If you are looking for fun ways to make walking more interesting, change it up a little. The Walking is Awesome bingo card is for you.
(Note: This blog was first released as a podcast if you'd prefer to listen. Although I've tidied up some of the wording, I did use the transcription form the podcast to create this blog. Now that I've explained why some of the wording may seem a little casual, let's dive in.)
Walking can see like the world's dullest form of activity. You know it's good for you, just like eating vegetables, brushing your teeth and making your bed. I get it, I'm not a runner, or bushwalker, or in anyway athletic. Which leaves walking by the process of elimination. And yes you can walk to improve mental health and boost mood, but the challenge remains about how to make walking more engaging a so that you want to keep doing it. A sustainable habit needs to be practical, doable and yes inherently motivating - ie enjoyable. Knowing that for me it meant I needed to be able to walk out the door, not drive to a spot and walk, I explored various ways of making the everyday route I walk something I looked forward to.
Therefore you'll see a range of activities on the Walking is Awesome Bingo Card. There are some things that make doing this bingo card a little bit different. Yes, there are elements of counting steps and measuring length of time, but also some strategies that you might think, why would I be doing that?
And I'm going to tell you why, because the key components of walking and creating a habit are to do with enjoying the process, right?
How to enjoy walking
So many people will say, oh, I know I should walk, or, I haven't got time for walk or walking is so boring, and I get it. Life can be super chaotic, and it takes time to walk. The difference between going for a five K run and going for a five K walk is quite significant. Mind you, the last time I went for a five K run, it probably took me about as long as a 5K walk. I'm not a natural runner, so I stick to the walking, but it's like I have to walk for like an hour a day.
I mean, I haven't got an hour in the day. I don't want to walk for an hour in the day. It's boring.
So, we break it up.
I don't walk an hour at a time. I walk roughly an hour all up, but it's spaced, right?
You don't have to do it all at once.
The ideas I have in this bingo card are bite-sized. Some of them are little and they're based on, yes, movement, but there is a strong emphasis on connection. There's suggestions about playing with and managing your discomfort and anxiety. And there's quite a few mindful walking exercises, including connecting with your thoughts, feelings and experiences and connecting with your environment, connecting with your neighbourhood, connecting with yourself.
So, let's look more closely at a couple of the things.
Start with 4000 steps.
I'm going to firstly talk through what's there. There's 25 different squares with a range of suggestions, and you can choose to do a square a day. You might do a couple of squares on a day over different walks. There might be some gaps between gaps, whichever. There's no timeline on this. So, the first one, walk 4,000 steps. 4,000 tends to be around half an hour, depending on how quickly you walk. It might take a bit longer; it might take you less time. And it's a real like first base. So, for me, my morning walk is roughly 4,000 steps, and then I'll do some more later.
Try walking alone.
So that's the next one on the card, walking by yourself.
For some people that's all they do. Walk by themselves. For others they walk with a partner or walk the kids to school, or they walk with other people. Because walking by yourself can be a significant anxiety hurdle to overcome. You may feel less safe walking by yourself. Notice, I don't put a time limit or a step limit around this. Whatever you can do. If you haven't walked by yourself before and that's a big obstacle, start by walking to the letter box. Or walk around the block, walk somewhere that feels quite safe for you to walk.
I don't mean walk in an isolated place. I do not recommend doing that.
How to connect with your environment
Take a photo of something red, which is square number three. This is a practice of tuning into your environment, connecting with what's around you and narrowing your focus to one thing. Once you start thinking about something, you will see it everywhere. This phenomenon, known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or selective attention bias, occurs when you start to become more aware of something you hadn’t noticed before.
I'm curious, when you make the decision to look for red, what you notice that you haven't noticed before. You know whether you are noticing all these red things around you or not. So have a play with that. See what happens.
How to practice gratitude when walking
Think about what you're grateful for. Hmm. We're tapping into gratitude, right? So, gratitude is one of the things associated with leading a more fulfilling, happier life. You don't, we talk about gratitude journals and that's wonderful. They're there, you can use them, but you can also just think it. So, while you are walking, you are getting a, a double value. You know? So not only getting your physical exercise: you are practicing your mental health skills.
