The Soldier On Syndrome

I’ve been sick with the flu this week.  It crept up on me last Tuesday night, appearing as a tightness in my chest and a tickly cough.  By Wednesday morning I was aching all over and my cough had become a hacking, wheezing monster.  Even so, I stood in the shower on Wednesday morning, determined to soap away the sickness and head into work.

I had this mental tug-of-war going on.  One half of my mind was telling me “You are actually, properly sick.  You need to rest and get better.  And nobody in the office is going to thank you for coming in and spreading your disgusting germs around”.

But the other half was insistent that I should just toughen up and carry on.  I felt like even though I didn’t feel well, that it wasn’t right to take the day off when there was work to be done.  I felt selfish for even thinking about calling in sick and leaving my co-workers to pick up the slack.  This half of my mind was begging me to get dressed and soldier on with my responsibilities, regardless of how I was feeling.

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In the end, I listened to my body and phoned the office to let them know I wasn’t coming in.  But for the remainder of the day I had this lingering feeling of guilt that popped up in between bouts of coughing, uncontrollable shivering and feverish naps.

 

Now that I’m feeling somewhat better, I have to ask my self why it is that I feel bad for taking time off when I’m genuinely sick.  After a fair bit of consideration I’ve come up with several reasons.

 

Firstly, I’m worried that my co-workers won’t believe me or they’ll think that I’m faking it if I call in sick.  This is largely a silly worry because I’ve never heard anyone in my office suggest that a person is pretending to be ill to get a bonus day off. However, I’ve worked in other places where there has been scepticism when someone has taken a sick day.  And so I’m always anxious that my boss won’t believe me when I call to say that I’m not feeling well and I need a day to rest.

 

Secondly, I am concerned that taking a day off is selfish.  That by staying at home I’m shirking my responsibilities and being lazy.  This worry comes from a lifetime of living in a culture where self-care is seen as self-indulgence.  Where speaking up and saying “I need this” is seen as entitled behaviour and where admitting that you’re not up to the challenges of your normal day is seen as weak.

 

Thirdly, I’m very aware that we live in a world where we are surrounded by messages that tell us that being sick is merely a blip on the radar, a mere inconvenience that needs to be suppressed so that we can “get over it and get on with it”.  There are so many advertisements for medicines that don’t claim help us recover faster or feel better. Rather, these advertisements are all about getting you back on your feet so that you can soldier on with your myriad of daily responsibilities.  Rather than encouraging us to get well, the bottom line is that we should carry on regardless of how we are feeling, because how productive we are is far more important than the way we treat ourselves.

 

This mire of guilt, frustration and fear that I experience around taking a sick day needs to stop.  I recognise that it’s not good for me physically or mentally.  If you’re going through similar feelings, then it’s probably not good for you either.  Let’s take a moment to review some facts and set ourselves on solid ground.

 

If you are ill, you are allowed to take a day off to recover.  Heck, if you need to, take two days. Or an entire week if that’s what you truly need.   Sick leave exists for this very purpose.  If you work with other people, then going into work when you’re ill puts everyone else at risk of catching whatever you have.  And if you work in the customer service industry then you’re exposing your customers to your lurgy as well. Nobody wants their coffee served by someone who is snuffling all over the place.

 

Admittedly, this is a lot harder if you are self-employed.  When there is nobody to cover for you, and no sick pay to cushion the blow, taking a sick day can feel a lot more detrimental.  But honestly, if you aren’t well, you aren’t going to be doing your best work. It makes professional sense to take the time to get well and jump back in when you are well again.

 

Stepping away from work if you are ill isn’t selfish.  Not only will you be preventing your co-workers and customers from getting ill, but you’ll be ensuring that you aren’t at the office doing sub-par work and making mistakes because you feel lousy.  It isn’t self-indulgent to rest when you are unwell.  It is if you take a sick day when you aren’t actually sick and you just don’t want to tear yourself away from your Netflix binge.

 

Be kind to yourself and listen to what your body is telling you.  Often, we get sick because we haven’t taken care of ourselves as well as we could.  Illness can be your body’s way of telling you to slow down.

