How to prepare yourself for the challenges of winter

Winter brings a whole host of challenges for those in the health and care sector. But as well as preparing our organisations, we also need to focus on our own individual wellbeing. So just what could we be doing now to make sure we – and our teams – can cope with the winter pressures?

When it comes to coping with whatever life throws at us, you’d think that those of us working in health and social care would be the experts. Over the last two years we’ve had to adapt rapidly to a seemingly relentless and never ending series of critical scenarios which just keep coming. To add to these challenges, we are now entering winter which is traditionally the busiest season for health and care services. But while we might well look like experts in coping with change, all this constant battling with one issue after another takes its toll, not least on our own health and wellbeing.

So the question I’d like to address right now is just how we can prepare ourselves – and those around us – to ensure that whatever may come, we are in the best possible place to continue to feel well in ourselves and are therefore able to continue to function at our best. What strategies can we adopt to maintain our own wellbeing? And I am going to focus in this blog on your own wellbeing. In a later blog I’ll expand this to talk about how you can then develop ways to help your team and others you both work and interact with.

I’m going to start to answer this question by first quoting the American consultant William Bridges. He very wisely said: ‘It’s not the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions’. Because while they sound similar, change and transition are actually very different things. Changes are external, transitions are our own internal reactions to those changes – and the ways in which we psychologically process and adapt ourselves to the new situations in which we find ourselves placed. This is a useful way to start to think about how we can deal with the challenges we face on a day to day basis, and how these can help us to develop ways to process these in such a way that we maintain our own wellbeing.

When change is constant and unrelenting, as it is in this sector, it can sometimes seem almost impossible to process it. So it’s essential that we find ways to allow ourselves to make a ‘good transition’ in the face of such external challenges. So where can we start, and what can we do individually, to allow ourselves the space to make the necessary transitions which will enable us to cope? Here are five steps you can take to help you make that transition.

1. Start with your own self-awareness

It’s important to start by having regular check-ins with yourself. Be open and honest and be prepared to ask some difficult questions. Use this time to slow down and pause, and be attentive to how you are thinking and feeling, and how that might be helping or hindering in these challenging times. But remember too that you are in this role for a reason. You have strengths and values that matter both to yourself and others. What strengths are you using? What are you not using which could help you right now? What do you need to develop further?

2. Plan and prepare

Readiness is all. What are the things you can prepare for? By planning as carefully as we can, we put ourselves in a much better position to manage events when – and if – they do happen. However, in the rapidly changing world we live in flexibility in our thinking is essential. By embracing uncertainty we are also presented with an opportunity to tackle challenges in new and creative ways.

3. Ask – what’s in my control?  

There is no point wrestling with issues which you cannot possibly change. By putting our time and energy into trying to tackle things outside our control, the reverse will happen. Instead of feeling in control, the danger is that those elements will control us, and risk creating a feeling of helplessness and inertia. Focus instead on those which are within your power to change, challenge and influence.

4. Mind-set matters

You do the job you do because it’s important – to you and those around you. Keeping a sight of what motivates you, and a connection to a sense of purpose in what you are doing, can keep you moving forward in challenging times. When you are clear and confident about your own roll you’ll be in a better position to motivate and lead others.

5. Focus on your own wellbeing

You need to look after yourself. That means finding ways to switch off and recharge when you’re not at work. Hard to do, but necessary for your own mental wellbeing and that of others around you. For more on managing your own wellbeing click through to our blog on Proactive Wellbeing.

None of these are easy steps to take. They require openness and honesty – both to yourself and those around you, both in and out of work. But unless you do take them, your ability to adapt to the pressures and challenges you face, and not just the coming winter, but whatever new changes the future presents.

Having addressed your own transition, the next step is to ask in what ways you can then support your team. I’ll address that in my next blog. Meanwhile, if you’d like to discuss any of the ideas presented in this blog, do get in touch.