It has been five weeks since I left my editor’s red pen in the office and headed home.
It has been a revelation. For the first few weeks, I castigated for not doing the right thing at the right time and not doing anything well. When I was writing, I thought I ought to be working, and vice versa. My aim was for every minute of the day to be productive. I feared failure at every turn.
I was baffled. I had assumed that I would leave work stress in the office. Here I am in my own home, I thought. I feel judged, undervalued and criticized. But hang on a minute – I’m the only one here!
It was a huge lesson for me to discover that a significant source of stress is not in the office, but in the space between our ears.
I don’t mean to imply that work is not stressful in itself. In tough times, both private business and public sector organisations are under enormous pressure, and this gets transferred to employees. My own husband suffered nine months of severe anxiety and depression because of his previous role as deputy head of a school.
But I am fascinated to discover how much pressure comes from the negative voices inside our own heads.
Last week, I started volunteering in a community café. On my first morning, I got confused by a multiple order while a queue was forming, and the till emitted a high-pitched shriek to let everyone know that I had messed up. I was mortified, and apologised again and again. The owner was lovely and kept saying it didn’t matter. Hours later it dawned on me that I had never worked in a café before. I had had only a few short hours to learn the job. I am not superhuman. And that’s OK.
In many workplaces, there are external pressures and critical voices. The trick – and here’s the difficult part – is not to join in with them. Let the boss between your ears be a good boss: encouraging, accepting, challenging but kind.
Things have changed in my workplace now. I have been enjoying my writing as my first baby – sorry, novel! – has come home with encouraging and hugely useful notes from my writing mentor. I have spent lovely time with my parents and with friends, from the youngest (just under 2) to the oldest (just turned 80). I have volunteered at the Winter Shelter for the homeless and at the community café – both enormously inspiring. I have been for walks and runs in the woods. I have worked, invoiced and even been paid. I have written a talk for church. I have been sprucing up the house and only today forced an admission from Jon that he is thrilled with the tidiness of the cupboards.
Moneysaving tip for today: buy big and eke it out
We have leftover casserole from Jon’s party, frozen in batches, which makes a gorgeous meal every couple of weeks or so. This was made from chuck steak, which is not expensive at all – ask your butcher. We are also still eating the leftovers from the enormous whole salmon (price about £10) that I stuffed with herbs and lemon and baked on Boxing Day (http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fish-recipes/whole-roasted-salmon-stuffed-with-lemon-and-herbs/). The frozen leftovers are lovely with risotto – put the fish in at the last minute as you don’t want to cook it again, just heat it through.
Whole chickens and even turkeys might seem expensive, but if you buy big to allow for leftovers, it is much more economical than buying individual breasts, legs or slices, and you can also make stock and soup.
Finally – marinate your own olives
The ones sold in plastic pots are really expensive. Buy a big jar of olives in brine from Lidl or your best low-cost supermarket and keep it in the fridge. Put a bit of olive oil (again, Lidl and there’s no need to buy extra-virgin) in a smaller jar and add whatever flavouring you like: finely chopped garlic, lemon zest and fresh herbs are all lovely. Rinse a few olives at a time to get rid of the salty water and keep them in the oil until they’re needed. You can keep the same oil in the fridge for a month or so and replace the olives. The oil itself is lovely with bread or couscous.
Life can still be tasty when you’re mean!
Please share your own money-saving tips, or your work stress wisdom – I’d love to hear from you.