 

Finally, taking time off to recover isn’t weak.  In light of the constant bombardment of messages about the importance of productivity and how we should solider on in the face of illness, it’s actually takes some degree of inner strength to make the decision to step down and rest.  It can be easier to stay on the treadmill, to give in to the idea that your worth is based on how much you get done in a day, and completely ignore your personal needs.  I think that the more powerful decision is to stick up for what you need, to allow yourself the time to get well and to release yourself from the guilt and frustration that do not serve you and only make you feel worse.  If you’re sick, stay home.  There’s no need to soldier on.

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What’s new in my world?

Hello sweet blog reader.  I apologize most sincerely for going AWOL for the last couple of weeks.  But things have gone batshit crazy around here and I needed a bit of time to juggle all the awesomeness that I’ve been hit with.  But I haven’t forgotten you!  How could I ever?  Let’s grab a coffee and chill while I tell you about my latest adventures.

 

Work

My job has been going brilliantly.  Last week I had my three-month performance evaluation and my bosses were very pleased with me and offered me a permanent position.  This was a huge weight off of my shoulders because I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time I’ve been at this job.  After my last job ended abruptly, I was a little paranoid that I wouldn’t last in my new position.  But after three months I’ve learned heaps, I’m constantly improving and I’m really enjoying my work.  The people I work with are dedicated and so lovely and it’s a really positive work environment.  I feel so blessed.

 

But it’s not all sunshine and roses.  Full time work is hard, y’know?  I feel like I’ve been pushing myself too hard to maintain all of my non-work commitments and it’s been wearing me down.  I’ve had bouts of exhaustion and depression when I’ve tried to cram too much into my days and ended up watering down my performance and enthusiasm.  I really need to take a step back and remind myself that I need to rest and that I can’t do all the things I used to when I worked part-time.

 

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Crafting

I’ve been balls-to-the-wall preparing for my very first craft fair stall.  I applied for a stall at a boutique market in town months ago, and I was so chuffed to receive confirmation that I’d have my very own spot at the Twig & Bloom market in Benalla.  I’ve wanted to try selling my goods at markets for a while now, and I feel so pleased that I’m taking the plunge and actually doing it.

 

Lemme tell you something: preparing for a craft fair is no walk in the park.  It’s hard, it’s time consuming and it requires a lot of creative energy.  There is a lot more involved than just making a lot of stuff and whacking price tags on it.  You have to plan out your stall setup and come up with a way of recording sales and marketing and pricing and stock management and all that jazz.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m just worn out with managing all of it.  Once this fair is over I’m going to take a huge break and just chill out and recharge.

 

 

Romance, polyamory and coming out.

So, I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been dating and exploring polyamory.  I still am and it’s going brilliantly.  I met an awesome couple who were looking for a woman to join their relationship and date them both.  We have been on many dates and I am totally smitten with them both.  We have loads in common and they are just such amazing people.  I am deeply attracted to them both and I’ve been having a total blast with them and I can’t wait to see where the future leads.

 

Polyamory was something I never gave much thought to, and admittedly when my beaus asked me out I was apprehensive.  I was very unsure how I would go in a three-way relationship.  Jealousy is something that’s been a problem for me in past relationships and I believed that I’d find it too difficult sharing my boyfriend with another woman, or that she might get jealous of me.  But y’know what? I haven’t felt jealous at all.  It’s amazing how I’ve begun to develop attachment and attraction in each relationship and how our relationship as a trio has grown.  It’s early days yet, but I think I’m onto something pretty special and I’m so excited about it.

 

This experience is also raising some difficulties for me.  For one, it has meant coming out as bisexual to my family and friends, which is quite confronting.  I’ve known for a long time that I’m attracted to women as well as men, but as I’ve never dated a woman before I never saw a reason to bring it up.  Having to tell my parents that I’m not only bisexual but that I’m dating both a man and a woman was hair-raising.  It’s been tough, but I think they’re getting used to the idea.  So many of my friends have been really supportive too which is awesome.  And I’m still figuring out if and how to tell the rest of my circle.  On the one hand I’m excited about my new relationship and I want to scream about it to anyone that will listen.  But on the other hand I know I’m going to face some opposition and I’m not feeling entirely strong enough to deal with that yet.

