When we  consider quality in the workplace, what comes to mind? Performance Indicators? Maintaining Policy’s and Procedures? Applying Health & Safety regulations? These are all relevant and our day to day work load is governed by these. On a practical level our work pressures are related to – how we manage to do what we are supposed to do within the hours we are given in a day.

The pressure our work places us under on a day to day basis seems to ensure that we maintain a cyclical thought process that runs on a well worn track:

‘How am I going to do all that in the time I have to do it in?’ 

It seem’s we look constantly to that mantra, it feeds a sense of increasing urgency as we rush to get everything done, racing ahead of the mouse and the keyboard, our minds working faster and faster that does not stop when we go home. Does this contribute to create poor sleep and waking in the night with panic or out of control thoughts we do not want to have? Does it  feed a sense of over- whelm, in that it can’t be achieved – it’s hopeless. Can our work-load / case load management  feel like an out of control tsunami chasing our tail?

At this point do we consider what it’s like to be on the receiving end of someone in this state: the quality we are in when we make home visits, talk to clients and their families, devise work plan’s, problem solve, write reports, engage with professionals at meetings and so on and so on with the many different roles and activities we are being ‘us’ in.

What does that ‘us’ look like at this point?

Research evidence informs us that people in the workplace get sick with increasing frequency.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research identifies stress as the number one cause of long-term sickness absence

And our sickness rates are through the roof. Moreover according to data released by the ‘Occupational Health Magazine’ last month revealed more employees seeking help for mental ill health issues. They cite ‘a a 70% increase increase in the past two years.

For example, in the field of Health and Social Services, research tells us that caring had a negative impact on physical health (83 per cent) and mental health (87 per cent). Could it be that caring for others to the detriment of self, which is endemic in the ‘caring profession’s’, is a root cause for our current state of ill-health?

When we are anxious and/ or our stress levels are elevated, we look for outside ourselves for solutions to fix how we feel.  We all want the instant fix so we can get the report in on time, the relief from pain so we can meet deadlines. I have noticed that there’s a huge reluctance to take responsibility for the fact that:

Perhaps we get sick by making all of ‘this’  – the outside world – more important that we are?

We don’t want to look at self-responsibility, we want the magic pill, the instant solution. These solutions include drinking lots of coffee to wake us up and keep us going and add to that lot’s of Cola to increase the caffeine, eating lots of sugar based foods and snacks like cake, sweets, chocolate, not forgetting the pain killers for reoccurring headaches, antacid and heart-burn remedies etc etc. We plug ourselves into MP3 players, push on and drive ourselves to work without regular breaks, we make jokes about how awful we feel, with some pretty raw ‘trench humor’, we complain about the job, we bitch about case loads, we do all of the above and more but

There’s one thing we NEVER do, 

That is take responsibility to consider what we are like walking into other people’s lives, answering the phone, sending emails, writing reports,


What quality we are in when we do so.

Our basic position remains ‘there’s nothing wrong with me and the way I live’. It is a sad irony that many of our clients have that same view, ‘there’s nothing wrong with the way I parent, you need to go next door, they’re really bad, it’s them you need to look at.‘  In Health and Social Services, we share a similar trait’s as our client group. How could we not?

When do we look at our quality as workers and consider – Does it matter what state we are in?

Does it matter if we hate to come to work and if we hate our job except on a Friday?

Does it matter if we are exhausted all the time and struggle to get to the end of the week?

Does it matter that we can’t stop thinking about work, even in the middle of the night?

Does it matter if we have the view ‘we don’t need to change’?

Does it matter if we are stressed out trying to achieve PI’s and deadlines?

Does it matter that we come to work after a heavy night out and are feeling awful because of it?

Does it matter if we drink every night to relax after a hard day – when every day is a hard day?

Does it matter that the British Medical Journal states that Alcohol ranks “most harmful” among a list of 20 drugs, beating out crack and heroin when assessed for its potential harm to the individual and harm to others?

Does it matter that we are angry about how our clients and colleagues?

Does it matter that we are distract ourselves from feeling the truth about our lives because we don’t want to feel?

And the 50 Million dollar question:

Does it matter what our quality is like, living the way we do?

Why should it matter?

