Lindsey Holland is a former professional dancer who now splits her career between the disparate worlds of fashion blogging and working on a NHS elderly ward. Here she describes the challenges she’s encountered trying to balance her two realities and why she’d never fully give up the day job.

The Week

My week is divided into two completely different schedules—each with a totally different pace, work environment and set of pressures. The actual days I work as a physio are pretty flexible–I’m very lucky with the nature of my role and with my team as they have an idea of what I do outside of the hospital. I put in the diary when I’ll be there and as long as I stick to my days, that’s fine. I’m also really lucky because I run my own ward. So if I’m not there, I’m not letting anyone down. If that weren’t the case there is no way I’d be able to manage two such different jobs at once.

On Mondays I travel to the hospital in Wembley, North London. My shift starts at 8am and finishes at 4.30pm. I leave home around 6.50am and then I’ll get in around 7.50am and go straight up to the ward. I’ve got 36 patients and 36 beds so to start off with I’ll grab Friday’s handover with details on every patient and read through 10-11 sets of notes.

work-work-work-lindsey-holland-1My ward is defined as a discharge ward–patients are supposed to be sent to me just for maintenance with all the social and complex discharge issues should tied up. Technically my job is to tide patients over before they are discharged so they don’t get de-conditioned. As they are all really elderly if you leave them in bed for a while they will rapidly deteriorate physically. But the reality is that it’s not just a discharge ward at all–it’s more of a medical acute ward. We get patients in when they’re not medically fit and still poorly. Some come in directly from A&E just because the bed situation is so bad. So one of my main jobs is to prioritize case load. If there’s a patient with acute chest issues, they will always be seen first. But some patients just need a stair assessment or my say-so for discharge. It filters down as the day goes on.

“Some days of my life are bleak and heart-breaking. Some days are really glamorous and fun. But I need the mix of the two.”

Because it’s an elderly ward we get a lot of fallers. The thing is if they’re at high risk of falls, then they’ll be a high risk anywhere, so it’s really tricky when we’re trying to work out where to keep them safe. They don’t have dementia, they’re completely still sharp and full of wit and they just say, ‘I just want to go home.’ I have to be really firm. Lots of them are really stubborn and they won’t entertain downstairs living or installing a commode. They won’t do things to make their lives easier, so they often just keep bouncing back in. They can’t be told. My grandparents are just the same. But you have to keep that empathy to give them what they want because to be fair, they have every right. 

“I exhaust myself on a regular basis and it’s something I’m really trying to keep in check for the new year.”

Most Tuesdays I’ll focus on my blog, Ropes Of Holland. I’d love to tell you I get up at six and I’m really productive on my days away from the ward, but I’m absolutely not. I will have a lie-in because there’s nothing more precious to me. I’m not the best sleeper, so if I can catch a couple of extra hours, I will. I’ll set my alarm for nine–about three hours later than if I’m heading up to Wembley. I’ll normally schedule my first meeting for around ten so I can get into Central London and make sure my day starts on track. I’ll then organise a shoot with my photographer to get some content sorted out. We shoot together a lot–both for the blog and for commercial work and I love our partnership. From then on it will be back to back meetings to get the most out of the time I have spare. Running around town is exhausting and I often end up entirely knackered. I’ll make my way back home around 4pm and crack on with uploading my content on to the blog until I’m done.

“I’ve tried to do just fashion before and it didn’t work–I missed having the opportunity to talk to my patients and help them.”

On a Wednesday I’ll usually be back in the ward. I finish at 4.30pm and then try and fit another half a day of my other life in. I definitely over-fill my time and often book in a meeting at 5.30 with a fashion brand or contact so I have to run back into town like a bat out of hell to make it. I also go out for dinner most nights a) because I love catching up with people and b) because I don’t like to let anyone down. I exhaust myself on a regular basis and it’s something I’m really trying to keep in check for the new year. I’m also resolving to improve my diet when I’m on the ward—there have been spells where I’ve been really good, making double dinner so I’d always have something class for lunch. But I just don’t have the time any more and I’ve been eating the crap canteen food—every time it makes me mad at the prices and the quality.

work-work-work-lindsey-holland-7I’m supposed to work physio four days a week but for the past couple of months it’s been closer to three a week, so some Thursdays will be on the ward, while others will be working on the blog. Some days of my life are bleak and heart-breaking. Some days are really glamorous and fun. But I need the mix of the two. I’ve tried to do just fashion before and it didn’t work–I missed having the opportunity to talk to my patients and help them. Knowing that you’ve sat and had a brew with them and made their day better is everything to me. Even more than the physio that none of them want to do. I mean it’s understandable–they’re 90-odd years old and I’m making them get out of bed.  ‘Oh love, no not this morning,’ they say. I’ll be like, ‘Ok, what about this afternoon?’ and then I’ll get ‘Oh no, don’t think so.’

