Like most of you reading, this I am on the professional treadmill of getting around four hours real sleep a night whilst juggling your iphone, kids and personal lives with any of the proverbial plates crashing at any possible moment.
You work 7 days a week from 7am until your last client or boss goes to bed (not before checking every app you have including checking on how the London tube train are running). Being 'on holiday' does not count either, as when your client or boss needs something as you are looking at your phone anyway, so you won't mind. Will you?
As having had most of the 'plates' above crash around me at key points in my career, I wanted to give a bit of advice as I don't wish anyone else to go through the same and even if one or two things in this article help you day to day, then I'll be very happy indeed.
It all started when I ended my first 'career' job was coming to an end at a dotcom darling and I was working far too hard and far too many long hours to show that I could really do this job as being from a working class Scottish background, you have that 'Protestant guilt' (quoting Alan McGee, the man that founded Indie record label Creation Records and famously projected Oasis to the big time). This means you have to be first one in the office, the last to leave and have a constant nagging that you have to 'prove yourself', especially when sitting in the company of 'greater people' who are from better stock, had far better educations and mostly have came from a large agency or FMCG company where they were trained in the arts of brand and marketing within an inch of their life, whereas you have the degree from the Marketing School of Life mainly.
I went from the frying pan into the fire as I was already battle weary from the dotcom job to take an 'easier' and more structured job in banking. This was much less work, but somehow the stifling nature of the business and the reduced hours actually made me more stressed and more fatigued, odd I know. This eventually manifested itself in the form of crippling headaches and I had to take leave to a new role in food to see if I could get my mojo back.
The new role in food was far more 'like it' and had the dotcom buzz and excitement, balanced with a real tangible and delicious product (which had to be thoroughly tasted tested of course). Again, the hours were long but I thrived again, but as soon as I thought I had life licked and I was getting back into my groove, a winter bug went from flu to bronchitis to pneumonia within a few weeks as immune system was at an all time low due to work stresses, lack of sleep and very poor (Scottish) diet. While off for a lengthy period, I started to feel more and more lethargic and wondered if I would ever be the same again?
I went out for a coffee once I had recovered with my Ops Director, who was a psychology major, and he pointed out that I was actually showing signs of anxiety, stress and depression. I was pretty ashamed to admit that he was probably right and then took a few months of sheer denial to then accept it and look to see how to combat it, fix it, or at least keep it at bay.
I then sought help outside of my job and worked with a wellness/lifestyle guru who helped coach me untangle my brain where we worked out that all I really needed was just a few minutes peace every day instead of being 'always on'.
We created a strategy for coping as follows and I really do recommend that to anyone who suffers from similar symptoms, has similar thoughts or if you would just like to be a bit more chilled from time to time.
My six tips on how to really switch off:
1. Check your emails twice a day only (12pm and 4pm) and use Out of Offices to your advantage setting people's expectations to tell them that is when you will check them.
2. Try to have one day a week off from any form of screen (like the demon drink as Alex James of Blur advised in his autobiography).
3. Try to limit social media to a couple of looks a day, as again this can create stress in terms of people responding to you negatively or waiting on instant gratification from posts you have put up.
4. Learn how to meditate. Even if once a week for a 30-minute period at least. Find a local class. There are lots around that will welcome you and teach you the basics.
5. Plan a non-computer related mindless task every weekend on in the evenings. Go a walk, bike ride, clear out the shed, paint a fence, wash the car, walk the dog or just get lost in your kids or partner - anything like that will do.
6. Switch off all forms of media one hour before bed. That means no screens. Either read a novel or listen to music that will have a calming effect (no Foo Fighters right) or even just open your bedroom window and listen to the rain, birds singing or trees blowing in the wind.
Lastly, I am not recommending this as such, but if all that fails, a few large glasses of red wine and an episode of the cheesiest of American comedies (Friends, Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men) really helps start the process.
I wish you well and any comments are welcome.