#4 - Working through physical or mental health issues

September 29, 2020

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Join Matt as he talks through his own personal journey battling his physical and mental health.

Learn how you can deal with physical or mental health issues when you’re working. You don’t have to suffer in silence.

With the right plan in place you can complete client projects AND take care of your body / mind.

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Hello, friends, we’re up to Episode Four already. Time really does fly, doesn’t it? As you heard in the intro, I’m Matt. And today, let’s talk about how you can deal with physical or mental health issues when you’re working.

Now I should start by saying that I’m suffering with a really bad headache today. So it’s the perfect opportunity for me to share my experiences with you, and hopefully a few tips that will help you to get through any bad times that you have.

The last two years or so have been really, really tough for me. I’ve had headaches almost every day. For the most part, they’ve been continuous. So I’ve not really been able to get rid of them through any kind of medication or anything that I’ve done. And that’s been extremely draining for me as I’ve not really been able to focus or function. I’ve had a lack of energy, with most days being a real struggle to actually get through the whole day. And I’ve not really slept well at all.

Now I’m not blameless for it. I am overweight. I’ve spent so long working on the computer that I’ve fallen away for many of the great outdoor activities that Mel and I have enjoyed in the past. And Mel hasn’t been well either. She’s had her own struggles with migraines and a few other things that she’s got going on. And we battled through things together.

In fact, since before we launched Funnel Packs in April 2019. We’ve been working at about 50% capacity at best each week. So when you look at the 30 odd products, we’ve released and all of the additional content created, it’s genuinely quite amazing. It led to many of our customers believing that we never stopped working. And we have message after message just asking how we managed to sleep, obviously not very well. But we were honest with them privately in our customer Facebook group, and we explained our struggles with them back at the end of January this year.

At the start of February this year, I was really concerned about my sleep. The symptoms that I had were matching up to sleep apnea. Our health service in the UK, the NHS, is great. But the waiting times to get tests and treatment for this were anything from 6 to 18 months. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m quite impatient. And I think waiting 6 to 18 months for anything is far, far too long when someone really needs help now. Thankfully, there’s a few companies in the UK that offer private tests, and they send these out next day delivery. So for the equivalent of around $150, you can get a test sent to you. And this test, if you can imagine, it’s basically an oversized Apple Watch. So imagine a big Apple Watch, with kind of a large face. With a finger monitor that slips over your finger and tries to squeeze the life out of it. That’s used to measure how you sleep and also your blood oxygen levels. You wear that overnight whilst you sleep. Once that finishes, you’ll take it off and put it back into the bag that they send. And basically a week later, you’ll get your results.

And boy, those results can be surprising. So for me, I had a score of just over 30 AHI, which is the apnea hypopnea index. And that measures how many apnea events you have in an hour. So my score just took me inside the severe category. I can tell you from trying to process this, it’s really, really hard to mentally process that your body is technically stopping breathing for 30 times an hour. It’s something I really still can’t get my head around in terms of a number. And I’m aware that some people have far higher readings of you know, 70, 80 or 90 times in an hour. And that’s just a crazy number to me. So the next step after you get your results is to purchase equipment. So if you were going through your health service, like I said the NHS in the UK. What would happen is you’d get kind of a prescription and you’d be you’d be able to get free equipment. But the waiting times for that are insane. It’s so so long. So what I decided to do was I could go back to the company where I had a private test, and they would sell me equipment directly. It’s not cheap. And it’s really, really easy to get distracted by the same shiny object syndrome that many of us get when we see a lifetime deal for a piece of software. Being honest, I think I spent the equivalent of around about sort of $1200 to $1400 on the equipment that I’m using. And there is a bedding in period as well. It took me about three months to even get an okay sleep, even now, as I’m recording at the end of September (so about seven and a half months after first having the equipment), my sleep is better, but it’s not perfect. And you know, it may never be. And unfortunately, I still have headaches and I still have a lower level of energy. But I’m doing everything that I can to resolve this. And I’ve even lost 20 pounds since the pandemic struck the UK and we first went into lockdown in late March. But there is more to do. And I am determined to win this battle.

