Guest blog: Top 5 tips to look after your wellbeing
As some of you may know, I have been suffering with long COVID, which has brought with it many challenges and taught me about the importance of looking after my own wellbeing. These are some tips that I have had to learn and embrace whilst I have been on my journey over the last year.
1. Awareness and acknowledgement
The key to being able to prioritise your wellbeing is acknowledging that you need to do it. Working in health and social care, life is busy. When you aren't juggling the needs of the people you support, you’re juggling the needs of your colleagues – and then you leave work and have other commitments at home. It never stops.
In order to acknowledge, we need to be aware of what wellbeing is. Wellbeing is when someone is in a state of being healthy, happy and comfortable, both physically and mentally.
I think many of us know when we aren't in a state of good wellbeing, but because of the pressures that our work life and personal life throw upon us, we end up pushing this down our to-do list. Whilst we may not think much of doing this as the issue will be out of our minds, research has shown that bottling up emotions can make us more aggressive and suppressing negative emotions can cause increased health problems, especially with our hearts.
2. Take a break
Once you acknowledge the importance of your wellbeing, you need to put steps into place to improve and maintain it. Often this will be a break. If you are like me, breaks don’t always come easily! You worry about the number of emails you’ll return to, what happens if the regulator comes, how will your team cope, etc. You can always find an excuse, but we all have to let go sometimes.
Maybe a break, for you, is one like mine where I can happily go away but will check my emails every day. Or a friend of mine will happily turn off emails but have a meeting on a Wednesday for 5 minutes, just to check in each week they are off. I think sometimes good wellbeing tips and work/life balance tools are given to us and aren’t always practical. We are all different and the way we take a break may be different for each person.
If you don’t feel comfortable at this stage taking a week or two off, that is okay. Forcing yourself could impact on your wellbeing in a negative way, so start small and build on it. Try taking half days off, or the odd day off here and there, and then build on it.
Regardless of whether you feel comfortable taking time off or not, make sure you always take all the breaks that are owed to you. Do something in that time non-work related that makes you happy. Perhaps read a book, go for a walk, etc.
It is important that you socialise with others, in work or outside of work, but the key is to try and not talk about work. If you have something on your mind, you should be confident to talk about it with your friends or family and not worry about any stigma that is attached.
I know that is sometimes easier said than done, and support groups online and within our local communities can help. If something is really troubling you, it is vital that you seek medical advice too, so that there is no risk to your physical or mental health.
None of us are superhuman. We all get tired, overwhelmed, disheartened, stressed, etc, and it is our responsibility to acknowledge when something is causing us anything but happiness and joy, and to overcome it. Remember that a problem shared is a problem halved.
Remember them telling us ‘you are what you eat’? It wasn’t just a catchy phase coined for TV but something incredibly true. Our diet can affect our brain and there are foods that can make us feel better.
Diets high in fat and sugar can make us depressed, down and sluggish in the long run, despite the initial high it may give. Healthier foods, including fruit and vegetables, give us good gut health, proven to reduce depression and help us remain healthy, both in body and in mind.
5. Learn to say no
Working in Health and Social Care, we are always giving and all too often don’t say no. Some of us don’t feel comfortable saying no, and some of us think that there could be a negative association.
Learning to say no isn't always easy, but it is an art form we should all learn so that we don't over-work ourselves and cause unnecessary stress. Once of the best bits of advice I have for saying no is to tell the person making the demand/request that you’ll think about it and get back to them. Having time to think will allow you to formulate the response you want to give and how you want to say it. You may find it easier to respond via email, or over the phone.