A few months before I completely hit crisis point, I knew I was struggling. In simple terms, there were two reasons for this. Firstly, there wasn’t enough time or energy to get through all the tasks required so I got behind with things and this caused huge amounts of stress. Secondly, there was no opportunity to rest and recharge or for me to be ‘me,’ rather than just ‘Dr’ or ‘Mummy.’ Work, children, housework, work, children, housework ad infinitum…that continuous ‘noise and demands’ that so got to me (and still does). By the time the children go to bed, I am fairly brain-dead and useless so the evenings don’t really count for much apart from doing mindless chores! For the tasks requiring more concentration, I would find myself saying ‘I’ll do that 3 weeks on Wednesday’ as that would be the first opportunity to grab a moment (I had Wednesday afternoons free 3 times/month already but 4 hours doesn’t go far!).
Back then, I had already planned in advance to tweak my working pattern to avoid 2 consecutive days of GP (delayed due to the youngest child’s swimming course which we have just finished). Then I had a dilemma….What do I do about Thursdays? The boys were both currently at nursery on Thursdays and home with me on Tuesdays; which I find really tough already. A tempting idea….Keep them in childcare on the Thursday and have a day ‘off’ a week?! Really OFF – on my own, child-free! ‘No, I can’t do that’ I thought….far too self-indulgent and not sure the money would stretch that far anyway (not meaning to be ungrateful as I expect that may surprise some people – not going to go into personal circumstances as to why!). So, it seemed it wasn’t a viable option. But, I kept thinking about it. Not only did I want to do this so I have some peace and quiet without continuous demands made of me, but I felt I needed it too. Partly as this yearned for peace and quiet would give me that chance to recharge and hopefully therefore function better then rest of the time; as a mother, wife and doctor. But also, it would allow me to get those tasks done that always get pushed out and behind like CPD and Appraisal work; important things that have to be done. A little working-out later and it seemed it would be possible. I decided to go for it.
I had a clear idea in my mind of how a Thursday would look…including putting things roughly in priority order. It seemed that if I could do a little bit of all sorts every week, I’d be able to keep on top of the tedious but necessary tasks and have a chance to do more enjoyable things too:
- Take the boys to nursery
- Go for a swim (exercise never seemed to get a look-in either) whilst out and about and in the right area so it wouldn’t get pushed out later on
- Do some CPD/Appraisal work (just a little each week to keep on top of it)
- Do any necessary household admin
- Do the most urgent household chores (whilst making sure these don’t take over!)
- Play the piano/violin/(flute)
- Do something else I want to do! e.g. gardening, read, or just sit and relax
Of course, I then struggled even more before getting to the point that these plans were going to come to fruition. As it happens, having been off work, my return has coincided with the original week the new working pattern was going to start i.e this week.
Thursdays are a new precious commodity that I am going to hugely value, especially once I am back up to my full quota of GP work. I also know I must make the most of them and not waste the time; depending how you define ‘waste’ – I suppose even if I achieve very little but feel more ‘recharged,’ then that would be a beneficial use of the time (I’m not good at stopping when things need to be done and need to learn about ‘self-care!’).
Despite having been off work and spending a lot of time at home alone recently, I decided to instigate the new ‘Thursday Plan’ properly from this week to get in the right frame of mind and routine now I am gradually phasing back in to work.
Today pretty much looked exactly like my list above. I seemed to get the balance about right; once I’d got going. It was a slow start as I felt utterly shattered first thing. But I made myself go to the pool, then came home and sat straight down at the computer and got on. Motivation wasn’t terribly easy to come by; I did flit a bit. Back and forth between a bit of ‘boring’ stuff interspersed with playing the piano and violin (not at the same time!). But actually got everything done that I’d planned for today; although I did set myself realistic goals.
Morale was helped by the fact that it was much sunnier today than it has been recently! I’ve missed getting outside, especially in the garden (probably the main reason I get Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms). I was determined that I would make the most of the better weather today, but I realised the day was more than half gone before I had been outside.
So out I went; only really intending to attach a trellis to the fence (this job has been waiting for months). Then I remembered that the climbing rose and buddleia had been bugging me when looking out of the window as they looked so messy; so I grabbed the secateurs and happily pruned away (I find pruning very therapeutic!). I made a cup of tea and just enjoyed wandering around the garden admiring things like the gorgeous acacia tree (this is the blog image) and the signs of new growth; including a dead ‘twig’ that turned out not to be dead after all! Spring is on the way…wonderful!
Then I fell into my usual habit… I noticed that some old bulbs that had been randomly shoved into a wayward pot ages ago were trying to grow. So, without further thought, I started popping them into the ground to give them a chance. Hmm…I’d done it again….not thought about preparing for this first and just acted on impulse. I didn’t have my scruffy gardening clothes on and I didn’t think to put gloves on. This is how my hands looked….again! Must get all the mud out from under my nails before work tomorrow!
But I’d had a lovely time and didn’t care! The sun had shone, it was quiet, I had left my phone inside so I didn’t have to be disturbed by noise from that going off, nobody was hassling me to do anything and there was no time pressure. Exactly what I needed!
Something else struck me towards the end of the afternoon too; I wasn’t as tired as I have been. Over the last few months, every time I’ve tried to increase my activity to improve my energy, the opposite has happened and I’ve been even more fatigued. It’s been incredibly frustrating. Today, having been outside in the fresh air and doing things I’ve enjoyed – for me, I felt revitalised; maybe the exhaustion that’s plagued me for so long is about to turn a corner. It seems keeping Thursdays child-free might be well worth it after all; although I appreciate that I am lucky to be in a position to do this.
‘The Thursday Plan’ has worked brilliantly. A perfect mix of achieving necessary tasks and having some time being ‘me.’