Your Mental Health Matters


Were my colleagues aware of my poor mental health? That shortly I was going to start suffering fractal migraines and kaleidoscopic vision that made it physically impossible to see for periods of up to an hour at a time, that I was about to undergo several brain MRIs and be signed off work for several months based on my neurologist’s recommendation?

Not at all. Outwardly, my day-to-day functioning appeared completely normal.

At the time, I didn’t even know I was on the verge of a breakdown myself, but in hindsight it was an accident just waiting to happen.

The message I feel compelled to share as part of mental health awareness week is that we can’t rely on other people to tell us we need to make changes or get help. Our best chance of avoiding a major burnout is to develop a good self-awareness of how we are coping, to make sure we continuously ‘stay on the watch’, that we remain open enough to recognize that it is ok to have times when we are struggling, and to be bold and brave enough to do something about it before it becomes a major issue. Although often we will need the support of those around us, we have to take ownership of the problem ourselves.

Given the awareness I have now, it would be clear to me that I was getting close to breaking point months before I simply ‘broke’. The key takeaway from my personal experience is that as soon as we start feeling out of control the only thing we need to do is take more time to invest in creating the right conditions to get back in control. Our default response is often the opposite – we steal time from creating the conditions that allow us to fully function (going to bed on time, eating well, exercising, taking breaks) and try to get back in control by simply using that time to work longer.

This can work short term, but as a regular response to having too much to do it simply isn’t effective. The reasons being, that when we are ‘out of control’:

a.) We aren’t able to be fully productive. Everything starts taking longer, which in turn means a bigger backlog keeps building up

b.) Our ability to stay focused on the priority issues goes. We essentially waste time now doing some things which aren’t urgently important, further compromising our chance of getting back on top

Both these effects mean that if our response to being out of control is simply to work longer/harder, over time we are going to spiral more and more out-of-control.

In performance environments it is totally natural to spend some time feeling out of control (92% of our clients do) but if you are feeling out of control always or often, the ONLY way out is to slow everything down short term, take the time to rebuild your cognitive performance and then when you have the clarity, even if you are still not able to keep up with what is being demanded of you, you will be better placed to understand which conversations you need to have and which things you have to give up or let go of.

Your mental health matters.

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