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Moments of compassion

22 Apr

Work was hideous today. I felt like I was banging my head up against a brick wall, trying to get heard about ‘risk issues’ I am professionally responsible for communicating but powerless to act on. Lots of phone calls, dead ends and defensiveness. My heart raced and I exploded in a mess of tears in the office stairwell.

On returning home I wanted to skip karate, order a 14″ pizza, drink 2 cans of cider and pass out on the couch.

I found my self ruminating over all the crap that I had encountered during the day.

I stopped and noticed what I was doing.

As an experiment I tried, instead to notice all the compassion I had encountered through out the day:

The positive, inspirational blogs I read on the loo this morning.

Bronwyn returning her ball to me during our walk.

My colleague listening to me and supporting me.

The team secretary who decided not to bother putting through non-urgent calls.

The colleague who filled up my coffee cup without asking.

The colleague who contained me in the stair well.

The lady from social services who took me seriously.

My husband who took a panicked phone call from me at work. And listened.

My puppies who delighted in my return from work and licked my weary face.

All the people who liked and followed my blog 😉

Me, who despite tendencies towards the unhelpful took herself off to karate.

My karate sensei, who caused me so much pain I forgot about all the mental stresses of the day.

It worked, I feel better, I feel supported and emotionally regulated.

Thank you 🙂

Going ‘Off Plan’

20 Apr

It’s been a stressy week. I have not managed to take time back.

I have worked overtime, over time that I won’t be paid for and probably won’t manage to claim back.

I figure that I need to start giving clients a set number of hours per week and sticking to it! I have been pulled into various meetings about clients and have still felt it was important to go and see them, write their notes and analyse data about them. This just isn’t feasible! (unless I can get my caseload down to two!).

Anyway, yesterday (Friday) I was driving around Thanet between a session with a client and a case conference about a different client. I realised I had a hour to spare; not enough time to get back to the office; too much time to go straight there.

I realised I was driving through broadstairs and it occured to me that I could take a lunch-break yes a friging lunch break. I had heard that Broadstairs is nice, and I suddenly felt like I might have the opportunity to do something totally unpredictable to even myself.

I felt as I were being somewhat reckless as I parked my car on the high street and walked down the hill towards where I imagined the sea might be. To think that no one in the world knew where I was or what I was doing, nor could they guess felt alien and exciting to me.

I felt as if I might have managed to go off plan; to have demonstrated my own free will and independence of thought.

I walked down the road and identified that Broadstairs was indeed, middle class, with an old-fashioned bakery, haberdashery and butcher on the high street. A funeral parlour with the tag line “today is a good day to plan your funeral” gave me an idea of the demographics of the town, yet strangely, the only young people I could see were teenagers. Not British teenagers, but French, in fact, the only language I could hear being spoken was French. I wondered if I might have accidentally entered into a rift in the space-time continuum, or maybe just, absent mindedly driven through the eurotunnel into France.

As it began to rain I realised I was indeed in Britain, and like a true Brit, carried in regardless down to the beach.

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I walked along the pavement by the beach huts and identified a picnic bench to venture across the sand for. Wearing a full length woollen coat and my red-leather work shoes I suspected that should anyone have noticed me they might have thought me rather odd. Indeed, in my psychologist outfit, I felt more removed that usual from nature and less able to be connected with the outdoors. I fantasised about taking my shoes off and running across the beach to paddle in the icy sea. I noticed this urge and reflected that, had I have not been in psychologist mode I probably would have gone with it. I comforted my self with my flask of coffee and a cigarette.

I was aware of this chap sitting in the bench next to mine:

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I’m not a fan of seagulls but he stayed put, looking at me and talking to the other seagulls. He reminded me of a dog, or rather dogs when they whine at each other. On making this association, I paid him some more attention. He seemed wise and grounded. I wondered if he had an understanding of the universe and realised that, on a level, he did. Not a cognitive level, but on a practical, behavioural level, and perhaps, an emotional level. Looking at him made me feel as if he had a sense of mastery over his world, a complete understanding of all he perceives, or at least the feeling of understanding of all he perceives.

I reasoned that I had a fairly good, practical understanding of the universe and my place in it, but there is no way I will ever have an understanding of it all on a cognitive level. Even if i had infinite mental capacity to understand all the knowledge in the world, the facts are still unknown. I wondered if I could ever understand it all on an emotional level and fairly quickly dismissed that as too time and energy consuming.

I wondered, however, whether I am missing a level or two?

I started to get cold and wet and retreated to my car, dissatisfied with my attempt to be reckless but satisfied that I had achieved some thinking space of my own.

