I want to talk about mental health in the workplace, because sometimes I feel we can get so caught up in expectations and pressures at work that we forget we are only human.
How many of us work through our lunch break? How many of us eat at our desk without recognising what we are tasting or feeling. Do you find you switch one screen for another without giving it much thought?
We are not machines, we have only got so much energy before we burn out. So we need to look after ourselves in a conscious way, which actually makes us more efficient. There is a tendency to wait until the weekend for fun and relaxation to happen (there are several phrases embedded in our society such as 'TFI Friday" and "it's that Friday Feeling" that point to this), but that can mean we hold a lot of expectation for the weekend and there comes a pressure the 'have to' and 'ought to', especially when we may have used up all of our energy during the week and there are little resources left.
Therefore it's important we look after ourselves to support our wellness - it doesn't just have to be for the weekend. It's great having that 'Friday Feeling', but I have got to thinking that why can't the Friday feeling be any day of the week if we want it? It is not easy; I often find I get to Friday and I suddenly dread not having the routine and soon starts the new list of 'to-do's at home. It is easy to get swept up in the adrenaline of 'doing' and meeting deadlines, and so forgetting what makes us feel good and nourished and taking a breath.
Its hard to find the balance, and I am still learning myself. I went from years in unemployment, to finding a part time job, to moving to a full time one. I don't think I ever took seriously the change of pace a full time job can bring - everything feels like it speeds up and the time you had to do the little but meaningful things gets smaller and smaller. It's easy to get through the day without having taken a real break to allow myself to be fully aware of what I'm thinking or feeling, what I need or what I want. Friday can suddenly arrive and before you know it Monday is here, with the weekend just never feeling long enough! At times, I can feel a sense of burnout: too many commitments, too much responsibility, fear and anxiety, not feeling good enough, not matching up; I just want it all to stop, but then I am afraid I won't be able to get back up again.
What I am learning is that even though I have a 9 to 5 job, which takes up the majority of my time, I can still take that time out for me. I have found just going outside to sit on a bench can work wonders for the fogginess I can sometimes get in my head. It is important to step away from the desk to move, stretch, make a cup of tea and sit there with it for a moment; the emails can wait a few minutes more.
On brighter days, I enjoy going for a short walk to the nearby park and I write/map down what I want to do when I get home, so it doesn't become all about getting in and just diving in to bed. Sometimes, though, that is what I need - to get in, put the TV on and put my feet up. But I know if I did that every day of the week it would start to make me feel worse. I use my commuting time on the train to connect with others like my friends and family or make it the time for staring out of the window and focusing on my breathing and letting thoughts pass. It is becoming aware of these snippets of time, and noting them down, that helps me to feel more in control of what I spend my time doing and to know I have had that little time for me.
Other ways to help 'burnout'