You may choose to focus on one thing you're grateful for and think quite deeply about that. It might be a person or an experience or an ability that you have, or you might choose to go through a list. A quick tip here is to be as specific as possible. We can be grateful for being alive, but that kind of covers a lot, doesn't it? what within that are you specifically grateful for? Are you grateful for being able to be awake when the sun rises? And to take the time to observe the process of this going on? Are you grateful that you are wearing a scarf that someone knitted you because it's cold outside? And this is keeping your neck on?
Are you grateful that your body can move you freely without pain? Or are you grateful that you can still move with pain? Make it as specific to you as possible.
How to be outrageous on a walk
And the last one on this line is wear something outrageous and you're like, okay, so we're tapping into anxiety. Here we are tapping into a social fear that people are going to look at you and they're going to think you're ridiculous. A, for walking; B for walking by yourself; C for I'm too old to be doing this, or I'm too unfit or I'm too whatever. So, if you are experiencing social phobia, if you are experiencing fear of judgment, this might be a box you are not going to tick. Taking your anxiety for a walk is difficult. I get it, it's something I support clients with on a regular basis.
I encourage you though, to think about that outrageousness as a personal challenge. And for you, outrageousness might be wearing two different types of socks or shoes. I've done that before. Come back from a walk, looked at my feet, realized I was wearing a right sneaker from one pair of shoes and a left sneaker from another. Mm-Hmm.
Outrageous. Outrageous without intentionally being outrageous. Think about what your outrageous outrageousness could be. On another line I've got wear a hat. It can be any sort of hat. Okay, so I don't know what I'm going to wear yet for something outrageous. Approach this task with a sense of fun, This homage of wearing something outrageous is not about tipping you into extreme social discomfort, but encouraging a bit of prodding and challenging inherent fear of social judgement.
I don't expect you to walk out there in a bikini, if you're not comfortable with that, however, I'm curious about where you'd like to take it and what you'd like to do it. But, if you're saying, no, that's just really weird. I'm not doing that, that's okay, the beauty about Bingo is you only need to complete one line.
Other creative ways to make walking more enjoyable
Taking a selfie in front of a tree, or walk with a family member may or may not be challenging. Walk five days in a row. Doesn't matter for how long or how far. practice journaling after walking. What comes up?
Walking gives you the opportunity to breathe, to pause, to make space in your day. We know that regular movement helps with clarity and productivity. And if you can, have a break every so often for physical health benefits. Try moving after 30 minutes of sitting still. Five minutes of movement and then we can come back and refocus, which you can try.
Everyone's a little bit different. I encourage you to experiment about when that peak break for you is going to be. Taking a break not only means you move your body, but you need breaks to help you clear your mind and provide space for dynamic calm, giving yourself the opportunity to reset your physiology and kickstart creativity and clarity.
I'll frequently make notes - dictate to myself when I'm walking because the rhythm and the movement and all of a sudden ideas rush in, thoughts rush in. It's like, oh, here we go. Because it's what your mind likes to do. It likes to just sit there and cogitate in the background. And then where there's some space and clarity it goes, oh, I can answer all those questions. Now I've got some ideas for now. How about you do this? And you're like, Oh, I'm walking. I have no pen or paper! So, the phone comes in very handy.
So, a couple more. Not going through the whole 25 of them, if you're interested, download it. Have a look, do the challenge.
Encourage creativity by letting your mind wonder. This naturally leads into doing the journaling, in that we are not actively problem solving. We're not actively being grateful. We're not actively doing anything but giving over into our mind.
If doing this causes you distress due to an underlying mental health condition, well then don't, okay? Get some help. Speak to your psychologist, make an appointment. Do whatever is going to help you, but perhaps don't choose that one.
What’s best to wear walking shoes or sneakers?
I've got my walking shoes. And I'll tell you why. I've walked for many years. I've had some lulls and then I've come back to it. And walking without a doubt is a necessary baseline for my mental and physical health. Without it, I ache. I ache both in my joints and I ache in my heart. It's necessary for me to walk. And I usually just wear sneakers. The ones that fit me best, they're the ones that have helped my knees. They're so comfortable. The problem with sneakers is you wear through them quickly and they get wet.
And walking in wet feet, if you can avoid it, is something I really recommend. So, I decided I would bite the bullet and buy some proper light walking shoes and be water or the shower proof. So, if I step in puddle, I don't automatically get soaking wet. If it's showering raining a bit, I don't get wet at all. And I have a thicker tread. So, they're lasting me a long time and they're giving me more grip.