I felt a sense of achievement as I arrived at my next meeting with wet hair and sand in my shoes.

Also, at the meeting I apologetically informed my colleagues that I would not be present the week after next for two consecutive weeks. They surprised me by seeming genuinely pleased for
me to be getting a holiday. I walked away realising that I had fallen into a trap of thinking my presence is more important than it actually is.

I drove home after the meeting feeling a little bit free…

A Four Day Weekend

1 Apr

I have been holding out for this weekend for a while now. It has helped to know I would get four whole days off. I think that we have been so busy that the usual Two day weekend hasn’t been long enough for me to really slow down and reflect on how I am and whether I need to change.

It wasn’t until the third day that I felt I had got everything that needed doing done. When this happened, yes, I wanted to sit and do nothing but it also gave me some space to realise how stressy I have got myself!

We have been for two very beautiful walks with the dogs, which we were able to do without time limits, or guilt or anxiety about losing time.

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And Dan and I have actually spent time together and talked. We have had space to share ideas and interests rather than day-to-day frustrations and to-do lists.

I’ve even (with much help from Amalia) decorated an Easter Tree!

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Having this time has helped me reflect and realise that I don’t want to find ways of earning more money,  I don’t want a bigger house or a better set of qualifications.  I want more of this:

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More time to stop and be.

 

 

Breaking into a sprint

1 Apr

Life has gone and got busy, again. Work has got stressful, again.

I never really stopped after the doctorate, never really had the’come-down’ I was led to believe was inevitable.

I recall feeling as if I had just got off a high speed train in a foreign land, but was still running along the platform. I have come to realise that this is because life simply doesn’t stop (well not until the end anyway!). We really are on a journey and there will always be stressors in our lives.

A few months into my new job I spoke to my mother and told her that, for the first time in my life, I felt as if I was in an enviable position. I described feeling guilty for having so much. My mother re-assured me (albeit in a slightly cynical fashion) that life would not stay this good forever, so to enjoy the good times while they lasted, and not to worry, I would get my fair share of cr*p.

I’m now six months in to the job and the honeymoon phase is truely over! I have too much work to do and too much risk to manage. I’m allowed to claim back any hours worked over my contracted 37.5, but realistically, if I’ve worked over my hours, that’s because there wasn’t enough time in the week and if there wasn’t enough time in the week to do the work, then taking a few hours off the next one isn’t going to help me. I’m trying to be as effective within my contracted hours and to not work much over them. I feel like my job is important, but I don’t want it to take over my life. If this is going to be sustainable then I need to look after myself.

I feel as if I had just about slowed down to a walking pace on the train track but now I’m verging on breaking into a sprint. I would really like to just sit down for a while but I think the goal should be more like walking pace, maybe a slow jog or even a bit of skipping?

Resolutions Week 2?

19 Jan

So we are two weeks in and I have already missed the setting of a set of resolutions (last weekend).  I thought about setting several:

  • Book a haircut (and start getting it done regularly!)
  • Buy a ball gown (graduation ball is next thursday!)
  • Go to Karate again on Monday

I wanted a more meaningful resolution,  I considered trying to do a random act of kindness for someone each day but the week has gone so fast I’ve not had the chance to put anything into action or sit and blog about my plan. I didn’t manage to do my cleaning during the week but I did manage to go to Karate, speak to a friend on the phone, have a friend round for dinner and clean the bathroom.  Fortunately Dan took a day off this week and cleaned the rest of the house!

Work has been somewhat turbulent; I have ended up staying late and on thursday I came home completely overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings about my clients.  Again, Dan came to the rescue and helped me re-ground myself and re-package my clients back up into appropriate boxes in my mind!

I have been managing to spend an hour in front of the telly each evening, and frankly, I’ve been so tired, I’ve pretty much fallen asleep there most evening.  While sitting in front of the telly I’ve been engaging in some wool organising in preparation for my next project:

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This is the first time I’ve had really posh wool.  It’ was hideously expensive and I started the above project not realising that I really should have wound the Skeins of wool into balls.  As a result the lovely yarn had become tangled and enmeshed in its bag.  It was a right mess!

Winding up the balls has been a bit like organising my clients in my head, it has required de-tangling with care and attention.  The end result feels good.  If only everything in life could be wound up into a neat ball where it would stay  eh?

