It's 4.45pm on a Friday - there can be no sweeter time than this for those who work the standard Monday - Friday schedule. And for those who don't, well I hope you have something nice planned for the weekend to see you through.
Here are my top three #fridayreads for your journey home this evening - travel safe.
1) "I am 32, successful and I am in therapy. This is why" by Daisy Buchanan @NotRollerGirl for The Pool:
2) I'm a HUGE fan of Shan Koyczan - I've seen him live three times and have hugged him once (I'm sure it was much more memorable for me than him) - he is truly a master of the spoken word and his poetry touches places that we don't know exist. HIGHLY recommended:
3) "Every time I visit my family, they body-shame me" - Annalisa Barbieri for The Guardian
I work with many clients who are self-employed - in fact, probably more who are than those who are employed. On reflection, I was wondering whether this is because those who are self-employed have more time - or are able to have more control over their work schedules? Or - I wondered whether it's because self-employment is stressful and those who work in this way are prone to overwork and burnout? Or... option number three - those who work for themselves need to be especially aware of how they're doing mentally - that taking care both of their mental and physical health have to be a priority for them? Maybe all of those. After all, if they're not well, for whatever reason - they can't work. And with no sick-pay to fall back on, then proactive management of anything that might come up is a sensible and necessary way to manage life.
It also occurred to me how valuable those therapy sessions might be in particular to my self-employed clients. I'm self-employed myself - so I know that the brain can do miraculous things when it comes to converting how much something costs us, to how long it takes us to earn that money (a skill that I lacked as a salaried IT consultant!).
And that presence is really encouraging to see. It shows me without words, that someone truly values their mental health. That they're not willing (or sometimes able) to wait on an NHS waiting list for six months to only be offered six sessions of brief CBT or group therapy. That they are ready for change and want to work hard to avoid the self-destructive habits that can be the norm for the newly self-employed. Those habits that can form before we learn the boundaries and routines which we need to keep ourselves safe and well.
I had a coffee this morning with a friend, just down the road from the office on North Street - and we often discuss our businesses, what's going well for us, what hasn't gone so well - and its a really grounding and reassuring process - for me anyway! I know that another skill that I've honed over the years of working for myself is managing my time and schedules. I used to think I had this down to a T when I was working as an IT professional - but there is nothing like being your own boss to sharpen your senses and really feel those deadlines.
A lot of the work that I do with those who are self-employed is around goal setting and resilience. About reflecting on how things used to be versus how things are now - and really appreciating that process. Celebrating those achievements. Something that is so easily overlooked when we have our heads down chasing success. I might also work with those whose businesses are no longer trading - and the grief they might have for the loss of those plans. It's all rich work and has all been bolstered by the coaching course which I attended recently as I have started to incorporate some of those techniques into my sessions more formally.
So this leaves me wondering what else those of you who are self-employed do to take care of yourselves? I've talked before on my blog about self-care and I'm always quick to snap a picture of the moments when I do something purely for my own well-being over on Instagram - partly just to remind myself that I have done them!
I'd be keen to hear your suggestions of what works for you in the comments.
How do you find yourself this Friday? In a post-valentine's day haze of romance? Or does the commercial profiteering of the day put you off to the point where you actively avoid hearing about it, much less participating? Either way - we made it. It's Friday, and here are a few links that I personally found interesting this week, I hope they're the same for you:
1) Lena Dunham on Her Decision to Have a Hysterectomy at 31, in Her Own Words - Vogue.com
2) Seven things not to say to someone who is grieving the death of a loved one - and what to say instead - Scott Simon @ Operah.com
3) Parental alcohol abuse linked to child deaths and injuries - Kevin Rawlinson @ The Guardian
How do you find yourself this valentine's day? Does it matter to you or does this date pass by with a cynical nod to the commercial machine that encourages us to believe that coupledom is the ideal, and that it really does need to be celebrated with roses and champagne...
Oops, perhaps my own cynicism showing there...
But that's not to say that we can't acknowledge the date and some of the sentiment behind it. That some of that goodwill and appreciation that we are so encouraged to show a partner should but embraced - but perhaps in a slightly different way.
I want to make valentines day about the self. It's lovely to appreciate the important people in our lives, but I do feel that this day is sometimes celebrated to the exclusion of those who are single or those who do not partake in monogamous hetero-normative relationships. There's no mention of being kind to ourselves.