All of these struggles cause so many physical and mental health issues. For example, you have limited energy, which means you can’t work a full day. It’s really hard to concentrate when you’re in pain. You can’t just sit there and go through some SEO tasks or web design tasks or whatever it is that you’re doing for your business because you’re in pain. Your brain’s pain receptors and your body are just screaming at you. And you can’t sit there and go, “No, it’s okay, I need to do some work right now”, that’s not how your body and your system work. It can be difficult to motivate yourself. So, a little bit similar to perhaps when you have depression. And when you’re feeling really, really down. Sometimes all you want to do is to lay in bed and sleep as best you can. Sleep is one of those places where people who suffer from depression or from chronic illness, if they’re able to get off to sleep, it’s a place where the pressures that they have in their life, maybe the pain that they have, it can’t hurt them, because they’re in that protective bubble.

So sometimes you can find that it’s really difficult to motivate yourself to do something, when you’ve got that opportunity to go and do something else and maybe stay well away from work or maybe go back to bed or whatever it might be. If you’re not sleeping properly, your body can’t complete its natural healing process, let alone provide energy for you to function the next day. You may suffer from a buildup of pressure as you see projects or tasks over running in your business. And finally, it can feel like you’re letting other people down. And that one hurts a lot. It really really does. Whether it’s customers, clients, your friends, your family. If you feel like you’re letting other people down, that can only make the spiral that goes down worse.

Chronic illnesses and chronic pain have a way of chipping away your ability to look at the bigger picture, because you’re spending all of your time fighting small fires every single day.

But you can get through it.

Firstly, we need to recognise that every single journey is different. The story that I shared with you here is my own, and yours will be unique to you too. And you may be lucky enough to have made it through life without any major physical or mental health issues yet. If you are that particular unicorn, don’t be complacent. Things can change in an instant and you’ll want to be safe in the knowledge that you can get through it.

So how do Mel and I cope with our bad days? Well we work together as a team. Having a support network is crucial when you’re finding things tough. Whether that’s a loved one or a close friend, make sure you have people near to you that you can talk to and be honest with. It’s too easy to just say “I’m fine” or “I’m okay” when someone asks us how we’re doing. It’s the default response. There’s a fear of burdening someone else with your issues. Sometimes we can be really, really afraid of opening up. Yet being open and honest, takes a weight off your shoulders, it’s freeing and liberating.

Mel and I don’t work full days in the office right now, while still working through things and getting better. We don’t have the mental strength currently to spend eight hours in the office every single day. We are finding it difficult to concentrate and focus for long periods because of the things that we’re suffering from. So what we do is we try to work at least half a day, every day, so about four hours a day. And if we do have to work an extra long day for any reason, then we’ll always try and take the next working day off to give our bodies a chance to recuperate and to recover.

We use our hobbies as a form of escapism so that we can recharge our batteries away from work. And we find this really, really important as I’ve just mentioned, by taking some time off if we end up working too long. Giving your body a chance to heal and your mind a chance to rest is so crucial for your business, but not just your business, also your personal life as well. So we enjoy things like board games, reading, video games, walking and some other activities as well.

Now we’ve got this far into the episode, and I’ve not even mentioned the elephant in the room yet. COVID. 2020 has been a nightmare for many people’s physical and mental well being. There’ve been lockdowns in many countries worldwide and social activities have been drastically limited. Certain sports have been prohibited or cut down on. Many activities indoors have been cut down. Some sporting activities outside have been cut down on. And essentially all of the things that we’ve grown up with for all of our lives, have been affected. Mel and I, we’ve been in a self imposed lockdown pretty much since the end of February this year, due to co-morbidities that we have, which make us more susceptible to the virus. We haven’t spent a significant time with other people or more than one or two occasions since the end of February. And that has a major impact on your mental health. It’s really, really hard to process the fact that the majority of the human interaction that you get outside of your bubble, which is me and Mel, is literally a delivery driver at the end of your driveway waving at you after he’s put a parcel on your doorstep. It’s a really strange thing to process and because the pandemic is essentially a one-off thing in our lifetime, hopefully, it’s not something we’ve ever prepared ourselves for. We’re never ready to just wave at someone and sort of leave it there. It’s like a weird disaster movie that keeps going over and over and over.

There’s a lot of stress for business owners who’ve had to close either through perhaps a lockdown or through a lack of business or just those who’ve lost clients and are struggling right now. There’s frustration from people who’ve lost jobs or they’ve been put in difficult situations through a lack of work and suicides have increased. My family lost a family friend a few months ago who was a famous horse racing jockey here in the UK.

Now I’m going to stay away from science and my opinion about the pandemic, as I understand, and I do appreciate that everyone has a different viewpoint, I’m sure you’ll be able to guess mine from the caution that we’ve applied to our lives here though.

