a number of different lifestyle changes. Not long after this time my father was diagnosed with a rare cancer, he began a nutrition program in an attempt to support his body healing. This change in diet improved his health for many years.
Witnessing the positive changes in myself and my father that can be made through a healthy diet stimulated my passion for health and wellbeing.
Over the last decade I’ve dedicated myself to learning as much as I possible could about health. I’ve learned an incredible amount in this time and have tried and tested many different ways of eating.
It’s a real challenge in this day and age with the overwhelming amount of information out there about the ‘best diet/food’ for people. The list seems endless with the different ‘diets’ available such as high protein, low fat, high fat, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, Atkins, macrobiotic, raw food diet, Mediterranean diet, ketogenic, low carb, just to name a few! No wonder people are confused and often give up.
What I’ve discovered over the years is that there is no one size fits all approach. Sometimes it does take some trial and error and experimenting with what works for you. The research I have read outlines there are some fundamental aspects of diet that if incorporated into an eating plan have been found to be fairly conclusive in terms of health improvement.
Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, at least 5 servings a day but preferably 8 for optimal health. Studies have shown this reduces the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack, depression and anxiety, psychological stress and early death.
Eat adequate protein. This can be from many different sources, vegetarian or animal sources. As you age you lose muscle and muscle depends on protein to be maintained. This is particularly important for people over the age of 50. Protein is required for just about every function in the body and is vital for physical and mental health. Try adding a protein source to every meal.
Avoid highly processed foods. The evidence is strong for this, as these foods lack fibre and nutrients and are usually high in sugar, trans-fats and chemicals. Avoid products like soft drink, chips, biscuits, cake, sugary cereals, and processed meat. These foods have been linked with many health problems such as cancer, weight gain and poor mental health.
Eat high fibre foods. Fibre is unequivocally linked to better health and has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and improves the quality of the gut microbiome which is a major driver of the immune system. Foods that are high in fibre include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds.
Eat good quality fats from sources like nuts and seeds, avocadoes, olive oil and omega 3 fatty acids from fish and seafood. Our brain relies on quality fats to function normally. Avoid trans fats like canola oil that are found in processed foods, junk food, fried foods and often found in take away and restaurant meals. These fats have also been linked to health problems.
Limit sugar or avoid altogether. Sugar is high in calories, has no nutritional benefit and is associated with a wide variety of problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dental problems. Sugar is hidden in many canned and packaged foods so always read the label. Alcohol also has high sugar content. If you do crave sweets fruit is the healthier option.
The gold standard is that eating whole, fresh, unprocessed home cooked food contributes to wellbeing and vitality. If you do eat out choose meals that contain vegetables, are not deep fried and have minimal sugar content. Changes in diet can be hard, but even starting with one or two small changes at a time can make a big difference. If you have a particular health issue consider seeking support from a nutritionist or specialist health care professional.
Nutrition is one aspect of good health. Others include regular exercise, quality sleep, stress reduction and healthy social connections. I hope you have found this helpful, remember you can call us about any aspect of your health including if you want support in changing your nutrition!
You can find out more about these topics from our website or Facebook page.
Food and Mood: Improving Mental Health Through Diet and Nutrition
The Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University is a world-leading, multi-disciplinary research centre that aims to understand the complex ways in which what we eat influences our brain, mood, and mental health. They are a team of world-class researchers from various backgrounds, studying the food-mood relationship at various levels, from microbiology to public health.
The Food & Mood Centre Recipes
Here are some quick and easier gut friendly recipes that we hope you'll enjoy. We've packed them full of polyphenols and antioxidants, perbiotics and probiotics and have even included some favourite fermented foods.
We are here for Victorian nurses, midwives, nursing and midwifery students and retirees. If you need support, please call us on 9415 7551 between 9.00am – 5.00pm, Monday to Friday or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.nmhp.org.au
Nurse & Midwife Support is available 24/7 Australia wide on 1800 667 877 or visit www.nmsupport.org.au It's anonymous, confidential and free for nurses, midwives and students and anyone concerned about the welfare of a nurse or a midwife.
Please donate and help us support the health and wellbeing of Victorian nurses and midwives. Thank you for your support!