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Plan, prioritise and pace

Planning ahead, pacing yourself and prioritising tasks could greatly help you get the most important aspects of your work done, and also preserve energy levels.

List the tasks you think you need to do, prioritise them and for each one ask yourself:

  • does this need to be done today?
  • does it need to be done at all?
  • does it need to be me who does it?
  • can I get someone to help me with parts of the task?

Try to concentrate on doing one job at a time, rather than having lots of different jobs ongoing. Think about timeframes and deadlines, the importance of tasks and your energy levels at different times of the day when listing tasks in order of priority.

Think about your work/life balance; are you struggling with tasks around the home? Are other people in your home able to do more? If that's the case, ask for more help with household chores. An option might be to have a cleaner or gardener come once a week or once a fortnight to help you out around the house and garden? If this means that you can stay in work, you will be better off financially in the longer-term.

Pacing is about making the most of your energy levels and not burning yourself out. Break tasks into achievable parts, and spread them throughout the day or week.

Make sure that you get the rest you need in the evenings and at weekends. But, also make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to do the things you enjoy. And be strict with yourself about this. Planning, prioritising and pacing activities isn't just a means to get all your jobs done, this is a chance to make time for things you enjoy in life – whether that be reading, listening to music, cooking, going for a walk or jog, watching a good film or socialising. It's not just that these things are nice and fun to do, if they help you relax and make you feel happy this is very important for both your physical and psychological health and wellbeing.

Micro-breaks

It could greatly help you to take regular short rest breaks, or 'micro-breaks'. Every 15 minutes or so, try to spend 30 or 60 seconds:

  • stretching
  • shrugging
  • moving about
  • taking some deep breaths
  • relaxing your shoulders/neck.

Throughout your working day, change your position and your activity regularly. Don't only use pain as a guide for when to take a rest, but do certainly change your position or take a break if you feel uncomfortable. Aches and pains are often a sign that we're overworking or putting too much strain on a muscle, ligament or joint.

Pain management

There are things you can do yourself, apart from medication and without needing to see a physiotherapist or occupational therapist, to manage your pain. You may be able to rest a painful joint by wearing a firm bandage or splint while you work.

Warmth may help if a joint or muscle is tender. After work, relax your hands in a bowl of warm water or your whole body in the bath. Some people find that a hot-water bottle or heated wheat bag can soothe pain. At work, you could offer to wash your team's cups every now and then if you find the warm, soapy water and gentle exercise is soothing for your hands.

You may find cold better than heat at relieving pain. Try putting a packet of frozen peas (wrapped in a damp towel to protect your skin) around a sore or swollen area. Let the packet thaw for a few minutes first. Only use it for 15 minutes at a time.

Take care when using hot-water bottles or frozen peas. These may cause burns or skin irritation. Don't use them on damaged or broken skin, or if you have reduced sensation.

If your pain is serious or prolonged, see a doctor.

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