The point is that we’re going to have unexpected things pop up in our lives. 2020 has shown us this for about as much force as it can muster. So we do need to be ready and able to deal with things that can occur anytime.

Here’s five tips for me for getting work done, even when you’re struggling physically or mentally:

  • Be kind to yourself – As I’ve mentioned, in previous episodes, we have a very simple mantra here in our business of “Kindness First”. Being kind to yourself is right at the start of this, it’s really important, you’re able to do this, because if you’re not kind to yourself, who’s going to be kind?
  • Give yourself time – Not every day is going to be a perfect day. Give your body and mind time to heal. There will be some days that occur where you just can’t get things done. Now, what I would say is go back to episode one and remember, we talked about having no zero days in your life. Well make sure that even on the worst day where you just can’t get something done, have a non zero day, get one thing completed, however small it is, and then come back tomorrow, start afresh, and let’s get things done then.
  • Create time in your projects – If you’re struggling, but you really need to get work done right now, to ensure that you’ve got food on the table, here’s a little simple thing you can do. Add a bit more time into your projects. So if you’re quoting two weeks for a project, call it three weeks. This in fact, is something that you can do anyway, because it helps you. Adding in buffer time in your project helps you, it gives you that bit of freedom for something to go wrong. When you don’t allow for things to go wrong, and I’m not suggesting that we create some kind of negative karma situation here where we’re kind of expecting something to go wrong, and therefore it well… it’s more than a simple thing that when you add in a buffer, you have that flexibility so that if you need a day because things are going a bit wrong for you, you have that day. I used to do this all the time. So every single quote we sent out, I would always add in at least one or two weeks, depending on the length of the project. So let’s say it was a four week project, I might call that five or six weeks. And if I was able to get the work finished early, well, that’s great, because now the client thinks I’m a superhero. I’ve done the work in three or four weeks rather than six. Obviously, we don’t want to finish the work in one week, if we quoted for six weeks, but you get the idea. The point is that we’re adding in buffer time to give you an opportunity that if you need a day or a couple of days, you can take that and it will be okay.
  • Be honest – If things are going wrong, and you need to take a short time away from work, be honest with your clients. There are very few clients in this world that won’t understand the need to take a short bit of time out of a project. Your clients run businesses too. They suffer the same struggles and stresses that you do. It’s important to remember this and I feel like some people forget this sometimes, that your clients are just the same as you are. A lot of people treat clients perhaps as just someone who pays the money and someone who needs some help. But they’re the same type of human, they’re the same people that you are and they have the same struggles. So if you are struggling with mental health, the chances are your client struggled with it or your client’s had a close family member or friend who’s also had the same struggles. They do understand and if you need a bit of time, that’s going to be okay.
  • Build a support network – Make sure you reach out to your family and your friends and your loved ones. Let them know how you’re feeling. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. When people around you understand you need some help, they can be there for you. Whether that’s giving up their time, maybe they help you to be looking after your children, whatever it could be. They’re able to assist you because they know and they understand that you need help. It’s often really hard if not impossible to look at someone in this world and to know what they’re truly thinking and feeling. And that’s why we want to reach out. And that’s why we want to be open and honest about things.

That last one is especially important if you’re male. As men, we tend to brush things under the carpet for too long. And it’s been programmed into us for generations that we always need to be strong and never show weakness.

It’s okay to not be okay. But don’t ever feel like you can’t reach out for help. It’s the first step to making things better, and I promise it does get easier.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men aged under 50 here in the UK. I desperately hope that one day this statistic does not need to be a thing anymore. One of my long term goals is to change the way that we educate children about mental health in this country at grassroots level.

If you do feel like you’re struggling through your physical and mental well being I highly recommend reaching out to Big Orange Heart who are a charity here in the UK, but they serve a global population. Originally they started off as a WordPress based charity helping WordPress workers and businesses and so on. But they now cover the area of remote working as well. I’ll put a link to their website in the show notes on our website.

I’m sorry that this wasn’t an intensely happy episode. Sometimes we do need to talk about the deeper things in life. It’s really really important to know that you’re not alone and that there are other people who understand what you’re going through.

I’m always happy to talk to anyone who needs to talk. You can reach me through the contact page on our website, nurtureflow.com, or through any of our social media channels.

If you found this episode helpful, please feel free to subscribe in your podcast player of choice. I’d also be honoured if you’d consider leaving a rating a review if you feel that the contents been valuable to you.

Have a great day ahead. You’re awesome and you’re stronger than you think. Take care!

Transcription by Otter.ai

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