5 Steps to Take Care of Yourself

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Working in the public sector can place high demands on your physical and emotional well-being. You're in jobs which require you to be switched on all the times. Unlike some other jobs I had, there was never a time when I was a probation officer that I said, "I don't have anything to do."

When you do have a holiday, rather than looking forward to it, you're thinking about all the work you have to do beforehand, doing the work you would do in the time that you're away in the weeks before you go. It makes you question, is it worth having a holiday at all?

You put in an excessive number of hours each week, building up your flexitime but not having time to take it. Your workloads are so high you are effectively doing the work of two people. You wish it wasn't like this because you don't know how much longer you can maintain this pace. You don't remember a time when you didn't feel tired.

If this is a situation you can relate to then maybe it is time to take better care of yourself. Here are 5 steps that might help.

  1. Set yourself boundaries and stick to them.  If you want a better work/home life balance, this does not happen by accident but by design. It's almost like you have to create a rule book for yourself and stick to the rules you make. Get off autopilot where work has become the main focus and switch your priorities to you
  2. Don't turn to behaviours which might make matters better in the short term but can lead to other issues later down the line. Each person has their own way of dealing with stress, high workloads, job pressures. The volume of work can often result in you putting in 12-hour days on a regular basis. For me, chocolate was the thing that momentarily made me feel better. I would not have a lunch break, often eating junk food at my desk, very rarely getting up to move about or going out to get some fresh air. Be aware of what behaviours become your short-term coping mechanisms and question how useful they are to you.
  3. Make the time to look after yourself. If you say you don't have the time, then maybe it’s time to review how you are spending your minutes and hours. We often tell ourselves that we are too busy to do this or that but in reality, our perception of time is skewed. Things don't take as long as we think they do, and we like to see ourselves as being busy. But, if we were honest with ourselves, watching the latest episode of Britain's Got Talent is just a form of procrastination.

    (If you want learn more about procrastination, read my blog post,
    5 Steps to Deal with Procrastination
    )

    If you don't believe me, make a list of everything you do during the day and night, and how much time you spend doing these things.  Look through your list and decide which things are the most important, the things that give you the most in return or what things are necessary.
  4. Identify which activities or environments which energise and drain you. This includes people who you spend your time with. As an introvert, getting away from everything is a way that I recharge my batteries. I like nothing more than renting a cottage in the middle of nowhere, spending the day at the beach or going for a walk in the woods with my dogs. It's not about being unsociable but being around large crowds or noisy environments, I find draining so I often turn to nature to boost my well-being. I have friend who are extroverts and for them, being in the thick it with lots of people boosts them no end.
  5. Take the pressure off yourself and give yourself permission to relax, to do nothing, to really switch off, do whatever you want. It is so easy to fall in the habit of just work, work, work. With targets to meet, you put in more and more hours and looking after yourself falls by the wayside and you tell yourself, you must do everything. As a result, you neglect your own needs and there is little wonder you might feel stressed, tired or at risk of being ill. You tell yourself you have no choice, but you do. Put you first and cut yourself some slack. You can only do some much within the working day, you are entitled and deserve to have an enjoyable life beyond the work environment. The problem is everyone feeds into this notion that you must get everything done, no matter what the cost. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy because it is us that places such high expectations on ourselves, not the organisation. When was the last time, you truly relaxed? If you haven't done it recently then make it your top priority this week.

It is so important to take care of yourself; you only have one life in this world, so you need to be able to make the most of it.