Take care of yourself first - you can't pour from an empty cup. | Australian Clinical Supervision Association

Take care of yourself first – you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Take care of yourself first - you can't pour from an empty cup.

As clinical supervisors and supervisees, you get to work with, and help people every day. At the Australian Clinical Supervision Association, we value your wellbeing and call on you to perform small, everyday actions to better look after your wellbeing, as you help others.

Our moods, emotions and behaviours are regulated by a complex system of neurotransmitters, hormones, and various other factors. Two important neurotransmitters involved in the transmission of these signals within the brain are dopamine and serotonin.

Take care of yourself first - you can't pour from an empty cup. | Australian Clinical Supervision Association

Dopamine is often referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter, as it’s involved in the regulation of pleasure, motivation, and reward. This molecule also promotes focus depth, and action towards outward goals. Contrastingly, serotonin is primarily involved in the regulation of mood and emotional wellbeing. It is also involved in regulating sleep, appetite, and other functions.

Neuroscientist Dr Andrew Huberman from Stanford University School of Medicine has researched various simple ways to maintain beneficial dopamine and serotonin levels by performing simple evidence-based actions. For many of us, we don’t have the time in our schedule to partake in a ‘spa day’ or regularly engage in facials, so here are some simple rituals, which have been proven to help with brain health and function.

  1. Sunlight in the morning: By enjoying early morning sunlight (without directly staring at the sun) for 10 to 30 minutes, and without wearing sunglasses, dopamine will be released, and you may increase your dopamine receptor gene expression overtime.
  2. Cold showers: Baseline dopamine levels are considerably increased following a 1-to-3-minute cold shower.
  3. Tyrosine- and tryptophan-rich foods: Tyrosine-rich foods include nuts, red meats and hard fermented cheese. Foods high in tryptophan include turkey, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, and eggs. The amino acid tyrosine is necessary for dopamine production, and tryptophan serotonin production, meaning that the consumption of these foods allows for healthy neurotransmitter levels.
  4. Melatonin supplements: Dopamine levels are often decreased by melatonin supplements, and may cause disrupted sleeping patterns.
  5. Bright lights from 10pm to 4am: Bright lights during sleeping hours may dramatically reduce the circulation of dopamine in the body. If you have to keep the lights on at night, keep the setting to dim.
  6. Caffeine: The consumption of 100mg to 400mg of caffeine (coffee, tea, etc.) before 2pm mildly increases your dopamine levels, and may increase your dopamine receptor ability.
  7. Exercise: Regular physical activity (such as working out, jogging, or partaking in yoga) has been shown to increase serotonin levels and improve mood. It’s a good idea to fit even just a few minutes of exercise into your busy schedule.
  8. Healthy sleep schedule: The majority of serotonin is produced during sleep, so it is important that this is experienced in healthy amounts. For more information regarding healthy sleep schedules, click here.
  9. Social support: Spend time with friends and family, and build a supportive social network. This social interaction will not only improve mood, but also increase your serotonin levels.

ACSA acknowledges that the wellness of our members can be effectively supported with better understanding of the causes and associated factors of mental health conditions. Research shows that depression and fatigue are often associated with increased inflammatory activation of the immune system. Here, the body's immune system is in a heightened state of readiness and is responding to perceived threats in an excessive or prolonged manner. Many positive lifestyle choices – specifically surrounding exercise, diet, stress management, pollution exposure, and sleep habits – may reduce an individual’s risk of developing inflammation conditions.

Overall, at ACSA, we place a high value on the mental health and wellbeing of our members. As clinical supervisors and supervisees in areas of nursing, allied health, mental health and various other ‘helping’ professions, it is essential that you take care of yourself first so you can effectively support others.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone and support is available. Here’s a link listing the services and organisations that are available to help you. Browse the list to find a support provider that best meets your needs, or talk to your GP or health professional.