I’m sat here on the 1st of October and it’s gale force wind and rain. It’s 8 days to my husband’s next surgery. If I was scared about him having thyroid cancer surgery that we had been told his heart was too weak for him to survive (twice!), I can’t tell you how off the chart scared I am about open heart surgery.
They aren’t doing 1 procedure, oh no that would be oh too easy. And we’ve got a lot of “Well if we find this, then we may do that” so there’s the possibility he could have months in hospital waiting for a new heart too.
And thanks to the pandemic I will have to drop him at the door and drive away with no idea if I will see him in 11 days time as planned, months or never again.
I’m so exhausted – Mentally, emotionally and physically, but I know how to keep going and thrive and I’m going to share with you how my extreme situation could give you clues to getting through tough times you face, so that no matter what you get the results you want in life and business.
For 18 months I’ve looked after my husband. I’d do it all again with bells on, but no one supports the carers.
Oh charities have someone you can chat with, but to be honest most of what they suggest I’ve been actively doing for 18 months. I do make time for me. I do turn my phone off. I do get involved in my hobbies, exercise regularly, eat well. Meditate and look after me, but even that doesn’t feel enough as we face this new obstacle.
I tried joining an online community of people in a similar dire situation, but they aren’t people who are actively considering the quality of their thoughts every day and how they impact on their personal and professional lives so I found I was spending my time handing out free coaching and mentoring instead of off loading.
Many of them were suffering guilt and thought being a martyr to their loved ones was a good thing – it’s not. Many of us do this, think that if we apply ourselves more to the situation some how it will make us feel better, it doesn’t you just face burnout too!
My situation has a positive, (I can do this in most situations – I call this reframing and its essential to help you gain a perspective that helps you be resilient, deal with change and find a way forward) and that is that I am doing an amazing job. I sleep well every night. I feel calm and capable most of the time but on some days you just want to scream.
It’s hard to look around at everyone off to work, meeting friends, school etc and think “Why are you acting normally?” When your whole world is upside down it’s weird to see everything going on without you, you find yourself thinking “How can you not see what we are dealing with here?”
My daughter and I have said we would love to go to a field in the middle of nowhere and take a baseball bat, sledgehammer or golf club and be allowed to hit an old car or some old white goods. Just smack those inanimate objects and say all the swear words we can imagine.
It’s about release.
About enabling your mind to keep going when it faces so much.
If you don’t it will shut down. It will suffer.
So I know on these days I have to do more.
The irony is that I’ve had plenty of practice in being emotionally intelligent (not strong – intelligent) and how to be resilient. At the time of writing this article http://www.mandieholgate.co.uk/what-does-a-sad-down-coach-look-like-and-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-you/ I’d discovered my Mother in Law was being abused by my step father in law and my husband was often away on business and the rest of the family live in Europe so it was down to me to get her safe. I was on first name terms with the DCi at the police station and it took over 8 months to get him sectioned due to an aggressive form on dementia that presented with violence against my Mother in Law who also has Parkinsons.
I know how to get results and keep going. I recommend every human on the planet creates a mental health tool kit – something they put together on a good day that will support them on a bad day. This is mine
Usually on a tough day. A day when I’m scared I’m going to lose my husband. I get my walking boots on and walk. I walk at least 2 miles most days. I’m so lucky to live by the sea and I speed march then walk so slow it’s like Andy and me are promenading in the South of France. Taking time to spot every shell and hear every seagull. That’s mindfulness in action.
If you are struggling you don’t need a beach to be able to do this. Just look around you and notice what you see.
A great little strategy that I learnt from Da Vinci was to stare in one place for 10 seconds, what one thing do you notice?
Maybe a line on a radiator?
Or a piece of carpet sticking up higher than the rest?
Now flick your eyes to the other side. What do you notice there? Maybe one small wave in a painting, how the artist let the brush sweep up instead of down.
Tricks like this slow your mind, your breathing and gives your brain some space.
Even when you think you aren’t thinking about something your brain will be. That’s why powering on through is not usually the best way, your brain needs time to find solutions.
But I don’t fancy walking in a hurricane force rain storm, let’s be honest my dog is tiny, she’s likely to turn into a small kite and fly away Mary Poppins style. So what to do?
I share my top strategies because thankfully you don’t need to have someone facing death to need strategies to help you on tough days.
Honour how you feel. So often in our society we are encouraged to look for the good and find the happy. Get the music on, watch something funny,etc,etc. But if you are really up against it, sometimes the best thing you can do is see it all.
It can really hurt. So if it feels too big, only allow yourself to do this for a short amount of time. On the days it feels too big I free write – I’ve a book by my bed and sometimes the best thing to do is just let your mind write what it wants. Don’t filter it. If you have bad, unkind, unpleasant thoughts, still write them down. They don’t own you, they don’t define you but if it passes through your head, honour it. When coaching teams it is often the flippant throw away comments that give us the big eureka moments, so don’t filter, just write.
Scream, swear, dance. Studies have shows “ that dance helps reduce stress, increasing levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Also helping to develop new neural connections, especially in regions involved in executive function, long-term memory, and spatial recognition”. (1)
Another study by Keane University showed that ”People who tend to use abusive language usually live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Their frustration is reduced to a great extent by cussing. Also, the mind remains healthy.” (2)
I for one am a big believer in adding the word “Womble” to a swear word. Away from others of course, but it just allows me a moment to express the enormity of the situation in a way that shoves all the bad negative, angry, hurting feelings out of my body. My husband is no less ill, but bringing back calm to my thoughts and mind will help me keep going.
The weird and wonderful is allowed. I searched “What to do when you are as miserable AF” And read about the benefits of blue light. Who knew that blue light can help with your mental state? So I am sat here bathed in blue light. Remember if it works for you and it doesn’t hurt anyone else, then can it really be silly? Often it’s the little things that help us keep going and find a bit of calm.
Just taking the time to write this has helped me. Classical music is on in the background. I’ve limited my caffeine intake because that can make the wrong chemicals take over in the body and increase anxiety and mental health issues and I’ve a dog to stroke too. (The oxytocin chemical that helps us feel bonded is released when we spend quality time with our pets). So you see taking the time to honour how you feel and add the little things that matter to you, really can make a big difference.
After work today I’m heading into my green house to pot up some baby plants. Watching new things grow that I made with my own hands and skill is a great reminder that new shoots are always there. We just have to look for them. And that enables us to keep going.
I am still working around caring for my husband and as the pandemic carves out a new way for so many to work, I spend a lot of time helping teams to appreciate how to work remotely, less hours and be more productive and less stressed. This often leads to less illnesses and work related difficulties that impact on the bottom line. I’m happy to confidentially talk about your teams needs any time – (+44) 7989 935556 or firstname.lastname@example.org