As most of you will know I tend to write the most when i’m pooped and my insomnia is terrible so HELLO! I’ve been up since 4:30am, admittedly not very well but still it’s very frustrating seeing as I’ve had a nice little bank holiday and was feeling very well rested but what can you do.
I’ve been thinking a lot about work/life balance the past couple of weeks as I started a new job (same department, same organisation so don’t get too excited) at the start of August. At first I was like ‘literally why have I decided to do this when I just got on top of the last one, can I not give myself a break and coast for a bit’ but alas I have a bit of a complex about proving myself after years on benefits. That said i’m really enjoying it and definitely feel very challenged which is always good when you feel like your brain turned to mush for a couple of years. Not being funny but I’m crushing this new job and the downside to that is I’ve been finding it quite hard to switch off. I realised my sleep was a bit all over the place and I was waking up thinking about rotas which is both lame and problematic and I decided I needed to make some changes.
Firstly I’ve become terrible at finishing my day on time and have a tendency to over stay my hours if something needs finishing up. As my friend noted I am not paid enough to do that and the perk of low paying jobs is you can clock off at 5pm and not worry too much – or you shouldn’t anyway; so that was the first thing to go. I’ve noticed there really is a toxic unspoken idea that dedication = over extending yourself and it’s hard to escape, I work for an organisation that actively discourages this approach but I still get sucked in. I am exceptionally lucky that my first ever Manager preached the good stuff, she informed me that a) you do not need to be reserved or overly boundaried to remain professional and b) hierarchy in the workplace is nonsense and we all go home and get into joggers and binge on Netflix at the end of the day. As a result I simply need to remind myself of these things and I ground myself into remembering work is just work and I need to leave on time.
Secondly I’ve gotten good at coming home knackered and not cooking, exercising or engaging in self-care which is a shame since I was crushing it a while back. Some of you may know that I have chronic health conditions which cause me to get really tired and/or be quite unwell a lot. At the moment I’m still sussing out how to engage in self-care without tiring myself out so I’ll often go for a swim, do a food shop and then need a nap. As a result I get fed up and stew in sweet resentment and don’t bother with anything. So step 2 has been to identify the key things that need doing e.g a food shop, washing and keeping the house clean and prioritise those, if I don’t cycle to work or swim it’s not the end of the world.
Thirdly and weirdly my smart casual workplace dress code has thrown me, whilst it’s great because I don’t need to worry too much about looking snazzy each day my home clothes are my work clothes and I’ve noticed this isn’t always useful. I now have a 3 step approach to clothing: step 1) work clothes that are clearly identifiable as work clothes, step 2) lounge clothes, as soon as I get in from work I change into doss clothes that signal the end of the day, step 3) pyjamas, an hour before bed to signal that it’s time to sleep. This generates a lot of washing but is a good way of sectioning out my day.
Fourthly ensuring I make time for a sleep routine, I’ve got sucked into the habit of watching TV till i’m too exhausted to do my teeth and crashing out which means I don’t wind down enough and switch off. I’ve recently noticed how much of a hangover effect I get from my sleeping pills and so i’m trying to wean myself off them which is sort of working. Last week I slept through most days but so far i’ve found that as soon as I mess up that schedule by like, I don’t know, going for a drink and staying up later than 10pm, my body clock stubbornly refuses to revert back. I also refuse to not have a life and just become a loser that always goes to bed at 10pm in her Disney pyjamas so i’m resolutely sticking to waking up at 7:30am every morning, or in this case 4:30am (still not over it).
Finally i’ve made a conscious effort to balance my socialising outside of work. The main thing I resent about Bipolar is the fact i constantly need to self-monitor to ensure I don’t trigger myself into an episode which when i’m tired can be quite easy. I do this by balancing time alone with time socialising, we all do this but I’ve become hyper aware recently of how important it is. Last week I took Friday off to extend the bank holiday but then spent time with people back to back till yesterday, it sounds super sad but I noticed myself start to get anxious and overwhelmed quickly and ensured I had a day to myself yesterday to unwind. On the one hand it’s frustrating to be constantly weighing up how much fun is too much fun but on the other hand I know full time work is exhausting and i need to not overstimulate.
All of these changes seem to be sort of working but it’s been interesting to me how easy it is to fall into the pattern of overworking and lose perspective of what matters. I’m a big believer that no-one gets to the end of their life wishing they had worked more and we need to prioritise the things that really matter. That isn’t to say you can’t be passionate about your work or committed to it but we need to drop the idea that a good employee is one who goes ‘the extra mile’, it’s unhelpful and doesn’t encourage us to work to the best of our ability. Recently I spoke to a palliative care Nurse and asked her how she doesn’t take it home, she replied ‘you have to be able to switch off otherwise you’d be no good to your patients’ and I have decided to live by this rule so I am good for my colleagues, clients and most importantly myself.