How Margaret Murphy has stayed resilient in 2020

28 September 2020

Slow cookers. Rudy the cat.  The great outdoors.  It's the little things that have helped Margaret Murphy get through 2020.

Self-proclaimed "university addict" Margaret is the Interim Chief Operations Officer of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS). With the recent appointment of Mr Peter Yu as the University's inaugural Vice-President (First Nations), Margaret has been responsible for setting up the portfolio.

And it's no wonder she was asked to help out at the NCIS ... her love for higher education is infectious and vibrant.

"I love universities. I love the curiosity, the passion and the drive to understand and improve the world around us. I love going into a meeting and knowing you will be put through your paces but that what comes out the other end is something that can make a real difference to someone. I love that environment."

Margaret's reflections on 2020 echo her optimistic tilt.

"Yes, COVID-19 has been incredibly tough. One observation I have is that at the end of a normal academic year, tempers get short. This has always been the case.  We're tired with deadlines fast approaching. However, the bushfires prevented everyone properly recovering from last year's end-of-year crazy hustle, so we are more tired than we have ever been!

"Despite this, it has been so lovely seeing how much everyone is supporting each other. I see people reaching out to people they wouldn't normally work with. I am seeing a lot of collaborative spirit."

Margaret attributed a large part of her resilience to organising time off to work on personal projects.

"I am not a big holiday taker at the best of times, but I do look forward to them. What I have missed the most is not necessarily going out of town but getting my head out of the work headspace."

One project Margaret likes to work on when she has a spare is her regular garden working bee.

The results of Margaret's gardening blitz

“I love taking the day off to work with a group called the Canberra Gardening Girls. They come over to my house and blitz my garden for the day. I love learning how to garden in Australia. Particularly with the wonderful natives and exotic plants we can grow in Canberra.  I’ve still got a lot to learn – such as telling the difference between Irises and weeds!”

Margaret’s project days don’t end there. Margaret is also looking forward to taking some time off to complete a volunteer course on emergency services.

“I love my emergency services volunteering. At the moment, I volunteer for the ACT Fire Brigade and also the Australian Red Cross. I am excited to take some time off soon to do an Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS) course where I’ll learn more about how the different emergency services work together.

“I think doing this training will help me be a better volunteer for both the ACT Fire Brigade and Red Cross. As I get older, I would love to be able to keep volunteering but perhaps more in a coordination capacity so this course is a chance to explore that more. Not only that, but doing courses like this help stretch my brain in completely different direction.

“I encourage people to take leave for themselves whenever it is appropriate, whatever form it may take.”

But it’s not just the days off that Margaret has used to stay resilient. Margaret has been making little changes to stay healthy and happy. She has started up a walking group to explore different tracks around Canberra, and has invested in a slow cooker to free up her evenings and still have warm hearty meals during the week.

Working from home also helped Margaret identify more opportunities for self-care.

“It might sound silly but working from home helped me reclaim my weekends. For example, I started getting groceries during the week after work, which is something I would usually have done on the weekends. Little adjustments like these have given me the opportunity to relax more on the weekends.”

This story is part of the Take a Break campaign. 2020 has been a particularly challenging year and has taken its toll on all of us in different ways.  

We encourage you to look after yourself by taking a break. If you need support creating a team or individual leave plan, please contact: HRD.development@anu.edu.au