My intention is to think of this day as a reminder of the high esteem that I would like us all to have for the self, to treat ourselves like our own best friend and show ourselves the kindness and compassion that we would another person whom we loved.
I know also that there is the trend for self-care these days and that encourages us to make sure we regularly take long baths and read books, go for a walk and see friends. And those are excellent ways of making time for ourselves - after all, its really hard to multitask while reading a novel, or sitting in the bath (though many will try!).
But how about this valentine's day all of us - those who are monogamous or non-monogamous, coupled, throupled, quads (or more), and singles alike - take this opportunity to show ourselves the kind of compassion and empathy that we so often reserve only for another. The type of understanding and kindness that could bring about a feeling of well-being and contentment. If we are struggling for inspiration we can think of those who we hold dearest and the ways that we try to show them how much they matter and that they are valuable. The little things that we do to show love.
I think we can all be guilty of neglecting ourselves from time-to-time, particularly when life gets full and our attention is spread thin across multiple projects. When money is tight or work is hard, maybe when children are draining or elderly parents need a lot of care. If you identify as one of these time-poor, energy-depleted people, then this valentine's day is for you. May I encourage you to take yourself home at the end of today to an act or two of kindness to yourself. Maybe getting into bed a little early rather than sending those late-night work emails - or arranging for a babysitter for sometime later in the week so that you know that soon you will be able to focus on yourself. And maybe even a loved one. If you have time...
Let me know how you get on in the comments.
Well, after my busy weekend and blog catchup yesterday I think a slightly less challenging hump day is in order. So in a break from the norm, I'll give you my roundup of some of the links which I've collected over the last week to help get you through your remaining work days. I hope you find them as interesting as I do.
1. The i Newspaper article around the psychological reasons for potentially trusting a stranger more easily when they remind us of someone we know.
2. The Pool article on Rose McGowan's Memoir "Brave" which documents her anger at the abuse she received at the hands of serial sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein and her rage at the way women are treated in Hollywood and the wider world:
3. On Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January) I watched a great programme on BBC2 which I mentioned on my Facebook page recently called The Children of the Holocaust. This week I saw a really moving video on YouTube entitled "Children Saved from the Nazis: The Story of Sir Nicholas Winton" which I would challenge anyone not to be moved by.
Yesterday, Monday 5th February is dubbed "National Sickie Day" - did you take a duvet day? Are you back at work feeling sheepish for your absence yesterday? Was it because you were genuinely poorly or was there a more complicated reason behind spending the day at home?
The first Monday of February is traditionally the day that has the highest number of employees calling in sick over the course of the year. An interesting piece of trivia, possibly related to the end of many people's dry January, or that there are so many viruses going around - but my concern is when its something deeper. When its something harder to shake off than a cold. Something like the fact that some of us can't face going into our places of work when we have come to detest how we spend our days.
That's a red flag. Notice it.
I meet many clients where the main focus of our sessions is career and job satisfaction (or lack thereof). And it makes a lot of sense that this should be the main focus for our emotional energy. If someone is working full time, then over 70% of their week is spent either at work or commuting there and back. Or worse - as we are now permanently connected to our smartphones we tend to work late into the evening and are seemingly on-call 24/7.
And I get it. This used to be me.
So when my clients come to me and ask for help in determining what they should do with their careers, whether they should call time on an unfulfilling and exhausting job it's an area that I feel uniquely experienced in to raise some pertinent questions. Perhaps you might like to ask yourself these now and note your response:
I've realised in-fact that this has become such a big part of my work, an area that I enjoy so much and that has been working so well for my clients, that executive and career coaching is a new area that I will be bringing to my practice from the end of February 2018. So clients who don't necessarily have a counselling or therapeutic issue to work on right now can book a session. Perhaps those who are looking for guidance, coaching through a thought process, to talk over a different perspective that might assist them in making what could be one of the biggest decisions of their life. That might mean a change of career completely, perhaps leaving an unsatisfactory job for a career break or to work on achieving promotion - just a few of the things that my clients and I already work with. To support this work I've booked myself onto an intense piece of training which will give me a formal qualification in coaching - so watch this space for an updated section of the site which includes this service.
Coaching session enquiries are welcome now, with a view to commencing sessions in the second part of February 2018. Please feel free to get in touch if this is something you would like to talk about in more detail.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.