Imagine, if you will, a scene in an office, two people have had a steaming row and you walk in. We immediately notice the room feels awful and we tip toe around them, get to our desk and bury ourself in work, put our MP3 on and pretend it’s not there. We feel it anyhow but ignore what’s going on as it’s uncomfortable. Or, we know when our boss is on the war-path as soon as he/she steps into the office, we duck our head and hope to go unnoticed. Or, someone is having a great day, do we feel resentful? When we go home, we can feel what mood our partner or our children  are in as soon as we come through the door. If we are being honest we can say:

We can feel what is going on. 

To confirm that:

We can feel what is going on with other people around us.

To take that further:

We can feel what is going on, we don’t need to be told, we feel it first

Yes, we know what people are feeling. We can admit it.

Think back to the last time someone was really ‘nice’ to you but it didn’t sit right because you thought they were trying to ‘butter you up’ to get something; or when someone really dumped on you, made you feel small, made you feel like and idiot, or made you feel great.  What did that feel like?

Simple fact: We feel all the time.

We feel all the time and it’s normal to feel what is going on, we use this facility to negotiate with normal day to day stuff, but we pretend otherwise.

We can choose to acknowledge that we feel, or we can ignore it. We feel nonetheless, and…. everyone else does too!

We know that 95% of all communication is non-verbal and most of that 95% is feelings. On a daily basis we have this huge mass of ‘felt communication’.

What does it feel like when someone you know comes into the room and throws their bags down with a crash, sits in anger and types in anger? We know we can feel it, it shows in our face. So why do we think for a second that our thoughts and feeling’s are hidden from our colleagues,our clients and even our children? Given that:

What quality are we offering to our colleagues, clients and families as a result of the way we live, act and think?

If we know that we all can feel what is underlying all our words and thoughts, would we not have a more responsible way of living and working?

Is there another way to live that takes responsibility for how we live day to day, to ensure we don’t crash and burn, to ensure we don’t dump on others, a way that is equal for all. The first step is self-awareness of our own behavior’s, thoughts and speech, the second is learning to self-nurture, to care for ourselves so we don’t seek remedies without also remedying the source of the problem inside us.

Can we change our quality and the service we provide if it’s simple self-responsibility.

What is self-responsibility?

Self-responsibility is making choices in life knowing that whatever we choose will have an impact on everyone around us.

So what we choose to eat, to drink, to think, to say and to live day to day, forms your quality and

It effects everyone.

We can’t afford to pretend that because no one is watching us it’s okay to do what we do, it’s not, because it ALWAYS affects our quality, no matter who’s watching or not, and it’s our quality that we then present to others.

Knowing this, what is your quality?

Is it worth holding on to or worth changing?

?IMG_0064If we constantly feel stress, drown in work and loose ourselves what is the true cost of stress in our lives and what can we do about it? What does it mean ‘to loose ourselves’? Could it be that it means we make work more important than ourselves? Is it that we allow the system we work within, to create a way of working that is contra to good health, contra to our well being and a healthy life – work balance?

Why do we accept that this job is stress-full?

Why can’t we come to work in the morning, work hard and go home in the evening with a sense of completion at the end of the working day? Why can’t we have a sense that work remains in work? Why do we allow that our home life is full of work and our work life is full of stress? What’s going on that we accept stress as normal?

Even when we are not trying to catch-up during evenings and weekends as a quick fix ‘solution’ to keep our heads above water, can we honestly say that we separate our work from our home? Are we not worrying about it in the evenings and again in the mornings when we first open our eyes? And what happens Sunday evening’s that makes us feel so uneasy that we sleep poorly, with our minds playing over what needs to be done on Monday? Then do we go to work with a bounce in our step or drag our feet, shoulder’s drooping with the weight of all we have to do? If we have the ‘quick fix solution’s’ do we fool ourselves we can ignore our problems? Can we look at our lives and honestly say this is the best way to live?

What if we decided to change the way we work?

We know our current work method’s do not serve us. How? The statistics on ill-health in social work are clear in telling us, and the way we feel about work everyday tells us also. We know it causes us to feel uneasy, to feel over burdened and out of control, to feel as if we are being chased by a tsunami of uncompleted work. If we can admit to ourselves that the way we work doesn’t work, then we can start to do look at how we can do something to change it.

