When is the right time, to give your mental health a break?  A guide to help you decide

When is the right time, to give your mental health a break? A guide to help you decide

www.bluegreencoaching.com Sheela Hobden Mental Health Coaching
Feel like you’re drowning?

My guess is that you’re here because either;

a) you know deep down you need time out and, you’re seeking external evidence to justify it or;

b) you’re experiencing some really uncomfortable emotions. Although, you can still just about do your job, function day to day, you are looking for answers on “how bad” things have to be, before taking action or;

c) maybe it’s a combination of the above.

First off, what gives me the credibility to be writing about this? I stopped, stepped back and got help.  I am here to tell the tale.  In a sense, I’ve been there, done it, worn the t-shirt. Its now “framed”.

It was actually pivotal in changing the way I live my life. I am proud I did something about it, and now spend a chunk of my life supporting others to look after themselves so that time out is either prevented, minimised or, doesn’t take as long to heal as I did!

For chunks of time, I felt trapped.  It was what I can only describe as a pulsing blender of confusion!

The dilemma was that I didn’t feel “bad enough” to take time out.

Thinking back however, I don’t know how bad I thought I needed to be, to justify it. After all, waking in the morning with a pounding chest, crying every day before and during work (I knew the ladies’ cubicles far too intimately!) doesn’t really seem like normality. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t “that bad” though.  My mission since stopping to take time out for myself to heal has been to help other people get the space and support they need sooner, so they don’t get hit as hard.

The question has always sat with me though…

Feeling a bit foggy?

 

At what point is it right, to take time out?

How do you decide?

If you know that if you don’t take time, things really will get out of control, the result could be that it might not be you making the decision any more. Maybe that is what suits some people better though, to have the decision made for them?

I recognise that everyone will have a different context, however I feel that, the part that is really, really hard to determine, is the right point to say “I need time out”. As I mentioned, I experienced a sense that I wasn’t “bad enough” to need time off, despite a feeling of dread every morning, crying in the shower, struggling to hold back tears at work and feeling like I’d lost control of myself. Even with all of that, I was somehow managing to go about my day to day, get my job done. I will add however, that I was exhausted at the end of every day, not wanting to see anyone, do anything or go anywhere. No-one really noticed anything was wrong, so why would anyone believe I needed any sort of break?

As I set out to write this, I wanted to check if it was just me, or if other people felt similar about this, so canvassed opinions and experiences of others in my network, and of course, found parallel stories.

So, it goes a little something like this. It feels like there are “two of you”. A big confident part of you is saying keep going, and is trampling all over the quieter voice, gently suggesting that you need to take time out.

The big “others perceptions” voice keeps winning the “argument” though…

  • That’s weak, you’re a failure
  • You’ll be letting everybody down
  • You’ll be “leaving them in the lurch”
  • It’ll go against you
  • You’ll be labelled as having Mental Health “issues”
  • If you stop you won’t ever go back
  • You’ll lose credibility and status

And so, you “soldier on”. The voice returns. You know your GP would sign you off if you went but…

  • What exactly would I say is wrong?
  • How long would I be signed off for?
  • How long would I actually need?
  • What would they write on the note?
  • Would it go on my record?
  • How would I tell work?
  • Will I ever get better?

The “conversation” continues…

  • You’re drinking too much and eating junk but its OK, it helps you through
  • You’ve stopped connecting with people, but that’s OK because you’re just busy
  • You’re just tired, you cry when you’re tired
  • The lack of sleep is annoying, but you can manage on a little less sleep…
  • It’s only a headache, sometimes stomach ache, I’m a bit snappy, its not “THAT” bad…

The worries niggle on, keeping you crawling along…

  • The workload will be even worse when I go back
  • What would I say to people?
  • What would people think of me…they’ll think I’m weak, a failure
  • It would mark the end of my career…how will I get a job in future?
  • What if I lost my job, how would I cope financially?

Until the day you find…

  • You’re drinking way too much and eating mostly junk
  • You’ve stopped connecting with people
  • You’re crying every day, for most of the day
  • You’re paralysed with paranoia
  • You’re so tired you can’t do basic tasks
  • You’ve totally lost empathy for patients and co-workers
  • You’ve shouted and sworn at your boss/patient/client
  • You break down at work
  • You can’t physically get out of bed
  • You are in a hospital bed
  • You’re thinking it would be easier to get knocked down by a car than go to work

From the people I spoke to, the below graphic shows the symptoms they were experiencing, the final trigger that meant they took time out, along with the time they were out for.

