Every new practitioner has felt it. The feeling of not knowing enough, not having enough support or not having enough hours in the day to finish everything that needs to be done. No matter how hard or fast you run, the clock ticks even faster. Suddenly, sleep becomes a luxury and you find yourself running on coffee and packaged food. How can we, being proficient in the language and philosophy of occupational therapy, still struggle so much to find balance and what can we do to thrive even as our work demands us to give more of ourselves? And what can we do about it?
1. Free Yourself from Crushing Expectations
Understand that any new position, job or career change will come with a learning curve. And this learning curve will undoubtedly make you feel like you’re not performing as competently, efficiently or productively as you’d like or expect of yourself. In these moments, you must identify and break free from the self-imposed pressure that leads to unrealistic expectations. Accepting a new job means that you are not only learning how to fulfill your new responsibilities, but also having to navigate a new work environment, professional relationships and an unfamiliar work culture, all while attempting to maintain a semblance of “normalcy” and routine in your own personal life. This is not an easy task and your expectations should reflect your understanding of that. So be patient with yourself and remember that it takes time to acclimate, gain efficiencies and find your thriving element. This too shall come to pass.
2. Find a Mentor
A mentor is one of the most valuable resources you can tap into regardless of the stage of your growth or development. Mentors can provide you the support, guidance and perspectives you need to navigate your environment while helping you find new contacts and resources to grow and expand your network and support system. Before you go out and just ask anyone and everyone to be your mentor, be sure to first identify your own needs and learning objectives and be able to articulate the kind of support you are seeking. Equally important, be mindful of the fact that mentorship is a two-way street. Reflect on how you may be able to deliver value to your mentor and be sincere in your intentions and interaction.
3. Redefine “Success” and Celebrate Small Victories
Just because you are not living the “great” life you imagined does not mean that you aren’t living a significant life. Success is not found in perfection, rather in moments that bring you meaning, significance, value and a sense of fulfillment. One of the habits I’ve incorporated into my daily routine is keeping a journal to document all the good things happening in my life, however small or trivial they may seem. This allowed me to stop and take notice of all the good things happening in my life and this realization led me to a place of gratitude and celebration. It was also these quiet moments of reflection that allowed the voice of truth to be heard- the voice that affirmed my own unique journey, significance and worth.
4. Fill Your Cup Before You Pour
No matter how busy you are, or how important your next deadline may seem, always slice out a portion of your day to do something that matters to you. Make it your absolute goal and priority to engage in at least one of these priorities each day because today will never repeat itself and tomorrow may never come. Be unabashed, unwavering and unrelenting when it comes to securing and sustaining the things that bring joy back into your heart. Because it is only from this heart you are able to give abundantly and effectively.
5. Network & Grow Your Community
Having a support group will not only help enhance your professional network, but also provide you with a sense of belonging, security, and community. If you haven’t already, consider joining the OT Miri Facebook Group, where you can connect with other occupational therapy students, new graduates and practitioners to discuss everything from navigating school life and passing the board to finding a job and coming up with treatment plans. Also, be sure to check out the New OT Practitioner Support Group on Facebook as well. A shared journey is a meaningful journey.
6. Find High Quality Continuing Education that Matches Your Learning Style
In an ideal world, we would have all the support, mentorship and resources to help us thrive and succeed as we embark on this new chapter of our OT journey. The reality is, we may find ourselves being the only OT practitioner without any supervision, training or onsite support. This is where continuing education programs can become your most valuable asset and resource. For me, fulfilling CEU requirements wasn’t as important as making sure that I felt confident, competent and ready. So I did a lot of research, seeking feedback from mentors and colleagues, to find a quality continuing education program that would help me improve my confidence and clinical skills. Ultimately, I chose MedBridge and have been loving it ever since. If you would like to explore this option and find out if this program could be the right fit for you, check out my article My Top 5 Reasons for Choosing MedBridge.