Last year’s World Mental Health Day post focused on the importance of mental health while on maternity leave.
This year, I’m taking the angle of work-life balance.
More than ever I need to look after my mind. I’m working full time, attempting to run a house as well as look after an eighteen month old.
I’ve got everything I ever wanted.
Which is why it’s important that I look after myself.
So I don’t loose it.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to read a book called ‘Awakened‘.
Debbie Stokoe, a copywriter and blogger, shares her experience of depression and the importance of a work-life balance.
The book came at a perfect time in my life.
2017 has been one of significant change.
I went back to work after maternity to a new job.
That in itself was hard. Not only did I have to mentally prepare for leaving a little person I’d spent the last ten months caring for full time. I had to prepare for walking into a new job.
Fast forward two months and I’m offered a project role.
In that same month, I also moved house.
The cards had well and truly been thrown in the air.
And over the course of the summer they’ve slowly drifted back down into place.
Their new places.
It’s a wonder I didn’t have some form of break down.
Reading Debbie’s book has helped me put things into perspective.
Too much change at once can be difficult to process.
There’s a paragraph that really struck with me.
It’s about mindfulness.
Being in the moment.
Something a lot of us (including me) are not very good at.
I once thought being busy was good. I thought I was achieving things.
Thinking that The Constant was good.
It meant I could race through life and not be alone with my thoughts.
To over think things.
But since embarking on motherhood, I’m more mindful than ever. Babies quickly grow and a triumphant toddler soon takes over.
In that respect I’m now mindful to take each day as it comes.
To enjoy the moment.
To listen to her little chitter chatter.
To take the plastic tea cup when offered. To pretend to sip it. To gasp that it’s the nicest cup of tea I’ve ever had.
And to inhale that freshly bathed smell as I read her a bedtime story.
As it ain’t going to last forever.
So I’m grateful for Debbie’s book to put things in perspective. And to also to introduce me to meditation.
Debbie recommended Jessica Mullen and The Honest Guys. I’ve found them on You Tube and they’ve been really useful to listen to.
I’ve lost touch with reading this year with everything that’s gone on. Awakened has pulled me back into the reading game. I’ve now picked up The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson. A book I started before I moved.
So what is Awakened about?
Debbie kindly gives us an insight into her book and her life …
Having read Awakened, you’ve written a compelling journey of self discovery through your working life as well as personal events. What inspired you to write Awakened?
I went through a lot of pain and the main inspiration was to help others to avoid that if possible. I talk about how I was affected by perfectionism and low self-esteem as a child, which affects a lot of young kids today who feel pressure to push themselves too hard, so part of it was to hopefully get a message to them to start being more compassionate towards themselves. In terms of the work-related mental health issues I experiences, I just felt very alone and scared when I was going through severe depression and wanted other people who are experiencing similar things to realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I guess I tried to write the book that would have helped me when I was ill. Hopefully it will also help family members and friends of people who are suffering from similar health issues to understand it better.
It was also a healing process for me to write about what happened to me, and cathartic in many ways, even though I had a lot of resistance arise about revisiting these difficult times in my life. It helped me to understand myself better and to work on certain things that still affect me (I’m still too hard on myself about a lot of things).
How would you compare writing Awakened to anything you’ve previously written?
I’ve never written a book before so it was a new experience! I’m a copywriter so I write for businesses for a living, and I’ve been blogging about art and culture for about six years, so I’m using to writing things like websites and blog posts. I decided upon the chapters then dedicated a couple of hours each morning for four months to writing it. I was pretty disciplined about writing every week day. I hadn’t been that vocal about mental health in the past so it was quite daunting being so honest and discussing my deepest, darkest feelings. There have been times when I’ve felt like not putting it out there as I have some fears about what people will think, but the message is more important than my fears.
How do you organise your work and life to ensure you get a healthy balance?
I became self-employed partly to have more control over my life, and to a certain extent it’s worked. It suits me better as I can organise my workload if I’m having a down day (I’m still affected by low mood) and I can work from home which means I don’t have to deal with people that annoy me as much! It has its stressors though, mainly because of the uncertainty and ‘feast or famine’ cycle that can happen when you’re self-employed (either too much work or not enough work) so it can be difficult to feel balanced.
How do I stay in balance? It’s a lifelong work in progress and I’m constantly changing my routine to feel more balanced. I have a morning routine which involves a combination of yoga, meditation, a walk and drawing an oracle card (I talk about my spiritual path in the book). I am still trying to limit my use of technology but I make sure I stay off my phone after 9pm and read before bed. It’s important for me to get out in nature at the weekends and switch off. A weekly yoga class also keeps me in balance, and regular holistic therapies such as massage and reiki. Reading a lot also helps and I go the cinema or theatre once or twice a week which inspires me and gets me away from a screen.
If you had one piece of advice on wellbeing that you’ve learnt, what would it be?
Learn to love yourself. It sounds a bit cliched, but life gets much easier when you’re your own best friend. I’ve always been too hard on myself, which started at school. I was always pushing myself to be an A grade student and if I didn’t achieve that standard I would berate myself. Being a perfectionist does not lead to a happy life. You can never celebrate your achievements and nothing is ever good enough. I think it’s so important for kids to learn to love themselves (not in a narcissistic, selfie-taking way) and not measure their happiness against external factors, which society teaches us to do. When we learn how to do that (and there are many ways to do that, such as learning about self-care, finding your passion and purpose, and learning to appreciate the little things and have more gratitude) life flows better.
And finally, tell us an interesting fact about yourself that not many people know
If you read the book you’ll know, but I have a Facebook spiritual group with over 1,300 members. I realised that I felt ‘different’ and was having interesting spiritual experiences, so I created it to find my tribe and talk about spiritual topics such as angels, past lives and the law of attraction with like-minded people. Now I don’t feel so lonely or out there and have made life-long friends as a result of the group.
You can get a copy of Awakened here.
Where to find Debbie and her support groups:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/DebbieStokoeWriter
Twitter – @DebbieStokoe111
Stay Sane At Work website – www.staysaneatwork.co.uk
Facebook group – www.facebook.com/groups/StaySaneAtWork
You can take part in World Mental Health Day today in the Time To Change #inyourcorner campaign
Images from Unsplash and Time To Change website
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Awakened as part of this post