#WeekNotes 2 December 2019

A slight deviation from my usual #weeknotes this week. This week marks one year since I was signed off from work with stress and anxiety. I share this not for sympathy but as part of my story.

It may seem odd, but I am thankful to have been there and been able to learn so many lessons from the experience of burn out. I’m writing about that this week as a way to put it aside and move on.

Over the past year I have been able to answer a few questions. Why did it happen? What can I do to protect myself in the future? What am I really passionate about? Am I actually good at what I do? What do I want to be doing? Is it selfish to focus on what you believe and what keeps you being you? In this week’s edition I will try to answer them.

Why did it happen?

It was a combination of circumstance. The 12 months leading up to this had been pretty stressful with a fair few big life events, a poorly family member, moving to a new house a lot further out of London, getting married, getting a dog… Etc. There was to put it frankly quite a lot going on under the surface.

On top of this I was working in a very high stress environment. I was part of the leadership team for a social enterprise. I was working very long hours with a longer commute, a reduction of trust for the top in my abilities, and became part of managing finance concerns. I became frustrated with direction and started to have an ongoing feeling of dread and worry. Eventually, it became obvious that this wasn’t sustainable. I burnt out.

Now that’s out in the open I want to share what this experience has taught me.

What can I do to protect myself in the future?

I have been exploring different tools and techniques throughout the year to help me get back to being me. First, I have been trying to keep to a routine of short workouts every morning. It makes me feel so much more energised and ready for the day. After this, if I don’t have a morning meeting, I go for a nice long walk in the local woods with my dog Dash. This really helps me to connect to nature and gives me the space to start thinking and planning for the day ahead without the stress of the email inbox 🙂

This week I went to the Charity Comms Wellness Seminar and got a few more maintenance tips. The biggest take away here was one shared from Action for Happiness. Why not try it?

Sit down with a piece of paper in front of you.

Think about the day that’s just gone and write 3 things that brought joy, happiness, or a feeling of fulfilment to you.

Did you do it? Well, if you did, I hope you noticed that lovely little joy bubble rising up inside. Since I tried this I have been doing it everyday. It comes with some proven science behind it too (sorry I didn’t take a photo of the slide).

What am I really passionate about?

I’ve always felt my happiest when working in my true passion. So at the start of the year, after deciding I was going to go out on my own in search for freelance opportunities I reflected on what I am truly passionate about. It came down to two main themes, charity and digital.

What do I want to be doing?

I want to be working in a sector that I love, the Charity Sector. I want to be working on interesting and challenging projects that focus on the application of digital technologies. I want to continue to make a difference.

Am I actually good at what I do?

Stress and Anxiety led to a loss of confidence in pretty much every way. I’m sure it does for everyone. It has taken time. It has taken hard work. I know that I am good at what I do. I know that I can really help. The results of my work and the meaningful conversations that I have had with so many this year have told me this.

Is it selfish to focus on what you believe and what keeps you being you?

Did you know that your mood can effect people you don’t know and won’t ever meet? Neither did I. Moods can work in a 3 steps of separation. Your happiness, or unhappiness really can be viral. So, with this in mind, no I don’t think it is selfish to focus on what keeps you being you if that’s what makes you happy (and isn’t damaging anyone in the process).

A slight deviation from my usual #weeknotes this week. I will be back next week with more about the day-to-day