I started my mental health nursing career in 1985, and I am lucky enough to belong to the 1995 pension scheme, which essentially means that I can take my full pension at 55.

So on 29th December 2020, I will be taking the required 8 day break in service and in accordance with the Livewell SW Flexible Working policy, I will return to my current role as an Advanced Health Improvement Practitioner on 18 hours per week, after Christmas.

For me, this will mean a 12-hour reduction in my working hours, which will of course, impact on the amount of time I will have to carry out my role. Luckily I have a fantastic manager, who has been extremely proactive and is working with me to make the necessary adjustments to my workplan.

After many years of working on the front line in mental health, I am now lucky enough to be part of the Wellbeing Team, where my skills and knowledge are valued, and where I can continue to make a meaningful contribution to our service, albeit in less hours.

My role includes delivering training in mental health and suicide prevention, and leading the LSW Wellbeing Champion programme with the Wellbeing at Work team. I consider that in the scheme of things, my work is extremely important and I feel blessed to be able to work in an area that I am so passionate about and where I know I am making a real difference.

Although I am a little nervous about how things will look upon my return in January, I am also excited to embrace my new work life balance, with time on my hands to do more for my wellbeing, which has previously taken second place. It will be a little strange at first and I may even feel a bit lost, as having time on my hands ‘just for me’ has been in short supply over the years. Like many women, I have always focussed on the needs of my family, which is how it should be. Looking back, however, I probably should have taken a little more time for myself, which might have made me a better mum to my three daughters.

Being a working mum, as many of us are, has not been without its challenges over the years. Trying to achieve that constant balance and feeling guilty as one of those many spinning plates, goes crashing to the floor, yet again. Like many, I was hard on myself and felt that I needed to set the bar high by being all things to everyone. Unfortunately, there was a price to pay and that price was my mental health, and sometimes I felt as though I was hanging on by my nails, especially in the work place. I did the best I could with the limited resources I had, but I often felt like I was not quite good enough. I felt that the people around me knew what they were doing and seemed to have it all worked out. These days, of course, I know that in reality that was not necessarily the case.

I always find it fascinating to think that our organisation is made up predominantly of women aged 45-55, many of whom are all experiencing similar issues associated with the menopause, empty nests and having caring responsibilities for grandchildren or elderly parents. Let’s just think about that for a minute…

So what have I learned as I sit here now and reflect on my journey?

Be kind to yourself and have compassion for others around you. It is not all about the money, (although it certainly helps) but more about those meaningful connections, we make throughout our lives. It is about what is important in the scheme of things, and not about being hung up on things, you cannot control or that don’t really matter. I have found that getting older really helps you put things into perspective, despite the less glamorous aspects (let’s not go there!)