As many of you know I am a Paramedic (who has a serious case of Wanderlust) that has been working for the NHS for nearly 7 years. As a whole I enjoy my job immensely. I have made some of the most fabulous friends whom I practically consider as family, I have saved lives and welcomed lives and the desire that I have to help people is something which has been hard wired in to me from a young age. Recently however, I have been finding the state of my mental health faltering and I am not ashamed to say that I have been struggling to find that mythical work-life balance that we all strive for.
I am sure that many of my colleagues can identify with the feeling of always being tired, the feeling of living a Ground Hog day existence, having no ‘get up and go’, not wanting to do anything when days off do eventually come around and as a result of this, finding themselves somewhat disconnecting from family and friends.
Over the last few months I have repeatedly asked myself the question ‘why do I feel like this?’ Most of you will assume it is because of the death and trauma that we are faced with on a sometimes daily basis. I can deal with these ‘big jobs’ relatively well due to the support that I receive from my peers but it is in fact the trivial day to day matters that have been bothering me lately. Of course it would be hard to not be affected by the sights and situations that I encounter, I wouldn’t be human otherwise, but that’s why I signed up to this profession; to make a difference to people’s lives and to help them when they are at their most vulnerable.
For me though, it is the more mundane aspects of the job that have been getting to me lately and that have been making me question just how happy I really am working in this role. I faced a hard rota change last year which was introduced by paper pushing managers sat behind a desk which was supposed to provide a better work life balance when in fact I have never felt so far removed from my home and social life. Although the length of the shifts have been slightly reduced, I still do 10 and 12 hour days and I am often in work for 5 days of the week where notoriously it was only ever 3 or 4. This new rota has seen a significant drop in days off which are so precious for rest and recovery between shift blocks. With the well documented current NHS pressures, crews are being continually being pushed to the point of exhaustion due to unrealistic times and targets with little reward or thanks. I also find that constantly dealing with people who can not take ownership of their own health extremely draining and I continually feeling like I am baby-sitting a cotton wool wrapped society that seems to have materialised over the last few years.
The culmination of all these factors is having a real demoralising effect on me at the moment. I don’t want to leave my job because ultimately I love helping people and I am good at it. It’s just all the politics that come along with it that I find hard to swallow and so I look to methods to try and help me cope with this.
I have personally tried counselling and mindfulness and I know that they work well for other people but I did not gain any benefit from them. I am aware that many of my colleagues have utilised these services but for me, travelling is my passion and a new trip or adventure is what I strive for in life and what ultimately restores my happiness and helps the most with balancing my mental health.
I started writing this Blog post just before my recent trip to the Isle of Skye and honestly that could not have come at a better time as I definitely needed a break in order to escape from the daily rut I appear to be stuck in. This trip, along with several others I now have planned for later in the year, has definitely given my mood a significant boost and has got me contemplating how travelling, in particular solo travelling, really is the best form of therapy for me in helping me deal with any mental health issues I may have and I would like to share me thoughts and experiences in the hope it may help other who are struggling.
Why travelling helps me…..
Travelling breaks the routine and monotony of getting up, going to work, coming home then sleeping. I mentioned the Ground Hog day existence which can cause significant depression so what better way to break the pattern then making the time to visit a new destination.
Travelling forces me of my comfort zone as I often travel alone and prefer to visit places that perhaps some others would find daunting, such as my recent trip to Jordan where I decided to hire a car and drive myself from the top to the bottom of the country. I know many of my family and friends were horrified by the thought of me doing this but the feeling of pride I had at the end of the trip was incomparable.
Travelling builds my confidence as there is no greater feeling of accomplishment than navigating yourself around unfamiliar surroundings or completing a itinerary you have put together yourself for a dream trip.
Travelling helps with any anxiety and depression I may be feeling as it takes me away from situations that may be causing me stress or upset and provides a change of scenery and a chance to re-evaluate.
Travelling allows me to meet and learn about about new people in a environment that is not work related. I can be quite unsociable whilst at home, sometimes shying away from large social occasions as I often spend all day having to talk to the general public but when I am travelling I enjoy speaking to other people whether it be fellow travellers or locals. Listening to their travel experiences and getting any tips that they share can often lead to some of the best moments and memories.
Travelling forces me to recharge and refocus my mind and my body. Even during a particularly active holiday or trip I still feel that mentally I am having a good rest.
Travelling sparks a passion in me that I can not find anywhere else. I want to travel far and wide and with an ever growing Bucketlist my passion just keeps growing.
Visiting other countries, in particular those places that are less fortunate than the United Kingdom, often helps me gain a fresh perspective on my own life and outlook ensuring that I return to work with a renewed mindset and attitude. I am continually humbled by people who have so little in the way of material possessions but have so much love to give and so much gratitude for the things that they do have.
With a recent trip now under my belt, I find that my mindset is clearer and I am in a much more positive frame of mind. I know that I will return to work in the next few days ready to take on the challenges that are thrown my way before the cycle will begin again and it will be time for another adventure.
It is important to remember that life is short and the world is wide. Everybody dies but not everybody lives. I don’t want to reach old age feeling like I’ve just been existing instead of REALLY living my best life. Sometimes the monotony of life needs to be broken up in order to re-motivate yourself and I urge everyone to use travel as a great way of doing this.
With all this mind and knowing how travelling makes me a happier, better person, I have been considering a career break for a little while now. I’m not exactly sure when it will be and for how long or what I will do but after seven long years working for the ambulance service I feel like this is the right time in my life to do it.
I read an interesting anecdote recently about how Mother Teresa enforced her nuns to take a sabbatical every three years as she believed it was good for their mental health and well-being. If this is indeed true then I am definitely long overdue mine 😜
As for what the futures holds for me…..watch this space!