One sign that came up for almost everyone was being tearful and crying, without being able to control it. That was closely followed by lack of sleep or insomnia.

Sleep is SO critical to our well-being (I’d go as far as survival), that it’s not surprising it’s a feature of needing time out. Its another topic for discussion on what comes first e.g. is it a lack of sleep that causes the mental health issue, or the mental health issue that causes the lack of sleep. Possibly a combination – but definitely too much to explore further here (check out an article I wrote on Sleep after reading Matthew Walkers “Why We Sleep” for more and some NHS resources here).

Taking Time Out Sheela Hobden www.bluegreencoaching.com
Taking Time Out: Signs & Triggers

A question I asked the participants of my survey was “do you wish you’d taken time out sooner?” and the answer was YES, to the tune of 85% of people I asked.

What is actually going on though? Why do I feel so bad?

From the training, reading and research I have gathered over the years since suffering myself, I believe there are a few potential roots. One is that we may have lost connection with something or maybe never had it in the first place, and/or, our resources to deal with the lack of it, or having to handle life without it depletes us further of those resources. There are too many areas to list here in this article, but you can read more about some of them in this article.

Watch out for burn out!

A note on burn out

A few facts about burn out – it’s not you, its them! The Gallup survey said the top reasons for burnout are unfair treatment at work, unmanageable workload, lack of role clarity, lack of communication and support from their manager and unreasonable time pressure. So, actually if you are experiencing any of the thoughts described in this article and you can link it to any of these, you’d do right to do what you can to address these challenges.

For more on burnout, check these useful links: Maslach Burnout Inventory and article on “Workplace not people”

So, how bad does it need to be?

Now that you have seen some of the things other people experienced ahead of taking time out, what are you thinking about what you need right now?

Here are a few questions for consideration:

  • Do you sense that if you don’t do something now, something very bad is likely to happen?
  • How “bad” do you need to be? How much longer can you survive like this?
  • What happens if you do nothing? What impact will that have on your body? Those around you?
  • If someone you know, or in your team was experiencing the same things as you, what would you be suggesting?
  • What is your worst fear about taking time out? If that happens, what would you do [yes this is difficult to think about, but it will at least face the fear head on]?
  • How many people are worried about you right now?
  • Who has already tried to help you or suggest something?
  • Are you afraid to speak about your feelings for fear of breaking?

The answers to these questions will help you to build a picture of what is happening for you right now, and what might happen, depending on what you decide to do.

I remember thinking things like “I’ll take time when this project is done…” or, “I’ll be OK after my holiday” but now can see that there really never will be a “right time” to take time out, there will be what is “right for you”. So, if you draw the conclusion that you need to preserve your resources, or that if you keep on placing demands on them that they will get depleted, then it is time to take preventative action and give yourself the space you need. It is a very hard decision, however it is something you are in control of, and actually that recognition alone will be the start of your recovery process, because our sense of control is an important element of resilience, which impacts our well-being. So, to be clear, there is a choice, only YOU can make it, though it is for your future self.

The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to think clearly about what you need, and as you have seen from my research, other people start suggesting the decision for you!

If you are still unsure and need to think a bit deeper, then download my free kit to help you reach that decision.

Where my thinking originates from:

As I’ve grown the body of research on well-being, a couple of resources have become the corner stones. They are Johan Haris’ Lost Connections and Griffin and Tyrells’ Human Givens (Emotional Needs), then the practical training coming from the Wraw tool, that I am a practitioner for. All of these key works are integrated in my MOT4U concept and are integral to many of my one to one and group programmes.

💡 There are a couple of things I can offer at this point:

How did this land with you?

I really would like to hear, so do get in touch and share your experience or comment.