The other day I almost fell down the back step because I slipped on a mat. After I slipped, I realized I was wearing sneakers, and my old sneakers didn't have the tread. And I've become so used to the tread. So, it's a safety thing. If you have the resources, look at investing in some walking shoes; my walking shoes were cheaper than my sneakers.
So that gives you a little bit of an overview of the Walking is Awesome Bingo card. If you're up for a challenge download it. Do something different. Put a bit pep in your step. That's what we are doing.
We are moving, walking from boring to awesome. And it is a vehicle whereby you can practice almost any mental health strategy you can think of.
It can help combat loneliness, it can help combat anxiety, it can help combat ah, clarity. It can help you with clarity of thinking, reduce the overwhelm that happens, okay?. And you know what I'm going to do after I finish this? I'm going for a walk because I'm due for one.
If you've downloaded your Bingo Card and are ready for more, or would like to start with some individual support you can make an appointment, or go on the waiting list for the soon to be released online Walking is Awesome program.
Have you been told you "really should" walk, but you can't seem to make it happen?
What stops you from walking?
It's normal to feel hesitant or unsure about starting something new.
In this article I share strategies to help you get out the door, what to do when you're feeling uncomfortable or feeling anxious about what lies beyond your front door..
How to reduce anxiety about walking.
You can become comfortable with walking and develop a strong habit, but be patient with yourself.
If this is difficult for you, it can take time to feel this comfort.
Below you will find some tips to first help you get comfortable enough to walk and then ways you can play with discomfort on your walk.
But first chose the simplest walk to get started on.
I have this normal, routine walk in the morning that I think I could actually walk with my eyes closed, even stopping subconsciously before crossing the road, because I have done this walk literally thousands of times. My brain knows where we are going, so it's really comfortable with this route. It's like, yep, I've got this, I know what we're doing. This frees me up to do other things whilst walking, like chat on the phone, listen to podcasts, practice mindfulness, let my mind wonder and dip into creativity. It's amazing what you can do on a walk once you get out the door.
Six tips to prepare to walk
There are certain things you can do to prepare for walking to reduce your anxiety and increase your level of comfort and safety.
1. Check the weather. Look at the weather and the weather app. If it's pouring rain, but it's going to stop shortly and you can wait, wait. If this is your only chance to walk, walk, with your raincoat and your most waterproof shoes, accepting that you may need to change when you come home. If it's freezing cold, you could have a hot shower first to warm yourself up, or put your fleecy pants on.
2. Check out your walking route. One reason I walk the path I do is because, touch wood, although there's frequently people walking dogs, there's normally no unleashed dogs. I feel safe there. it's lit, it's populated.
3. Choose a time that works for you. If you like walking with lots of people time your walk for a popular walking time. School drop off and pick up time can work, or earlier when people are walking their dogs. If you don't like walking where there are lots of people, avoid those times. It will take a little trial and error to find the best time.
4. Be sensible. Don't walk paths that are isolated and screened from the public if you are walking by yourself. Don't walk in the dark. I knew someone who would go running in the dark because that was their preference, I prefer the light and stay aware of potential hazards.
5. Be flexible. If it's dark, wait till it's light, or do your walk before it's dark. So the time you walk can vary as the seasons change.
6. Walking by yourself is the most flexible and convenient way to consolidate a daily habit, but if that is too much, tee up to walk with a friend/neighbour.
Next, I list a few obstacles that may be getting in your way, and some strategies for becoming more comfortable with walking.
Potential Obstacles your Mind provides to Walking
Social Anxiety - what if I see people I know and they want to talk to me? I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't feel like talking to anyone. I don't know what to say. I just want to be left alone.
Generalised Anxiety - Where should I walk? When should I walk? What if I meet a dog? What if I fall over? What if someone comes to visit and I'm not at home? What if someone attacks me? What if my feet hurt? What if I get too hot, too cold, too wet, too sweaty? What if.....?
Energy levels - I dont have the spoons to talk or interact with anyone today. I can either choose to use my energy to shower and get dressed 'properly', or I can walk. And if I walk without showering or putting on a bra, I don't want anyone to see me.
