Alastair Tulloch working at Christmas
When your work is about more than just getting paid each month, it can be hard to switch off. For the majority of us in the health and social care sector, there is a desire to make a difference, which makes not being around a difficult situation, even if we do feel in need of the break.
Are you one of these people who takes their work home or do you leave it at the door?
When I began working in the health and social care sector years ago I found weekends really hard and holiday periods even worse. Christmas was the hardest of all of these.
How would my clients cope without me? What would happen to them? What if something awful happened and they needed me?
The reality was of course that whilst I hope I made a positive impact on the people I worked with, they managed before me and would equally manage after me.
That didn't stop my concern though. The first Christmas after I had started my job was awful. I was a wreck and spent much of it worrying about my clients and feeling I should contact them.
By the second Christmas, I'd had a good word with myself, as had my wonderful line manager at the time, and I was able to leave work at the door.
In some ways, this made it worse as the guilt on returning to work as I heard all the horror stories of clients’ far from perfect Christmas was awful. I was a horrible person for not thinking about them during my time off work.
There must be a balance, right? Have you been able to find one? It took me a few years I must admit, but I was able to at least reach some sort of peace with myself.
Here are some ideas for helping you to walk out of the door feeling as if you have done your best and that you can now spend time with your own family and friends:
- Prepare your clients for how provision and care will be changing over the festive period - make sure they are informed and have any information they might need
- Make up an information card with Christmas opening times of services and who they should contact out of those times
- Talk to your clients about coping mechanisms or strategies and try to make sure they feel positive and empowered
- Ensure any staff taking over from you have all the information they need and that you have at least had a conversation or sent an email to 'handover' the case
- Don't assume or expect things to be exactly the same when you return - things may be worse or maybe better but no doubt something will have changed and you will need to adapt to that
- Find out what clients plans are over the festive period and help them to make arrangements beforehand
- Tie up any loose ends
- Identify any potential issues
- Decide what can be left until you return – as much as we’d all love to have superpowers we need to be realistic
None of this is easy to do if you care about your job and your clients, but taking a break is vital for your health and well-being, not to mention your relationships with friends and family.
The other important thing about taking a break is that it can actually help you come back fresh with new strategies and perspective, which in turn can progress a particular case.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and happiness and celebrations with friends and family, as workers in this field, we know all too well that this doesn’t apply across the board. We are NOT however single-handedly responsible for everyone else, so be kind to yourself, do you best before you leave, do your best when you return but TRY to enjoy yourself a little in between!
What are your tips for preparing for the holiday period? We would love to know!