Sheela Hobden www.bluegreencoaching.com

Sheela Hobden is a Coach at bluegreen Coaching.  Following her own mental health battles, she now coaches individuals, runs training sessions and speaks at conferences.  She has a real passion for helping medics and healthcare professionals take as much care of themselves as they do their patients!  She has a PGCERT in Business and Personal Coaching, holds ACC member status with the ICF and is CIPD qualified.She challenges herself with ultra distance running and Ironman.  Find her at www.bluegreencoaching.com or swimming in the sea, in Poole, Dorset

Get more ideas and tips by joining her newsletter tribe – sign up below!

What does it really mean, to put yourself first?

What does it really mean, to put yourself first?

I’ve been off grid this month.

My Dads been sick, like, intensive care on a ventilator for weeks kind of sick. Pneumonia followed by Septecemia.

I honestly thought we’d lose him.

It felt like someone pressed stop on my world.

He’s not out of the woods yet, but I’m feeling a bit more human and my brain is firing up better! I’m writing here, and now, because family trumps work, hands down.

I’m truly thankful to my boss (also me) who quickly recognised I needed time out, to relieve myself of pressures that could wait.

I focused on ME.

Hospital visits were only at certain times, so couldn’t be there the whole time anyway. My “energy” is generally good; I eat well, get rest, prioritise sleep and keep up with exercise. This meant I was in the best shape to “be there” for him. As time froze though, it became really obvious that there was a risk to those strengths.

Not one to lose my appetite but that was one period in my life that it really happened. I had to work hard to keep the good stuff coming in. On feeling myself questioning “whats the point?” I recognised I needed to do something. It took a real stretch of my mental strength to remind myself that I’m no use to anyone if I am malnourished, tired or exhausted.

The only thing I could liken it to, is when we get nauseous or faint because of a shock. All the blood rushes to the source of injury (be that a physical one, or to the brain as it rushes to process information received). It leaves the stomach, and many other parts of the body, to deal with the “incident”. It forgets the rest of the body needs it, and ultimately, the rest of it.

Replay this as if you are looking after someone else or maybe its your day job, caring for other people. If all your “blood” keeps rushing to them, and you are not paying attention to that, there is a risk that soon, you won’t be able to function.

Sheela Hobden www.bluegreencoaching.com Self-Care Coaching

“Putting me first” is not selfish, its a necessity. It doesn’t have to be big things. Keep it simple;

  • prioritise sleep (even if you are struggling, focus on the wind down before bed)
  • eat well (avoid stimulants to keep you going e.g. sugar, caffeine, alcohol)
  • keep moving (even if its short walks around the block)
  • take breaks and find ways to “leave work at work”

I wrote a more detailed post about Energy, so do take a read of that.

Some words of thanks…

So many people either offered help or normalised my need to step back. Make sure to reach out to those around you. Staying connected, however uncomfortable it may feel sharing your feelings really will provide a cathartic outlet.

The incredible staff at the Queen Elizabeth, Kings Lynn need a shout out. Every single person there make that hospital run like clockwork. Particularly of course, the expert Intensive Care Unit teams and Tilney ward. I owe Dads life to all of you.

A note on stress…

We’re beginning to think part of the cause was that Dad was under too much pressure. He’s retired, but enjoys so many things, he’d ended up taking on too much. It’s a stark reminder that no matter how much we love what we do, it’s still possible to overdo it.

Pressure comes in different forms (and can be real as well as perceived) to what we traditionally see as “work”, and we can’t just put it aside to “go to work”. I’m certainly not the only person facing this, I am sure many people have family issues going on, or other things taking your focus.

Put your own oxygen mask on, before tending to others. Self-care is not selfish, it’s survival.

Sheela Hobden

Give yourself permission to put your basic needs first, so you are in the best place to help others that need you.

EDIT: January 2021 Reporting Dad as fit and healthy, fully recovered, even cycling a few miles a day.

Sheela Hobden www.bluegreencoaching.com

Sheela Hobden is a Coach at bluegreen Coaching.  Following her own mental health battles, she now coaches individuals, runs training sessions and speaks at conferences.  She has a real passion for helping medics and healthcare professionals take as much care of themselves as they do their patients!  She has a PGCERT in Business and Personal Coaching, holds ACC member status with the ICF and is CIPD qualified.She challenges herself with ultra distance running and Ironman.  Find her at www.bluegreencoaching.com or swimming in the sea, in Poole, Dorset

Get more ideas and tips by joining her newsletter tribe – sign up below!