Self-Image - what will people think of me? People will judge me. I've put on weight. I'm injured and can't walk how I usually walk - I look stupid. I have a disability and look different from other people and people will stare at me. I have daggy clothes and everyone in my neighbourhood is wearing name brand exercise clothes.
Identity - I'm not someone who usually does exercise, if I go for a walk people will wonder what on earth I am doing.
Depression. If I walk, I have to walk by myself and people will think I don't have any friends. It's boring and pointless. I'll never be (fit/skinny) enough.
Can you recognise yourself in any of these?
Your mental health, your mindset, the way you talk to yourself, your physical fitness and the way you see yourself, are some of the real challenges that people face when wanting to walk. I address all these challenges and more when helping clients create and sustain a walking habit, but in this blog let's drill down a little into anxiety and being uncomfortable.
What to do when you're feeling uncomfortable
Notice what you are experiencing, thinking and feeling.
Now this sounds simple, but it does require practice, especially when you're not feeling stressed. Practicing awareness is the key.
Here's an example of how I did this the other day.
I turned right instead of left at the end of my street.
When my mind realised this and flagged that something was different, I noticed my inside lurched. And this little voice said, 'hmm, what are you doing? What are you doing? This isn't what we know, this isn't safe.' When I noticed this I sat back and observed,
Wow, that's interesting. I'm noticing a lurching in my body. I'm noticing a resistance in my brain. This is the physicality of the emotion, know as interoception, You can feel it. It's a physicality of anxiety 'Are you sure? Are we gonna be okay? What, what if, what if?' My practice on my walk is to listen to that and notice it and keep going.
Sometimes changing direction isn't your choice. The way I normally walk is actually blocked off by construction at the moment. Meaning I needed to change my route. When I first observed this, the voices started up, 'oh, can't do that. Can't go there. Where else can we go? Will this way be okay?'. I observed my mind chattering away to me. I then tuned in to the part of me that observes what is going on and that sounded a bit like this, 'hmm, I notice you're sounding quite anxious there. It's okay. We've got this.'
Learning how to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and experiences in a mindful non judgemental way, may be the key to all the changes you wish to make.
How do you move from overwhelm to calm?
It can feel so daunting.
All the steps, the time and energy involved. It's all just too much.
Yes, there are many steps.
Yes, any change requires time and energy, discipline and commitment.
And yes, the thought of all these things is often enough to stop you from doing anything.
what if you were to focus on mastering just one skill?
Whether you want to reduce overwhelm, increase your health, increase calm, improve your confidence, deepen connections, or create more sustainable work habits, it all starts with this one thing.
The power of paying attention.
If paying attention is so powerful, why don't we do it?
If you're like me, (and everyone else!), you probably do things that take you away from paying attention.
Things like binge watching, gaming, reading, gambling, drinking, scrolling, eating.
You engage in avoidance behaviour because it's safe, it offers comfort, it's easy. Binge watching or playing Candy Crush feel great. That chocolate, mmmmm; the thrill of winning; the pleasure of escaping into fantasy.
These activities give you short hits of dopamine, they balance your central nervous system.
And this can be extremely useful. Especially in the short term.
Because life is stressful. Feelings are hard. People are tricky. Managing competing demands is demanding.
There's reasons why you are drawn to fun, simple, easy.
And any behaviour that takes you away from what you are feeling, thinking, experiencing can be helpful. After dipping into the soothing and relaxing you can return to the demanding feeling refreshed. Well that's the plan.
But what happens when you spend too much time in the safe bubble?
Self-care fatigue describes the exhaustion and guilt you feel when you can't fit self-care into your day or your budget.
Going out for lunch, getting your nails done or a massage, even going for a walk. When all you want to do at the end of the day is to put your feet up and watch TV
Sometimes it is all just so far out of reach.
And the pressure to do it is yet another burden adding to the daily overwhelm.
The good news is that self-care doesn't have to be something else you fit into your day.
Mindful, integrated self-care is available to everyone, because self-care is not just about what you do, but how you do it. It's not just about taking chunks out of your life, but making self-care integral to your life.
What is mindful integrated self-care?
Mindful, integrated self-care encompasses:
It's active and fierce, because to do it you need to:
It can be challenging. And while there are some things we know can improve our mental and physical health if we do them, it's never just about adding something to your to do list.