 

 

Supanova

I let my geeky streak run wild last weekend when I went with my lovers to Supanova.  I met a lot of fantastic new friends and had fun shopping and geeking out.  I actually didn’t take any photographs to share this time around.  I was enjoying just being in the moment and not wanting to spoil the mood by whipping out my camera every few minutes.  I saw some awesome things, but by far the highlight was meeting George Takei!  We ran into him on our way out of the con and he was such a sweetheart.  It was a fantastic and laid back con and I had an absolute blast.

 

But enough about me, what have you been up to?

 

Working towards financial freedom

My views towards money have shifted pretty dramatically in the last few years.  From the ages of seventeen to twenty-seven I was in a relationship with a man who was in a secure and well-paid profession.  As our relationship was serious, I never gave a lot of thought to my own finances.  I wasn’t too stressed out about saving for the future.  And when that relationship ended, I was faced with the very scary prospect of having to finance myself through my future.  I realised that if I wanted to own my own house one day, or have a retirement plan or be in a position where I wasn’t living hand-to-mouth each week I needed to do something.

 

DSCF7394I made the mistake of confusing having a boyfriend with having long-term financial security.  Please don’t think that I got into the relationship for the money.  Or that I didn’t work hard to pay my own way.  It’s just that whenever I’d considered financial planning for the future, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it because I imagined that my future would include another person who was financially stable.  And it was a rude awakening when I realised that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Once the dust had settled on my break-up, I had to think very carefully about the kind of life I wanted to have.  When I got to thinking about my future, there were a lot of things I wanted: a house, overseas travel, a secure retirement, which weren’t going to happen unless I made some changes and took matters into my own hands.

 

Now I feel that I’m on the road to financial freedom.  I’m nowhere near that coveted place yet, but I’m travelling the right path.  Today I wanted to discuss some of the things that I’m doing to move towards financial freedom because I think it’s a really important topic that not enough people consider carefully.  I understand that I’m in a privileged position and that not everyone is able to take the same steps that I am.  But I wanted to share my own experiences to give you some ideas and encourage you to think about your own financial future.  So here are the things that I do to help improve my finances…

 

Work full time

When I moved out on my own I had a choice: I could continue to work part-time and have just enough to pay my expenses or I could look for a full-time job and earn enough to begin saving some money.  This wasn’t an easy decision for me.  As you may know, I have depression and was very worried about the toll that full-time work would take on my health.  But I decided to give it a shot when an opportunity for a full-time job presented itself.  It was a hard transition, but I adjusted and ultimately I’m very pleased that I did it.  I now earn enough that I can live comfortably and still put aside some savings each week.

 

Live well within your limits.

When I first started my full-time job, I went a bit crazy with my pay cheques.  I started taking myself out for meals several times a week, splurging on clothes and household items that I’d been coveting and buying gifts for family and friends.  It was a lot of fun and I think I earned a bit of play-time.  But after a month or so of this I noticed that my bank balance was at a standstill.

 

If you want to put away money for a rainy day, you need to live within or below your means.  Find ways to save money and don’t go crazy with luxury spending.  You don’t have to live like a miser, but you also can’t live on a champagne budget and expect to save cash.

 

Have a savings plan

It’s not enough to simply decide to save, you need to decide where your savings are going to go.  Last year I opened up a dedicated savings account.  It’s a high-interest account and I get a reward every few months if I don’t make a withdrawal.  I don’t have a card attached to this account so if I want to withdraw from it I have to physically go into the bank.  I aim to put at least a little from each pay into this account.  I have a list of specific big-ticket items that I’m saving for, such as an overseas trip and a house or apartment.  It really helps to have a dedicated account for your serious-grown-up savings that’s tricky to access so that you won’t be tempted to dip into it for discretionary spending.

 

Put money away for retirement.

Superannuation is unsexy but important.  If you want the best possible deal on your super, you need to shop around a bit. Try to find a fund that works well for your lifestyle and financial profile.  If you can, try to make a voluntary contribution to your superannuation every now and then.  In Australia, if you meet a certain income threshold, the government will match any post-tax super contributions you make.  There are also some super funds which will give you a bonus if you make voluntary contributions.  So it definitely pays to put some cash into your fund from your own pocket wherever possible.

