Practicing self-care at work
Practicing self-care at work
By degrees, life is slowly returning to normal, but we’re not out the other side of the pandemic yet. If we are to keep going through the next few months, we need to make sure we are prioritising our mental health and and wellbeing.
Since April is Stress Awareness Month, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to consider our wellbeing at work, and how we can practice self-care as part of our everyday activities.
This article originally appeared in full in the Spring 2021 edition of Your Community magazine.
How are you, really?
A balanced sense of wellbeing can help us be more resilient, and better able to handle whatever life throws at us. Self-care is our first line of defence against mental and physical health problems, not something we should start doing when we find ourselves struggling.
Leanne Williamson, one of NCH&C’s Mental Health First Aiders, explains why looking after our wellbeing is especially important right now:
“As health care workers, if we are not well ourselves, it may be more difficult for us to care for our patients. Caring for our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
“Many staff understandably feel fatigued right now. They may feel like self-care is a luxury that they don’t have the time or energy for. But, ensuring that we stay mentally well will help us cope with challenging situations, and provide the best service to the trust and it’s patients.”
What self-care looks like
There’s no right or wrong way to do self-care: it is simply any activity that helps you cultivate a sense of wellbeing. Whether it’s a hot shower when you get home, a jog around the block, or a tasty and nutritious snack for you to enjoy on your break, self-care is about the little things you do to make yourself feel looked after.
There are also many self-care activities you can do at work. As well as making your day-to-day life more enjoyable, they can also improve your performance, and long-term career satisfaction.
Be kind to yourself
Try to avoid reading the news if it makes you feel distressed. As long as you stay up-to-date on all your comms from the trust, you’ll be informed of any important national or local updates.
Stick to a regular routine that incorporates rest, nutritious food and gentle exercise. We are all worthy of happiness, so make time for activities you enjoy, too. Don’t beat yourself up if your routine slips or you don’t have the energy for self-care activities. Forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.
Remember to extend the same kindness to those around you, too. We’re going through this together, and you never know how others may be feeling.
Many of us aren’t used to talking about how we’re feeling, but there’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. Sharing how you’re feeling with other people is the first step in seeking help.
Working from home can make us feel more isolated. Leanne encourages home workers to make use of Microsoft Teams to stay in touch, “even if it’s just a five-minute chat while you’re brewing a cup of tea!”
Struggling with our mental wellbeing can impact how we perform at our job, so it is entirely appropriate to discuss how you’re feeling with your line manager. Completing a Wellness Action Plan in advance (available on the staff Intranet) is a good way to structure these discussions. You can also chat to one of NCH&C’s Mental Health First Aiders. Their details are available on the Intranet.
At times, we may be able to spot a colleague struggling with their own wellbeing. When appropriate, Leanne recommends asking them how they’re doing: “This may give them an opportunity to talk if they are struggling.” If you don’t feel comfortable with this, you could seek advice from your manager in confidence, or ask a Mental Health First Aider for advice on how to broach this.
Staying well-rested is vital. Leanne agrees: “It’s essential that you take your breaks, as these will help you provide better care to your patients.”
Our time away from work helps us to recharge, so it’s important we don’t carry stresses from the day home with us. This is especially important for homeworkers, as there is less distinction between worktime and personal life. At the end of your working day, consider three things that went well and let go the things that didn’t go well. Check in with your colleagues and ask for help if you’re struggling.
Getting enough high-quality sleep also helps keep our wellbeing on an even keel. Make time to wind down before going to bed, perhaps with a warm bath, and try to take a break from screens at least an hour before bed.
The trust is always committed to supporting the wellbeing of its staff. If you feel like you’re struggling, please reach out to someone you trust, and/or make use of the staff wellbeing resources provided by NCH&C.