It's about doing what you can to prioritise your mental and physical health
Here's a practical example.
Let's take sleep.
I go through up and down waves with my sleep. I'll have days when I'm awake between 3.30-4am, then my sleep pattern will reset.
Sleep is super important for health and an integral part of self-care.
I have a choice in how I manage my erratic sleep patterns. I can stress over the fact that I am going through sleep deficit, knowing that that is 'not great self-care'.
Or I can accept that this is happening.
This process of acceptance, of self-compassion, of awareness of energy and capacity is all self-care.
What do you think? Do you experience self-care fatigue? Would you like more information on mindful integrated self-care?
Pop a comment in below or drop me an email.
For over 17 years, I have combined research and the experience of working with 1000s of children, adolescents and parents to help other women like you integrate mindfulness and prioritise self-care in their busy lives.
You are welcome to schedule a private session to stop stuffing self-care down the bottom of your to do list and switch to a more sustainable approach.
ps I do have resources you can access:
The Self-Care Hub which caters for mental health professionals and mums (or if you're like me, both).
And the Creating Connection: Move, Eat, Sleep, Connect Podcast (100 episodes).
A reminder this blog is for general information and advice only. It is not designed to replace therapy in any way. If you are experiencing any mental health concern please see your GP, or your mental health therapist, or see if you think I may be a good fit for you .
Do you want to have a sustainable private practice? One way of preventing burnout is through having clear distinctions between home and work, not always easy. Although some seepage from one to the other is normal, you want to avoid a clear take over where you are not at your best in either space. Staying in control of your work-life balance and protecting your time, energy and values is an ongoing process. Whether you are working from home, going into work or using a hybrid model, here are my top 9 strategies to help you create and defend strong workplace boundaries.
1. Identify what matters most to you
Finding the confidence to set and protect your boundaries is difficult, particularly for early career psychologists. Certain boundaries in a work setting are clear. These include legal, professional and some ethical boundaries. Other boundaries are more flexible and negotiable. Where you choose to place these boundaries is influenced by your needs, beliefs, resources, and intentions.
After you consider legal and ethical requirements that come with being a psychologist, it’s time to consider your values. As a professional you have many decisions, including who you work with, what you charge, when you work, what modality you use, what resources you buy, how you want to work.
If you’re not clear about your boundaries, spending time reflecting on your value is an important step.
2. Identify recurring stressors
Make time for regular reflection and bring awareness to your current work situation.
How do you feel when you:
The above are some potential areas of recurring stressors that contribute to workplace burnout AND opportunities or threats to your boundaries.
Identifying recurring stressors are a good place to stop and think about your boundaries.
Too much incongruence between your values and those of your workplace will create a situation where your boundaries feel under constant attack.
3. Clarify role expectations
It’s clear from my conversations with other psychologists that role expectations vary, often dramatically, between workplaces. And the lines between being a subcontractor or employee can be blurred. One clinician stated that at "My other clinic I feel confused by, in terms of am I an employee or a contractor. It feels quite grey, rather than black and white, which leaves me at times confused as to accountability and responsibility and who is managing the risk".
Legal advice on whether you are an employee or a subcontractor is recommended. And then this helps the next step, of fully clarifying your contract details. Read your contract and position description. Write down your interpretation of what the contract means. Check your interpretation with your employers understanding. Work through ambiguities. If you are employed, check it with any relevant legislation including workspace, and think about asking a lawyer to check through it as well.
Areas to ensure you understand include who is responsible for areas such as
Outside of work, do people in your life understand what you do?
My other clinic I feel confused by, in terms of am I an employee or a contractor. It feels quite grey, rather than black and white, which leaves me at times confused as to accountability and responsibility and who is managing the risk".
4. Set realistic expectations of your time and energy
Remember that drive to impress when starting out? The need to do more to quiet you inner Imposter Syndrome? It’s not sustainable. Do you want to be working these hours, taking on these responsibilities in two years’ time? If you don’t, stop setting up unsustainable expectations.
Whilst flexible boundaries are important in helping you adjust to the changing demands that are part of managing the ebb and flow that is work-life balance, there comes a tipping point. This occurs when your mindful decision to do more, to bring work home, to talk about work at home, becomes less of a choice and more of a reflection of a loss of control about keeping work-life separate. This seepage is an indicator that you are slipping towards overwhelm and burnout.
