I enjoy stress to some extent. I’m not the sort of person who could be content with a straight forward job, and no excitement in my own life. At the moment though my stress levels are getting slightly higher than enjoyable as I enter the last 5 weeks of my current job contract, have no other job lined up, continue to plan my wedding, and also plan a trip around Japan. No point in pacing my self and doing one thing at a time I guess – what would I do with my time?!
So this week I’ve referred myself to an Occupational Therapist: me. I realise if I advise people 5 days a week I should be able to advise myself too – although I admit it is always much more difficult. So I tried to think as if I was a client approaching me, and think about what I tell myself (other than the fact I’m bonkers).
So this is my plan and my goals for the next 5 weeks:
I’ve completed my own interest checklist and my top occupations include (you guessed it) walking my dog Jed, swimming, reading, crafts, visiting friends, blogging, travelling.
- My 1st goal is to self care in order to reduce stress and to do this I will
- Continue to walk Jed twice daily to maintain my role as a pet owner, and reduce my own stress levels. Exercise is really good for my mood – it’s like fresh air is my medicine. This also keeps me in a good routine and clears my head for or from the day
- Each lunch time take a 15 minute walk to a green area near work. Record green areas visited through use of photography on my mobile phone. This way I can track my own commitment to this goal and hopefully improve my photography skills in the process as photography is a new occupation for me but one I think I might like
- Eat a balanced diet and cook at least 2 recipes I enjoy each week – cooking for me is a great distraction, and as a food lover a tasty meal is like a reward in itself
2. My 2nd goal is to maintain responsibility for the deadlines I have to meet and to feel organised to reduce my stress. To achieve this I will:
- Plan one stage of our trip to Japan per week. Keep a folder of all bookings to keep organised and to look through this to remind me of the lovely break that is approaching
- Plan at least one thing from our checklist for the wedding each week by applying occupational interests to make this a leisure occupation not extra stress (see goal 3)
- Blog using wordpress as a means of reflection
3. My 3rd goal is to achieve work life balance in order to feel life satisfaction and reduce stress. To ensure this I will:
- Choose books that are easy reading and require less concentration as this is always impacted on for me when I am stressed. Read for 15 minutes each morning and each evening on the train – short periods of time are more achievable – again due to reduced concentration.
- Swim once a week at least 30 lengths. Reward self with 10 minutes in the steam room – I am thankful to have found a lovely pool nearby which is a lovely place to relax.
- Craft weekly either independently or with friends. Last week I started a giant dream catcher and completely lost myself in this occupation for a whole evening. Yesterday I had a craft evening with a friend and we started some wedding table decorations. A lovely chance to unwind and socialise.
I think that’s plenty to be going on with. For me some occupations bring instant relief. Swimming for example, which is a new occupation for me makes me feel instantly relieved and with each lap I swim I can feel the stress slip away. I try to be mindful when swimming, to not let my mind wander, and to be in the moment enjoying the relaxation this brings. Other occupations, I know are helpful but I really have to motivate myself to do, particularly after a busy day. I can much easier be mindless and play on my phone checking social media and emails on my way home than open my book. But I know that if I can just convince myself to read instead I can almost escape into the story I am reading, and this allows my mind freedom from worries, and then leads to me feeling more relaxed. So improving well-being through occupation takes a while to make habit but can be done.
It’s for these reasons occupations need to be very carefully selected because we are all so individual in our preferences. For some people my plan may in fact increase stress rather than reduce it. I would really like if us OT’s received Occupational Therapy ourselves. A bit like a counsellor might get counselling, I really think we would benefit from time out and a chance to reflect with support on our own occupational needs.
You don’t need to make your plan so public but have a think, if you were your OT what advice would you give yourself, and what might your occupation focused goals be to promote your own health and well-being? We need to put ourselves first sometimes so we can keep putting many others first 40 hours per week.
Rebecca Wint, Occupational Therapist