 

 

Make payments off your debts

Debt is one of the biggest obstacles to financial freedom.  I have never let myself have a credit card, so I am thankfully free from credit card debt.  But I do have a fairly significant HECS debt from my time at university.  So I make a point of making voluntary payments off this debt when I can.  Once your debts are repaid, you’ll have less liability hanging over your head.  And then you can just focus on saving.

 

What do you do to work towards financial freedom?  Are your future finances something you’ve given much thought to?

 

Building a work wardrobe

When I began my first full-time job, I faced a fashion dilemma.  This was the first time I’d worked in a place that didn’t have a uniform, and I would be free to choose my own clothes for work every morning.  What joy!

My excitement was quickly dampened when I spent the initial hours of each morning fretting over what to put on my body.  I would stand in front of my open drawers scrutinizing each item and struggling to put together an outfit.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough suitable clothes, the problem was that I had TOO MUCH CHOICE.  I was overwhelmed by the options.

I decided that the best way to tackle this would be to create a “work wardrobe”.  I went through my current wardrobe with an eagle eye and pulled a selection of items that were work-appropriate.  I then bought a few basic-but-classic items to mix in with them.  My work wardrobe solved my daily “what to wear” dilemma and left me with enough extra time each morning to have another cup of tea before heading out the door.

If you’re facing a similar sartorial debacle, don’t worry.  Today I’m going to share my tips for putting together a work wardrobe that is practical and stylish.

Work wardrobe

 

First of all, remember that less is more.  You want to create a capsule wardrobe of carefully-chosen pieces.  You want enough to create a full week’s worth of outfits and not much more.  If you add too many items to your working wardrobe, you’ll be overwhelmed by choice.

 

My own working wardrobe contains a skirt, a pair of trousers, two dresses, three blouses and one jumper.  Everything matches everything else, so I can mix-and-match outfits from this selection.

 

To start with, choose simple block colours that team well together.  Look for crisp lines and simple pieces.  If you can’t resist a beautiful print, select a well-made blouse or jumper that can be worn with a plain skirt or trousers.  Dresses are also a great way to experiment with prints, because you don’t have to worry about matching them with anything; they’re an outfit all on their own.

 

Make sure that you select pieces that suit your body and that you feel comfortable in.  You’re going to spend a large portion of your week in these things, so make sure you feel great in them.

 

You don’t have to spend a fortune on your work wardrobe.  Look for items in your existing collection that will work.  I would recommend spending a bit more cash on some nice trousers or a simple skirt and then adding a few trendy blouses for each season.  Your basics will last longer and look more polished if you spring for good-quality versions.

 

Although it might seem boring to wear the same things every week, there’s an awesome way to dress up your work wardrobe.  Accessories will be your saving grace.  Never underestimate the power of an amazing pair of shoes, a gorgeous brooch or a unique scarf.  Use your finishing touches to change the look of your work wardrobe and bring a touch of personality to your outfits.

 

Don’t forget that you can still experiment with your hair and makeup to change your look.  I had loads of fun sporting victory rolls and red lippie with my basic work wear.

 

Resist the urge to add new items to your work wardrobe.  If items become worn-out, then replace them as necessary.  You might also like to add a few seasonal pieces, such as lighter-weight blouses for summer or pretty cardigans in winter.  Be selective about what you add to your work wardrobe, because if you make too many additions you will be swamped with options and you’ll eliminate the purpose of creating a capsule wardrobe.

 

I’ve found that having a work wardrobe made getting ready in the morning so much easier.  It saved loads of time and I knew that each day I walked out the door looking polished and put-together.

 

Do you have a work wardrobe?  What do you like to wear to work?

How I maintain a work-life balance.

When I got news that I had secured a full-time job, I was seriously anxious.  I was concerned about how I was going to manage to find time for all my hobbies and still get to see my family and friends.  I was also nervous about my mental health.  I manage my mental illness with a combination of CBT strategies, diet, exercise and self-care activities.  I was extremely worried that when I began working my mental health would suffer if I didn’t have time to nurture myself.

But three months have passed and I feel pretty good about where I’m at.  I haven’t had a nervous breakdown, I’ve managed to foster my most important relationships, my blog and shop are still going strong and my home isn’t falling to bits.  I’ve learned a few things about maintaining that ever-elusive work-life balance that I’d love to share with you.