Think about your current individual situation.
The digital time black hole
The time spent reading, organising and responding to emails is estimated to take hours each day; it is a big productivity drain. If you want to check for yourself you can track your time and see for yourself how much time and energy you take with this task.
Digital time drains include engaging in tasks such as responding to emails / phones and texts from your workplace and/or clients outside of hours.
If the digital world is overwhelming, a regular digital declutter can help.
5. Make Imposter Syndrome your best business buddy
The imposter is that pesky voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t good enough, you don’t know enough, you can’t do that, even when there is plenty of evidence to the contrary
When that pesky voice is driving you to do more, to be more, this has a direct impact on your time and energy levels. It can mean putting your hand up to do things that aren’t your responsibility to prove something to yourself and others. It can mean putting in extra hours so you know just what to say and do in the next session with a particular client.
You can flip this though. When Imposter Syndrome is reframed to be the quiet voice of questioning and curiosity it can be your best business buddy.
Sit down and listen to it and let it guide you into doing a reality check.
As a bonus, the Imposter Syndrome can help test out the congruence of your workplace setting as well as strengthen your interpersonal boundaries. Identifying people you trust can result in lowering your boundaries in some areas and lifting them in others.
6. Own your diary
You are a limited resource. No matter how hard you work, there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Use your diary as a tool. Mark in your self-care time, and any other time that is important to you. Mark in your holidays. Don't let admin fill your diary out until the end of the year without breaks. Do that client audit and work out how many client hours you are doing a week. Is this sustainable? During times of crisis many psychologists report a need to ‘step up’ and do more for their community. Whilst this may be sustainable in the short term, it can create a chronic lack of control over work-life imbalance leading into burnout.
Whilst flexible boundaries are important in helping you manage the changing demands that are part of the ebb and flow of work-life balance, there comes a tipping point
7. Have clear work policies and procedures
Your work setting will have these policies and procedures. Official policies include, but are not limited to, missed appointments, working with separated parents, social media, how you communicate with clients etc. However, there are likely to be gaps. And if you are a solo psychologist, you will be creating your own policies and procedures.
Create your policies to not only include necessary legal, professional and ethical obligations, but to also prioritise your self-care. Think about:
Even though you are only one person, having established policies helps you create and maintain work-lifeboundaries. They add clarity for both you and your clients and help you avoid the stress of making decision making on the run). *As a note - people do sell their policies. They take time to develop and it is rude to ask people to share them for free.
8. Establish a work-life transition process
Having a mindful routine that helps delineate work from home is helpful in letting your mind know that work is done for the day. Being able to rest from work demands is essential in maintaining control of your work-life balance. Some strategies include:
Do you have a favourite transition strategy?
9. The five allies you need to defend your boundaries
After you have set boundaries congruent with your values and designed to honour your time, energy and what matters to you, it’s then up to you to defend them.
Broken boundaries can be subtle. Although the impact of stress is often cumulative it can take one thing to make you realise that you have lost that sense of control you once had over your work and home life, leading to exhaustion, resentment and burnout. Many factors go into why your boundaries become porous, why you say 'Yes' instead of 'No'. Interfering factors include Imposter Syndrome, compassion (and lack of self-compassion), overt and covert pressure, workplace culture, financial considerations, lack of clear policy and procedures, guilt, and an inability to prioritise self-care.
Your five best allies in defending your boundaries are:
Maintaining control of your work-life boundaries to avoid slipping into overwhelm and burnout takes effort, so that you can create either a sustainable career as an employee or a sustainable private practice. The encroaching of work demands into your personal time, energy and what you hold important ranges from very clear breaching through activities such as workplace bullying and exploitation, to more insidious and subtle practices. Without a preventative and proactive self-care approach you are placing yourself at risk. Creating clear boundaries is one of the key self-care strategies. Use the questions and reflections in this article as a guide to help you prevent occupational burnout and improve work-life harmony.
OVER TO YOU
I’d love to hear your experience of work boundaries and burnout. Is it the digital time suck, the weight of Imposter Syndrome, or the exhaustion of trying to work out the essential from the non essential administration tasks? Or something else?
