I saw this image above last night on a friends facebook feed and loved it. I think it’s absolutely right. How can you take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself. If you’re stressed and frazzled, feeling lethargic and tired, feeling snowed under with stuff to do, how on earth are you going to ‘be there’ ‘in the moment’ with the people you are trying to support? You will be distracted and you won’t be delivering the best service you can. And if left unattended this will lead to self doubt, anxiety and stress.
You need the tools to be able to do something about this. I’m not sure professional training programmes and employers adequately teach people how to self-care. Yes, I hear about some employers running a session on mindfulness from time to time but I don’t hear of trainers and employers routinely teaching students and staff how to self care.
And you know what…. it’s not rocket science! But…. it is science. Advances in how we can observe the brain in action have led us to understand much more effectively how we work and therefore what we can do about it. You will already know all of these things but may need reminding or may not be fully aware of the importance of them.
Here’s a flavour of a few things that help support your psychological capital so that you can be productive and do a good job. I’ll start with the thing that me posting the above image led to a conversation about…..
Take a break
I can’t stress enough the importance of taking a lunch break! Never mind your legal right to one (which you have!) the impact of not taking a lunch break is significant. There is evidence that says that simply by taking a 20 minute break away from your desk at lunch time and eating something healthy or maybe going for a short work will improve your productivity in the afternoon. You will get back more than the 20 minutes you might feel you are losing in improved functioning and improved concentration. Also, you’ll be less irritable. This is a win, win, win! A win for you because you’ll get more done and feel a whole load better, a win for your employer because you’ll get more done and you will alleviate some of the symptoms of stress which may well lead to reduced sickness, and it’s a win for the service users you are working for because you’ll be more focussed on them either face to face or in the work you are doing on their behalf in the office. A report in the Telegraph states that those who are most productive take a short break about every hour!
You can use your 20 minute lunch break to go for a walk! If you want to improve your well being through exercise you may be surprised at how very little achieve’s a great deal. I’m not talking about you becoming a gym bunny! I’m talking about some regular moderate exercise. Research has shown that one single 20 minute exercise session (and that could just be a brisk walk) leads (in the short term) to faster cognitive processing, more effective planning, better short term memory, and more effective self control. Bristol University research showed that some exercise before work or at lunch time boosted mood by 40% and the ability to deal with stress by 20%. These things are a ‘no brainer’. Short and regular maintenance improves your outcomes!
Being organised makes you feel more in control. I use something I learnt on a speed awareness course as an analogy here (I know I know Speeding is bad! I’ve learnt my lesson). We were told on the course that the three things that cause car crashes are speed, space and surprises. [More on this here]. And I think we can use that to think about Person Crashes! If we are hurtling along at break neck speed without taking stock then we will eventually crash. Something will go undone, or a deadline will be missed. Having a routine that makes you look at what’s to do on a daily basis will help avoid this. We need space – and I’ve talked about that above. Space to switch off for a short period so we can recharge. Diary in the lunch break. Have a morning routine that gives you some space to prepare for the day. Schedule a coffee mid morning. Find space for you to recharge. And finally surprises! If you are in the right frame of mind because you’ve had space and if you have a trusted system that means you know everything that is to do you will find it easier to deal with the surprises life throws at you. If you are using your diary effectively you’ll be able to see where the space is and use it to deal with that surprise or move stuff into it to deal with the surprise now!
There’s more on this here.
There are other things that I’ll talk about soon – mindfulness, sleep, nutrition, emotional intelligence – to name a few. But… for now…. make a start! Schedule that lunch break! Go for that walk! Trust me! It will help