Gail Wintersgill undertook Capacitar training funded by QNIS and run by Capacitar Scotland last year whilst at home recovering from burnout. Gail writes about her experience of professional fatigue and how Capacitar practices have helped her to heal and become a part of her everyday routine.
At the end of February 2021, after 40 years in the NHS, I burnt out. I was off on sick leave for three months. Like so many of us, I was thoroughly exhausted after the demands and stresses of working through the Covid pandemic. At the time, I was working full-time as a Health Visitor in NHS Forth Valley and it got to the point where my sleep pattern went haywire. I became so fatigued that I saw my GP and soon after came to the realisation that I was unfit to practice. Thankfully, the three-month break gave me the chance to heal and recover and I was well enough to go back to my job. Capacitar wellbeing practices helped hugely in my healing and recovery process, and they have now become an important part of my daily life. I now have tools that I can use in my personal and work life to help me with my self-care and the health and wellbeing of those around me.
I first came across Capacitar at The Bield Retreat and Conference Centre, Perth where I’ve been going to for various events over many years. In the last five years, I’ve been part of a group dedicated to learning some of these wellness practices. At first, I felt self-conscious and out of my comfort zone, but the more I practiced them, the more I enjoyed them. Early on I experienced their benefit, noticing the changes within myself. It’s definitely something that I had to experience, rather than just have head knowledge about. I started to feel that I was tuning into my body more and feeling the changes within my own physiology as I participated in Capacitar! This was an entirely new sensation for me, and no one was more surprised than myself!
The name Capacitar comes from the Spanish word meaning ‘empowerment’. I had previously studied the concept of self-empowerment, and how vital it is for the promotion of health and wellbeing, but this was the first time that I’d truly experienced the feeling within my own body, mind, and spirit! It’s been, quite incredible and literally life-changing!
In 2021, I was fortunate enough to be funded by the Queens Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS) to attend the ‘Capacitar Training in Multicultural Wellness Education’ programme facilitated by Capacitar Scotland. This was perfect timing for me, and ideal as it was delivered via Zoom for the first three weekends. I was at home recovering from burnout but felt comfortable attending online at a time when I was not fit enough to attend in person. By our last weekend of training in September, Covid restrictions had been lifted enough for us to meet face-to-face in Edinburgh. It was a welcome change to meet folks that had previously been faces on screens! There were people from all over Scotland, including several nurses. I think it was then that I realised I hadn’t gone completely weird and wacky! These people turning to wellbeing practices were nurses, just like me, and some senior nurse managers too! People who work in areas like substance misuse, and mental health, or who work as specialist nurse practitioners from the Highlands to the Borders and everywhere in between!
So, how do I use the wellbeing practices in my daily life? I usually start my day with 10-15 minutes of Capactitar Tai Chi on You Tube. This seems to get my blood pumping in a gentle way and really sets me up for the day, especially on workdays. During the day, I use ‘finger holds’, especially if I’m feeling anxious or worried about anything. It also helps me to refocus negative energy if I’m feeling angry or resentful in a situation. Finger holds help balance my emotions, and prevent these negative emotions from ‘taking over’. It’s normal to feel anxious in stressful circumstances, and I’m learning the importance of acknowledging those feelings and then managing them so that they don’t overwhelm me. Before going to bed, I practice deep breathing exercises and sometimes acupressure for specific areas of tension. These wellbeing practices are underpinned by a robust evidence base, and many are simple to learn! So why not give it a go? It worked for me.
Gail Wintersgill, (nee Macnab) B.A (Hons) Health Studies, BSc Specialist Community Public Health Nurse (Health Visiting), RM, RGN.
You can find videos of Capacitar practices on the QNIS wellbeing page here: https://www.qnis.org.uk/wellbeing/
There is an excellent 20 minute video on the work of Capacitar International here: https://capacitar.org/our-history/