Practicing what you preach.
I love my job and get huge satisfaction and reward from almost every aspect of it. There are challenges and disappointments, of course, and not everything goes to plan (the best laid plans and all that!) and being self-employed means that I have found myself having to learn lots of additional skills very quickly! In my undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy, I didn’t learn how to manage accounts, develop a website or market a business through social media. Of course I didn’t, they are very specific and highly skilled jobs (not really needed when I trained 20 years ago), so no wonder if find myself struggling at times with tasks that are way beyond my skills and experience.
Since starting my own business almost 18 months ago, I know that I am generally happier in life, calmer at home and consider myself very lucky that I never get the ‘Sunday night blues’ at the thought of work on a Monday morning. What a great place to be in! And a big ‘phew’ as it was a risk to leave a wonderful, secure, rewarding job at LOROS Hospice and take a leap of faith into self-employment. Part of my reasoning for making that decision was about addressing my own mental health needs. I have had problems with anxiety and panic in the past (and still sometimes now) and have found really effective ways to look after my mental health and wellbeing, but I have wanted to start my own business for many years and finally found the courage to do so. I know that achieving my goals helps my mental health and it was one goal that I felt compelled to go for.
What I have learned, more than ever, is how important it is to practice what I preach. On a daily basis, I support people in workplaces, schools, Universities and in individual therapy to develop strategies to improve their own and others mental health or to recover mentally/emotionally after surgery and or trauma. I passionately believe in the approaches I use and the value of occupational therapy, but this is strengthened by the fact that I promote these from both a professional and personal perspective. Given the intensity of my work, I know that there is potential that my mental health could be affected if I didn’t use effective self-care/resilience strategies.
Each week I purposefully take time to look at my diary, see what face to face work is booked in and work out where my rest, recovery and self-care activities are going to fit in with a pretty busy work schedule. I now see which tasks are way beyond me and do my best to outsource what I can to the experts in that field. I meditate daily and have a mindful attitude (most of the time!) to my work and home life. When I notice any of this slipping or I start to get feelings of overwhelm (which I do from time to time, I’m human), I know that I need to get back on track with self-care, etc.
Taking care of your mental health is not about having the odd day at a spa or running yourself a bath when you’re really stressed. It’s the small, frequent events that you do purposefully to take care of yourself before you reach overload. It’s saying no when you need to and finding the people who you can talk to about anything and everything! I am very lucky to have a lot of support personally and professionally and will never take that for granted. And so …. long may I stay self-employed as it is one of the greatest gifts I have given to myself.