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Prioritize

I often find myself overwhelmed when I’ve got spare time up my sleeve.  There are so many ways that I want to fill that time and I end up procrastinating while I decide what to do.  Before I know it, I’ve frittered away the time and accomplished nothing.

I’ve gotten into the habit of making a list of five things I want to accomplish each day.  This list usually comprises both big and small tasks, such as making an important phone call or writing a blog post or tidying my room.  I try to make sure that these tasks are ticked off before I add anything else to my to-do list.  That way I make sure that I’m using my time wisely and not wasting it by fretting about all the things I could be doing.

Let it go

 There are a finite number of hours in every day.  And many of those hours are filled with non-negotiable tasks like working, sleeping and eating. That leaves only a limited amount of time to spread between socializing, cleaning, self care and hobbies.

If you try to do All The Things perfectly All The Time you’re setting yourself up for failure.  In order to maintain your sanity you need to let go of some things.  You have to relinquish the need to have a perfectly clean house or a regularly-updated blog or nightly chats with your bestie.  You have to make sacrifices and it will mean that you don’t always get to do things as often or as perfectly as you’d like.  It was hard for me to do this because I’m a perfectionist, but I’m slowly learning to ease up and let things go.

Make time for friends and family

It’s so easy to let your favourite people fall through the cracks when you’re time-poor.  I struggle to find time to spend with my friends and family when I’m busy.  My solution?  Make time to be with them.  Carve out a block of time each day to call your mum, or email your friends.  Book in dinner dates with your lover.  Plan weekend family outings.  Don’t assume that you’ll just magically find time for your friends and family, make the effort and dedicate some time to these important people.

Set boundaries at work

One thing I’ve found vital to my sanity is creating boundaries between my work life and my personal life.  I make sure that I get all my work done during the work day and I always aim to leave the office on time.  I’ve asked my workmates to only call me outside of office hours if it’s truly urgent.  I don’t check my work email at home and I don’t come into the office on days when I’m not working.

 

It can be very hard to do this.  I don’t like to disappoint people, and I’m always worried that I’ll be perceived as lazy.  When I was in high school I got this idea in my head that in order to be successful, you had to be working hard all the time.  That busy = important and worthy.  I don’t like feeling as though I’m letting my boss down.  Especially when so many other people in the office are happy to work late into the evening and call into the office on their days off.

 

But  if I don’t set those boundaries, nobody will.  My boss isn’t going to tell me not to stay late  or discourage me from doing office work in my own time.  I have to stick up for myself and set realistic boundaries.  I work very hard during office hours and I don’t actually NEED to be at work outside of my scheduled roster.  It’s not lazy to take time for myself.  It’s just a job, and it’s only one part of my life.

 

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Embrace lazy days

Full time work can be exhausting.  While it can be tempting to cram your free time with as many activities as possible, it’s not always a great idea.  Your brain and body need time to relax and unwind.  For this reason, I make sure that I have one “lazy day” each week.  On my lazy days I don’t do any work.  I spend the day reading, exercising, crafting and chilling out with my favourite people.  I can’t stress the importance of having dedicated “do nothing” days to help your body and mind to recharge.

 

How do you maintain a work-life balance?  I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.

Things I Love Thursday 15/5/2014

It’s Thursday again, and I am so pumped to start my gratitude list.  It has been an incredible week and I am so chuffed with everything that’s happened.

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This week I love:

 

-Quitting my job!  Seriously.  A few months ago I interviewed for this awesome job and I just missed out.  But on Tuesday, I had a visit from the manager to tell me that they had an even better job to offer me.  I’ll now be working full-time at something that is much more challenging for me.  I am so pleased.  It’s not that I hate the job I currently have, but I have been craving a change for a while.  I’m so excited with the way that everything is falling into place.

 

– The Amazing Spiderman 2.  I was pretty impressed with this installment in the Spidey film franchise.  I adore Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and I was blown away by the Green Goblin makeup effects.  Plus, they seem to have left the door open for one of my favourite Spiderman characters to appear in the next film.  The only thing that let it down was the lame-ass ending.

 

– Early morning kitty-snuggles.

