Working hard is in my DNA. For the last 10 years in my professional career I have kept full-time roles (45-55 hours per week) but somehow I always manage to take on more. Once I get my day job under control, I start a side project or take on consulting work. The problem is that this constant work can take a toll on both my personal and professional life.

The overworking and continual stressors in my life have led to burnout and anxiety. It started with jumpiness and getting extremely anxious in situations, to getting full-blown panic attacks. I eased off the extra work but the anxiety subsided.

My day job involved greater responsibilities and longer hours. I was making more money but my physical and mental health were degrading, fast. I knew I needed a course correction.

I didn’t take further action until my productivity and my work began to suffer. It was like I was always in the fight-or-flight mode, which made it hard to get any work done. This hit to my work output created enough pain in my life for me to take action. It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but sometimes we choose the hard path without realizing it.

So what did I do? Well, it wasn’t an overnight fix and I still have a lot to work on. Here are some of the initial changes I made that had a positive outcome on my mental state.

1. I started by reducing my caffeine intake. I’m an avid coffee drinker, so this was a big challenge at first. I was drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day, which is not good for anxiety. I backed that down to a maximum of 2 cups per day with a rule to never have caffeine after 2 pm. This keeps the caffeine consumption in check and gives enough time for it to wear off before bed. Even if you can fall asleep after a cup of coffee, you’re not getting the same quality of sleep.

2. I prioritised sleep. Everyone is different when it comes to sleep, but I found that my sweet spot is 8 hours a night. I can operate well on 7 hours, but I’m at my best when I sleep a full 8 hours. So how do I get 8 hours a night? I go to bed at the same time every night and wake up the same time every morning. Even on the weekends. This routine starts off hard but gets easy. The body loves routine, especially when it comes to sleeping. Of course, you’ll have days when you stay up later and sleep in, but save those for important circumstances or social events, not to finish a Netflix series.

3. I meditate. This is one of the hardest habits to keep, but I also find it the most valuable. The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning. Do it before you check your phone and before you grab a cup of coffee. I was (and still am) a newbie to meditation, so I found the guided meditations to be helpful when starting out. You can find a handful of meditation apps, many with free versions available.

These three approaches were to the catalyst to my constant and never-ending improvement. The habits themselves are less important than the change in mindset. The change to focus on new habits to improve my mental and physical health. I began paying attention to all the things that were making my stress worse and to the areas that I was neglecting. This self awareness is key. Once you get in the right mindset, you can test the new habits that work best for you.

Read more about ways to reduce anxiety and stress at Mindful Searching.


You may also like:

The impact of volunteer Champions

This #VolunteersWeek, Community Engagement Officer Russell and Rachelle speak out about the impact of volunteer Champions, on the campaign and on themselves

5th June 2019, 11.07am | Written by:

Find out more

How volunteering changed my life

"I didn’t realise then how much volunteering would have helped me, but it has changed my life."

4th June 2019, 8.00am | Written by: Laura

Find out more