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Freedom Grants: Inspiring Stories From Our Community

How a busy junior doctor learned to cherish her downtime and find a happy balance with social media

Back in April, feeling inspired by the work of first responders, medical professionals, and the scientific community around the globe, we wondered what we could do to support these professionals in the fight against the pandemic.

In addition to the stresses of the pandemic, we are living in an unprecedented time of information overload, which is affecting our ability to work and our general wellbeing.

For this reason, we decided to provide grants of Freedom subscriptions to scientific researchers and frontline medical personnel dealing with the pandemic. Whether they needed Freedom to do focused work, or just wanted to decompress by turning off the noise, we were happy to be able to help in some small way.

More than 6 months have passed since then, and as we live through these very challenging times, we are extremely grateful for all the work that is being done every day by these frontline workers. As a mark of our gratitude, we wanted to share the stories from some members of the Freedom community, to learn how they are managing to stay healthy, productive, and positive at this time.

Emma Blaney is a junior doctor working in Pediatrics for the UK National Health Service. With hugely increased hours and rising stress levels, this year she learned to make the most of life’s smaller pleasures, and developed a healthier relationship with social media.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

I’m a junior doctor in the NHS. I’m currently in training to become a pediatric consultant.

Throughout the training, junior pediatricians work in a wide variety of hospital and community settings. We are a very diverse specialty! You might be working in a neonatal intensive care unit, treating babies who are born up to 18 weeks early or helping to prepare a teenager with a chronic condition for the move across to adult services. 

With both of us at full capacity work-wise, our downtime has become even more precious.

What have been some of the biggest changes to your daily life this year?
medical worker at computer

In response to the COVID pandemic, I stepped up from part time to full time work. The fundamentals of a hospital day –  seeing, diagnosing, and treating patients – haven’t changed that much. However, our shift patterns changed to provide adequate cover for the essential acute services. In addition, many of the less well-known roles of the doctor – such as updating our skills and knowledge at conferences, teaching days, and specialty examinations were all placed on hold during the first wave. 

In addition, my husband’s workload also increased significantly. With both of us at full capacity (and then some!) work-wise, our downtime has become even more precious.

How does Freedom fit into your daily work routine or home life?

I have Freedom installed on my phone and laptop. On my phone, I use the regular scheduling feature to block social media and news websites between 06:30 – 10:30 am. I don’t use my home laptop that often, so there I tend to use the ad-hoc sessions to settle down and focus. 

woman looking at phone
Has Freedom helped you to build any new habits or change your behavior in any way?

The morning schedule has meant that I’m able to start the day right – if you’re exhausted, it’s so easy to stay in bed for a few extra minutes scrolling. However, I often found that this would lead to my whole day running late, or I’d waste a huge portion of my off day online before I’d started anything meaningful.

Has your focus and productivity been affected by the current situation?

I find that there are times when I get sucked into my phone and would be rechecking the same few websites over and over again. Even though it’s only a few minutes each time, it gets really disruptive and leaves me feeling disconnected from the world around me. Equally, the websites themselves became less and less rewarding. That’s when I find the ad-hoc Freedom sessions work best, they help to break that cycle.

How do you disconnect from the challenges of your job in order to maintain some sense of work-life balance?

Obviously, it’s challenging, as an important part of my job is staying on top of new developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m trying to stick more to the parts that will affect the day-to-day running of my life, and less on the stuff that I can’t do much about – as that tends to leave me feeling depressed and overwhelmed.

In what ways do you look after your physical and mental wellbeing to cope at this time?

I’ve learned to make the most of smaller moments. For example, I find that my commute to work is now one of the few times I have alone, so I’ve found a few fabulous podcasts and audiobooks, and I tend to take routes that take a few minutes longer but are a lot more scenic.

I was also lucky to be involved in several work-related peer wellbeing initiatives, both supporting others, and being supported myself. 

Beating yourself up for doing something you enjoy is going to lead to you feeling bad about yourself. The trick has been learning how to limit my use so it stays light and enjoyable.

Has anything in your life changed for the better due to the pandemic restrictions? Have you learned to appreciate different things, for example?
taking pics of flowers

Weirdly, I have learned to appreciate social media! I used to think that all time on social media was inherently wasted and I even went through periods of trying to cut it out of my life completely. Beating yourself up for doing something you enjoy is simply going to lead to you feeling bad about yourself. The trick has been learning how to limit my use so it stays light and enjoyable, and not addictive and all-consuming.

If you could re-do 2020, what advice would you give to yourself knowing what you know now?

Get that engine light looked at BEFORE mid-March!

If you feel inspired to make a change to your digital habits why not follow Emma’s lead? Learn how to create a morning routine for all-day productivity, and reset your relationship with social media.