 

– Chicken risotto

 

– Gracebrook winery.  We took Mum there for Mothers Day and it was incredibly lovely.  The meal was sensational ( I had lamb shanks), the wine was delicious and part-way through the meal the waitress brought little bouquets of flowers out to all the mums.  It was such a special day.

 

-The fact that my vet clinic addresses their mail to my cats.

 

– Giggling with my brother.

 

 

– John Waters.

 

– Clara Cupcakes on Twitter.  That lass is hi-larious.

 

– Getting all rugged up and going for night-time walks.

 

– Heart-shaped sunglasses.

 

– Trying out a new brand of eyeliner that turns out to be better than my old favourite.

 

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-Ringo learning to open doors by himself.  He can now let himself in and out of the loungeroom so I can shut the doors when the heater is on.

 

– Flouncy skirts.

 

– The little girl I overheard in church on Saturday, asking non-stop questions about the service.  My favourite one was “Mum, why does Jesus have so many friends?”

5 simple ways to make your workday better.

I’d wager that there aren’t too many of you out there that skip to work every day with a song in your heart.  Even if you’re lucky enough to have the job of your dreams, chances are there will still be days that make you want to cry and rend your clothing.  And if you’re one of the many peeps who has a job that falls somewhat short of your dream career, then you probably have quite a few of those hair-ripping days.

As someone who has worked at a number of less-than-fabulous jobs in her time, I’m here to tell you that there are a few things you can do each day to make even the yuckiest job bearable.

1. Pack a lunch

If your lunch break is the shimmering oasis in a desolate workday, it definitely pays to make sure that that time is as awesome as possible.  You don’t want to waste a second of it standing in line waiting to buy a sub-par sandwich and weak coffee.

What if you knew for sure that you had a delicious lunch to tuck into the moment you set foot in the break room?  Wouldn’t that make the morning a little bit more bearable?  Sure it would!  So take the time each morning to pack a lunch for yourself.  It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal, even a delicious sandwich and a piece of fruit would be great.  I love to package up my leftovers from the night before for my lunch.  Not only is it economical, but my co-workers are always jealous of my lunches.

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In addition to giving you something yummy to nosh on, a well-planned lunch will revive your energy levels and give you the stamina you need to get through the afternoon.  You’ll be much brighter after a lunch of leftover spaghetti and a banana than you would be after wolfing down a chocolate bar from the nearest shop.

2. Take something to do in your lunch break

Following on from my previous point, it pays to think ahead and plan what you’re going to do during your lunch break.  Take a brilliant book or your favourite magazine to flick through.  It sure beats re-reading the copy of Women’s Weekly that’s been sitting on the break-room table for six months.

If reading isn’t really your thing, there are loads of other things that can make your lunch break special.  Bring a journal and begin working on that story you’d been meaning to get down.  Listen to music, email your friends, paint your nails, walk to the park.  Just do whatever you need to do to make that little chunk of mid-day time a bit more blissful.

3. Wear something fabulous

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I always feel so much better when I’m wearing something that makes me feel happy.  Even if you have to wear a uniform, there are plenty of ways to inject a little of your own style into the mix.  Pop your hair into a delicious beehive.  Experiment with braids.  Add a beautiful pair of earrings or a stunning brooch.  Even a slick of delightfully lush lippy can give you a pick-me-up and make you feel more like yourself.

4. Plan something to do after work

Give yourself something to focus on and look forward to by planning something special to do after work.  You might make a reservation at your favourite restaurant or buy yourself movie tickets to get you through the drudgery of the work day.

Your plans needn’t be so elaborate.  You can simply set aside an hour to take a bath, do some yoga or read your book on the couch.  You might like to make a Skype date with your bestie or plan to catch up on your favourite T.V show in bed.  Whatever you decide, knowing that you’ve got something special to look forward to makes the hassles of the day so much easier to take.

5. Look on the bright side

Your attitude can make all the difference when it comes to facing the work day.  If I can, I like to try to approach each shift with a positive attitude.  I find that if I try to smile, relax and just enjoy myself, the work day doesn’t seem so bad.  Constantly telling yourself, “I hate working here, all these customers are bastards, I just wish everyone would leave me alone” makes it so much more difficult to cope at work.  If you can, try to maintain a positive approach and just go with it.

 

What do you do to make your workday better?  I’d love to hear your tips.