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Hello again, some thoughts on the return to pre-pandemic pace of life (a bit late but ...)

So, I’ve not written a blog for a while, and while I’ve missed it in some ways, in other ways I’ve not. That’s because when I first started writing blogs it was at the very start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 so in respect to that, thank flip we’re not there any more!


But, I enjoyed writing my blog, I found it helpful for work but also for my own reflection and processing of what was going on so why did I stop? I know that there have been big changes since coming out of lockdown but is that circumstantial change the only thing that has led me to stop? And if it is, is this a choice I have made or more of an automatic response to external pressures and demands?


Am I happy with that return to previous habits or do I want things to be diffpopse questions might seem specific to my circumstances, but perhaps they’re questions we can ask ourselves about a lot of things.


Why do we stop doing things that we enjoy or are helpful in some way?


If the activity itself hasn’t changed, what has and are we happy to go with it or do we want to find a way to have more conscious choice in the ways we spend our time?


This is what I want to think about today, how has the change in environment (my social and physical surroundings), impacted on this specific change in my occupation (the things I do) and how has that impacted on me (person). And here we are again, with an unsurprising return to a person-environment-occupation view of myself as an occupational being to help me unpick my experiences so I can make active choices in the balance of my life.


And today, I’m adding in an additional framework to help me reflect: Rolfe et al’s (2001) What?, So what?, Now What? Reflective Model.


This is a model that uses three simple questions to encourage relfection in a way that I find approachable and accessible. See what you think.



What? (description of what I’m reflecting on)


The blog, born out of finding ways to cope with extraordinary and unexpected circumstances, turned into something I looked forward to doing and did continue with for sometime after we all started getting back into non-pandemic life. So why did it peeter out, fall of my radar, drop off the bottom of the to do list?


The biggest contributing factor has clearly been the opening up of the world once again (change in environment). More opportunity to leave the house, more external demands on my time, has left less time for sitting, thinking, writing. Practical and obvious right? But, if something is important to me and I enjoy it (person elements)

do I really want to let it go just because the environment has changed?


Do I want to only respond to the pressures and demands of my circumstances (environment) without really thinking about whether or not I’ve got the best balance of activity (occupation)?


So what? (thoughts on why this matters)

By using this blog, which is a mix of my personal life and professional experience, I am looking at person-environment-occupation and it helps me to avoid thinking “if I just tried harder I could make more time for …”, but it also stops me saying “well, after the pandemic everything just got back up to speed and what can I do?”. It helps me put a bit of perspective into my thinking. So, if that’s why it worked for me, how do I understand the fact that I stopped?


Personally, I think I need a balance between the pace of lockdown and the pace of ‘normal’ life. That is, a lot of my weekly routine can run on automatic, reducing energy and thinking required to organise and run smoothly (ish!), but, I don’t want to end up only doing the routine things. I want to find time to question my habits and check if I feel balanced and satisfied. I want spontaneity, flexibility and satisfying ‘down time’ in my week. I’m not sure I’ve got this at the moment; I am definitely leaning more towards busy and automatic than thoughtful and conscious choices.


Does this sound familiar? Are you back to the full speed pace of pre-pandemic life without feeling like you have time to consider if this is working for you?


Did you have moments in the pandemic when you thought; ‘I know this is awful but the slower pace in life feels quite nice?’ or ‘I miss lots of people but there’s less pressure to do x,y and z and actually, that’s a bit of a relief’.


I am in no way sounding the trumpets for lockdown, but I am reflecting on the changes that we’ve experienced over the past two and half years. I’m thinking about the enforced change of routine and then the creeping return to busy and ‘running on automatic’ that I had wanted to avoid.


The important bit for me in this process has been the recognition that I’m back in automatic mode.


By acknowledging this, I’m giving myself an opportunity to choose to do things differently.

I’ve not quite decided exactly all the things that I want to be different, but I think I can start with deciding to return to my blog. By doing this I will create an expectation


for myself to stop and think, to reflect. I know that reflection in my personal life often drops off my list when I’m busy so by creating an occupational demand (writing the blog) I make it more likely that I’ll do the thi


ng that I know helps me feel more in control, more conscious in making occupational choices and hopefully some bits of life will feel a bit less automated as a result.


Now What? (description of what I'm going to do differently)


It’s time to make a plan.


I love a plan. It doesn’t have to be big or grand. It can be helpful to write it down or record it in some way, but you don’t have to. Just thinking about the details of what you are going to do, how and why makes us organise out thoughts into more coherent possibilities than the amorphous and sometimes overwhelming blob of: ‘I want things to be different’.

So, here’s my plan:


What am planning to do?

Get back to writing a blog at least once a month


Why?

  • because I like it

  • because it makes me stop and reflect (something that falls off my to do list without an external demand)

  • it helps me see changes I might want to make in my routine and activity

  • it helps me organise my thinking about my life

  • it helps me feel connected to my profession and why I think occupational therapy is important and useful for people

  • this helps me feel confident in work and in the new occupational therapy programme I’m currently setting up

  • it spreads the word (a little bit!) about the value of occupational therapy,

  • something I feel is important as occupational therapy is not so well known outside health and social care circles

How can I try and make it happen?

1. Block out time in my diary once a month

  • it doesn’t take as long as I think, so if I can block the time out, maybe I’ll get it done and get back to an enjoyable occupation that has meaning and value for me

  • it’s enjoyable, and I could do it instead of watching crappy telly one night

  • it doesn’t have to be in ‘worktime’ where I feel most time pressure

2. Make notes of potential topics when they come up

  • Relying on my memory will not guarantee success, I need to be more active in my planning

  • This will also keep my intention at the forefront of my mind making it less likely to ‘slip off’ the to do list

So that’s it, that’s my plan. It’s not big, it’s not aiming to change everything. But that’s kind of the point of occupational therapy;


because it’s based in the idea that who we are, what we do and where we do it, are all linked and interactive, you can make a small change in one area, and it has the possibility to make changes in all the other bits of life.


What I can tell you is that just having done this thinking and planning, I feel clearer in some changes that I want to happen. It won’t be perfect because there are too many elements to juggle to expect perfection, but I’ll hopefully feel less ‘on the treadmill’ and more in control.


We’ll see, and I guess I’ll find out next month when I write my next blog!


If you want to find out more about an occupational therapy approach, there’s info on my website www.katebinnington.co.uk and if you’re in Leeds you can come along to one of our groups and experience it yourself. We run a monthly Shore-Up Social Club and have a new occupational therapy programme running in in September.


Details at https://www.shore-up.co.uk/occupationaltherapy


Thanks for reading

Kate

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