Today is World Mental Health Day. The past 18 months have been particularly tough for so many people as they’ve been isolated from colleagues as well as friends and family.
It’s something I became acutely aware of when I became a freelancer. Having been part of an office-based team for so many years, I found it hard having no one to bounce ideas off of, to share a coffee with or to help quell my worries.
I was learning to run a business (still am if I’m honest) and, of course, I made mistakes, but without a friendly ear to sound off to my worries built and built to the point where [deep breath, because I’ve never actually said this out loud] I suffered a breakdown.
I struggled to get out of bed some days, let alone put on a brave face and fly to a tradeshow or share my thoughts on The Intelligent Miner. At the time, it was like looking at someone else. I was terrified I’d do or say something wrong. It was not how I pictured starting my dream job, and many of these fears still plague me to this day.
I’m writing this now not to garner sympathy but in the hope that it might provide some comfort to someone in the same situation. Client-facing jobs are hard when you’re not feeling 100% yourself, and media-based jobs with their unforgiving deadlines and constant demand for content read by thousands of people are even harder (trade journos, I see you).
When you’re working from home, alone, 24/7 it magnifies everything: your fears, your problems, your self-perceived inefficiencies. And, on the flip side, there’s no one to celebrate your successes with.
Many people both in and outside of the mining industry now find themselves in a situation where they’re working from home permanently, whether they like it or not, and I wanted to share some simple ideas that might help…
- Set boundaries: set yourself a start time and a finish time, and stick to that as rigidly as you can. I find this hard as I work with clients in so many different time zones but if you can, it will really help. If you can’t, then set yourself a ‘no go’ time period – I don’t take calls or answer emails after 8pm at night or before 7am in the morning.
- Set up a work station: even if it’s just a corner of the dining room table, find a place to keep all your crap (I worked from a desk in my bedroom for two years – Zoom backgrounds were a necessity) and get yourself a decent chair. Your back will thank you in a year’s time.
- Exercise: with a friend if possible. Even if it’s just a half hour walk at lunchtime, before or after work. I like swimming. For me, it makes the world of difference.
- Embrace social media and video conferencing: you need to talk to people and, if you can’t do it face-to-face then get thee on the web. But it’s also important to…
- Know when to step back from the above: some weeks, I don’t post on social media. I don’t take calls and that’s because I’m prioritising my health and my client’s work. A presence on social media can often seem non-negotiable in business these days. Let me tell you now, it’s not. Put your health first. Your followers will still be there when you get back.
- Ask for help: if you’re really struggling – and there’s no shame in that if you are – speak to a friend, your doctor… someone you trust. A few weeks of therapy could make a huge difference (they did for me). There are lots of resources online too – I’ve linked some UK-based ones here – or try Googling local services.
- Eat well: try to plan decent meals that don’t require loads of effort into your weekly food shop. Don’t buy biscuits or candy. If they’re there, you will eat them. I speak from experience.
If you have any of your own tips, please add them below. A problem shared is a problem halved after all.
And remember to be kind to others. Even if they appear to really have their shit together, beneath the surface they may be struggling.