Sunday Musings – looking after ourselves 

On the 13th March this year, the RCP released a press release related to the health and well being of NHS staff being overlooked.  It was debated on the radio programme I was listening to that morning (I can’t remember which one, but think it Radio 4 woman’s hour). The doctor speaking said something really striking, and I can’t find the direct quote despite a lot of internet searching.  However it was along the lines of ‘we need to look after those who look after the most vulnerable’  It really struck a chord with me.  Click for link to the press release.

Every setting I’ve worked in has it’s own unique set of stresses.  Working in the community in acquired neuro, often with very complex cases, has great joys but also can be very overwhelming and just plain sad at times.  When you rehab people at home, you learn so much about them and their family, and your therapy is part of their daily life.  You can’t help but take on the ups and downs on them and the people that surround them.

As I am combining my job with being a wife and a mother, I’ve had to find ways to look after myself, especially when working with harrowing cases.  I need to give the best of myself to every role, and this is hard! I’ve not been great at looking after myself, but around a year ago I started taking lots of small steps and I’m happy to say that I’m getting there and feeling a lot better as a result!

Here are a few of the things that I do to ensure I am looking after myself:

  • Eating better.  I used to regularly miss breakfast as the morning routine in our house was just too manic.  I would grab food on the go as and when I could – usually ended up being lattes and chocolate which is not great!  It was actually the onset of a lot of migraines that made me realise I could not carry on like that.  I now eat 3 meals a day, with snacks – I prioritise breakfast, and take a packed lunch if I know I will not be able  to stop off for something in my working day.  My New Years resolution has been to eat more healthily, and I’ve been making some recipes from this book (including the almond milk in the picture and also her sweet potato brownies which are lovely):

  • Pilates – I used to do pilates on and off when I was at university.  In September last year I started going weekly.  I love it.  It is a tough way to exercise, but totally doable – because it’s hard I find it takes all my attention and allows me to switch off from everything else.  I also sleep like a log that night – it physically and mentally tires me out.  I have also loved the feeling of having improved  -I am more flexible and developing some abs (albeit under a layer of flab!)
  • Walking and running

 I got a fitbit for Christmas which just revealed how sedentary my days are!  I am trying to walk a lot more – this week I had time to walk my oldest to school (she scooted).  It’s an hour round trip for me, so not something I can do everyday.  However the fresh air and exercise really does set me up for the day.  Last Summer I started running again (I keep stopping and going back to it).  I kept going until the clocks went back and then realised I am a fairweather runner! I plan to start again soon – it’s difficult as my husband works long hours and I need to do it when I am child and work free, which means slotting it into times where I feel most like not doing it! But I love the time to myself listening to music – similar to pilates I can only focus on running and the music.

  • Trying to keep weekends for living!

This has been a hard one, as the feeling of wanting to catch up with work at the weekend is never far away.  This is one of the pitfalls of being self-employed – there is no feeling of leaving the workplace.  I still have the occasional blast of work at the weekend but since last Summer mostly weekends are given over to family time and my hobbies.  We have National Trust membership and nothing makes me happier than visiting an old house and gardens and a stop off to the tea rooms (wow, I feel old after that statement!)

Clocktower at Basildon Park, a National Trust Property near Reading

One of my biggest interests is making and decorating things – below are some of my recent projects –  a magnetic frame for holding hairgrips, a hat, Christmas decorations and a chalkboard fireplace.

  • Regular chats with other speech therapists – because I don’t have a base to go back to, I don’t have the debriefing opportunities that used to really help me when I worked in hospitals.  Going back to the team room, switching on the kettle, and talking through a tricky or sad situation with whatever poor therapist happened to be in there too! Instead, I speak to other therapists in the company I effectively freelance for – most of all the therapist who owns the company who is hugely inspiring.   We also have regular peer support sessions within the team which helps.  I have other friends who are speech therapists working in the acquired neurology world, so a chat with them can do the world of good.
  • Regular chats with friends who are not speech therapists –  this is so important to keep me in touch with reality.  I need a complete break from the acquired neuro world to return refreshed to it – a coffee with a friend, a chat, a night out…. I’ve realised I need this to occur regularly! One of my favourite parts of the week at the moment is on a Friday when my oldest is at school and my youngest is at her gymnastics class.  I have a blissful 45 minutes in the reception area of the gymnastics class, with one of my besties and another lovely mum, just having a really good chat, child-free.
  • Reading books – I realised that after the birth of my second child I stopped reading books- it just felt like there was not enough time. I’ve now embraced my kindle app (after protesting how much I miss the smell and feel of a book – I do, but a kindle makes reading much more accessible).  I now read a book a month and feel better for exposing myself to the rich vocab, thoughts and ideas that come only from brilliant books.
  • Reading blogs and looking at instagram – this is one of my most relaxing activities at the moment.  The people I follow on my personal instagram and blogfeed are all related to parenting, lifestyle, interiors and fashion.  It allows me to de-stress after a busy day and inspires my weekend projects!

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