What would happen if we went into work and played around with a different work-day way? Would it be uncomfortable to start to change? We know that change can seem to be challenging at first, mostly because it challenges us to be more aware of what we are doing and the effect that has on us and everyone around us. We like to stay as we are, but the cost of doing so is detriment to our own well being.

Perhaps we need to consider that if we cannot care for ourselves first, how can we provide a service that cares for others? How can we expect our clients to care for themselves and their children?

Can we challenge ourselves to work in a way that is caring and supportive to ourselves?

Self care is a primacy for the workplace, and a way of working that start’s with us. We can begin a new way of working by making simple changes to our day. Yes it would be great to have organisational support, but we don’t need to wait for that. Yes it would be great if this came from top down, but do we really need to wait for permission from elsewhere to care for ourselves? Can’t we just make changes to our day to give ourselves the support that we so badly need?

Is it possible to work in a different way?

Can we choose a way to work that allows us to feel differently at the end of each day? Perhaps take a break from the computer every hour as Health and Safety policies recommend; go outside at mid-morning and clear our heads for five minutes walk? Could we get out of our over-busy head with a focus on how we touch the key-board gently with our fingertips and gently handle the phone? Could we take a lunch break away from our desks and phones and perhaps go for a 20 minute walk? At the end of the day is it possible that we stop and get to feel that where ever we are with our workload, it’s finished and complete as it is for the day? Could we wind down in the evening, understanding we’ve had a full day and perhaps need to be gentle about how we take ourselves to sleep? And in the morning’s could we open our eyes knowing how awesome we are, and remember that as we go about our day? Could we begin to take such steps to care for ourselves, not looking for quick fix solutions but a way of being we can live with? That would certainly be a different way to work.

Everyday we see the same crazy behaviour in work. We think we are intelligent people.  We go to work, become frustrated, stressed and sick with a system that generates feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness and an inability to cope with workloads that spiral out of control. Yet with all our intelligence we don’t see the truth that we are the ones who are investing in and propping up what makes us sick. We actively support the cause of our own distress.

We constantly make work more important than ourselves. We refuse to care for ourselves, working late in the evenings and through the weekend desperate to ‘catch up’. Catching up is a dream. Our drive to ‘be the good’ social worker, teacher, dentist, doctor, plumber, builder, bricklayer, shopkeeper or what ever role we choose in our bid to ‘be the good ‘ is pushing us and we choose to let it be stronger than us. We let the outside, the world tell us how to live, how to breathe and how to be ourselves

We experience the sheer distress that comes from desperately wanting to be the ‘good worker’, but unable to be that because we just can’t match the ideal, the demands or the expectation. We are all invested in doing the job well, we have a picture of what we ‘should’ be able to achieve, it’s what we are told what we ‘should’ be completing but when we come no where near it we feel react. In reaction we beat ourselves up, self-loathe, have poor self-worth, hide in the toilets crying, talk about how we feel sick, tired, exhausted and dis-spirited, talk about how we hate feeling like this, about how crazy it is. Despite all of this we do nothing to stop it. Why? It makes no intelligent sense.


We have on the one hand –

a drive to be good at what we do

on the other hand –

what the world tells us we need, should and demand to be.

Our reaction to this is to try harder, drive ourselves harder, push to catch up but all the time ignoring the uncomfortable truth of how much we are hurting ourselves in the process.

Everyone wants the job to make sense, but it doesn’t. We want to feel we are good at our job, but what is the cost?

Wouldn’t an intelligent person be asking by now –


Why do I think I need to be a ‘good’ anything?

Why is my home life taken up with work?

Why don’t I get any true rest where I’m not worrying about work?

Why do I over eat and over-drink to bury how tired and exhausted I feel?

Why do I get sick so often?

Why do I wake with panic attacks in the middle of the night?

Why am I awake at 3am feeling like I’m in a racing car that’s out of control?

And very pertinently – why do I support a way of working that is making me sick at heart and sick in body?


What if there was a different way to live and work? What if we let go of all our ideals and pictures of what we should be and do? What if we understood that ‘being good’ is killing us?  What if we stopped trusting our intelligence?  After all, how can we possibly trust something that creates such a mess? What if we stopped listening to the outside world and started listening to what our body is telling us? What is stopping us change this?

What is it going to take, to get us to STOP and see there is no sense in what we are doing because it doesn’t make sense?

© Ariana Ray, July 2012

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