Speaking on the phone to a friend this week we discussed my issue of feeling as if I have no time for myself.  She is a mother of two small children so she did incredibly well to be sympathetic towards me! We agreed that I did have time but that I am filling it.  This is my choice,  but I’m not sure it’s a functional one!  I explained that I feel as if I need to do a lot in order to feel I have made use of my time.  The weekends feel short and sure, I do have house-holdy tasks to do but I fill the gaps with things I think I need to achieve in order to prepare for the week ahead and in order to feel as if I have had some ‘me’ time.  She suggested that I might feel as if I had more time if I spent time doing nothing.  I had to ask her what doing nothing is.   She defined it as watching something on telly, eating snacks and doing nothing else.  We agreed it would be a useful experiment for me to try.

So, call it a resolution if you like, Dan has gone out for the evening, the puppies have been walked, Its 3:30pm on Saturday.  I am going to sit and do nothing until at least 6pm.

Resolution Review 1

12 Jan

As promised, this post is an update on the goals I set myself for the past week.

1. Attend 1 Karate Lesson

Achieved!

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After a little venue confusion I arrived late but was still welcomed by the class and Sensei. I was pleased to see there were other adults in the class and the Sensei was friendly. I realised that I have not attended a class for over a year and am somewhat out of shape! The lesson was 1.5 hours long and we were expected to hold the ‘long forward stance’ for most of it, not moving until told to and sometimes waiting while the sensei adjusted someone’s positioning. As a result of staying in this slightly squat-like position my legs started shaking. For the last half hour of the session I couldn’t stop them going, the sensei was concerned but also found it entertaining! My muscles were so fatigued I could barely stand by the end of the session!

Despite the pain I really enjoyed the session. I have realised how much I need to exercise and will make it my goal to keep going to the same class each week.

2. Stop Moaning

I didn’t feel the urge to moan until Wednesday when I really did!  I quickly realised that ‘not moaning’ only really works if you can manage to not feel like moaning.  I didn’t moan, but I was in a foul mood and I don’t really think this was much better for me or anyone else than actually verbalising.  I was quite angry.  It wasn’t until Thursday when I spoke to a friend and said I had been angry that I felt better.  She asked what had made me feel angry and I said I couldn’t say because that would be moaning.  She said that it only counted as moaning if it was unsolicited and that if I were to tell her after she had asked it would just be ‘providing information’.  Needless to say, I felt a lot better after I had ‘provided information’.  So, while I would like to be less negative, and maybe not just moan for the sake of it, I don’t think a total ban on moaning is the way forwards!  I will ditch that resolution here and now!

3. Be Early for Work

While I didn’t document this as a goal for the week I was cross that I had not managed to make my first few days back at work (the previous week) on time.  I resolved to be early this week.  This means I need to be in bed by 10pm and get up at 5:45am.  I totally managed it!

The week in review..

Going to Karate on monday night really gave me an energy boost for the whole week.  Although my body only really recovered on friday it made me feel much more energised and positive about my ability to be the person I want to be.  I felt much more in control of myself and was able to be more productive at work.  I had been feeling a little like I hadn’t really put my full effort into my new job so far but was able to be enthusiastic and take on additional responsibilities this week.  This made me feel like I might be able to push forward and make a positive difference to my team and our clients.

Also, I finally sent that blanket to its rightful owner!  That’s a project, finished and in its place:

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I was lucky enough to receive this photo of its beautiful recipient making good use of it!  This really made my week!

Grinning on the Loo

3 Jan

The January blues hit me yesterday.
As my blood levels started to get too high in my alcohol system I dragged myself, unwillingly, out of bed and went to work.

Driving to work and between visits I felt genuinely crappy-grumpy-awful after some confusion I managed to identify that I was feeling low. This worried me a bit and I started unpicking my life to see what I was unhappy about. Fortunately I was wise enough to realise there is nothing wrong with my life. Aside from being a bit short of time it’s really not that bad. After realising I was on a post-holiday-drank-too-much-was-poorly-probably-still-knackered-from-2012-come-downI decided to be mindful about my mood state. This meant I quit judging it and decided it wouldn’t last.
I also figured I would try an experiment:

During my holiday my brother-in-law mentioned that he does facial exercises every morning during which he does the biggest grin he can manage. He suggested that if you do a big grin, your facial muscles relax back down into a slight smile, leaving you feeling slightly happier all day.

I imagine that this works for at least two reasons:

1) Classical Conditioning/ Associative Learning
Most of us associate smiling with being happy therefore smiling will activate neural networks associated with feeling happy.

2) Social Impact
If you are smiling other people are more likely to smile back at you and have positive interactions with you, which in turn, will make you feel happier and smile more.

Not exactly rocket science eh?

So, to test the theory, I decided to do a massive grin every time I went to the loo or was alone in my car. It felt distinctly unnatural and quite silly, but it got me through the day! And I think it may have helped raise my spirits a little.

I felt a bit better today, but I’m going to keep grinning on the loo!

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