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Balancing life and work

By Darren Miller


Maintaining a good work/life balance is key to maintaining good mental well-being, especially in these ever changing and challenging times. It can become harder to switch off and not take things home from work, especially as the media is currently dominated by COVID-19 and some of the things we deal with become national news. What you deal with day to day at work becomes what you see at home and the things that you would normally do to allow yourself to switch off can become impossible.


One thing I have found particularly hard is that one of my main things that I would do to maintain my healthy work/life balance has fallen victim to the pandemic. I am a regular volunteer with St Andrews First Aid, and have been for a considerable amount of time.


Nearly every weekend I could be found volunteering at events such as football, community or musical events. However with all of this grinding to a halt, I found myself at a loss for things to do. Crucially though, because I didn't have the things I would normally use to fill my time, I have found myself dwelling on a lot of things I cannot change.


I have had to rapidly change some of my habits to contribute to maintaining a healthy balance and here are some of the things that have helped me:


· I've tried to cut down consumption of social media. Social media is full of information, some useful, some not. By removing this source of information (or misinformation as the case may be) I've felt a bit better at home, as it helps me to properly maintain a balance.


· I've attempted to watch less of the news. As hard as it may be to detach from it because it's absolutely everywhere all of the time, the more we limit our consumption of what's going on the happier we will feel. A lot of what is in the media is often the same things we already know repeated over and over, and therefore it becomes so much harder not to dwell on stuff. That said, don't detach entirely. It's good to know what's going on. But I've found I'm much happier when I don't watch every single briefing, documentary or news special about what we're going though as I can't change what's happening.


· I've made a point of taking regular walks. Getting out and away from phone screens and TV screens lets me clear my head.


· I've made a point of trying to learn some new things too! I have taught myself to cook some things, stuff that I wouldn't normally have been able to do before, and dare I say it wouldn't have normally been able to devote time to.


Another part of a healthy work/life balance can often be elements of self care/beauty. The "we are all in this together" mantra is no truer than when you consider our hair. The relatively simple act of going for a haircut can and does contribute to a healthy work/life balance. The better you feel about yourself, the more you can feel good in your downtime and in work.


However, across the country we have become a nation of amateur hairdressers as "The Covid All-over" becomes the go to for men (if you were lucky enough to bag a set of clippers!), and for the ladies there's the "Covid Colour Conundrum"; experimentation and making do is the new "going to the hairdresser". Truth be told, once life starts to return to normal hairdressers are absolutely going to be the ultimate key worker.


Feeling good about ourselves is obviously a huge part of maintaining a good state of mental health. It's absolutely OK to get a little bit anxious and worked up about how you look, as this can have a direct effect on how you feel. Don't be afraid to have a bash at looking after yourself. I let my wife do my hair and it was a great bonding experience and a good laugh.


Don't get me wrong, once this is all over, she's never touching my hair again! But honestly, I felt much better after getting it done and it made for some entertaining times and pictures for us to look back on, and definitely contributed to having a bit of fun in time away from work.


Catch up, streaming services, box sets and re-runs – it feels like I’ve literally watched everything there is to watch. It's awesome to be able to clear a whole season of a program in a day, and sometimes those chilled out days are just what you need, but it's undeniable that fresh air and getting out and about is one of the best things for mental health in these horribly restricted times. Use this opportunity if you've managed to clear your "to watch" backlog to get out about for walks and exercise. Make the most of it, as it contributes to a healthy work/life balance. Don't scoff however at spending a whole afternoon on one show. If you enjoy it, so be it. If it lets you decompress and forget work for a few hours, this is perfect too. It's all about finding the balance that works for you.


And remember, as you leave work and go home, to consider the NHS published guidance:


· Take a moment to think about today.

· Acknowledge one thing that was difficult during your working day - let it go.

· Consider three things that went well.

· Check on your colleagues before you leave - are they OK? Are you OK? Your senior team are here to support you.

· Now switch your attention to home - rest and recharge.

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