When a lot of work comes in for the blog it can be a massive challenge. I’ve managed to juggle my workload, but ultimately I’ve had to give up some of the physio work to fit in shoots and projects. Putting it bluntly the work I do for the blog is more lucrative so it’s hard to turn down. I’m 29, I’m trying to get some savings behind me, so I have to be savvy about how I divide up my time. Who knows how long these opportunities will last? Plus I want to do it. Often I’ll have the Friday for blog work as I travel a lot for content and it makes it easier to take a long weekend abroad.

I don’t know really how I switch on and off between the two, but I’d say I’m fairly good at compartmentalizing—but that doesn’t mean it can’t create feelings of anxiety. It can be hard when you’re in communication with a brand or client and they’re on email all the time going back and forth. Sometimes I’ll get messages saying, ‘can you please respond within the hour’…but that’s not always possible for me if I’m in the hospital. I’m now really strict. I lock my phone away all day and only look at it over lunch. I have to be kinder to myself. You don’t have to reply immediately and you don’t have to apologize for not replying straight away. I’m definitely encountering multiple learning curves at the moment–it’s a bit of a minefield to be honest.

“I do still get a feeling of, ‘I’m Lindsay from Stockport, I can’t turn this down!’ It’s all still a bit insane to me.”

I find it hard to sleep when I’m out all the time. It’s mainly heart palpitations and nausea over not managing everything. I’ve worked really hard on my sleep–I use a lavender sleep spray and take a bath before bed and I don’t drink alcohol during the week at all. Recently I’ve been so tired that I end up passing out, but then waking up a few hours later, wide awake because I’ve not settled, I’ve just crashed. Switching off is still probably my biggest challenge.

At the weekends I’ve recently learnt to relax a little more, but I think that’s because I’ve got a new boyfriend. As he doesn’t live in London, I can only see him on Saturdays and Sundays. We don’t get to be together during the week, so that’s why I cram it all in so I get my weekends free. I do sometimes shoot at the weekend and I’ll put the odd Instagram up, but I won’t touch my laptop. My brain just needs the break when I’m juggling so many different aspects of two very different careers all week.

I’m still trying to find the perfect balance. I’m not there yet, but I think I’m grasping a little more what it might look like. It’s so hard to find time to fit in exercise, for example. My boyfriend is a massive fitness freak–and he’s really inspired me to do the same. I like hot yoga and work out at Fierce Grace in Queens Park. Just taking the hour out, rebalances everything. I’ve had to cancel a few dinners, but sometimes it’s about prioritizing things that will keep you steady as much as making you happy.

The Backstory

I’m from originally from Stockport near Manchester and I started my career in ballet and contemporary dance. I ended up suffering for recurring injuries which became so bad they effectively ended my career when I was 20. Through that whole time I had loads of physio, so when we finally decided that I had to stop dancing professionally, I thought that I would love to help other dancers going through the same thing. 

work-work-work-lindsey-holland-4While my physiotherapy degree at Salford was great, quitting dancing was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I still can’t watch contemporary dance to this day because it just makes me cry. It was my only passion and the only thing I was ever really good at. I’m not exactly academically gifted, but I am creative and practical, so dance was my world. In the end I didn’t go down the route of physio for dance simply because I didn’t think I could stand being that close in proximity without actually being involved in the dance myself. Instead I chose to work in elderly care with all the golden oldies who are amazing.

Fashion came into my life through an ex-boyfriend. His family had an independent clothing boutique in Preston and some of the first trips I ever made to London were on buying trips with his family. They stocked really cool brands like Won Hundred and APC–labels that I’d never heard about in my early twenties. It opened it all up for me—I knew what I liked, but I didn’t have a strong understanding of brands or how the industry operated at all so those trips really shaped my style.

“Quitting dancing was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I still can’t watch contemporary dance to this day because it just makes me cry.”

During the second year of my physio degree, I had loads of practical modules and endless essays. I would literally stay up for days cramming before exams because it was the only way it would all go in. It felt like if I had to learn about another muscle I’d actually collapse. I’d heard about blogging in a magazine and I just thought, why not just set up my own space on the internet and have some part of my life separate from the human body? It really was only meant as a creative outlet, but I started covering a lot of things that were going on in Manchester and it began to grow. It’s five years old now, so it feels like a life time ago.

Even if the blog were to snowball and start to dominate my career, I’ll always do at least a day of physio in there somewhere, because I need it to stay grounded. I know I definitely have the capacity to let it all run away with me a bit. I might be 29, but I am as daft as I look sometimes. Also my mum and dad are really proud of what I do as a physio. They’re really excited for me with all the things I do for my blog, but they just see it as a bit of blag job really. 

As for an endgame, if the blog continues to flourish, I will probably take a break from physio to organise things and see where I am financially. That side of things petrifies me, but I know I won’t be able to push the potential of the blog until I remove that safety net. The more I put into the blog, the more I’m getting out of it. I do still get a feeling of, ‘I’m Lindsay from Stockport, I can’t turn this down.’ It’s all still a bit insane to me, but I feel like I’ve got to give it a real try. So my ideal set up would be working for myself full time with the blog, but with a day or a couple of evenings a week of private physio focused on people with neurological conditions or the elderly. I want to be able to help people on lots of levels–not just fix their ankle. Because that’s become what I’m truly passionate about.