Headspace offers free meditation subscription for all NHS workers

Headspace, an app offering meditation and mindfulness prgrammes has announced that it is providing free subscriptions to all 1.2 million healthcare providers and employees of the UK’s NHS.

Using the meditation and mindfulness techniques on apps like Headspace has been proven to reduce stress, increase resilience, and reduce burnout.  

From today, any NHS employee can get a free subscription to Headspace Plus, they simply enrole using their NHS email. All subscribers will get free access to all 1200+ hours of meditation and mindfulness content through 31 December, 2020.

Additionally, internal NHS Wellbeing Leads will have access to Headspace for Work’s workplace toolkit and content hub. This includes tools and resources designed to inspire and support NHS employees in caring for their mental health.

Healthcare professional burnout has been identified as a major issue to address due to its negative impacts for both healthcare professionals and patients.

Headspace research found a 14% reduction in burnout after only four sessions among healthcare professionals and 12% reduction in stress for medical students after 30 days.

Headspace’s Chief Science Officer Dr Megan Jones Bel, has provided her top tips on how NHS professionals can use mindfulness and meditation to deal with anxiety, focus more and gain better sleep:

Improving the quality of your sleep

An unhealthy sleep routine can increase the risk of burnout, a key contributing factor to poor mental health.If you find yourself struggling to get to sleep, meditating or focusing on your breathing can help ease your mind into sleep.

If you struggle to fall asleep or find yourself waking in the middle of the night, try this simple but effective exercise: eyes closed, take a couple of deep breaths, and, starting at the number 1,000, just slowly and gently count backwards to zero (you won’t get there).

Focus on the counting, rather than trying to will yourself to sleep.

Failing that, and because mindfulness helps us to be more aware of how we’re feeling, it’s worth checking in with the body to see if we’re genuinely feeling sleepy.

Managing anxious thoughts.

Setting aside five-ten minutes each day to meditate can help keep you in a calm and present mindset.

We find that people who meditate in the morning or integrate it into a consistent routine, same time, same place, are most likely to maintain their practice over time. You can start as small as one minute and ideally build up to at least ten minutes.

Through practicing more awareness of your thoughts and feelings, you will be better able to know when to hit pause and take a moment for yourself.

When you notice the early signs of anxiety or worry you are more able to stop it in its tracks and stay confident about trying something new. Simply taking a few deep breaths can help you get space from your worry.

When you feel anxiety grip, be patient with yourself and take a moment to breathe and get yourself a glass of water. This will help you resettle and get back into the right frame of mind.

Remaining focussed

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and distracted, use your breath as a tool to reset your mind and physiology.

The simple act of focusing on your breathing, following the inhalations and exhalations, can help you to unwind, reset and step away from the worried mind.

A mindfulness technique called ‘Noting’ means realising the moment you‘re distracted by something and creating a bit of space whilst gaining clarity of what your main priorities are.

This isn’t something that is taught, and is usually used sparingly; Noting is simply about being aware that distractions are imminent, so we are able to pull ourselves away more regularly.

Switching off

Easier said than done, but try to make it a habit to switch off from your work life once you leave your workplace.

Distinguish clear boundaries so that you can give yourself adequate time unwind from the busy day and to enjoy your surroundings and company.

Navigating change and uncertainty

By becoming more aware of how anxiety or worry appears in our thoughts and bodily sensations, we can observe them and accept that these are normal and understandable experiences.

Using our breath as an anchor, we can feel connected to the present moment versus worrying about the uncertain future.

Investing in you

While it’s normal to get caught up with what is going on aroundyou and feel distracted by the news cycle, it’s important to take back controlof your life.

Remember to keep checking in with yourself, your feelings and focus on staying in the present moment, using your breath to guide you in this.

Practice self-compassion during this time and be honest with yourself in how you’re feeling.

Letting go of negative commentary

When we aren’t experiencing strong feelings of happiness or kindness, it’s very difficult to believe that they are always there. You may naturally have a restless mind or frequently feel frustrated, irritated, sad, critical and so on.

We might mistakenly believe this to be who we are or the sum of the mind, forgetting that thoughts and feelings are simply on the surface.

The only way we can experience calm is to let go of that endless commentary which questions and doubts and obstructs the way to achieve happiness.

When we let go of thought through meditation, we experience something more spacious, less judgmental, more empathetic.

Staying active

For many, practicing self-care means taking the time to nurture their bodies as well as their minds.

A daily stretching routine is a great way to stay fit, and incorporating mindfulness into exercise like running and walking help encourage calm and ground the mind and manage the connection between our body and thoughts.

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