Monday, August 12, 2013

Going Back to Work ...

Hi everyone! I know it's still August but my walk at the Lake this morning showed definite signs of fall - a light mist rising from the water as the sun came up, a heavy dew on the spiderwebs and a subtle coolness in the air in the early hours. The leaves were even beginning to change colour along the lane as I walked back to the car.

This is my favourite time of year - so full of energy and possibilities! I suspect that this rise in energy is a reflection of both the sunny but cooler days and many years of excitement at going back to school in September. Now, not everyone shared my love of school and not everyone will be relishing a return to work at the end of summer vacation, either.  For those of you feeling a little angst or dread, here are a few tips for making that transition a bit easier:

1.  Remember why you do the work you do.  Take a moment to sit back with a cuppa and remember why you came to this work in the first place and what has made you stay. What motivated you to want to make a difference? Remember the excitement and energy that buoyed you through the early days. Feel it flowing through your body now as you reflect upon the best aspects of your work. 
2.  Reconnect with your values.  Go a little deeper and remind yourself of the values that fuel your work on your best days.  Compassion? Justice? Kindness? Integrity? Patience? Working hard? Creativity? Individual or societal rights? Honesty?  When we reconnect with what drives us, we can return to work with that energy and a sense of direction.
3.   Reflect upon your successes. Many of us are better at remembering our mistakes and failures than our successes. Our harsh inner critics take up more space inside our heads than the softer voices of balance, kindness and self-compassion. Take a moment - or an hour - to reflect upon the things that have gone well across the years. Your contributions. Your accomplishments. The things you've learned. The things you've been able to pass on to others. The people you've helped who suffered less because of you and your work. 
If you have a professional gratitude scrapbook, this is the time to take it out and look at it again. If you don't have one, now's the time to start. Find a beautiful blank book that speaks supportively to your heart, and in it place reminders of all the positive feedback you get for your work - thank you cards and notes and emails, copies of performance evaluations, notations of the nice things people say about your work. You might also like to add inspiring quotations or poems or pictures that remind you why you do the work you do. It's a great resource for the days when things are tough and nothing seems to be going well - or the days when going back to work is looking less than inviting.
4.  Begin as you mean to go on, as my girlfriend's Mom used to tell us back in highschool. On the night before your first day back, go to bed early so you're well rested. Get your briefcase, clothing and a healthy lunch and snacks ready before you go to bed. In the morning, think of 5 things you're grateful for and then get up in enough time that no one has to rush. Eat a good breakfast, get some exercise and spend some quiet time alone to read, think, meditate or pray. 
4.  Make it an easy transition back to work.  Work a half day on your first day back if you have control of your schedule. Or go in early if you have to work a full day and give yourself time to reconnect with your team, to find out what's changed, to read the communication book and generally get the lay of the land.
5.  Create a transition ritual. Transition rituals are habitual thoughts or actions that you use every day to mark the end of the work day and the beginning of home time. It doesn't matter what you choose for your ritual - changing your clothes, taking a shower, singing in the car, going for a walk, drinking a cup of tea, writing in your journal. What does matter is that you do it regularly so that your body can recognize that it can let down it's usual level of work arousal and relax. It allows you to turn off the work day, be present to yourself, and present to your family and friends

Dread and anxiety at the thought of going to work are warning signs of compassion fatigue. If these tips don't seem enough to handle the size and weight of your feelings of dread, you might consider taking the PRO-QOL, a compassion fatigue tool designed to determine your current compassion fatigue and burnout risk. If you have become traumatized through working with traumatized people or by an unhealthy work environment, it is likely to show up here and then you can make a plan for healing and wellness.

(If you want to learn how to do this, you are more than welcome to join us at the next  Caring On Empty: Creative Tools for Compassion Fatigue Transformation and Resilience Workshop on October 18th in Burnaby, BC.  More details will be available here next week. )


No comments: