6 August 2017
When was the last time that you truly switched off? When you let your mind wander for more than a few minutes without a mobile phone in your hand.
In today’s increasingly connected world we’re becoming incredible at keeping on top of our day-to-day challenges and working harder, longer and more than ever. Technology is enabling us to be on the go 24/7 and whilst that is incredibly useful in our professional lives, is it good for our wellbeing in the long term? We emulate those at the top of their game – their passion, focus and determination. We can work too hard, take too much on and forget to pause every once in a while.
Stress creeps up on us
It’s so easy for stress to creep up on you. Often we don’t spot it until it is too late.
It may take years, it could be months. It may be that you load too much in to your winning formula or that you are continuing at the same pace, yet adding in a wedding or a new baby or something that adds to your stress levels and often reduces your sleep. Eventually it all compounds.
It’s undeniable that for some the idea of discussing mental health, particularly in business, is a taboo subject.
I am certainly no expert in mental health and, if you are struggling, I’d always advise that you seek out an expert. I do have significant experience in creating and managing stress in my own life, which without doubt if not dealt with properly can spiral and cause wider mental health issues over time.
It is so easy for stress to creep up on you. I remember many years ago, I was running myself into the ground managing my first fast-growing business. My uncle came to visit and asked “how long is it since your last holiday?” I proudly said nine years! He told me very frankly: “Take some time out and see how the other half are living Lawrence. You are going nowhere.” It’s up there with some of the best advice I’ve ever had. I took three holidays that year, the business took off and sold it to Granada shortly after.
It’s important to be able to spot the early warning signs of stress. My uncle obviously saw something I was unable to see. Being older and wiser and not in the bubble I was in, it was clear as daylight to him.
The best way I have found to combat stress is creating a balance. We cannot ignore that to be successful you have to work harder, you have to dedicate a huge chunk of your life. At the same time it’s absolutely necessary to be physically fit and well rested. Healthy body, healthy mind are two incredibly important factors in reaching and also maintaining success.
We have to reward ourselves with variety
I believe variety is important and we have to reward ourselves with different experiences.
Holidays are an essential part of this, even if that’s a weekend away every now and then if you can’t afford a couple of weeks on a beach. Travelling away from the intensity of work is refreshing. Returning to work after a well earned break, no matter how challenging an environment becomes exciting.
If you are able to take time away from the office and create a break in your normal routine, I highly recommend this too. I love meetings outside, going for a walk as opposed to sitting opposite someone across a desk. We build beaches in the car park, have occasional picnics and away days and even a festival at UKFast. All things involving colleagues, but designed to create different experiences and happy feelings.
The busier you are the more I recommend scheduling quiet time into your diary. A successful entrepreneur once told me, he schedules 1 hour a day, to simply sit in a chair and think. It’s a lovely idea, but how many of us take time to do this?
Taking time away from screens, devices and the constant stream of notifications we all receive is becoming increasingly important. Software designed to help ease your life, may keep your organised, but it also may be the cause of over work and the inability to switch off. (Says me, who is writing this at 5.25am on a Saturday morning.)
My number one tip
But my number one tip, something that I recommend above everything else is regular sport and exercise. Exercise is a great way to get time to yourself, thinking time whilst making yourself feel good by helping to release endorphins. Sport also gives me something to take my mind off the pressures in my day-to-day life. No matter how complicated my life is, if I play squash, for that hour, I forget all the pressures. This is a welcome break and a necessary one.
Imagine a cup of water, there is a finite amount that it can hold. Eventually it spills over if you don’t pay attention. This is the same with your tasks and pressures you take on at work. As you take on too much you invariably start to let people down. This merely compounds the situation.
Start the conversation
The key to solving any challenge is talking. Get to know your teammates. Recognise when someone is under strain. Do your level best not to pile on more work on your colleagues when there are signs of they are struggling. Apply the same common sense to others as you do to yourself.
When we have situations where people struggle, nowadays we tackle the problem very differently. Sometimes even paying for personal trainers to help encourage them back into a positive routine. Encouraging colleagues and friends to take a break from their desk to exercise, helps them to start feeling physically better, it also remind them that they are valued, so its great if you find ways to show this.
Taking time to listen to colleagues is important too. Its often very difficult in a fast growing business, but something I am realising is more and more important as I develop as a manager and leader.
If someone has had a real crisis, and clearly unable to perform at their best, I’d sooner send someone home and give them a day off to recuperate. Its very easy for someone to inadvertently impact the mood in the office too, if they are out of sorts. It’s our responsibility to ensure we support our fellow teammates. It’s what you’d want for yourself, so its worth doing the same for others.
Ultimately, wherever you are there are people trying extraordinarily hard to develop and do their very best. Supporting other people and helping them to find their success – whether that’s in business, in life, or in overcoming their own personal struggles – is part of being successful yourself.