Nothing like waiting until the very last minute for inspiration! The last few weeks I have been mulling over topics for this month’s post. Nothing had really stuck until I was out on a hike this morning with a friend. He was talking about how after a slow day at his job he often has a period of creativity and innovation. He explained how these periods of downtime where he can day dream, do research, stare at the wall, go for a walk, listen to music, or sketch out an idea are crucial to the long term sustainability of his work. He can think through decisions, contemplate new projects, and make space in his mind for the next undertaking.
So I ask you, when was the last time you had downtime at work? Well, if you work in primary care, our slow days are most people’s freakishly busy days!
We Are Busy
Primary care is non-stop, right?! I always have something to do; a patient to see, a note to finish, an e-mail to read, a required training to complete. Most health care providers work way more than 40 hours a week, both in and out of the clinic.
Summer is Now!
The month of July is typically considered summer. Most kids are out of school, families plan trips or staycations. The weather is prime for spending time outside (sorry, Arizonans maybe you should come see us up here in Oregon!). Allowing myself a little bit more space, has lead me to consciously decide to enjoy summer this year! And I encourage you to consider what this might look like for you too. Whether it be with friends, family, fur babies, tomato plants, or just you and the hammock. Take some time to recharge. Take some time to do nothing (or something, or lots of somethings if you’re like me and doing nothing only lasts for about 15 minutes). Taking time allows us to experience new things, meet new people, and find new perspectives.
My “get out and enjoy summer!” soapbox came from my own struggle to make the time to write this post. I have just had 4 glorious days off, so I should have had all the time in the world! But I did zero work related things! And the only work related rumination I had was actually about what the heck I was going to write about. Anyway, I didn’t want to be stuck inside writing about something related to my work when the summer was happening all around me with BBQs, berry picking, trail exploring, and kayaking. I found myself having a moment in which I was feeling guilty for wanting to do all those things and not wanting to write a blog post. But that’s when I was inspired to write a piece about giving people permission to enjoy summer!
Nourish, Nurture, Restore
My ask of you is for you to spend time with your loved ones, cultivate relationships, put your bare feet on the earth, and nourish your body, mind, and soul with the things that restore your energy and nurture your creativity.
I know for many of us we actually find a lot of that in our work, but I think there is value in stepping away and doing all the other amazing things life has to offer. Ultimately, when we take time away, we are more likely to be more present with ourselves and others and, and that gives room for growth and perspective taking.
When we take time away, we are likely to be more present with ourselves and others
Work-Life Balance vs Integration
The health care culture of arriving early to the clinic or working late into the evening is unsustainable. As behavioral health providers we can role model setting boundaries with work and taking time to ourselves. There are several ways to do this. Some people really need strict work-life boundaries/balance where work stays at work. Some people do better with the work-life integration, which I lean towards. This approach can be a bit tricky. This is when you do a little more flexing of your time. Let’s say you really need to work a 10-11 hour day, but instead you leave at a reasonable time, do some email on the bus, get your work out in, have some family time, and spend an hour finishing your notes before bed. Of course some of us have constraints that don’t allow us to do this due to hour restrictions, union rules, etc. But this idea of being a little more flexible with the boundaries around work-life has served me well. However, I have digressed…back to my thoughts on creating space and time for doing nothing.
I don’t know about you, but from the moment I walk into the clinic to the moment I leave I am “takin’ care of business”, you know what I mean? There is little, if any, time built in for reflection, decompression, quiet, or play. What I mean by this is, we don’t have time to just be. And that kind of time is so valuable for reflective practice, creativity, restoration of our emotional and mental energy stores, and for creating space for innovation. Innovation is about seeing things in a new way and that comes from putting yourself in spaces, places, and mindsets where you can take a new perspective.
The Bottom Line
So this summer spend some time rejuvenating and filling your cup. Spend some time doing nothing. Stare at a wall. Do some porch sitting. Take a walk. Watch the branches bend and the leaves quake in the wind. Sit by a stream. Sit in silence for a moment. Let yourself get a little bored. Let your mind wander. Stop reading this and either go relish the summer or just do nothing!