Get the support you need to build a sustainable private practice. Check how well you are coping and sign up for the Private Practice Sustainability Community mailing list for fierce self-care, connection and collaboration opportunities.
Are you loving and thriving in your work as a psychologist at the moment? Or are you struggling and feel like you're moving through quicksand? Or maybe somewhere in between?
Wherever you are, that's OK.
I know that prioritising yourself, making hard decisions around self-care and saying NO can be difficult. Particularly now where there is a continuing increase in demand for mental health services as people struggle with the ongoing impact of COVID19.
You want to be of service. You need clients and you need to work.
However, you also need a sustainable business. Squeezing in an occasional extra client or going without a lunch break once in a blue moon happens for many reasons. Doing this on a regular basis starts to add up.
Without appropriate counterbalances, work overload often catches up with people in the end. And then the overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and poor productivity impacts on you, your clients and the profession.
You can come back from this, people do. But recovery time is not measured in days or weeks, it is sometimes measured in years. Depending on the source of burnout, it can be exhibited in leaving employment, career change, early retirement, retraining, and/or withdrawal from direct client services.
When you look at it like this, do you really NOT have enough time for self-care?
What makes taking care of yourself difficult?
There are many factors involved in making prioritising self-care difficult.
However, the reason most people give for not engaging in self-care is that they "ran out of time" or "I didn't have enough time".
Yep, no.... that's not it.
Here are four real reasons why you say you don’t have enough time.
1. Your current values and priorities don’t allow this task to fit. Life can become full of anything you choose. Work, study, children, children’s activities, gym, coffee dates, meetings, etc etc. There is no shortage of things you can do.
Hard question alert.
Q: Is what you are currently doing congruent with what is most important to you?
2. You're worried about looking stupid. It takes commitment to change your habits so that looking after yourself comes first. What about if you try this change and it doesn’t work out? Then you've wasted your limited time and resources. Your thoughts can also include self-chastisement in that you should already know how to look after myself.
3. You've bought into the busyness myth .
In a world where being busy is seen to be a badge of honour, “I’m just too busy. I don’t have enough time” has become a default. It’s easier than saying ”I know I should do that, but I actually don’t want to/it’s too hard for me at the moment/I don’t like it/I’m ignoring all things people at the moment/etc”
How about trying to be super honest (at least with yourself) about what you really want to say.
Here are some alternatives
4. You don’t love yourself enough.
This can be hard to hear.
Whether it is because you are putting your needs last out of habit, or, you genuinely believe you are not as deserving as others.
If you find yourself saying, Oh, I don't have time to sit and meditate for five minutes, I'll just take 10 minutes for lunch time because I have a report to write, I don't have time to prepare a healthy meal. I don't have time to go for a walk. I don't have time to journal. I don't have time to X, whatever it is. If these are common responses to decisions you are making, firstly look at the three points above, but then look at what you are saying about your relationship with yourself.
You are worth it. Okay. You need it. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family. You owe it to your clients.
What you can do about reducing your busyness.
You ARE a limited resource. No matter how hard you work, there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Shifting your boundary fences to extend your clinic hours, adding on a new extra- curricular activity for your child, taking on extra clients, volunteering, pushing through…..can be a slippery slope to burnout.
I've been there, I've said yes to doing more and more because my clients needed it. When what I needed was to say NO and spend more time with my young family.
Another hard question alert
Q: What do you need to say NO to?
When you investigate what's behind your claim of “I don't have enough time”, it can be confronting. However, it's a great place to start.
You HAVE to look at your priorities and values.
And if you don't, if you just keep saying it and not change anything, nothing's going to change.
You might find that you start to feel resentful and neglected. As the demands pile on and you are not taking care of yourself, you may start to hate your life, crave for things that just aren't there. Burnout may start to creep up on you.
So, take “I don't have enough time” as your cue to dig deeper, examine your beliefs, your priorities, to engage in honest communication, and to work on removing those barriers that stand between you and your self-care.
There is no doubt that some seasons of your life, some days, are much harder than others. Knowing what self-care you need and how to integrate it into your daily life can make the world of difference to you,
You're worth it.
ps If would love to have some support in making self-care an essential part of your career, I'd love to help.
* These articles are provided by Kim Ross, Psychologist for general information and education . They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Ross is an Online Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds and Private Practice Sustainability.