Rianna Patterson: The person behind the profile
By Rianna Patterson, founder of Dominica Dementia Foundation.
I am Rianna Patterson, founder of Dominica Dementia Foundation. Volunteering and being a young leader means a lot to me because it gives me the opportunity to change lives. However, it’s easy to get completely consumed with it, and experience has taught me the importance of taking time out to take care of yourself as an individual.
Being a young leader can be incredible; it can be rewarding, empowering and life changing. But it can also, at times, be exhausting. I thought I would share with you my journey as Rianna Patterson – the person behind the profile.
I lost my grandmother in May and it caused me to completely shut off and go off-grid. There were emails that needed urgent attention, events I needed to attend, things I needed to take care of, but I could not do anything but cry and break down. Dealing with my grief made me realise that it is so important to have the right people around you; we give so much of ourselves to the things we are passionate about and sometimes we just need that extra support.
That said, I’ve learnt that there are also days where you don’t need anyone around, and you just need to sit down with yourself and figure out what is best for you. These are the days where it feels best to be still, to not think about anything or talk to anyone and just experience pure silence and serenity. This is so important, because as leaders we tend to rush out to meetings, back to the office, back to other meetings, and all the while are trying to juggle life in between. We are in such a constant rush to beat deadlines that we often fail to find time to rest.
When you find yourself in days like this, remember you are not alone! I often have days where I get up and go right back to sleep, or when I’m sitting at a conference and thinking “I don’t have the mental capacity to take all this in right now”. These feelings are completely normal – we are busy people – but for me it’s been really important to acknowledge and be at peace with the fact I can’t be ‘always on’ all the time.
If you do find that some days feel like more than the usual burn out, it is also important to notice that, and give yourself the permission to stop what you’re doing and take a breather, before anything escalates and your mental health and wellbeing is put at risk. One way I am currently trying to avoid adding extra weight to a burn out is by limiting my social media posts. Although I am doing a lot of positive things and I know it’s good to show others, I just dont feel like posting like I did before because I’m in a phase where I am not fully content and social media can feel like a further drain. That said, I don’t feel a social pressure to post or anything. I know I don’t need to post; instead I choose to post on my own terms led by what feels important to me at the time.
I’ve found this has helped me to enjoy the moment more, enabling me to practice being ‘present’. That’s definitely advice I’d give to to others; make the effort to connect with people face-to-face at events you go to. Answer emails later, put down your phone once in a while and utilise human interaction in the moment.
Getting back into the swing of things
Moving forwards, I am trying to get back into the swing of things, so I can re-engage and fall back in love with what I first found a purpose in. This period in my life is a period of re-loving, re-learning and healing. I have found it beneficial to spend time alone with myself and truly process my emotions. I’ve noticed that I usually just dismiss them or cover them with humour, or throw myself into work as a form of distraction - which doesn’t allow me the time to recover.
Instead, I’ve found that a great way to manage stress and workloads is by keeping on top of deadlines and taking them one day a time. Order things by priority, and promise yourself that you’ll do at least 3 things a day. Committing to those 3 things on your to-do list, rather than trying to complete everything, will be way more beneficial, as the goal changes from completing the work quickly, to focusing on completing it well.
As you can probably tell, I am a strong believer that your work ethic and self-care routines should be in sync; if you don’t have a self-care plan then think about developing one. An easy win is to look back at your to-do list and make sure that at the end of every list is one thing you do for yourself. It can be as simple as watching a movie or meeting a friend for coffee, but it’s important to make time for that much-needed time out.
Finally, remember to be kind to others - the people that are working in your absence, or supporting you outside of work, need to be appreciated as they also have a life behind their profile.
Reflecting these values in Dominica Dementia Foundation
I urge you all to also be kind to those with Dementia, because just like leaders, they too are more than their diagnosis; there is a person behind the Dementia. A person that was a doctor, a teacher, a pharmacist, or a father. It is not okay to dehumanise them.
Through Dominica Dementia Foundation, I am seeking inclusivity for persons with Dementia. When we are writing policies, we ask someone with Dementia their needs; after all, they are the real professionals because they are the ones experiencing it every day. We value the importance of asking Dementia carers about their needs too, to help ensure that they are taking care of themselves. Often, people in the medicine field give so much of themselves to help others that we forget that they too may need support.
Self care is for everyone; it took a sad and upsetting life moment for me to step back, re-evaluate and make a conscious effort to look after myself. Make sure you do this for yourself, starting today.
Article published: 19th September 2019
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