From now on

As many of you know from social media, I, and my wife, are currently dealing with a situation that is causing immense stress. I’ve written before about mental health, HERE, and the situation certainly matches scenarios talked about there. In this blog I’ll explore ways of dealing with it that have helped me.

I run my own business and it’s often been said and written that business owners are amongst the most susceptible to stress simply because of the relative difficulty in switching off. It’s certainly true for me, in that I find my thoughts drifting to my business at inconvenient times of the day and night.

I’ve written and spoken before on the value of physical exercise as an outlet and means of coping, and it’s always been that way for me. I’m a triathlete and have to have a decent training plan each week, and aside from the physical and mental benefits it brings me, I enjoy planning out my training schedule each week.

The beauty of having my own business is that I can work in my training around my business to a large degree.

And so it helps.

But I’m also a qualified personal trainer, and whilst I don’t do a lot of that kind of stuff, when I do I am always keen to tell people about the need to rest too, and not just that, but to actively PLAN rest as an activity in their training week.

Physically, the body needs time to recuperate from training sessions, and rest days are a vital part of that. It helps restore energy and allow the body to do what it needs to do.

In recent months I’ve been slowly upping my training ready for the summer races, and my body has been quietly complaining. I’ve had rest days each week but they’ve seemed almost accidental, as if I ought to have been training but hadn’t been able to, and it’s made me grumpy, as if I’m missing out on training.

I realised recently that I wasn’t following the advice I give to people, to actively plan rest days as if they are a training activity in themselves.

So that’s what I’m now doing. My training schedule includes planned rest days where I’m doing nothing physical. And I find myself looking forward to them because I know they are a vital part of my regime.

Without the rest days, I can’t perform as well as I should.

And I’ve started doing similar in my work and business too. I’d realised that a lot of the stress was made worse by my not switching off, not spending time looking after my family and myself by working too much.

I was having rest days, but again they were almost accidental and sometimes resented by me.

But I realise that rest days (and by that I don’t mean weekends per se) are crucial in maintaining mental health and building resilience. If I don’t plan in time to take off work, I never will take time off and my performance will suffer as a result.

As someone who is self employed, the minimum annual leave entitlement doesn’t apply to me or others in similar positions. But it should. And even if it doesn’t, we have the power to make it apply ourselves.

The minimum annual leave entitlement is there for a reason, and it would be foolish to ignore it. I’d been booking in foreign holidays with the family, and Xmas, but not actively booking in any other time off and I realised I was missing out on…

…rest days.

From now on, I’m actively planning in 2 days a month (plus family holidays and Xmas) on weekdays where I won’t work and spend time with my family or doing stuff for myself.

These are my rest days, and they started this month. I’m already enjoying them, and I don’t feel guilty about them. Of course there’s the potential I lose out on some work if a client wants me on those days, but I’m not shifting them because if I do, my family and I will lose out in more important ways.

The body needs time to rest.

The mind needs time to rest.

But sometimes we are too busy to make these things happen.

From now on, I’m not too busy to make the time for the important things.

From now on…

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, my next race on 12 May will be my 50th since I started racing back in 2010. I wonder whether I’ll ever get to 100 races? It would be nice.

Relax

Do you suddenly get a cold or other minor illness as soon as you stop work for a holiday?

I do. In this blog I’ll look at why and what it means.

This has been a thing for me ever since I was a child. I remember clearly every school holidays I would get a cold. Without fail.  I also would hardly ever get ill during school time, and don’t recall having time off at all.

But come the holidays, on came the cold.

And its been the same as an adult. I’ve been lucky enough to never feel ill enough to take time off sick, but its still a regular occurrence that when we are nearing a holiday period or just starting one that I’ll get some kind of minor illness.

It’s happened the last three foreign holidays we’ve had, and the last two UK ones, and its happened the last 5 Xmases in a row.  And that’s just as far back as I can remember.

Frankly, I’m getting sick of it.

There’s some research behind the phenomenon. Its called Leisure Sickness, as reported in this BBC article.  But despite the body of research it doesn’t appear widely recognised – and yet, I bloody well recognise it.

It always seems the same – I work really hard in the run up to a holiday, knowing I can wind down as soon as holidays come, and can feel quite stressed in the final week or so before the holiday.

And then holidays come and BANG…so does the cold.

The theory goes that its the turning off of adrenaline that allows the body to relax and become susceptible to minor illness, and I believe that its true.

But what else does this mean?

As a personal trainer I understand the value of adrenaline but also it’s downsides.

As an HR professional and leader I understand the impact this has on employee wellbeing.

If employees work so hard to “clear the decks” in order to have some time off that they expose themselves to burnout or minor injury, that says as much about the organisation and its ways of monitoring wellbeing and stress levels as it does about the individual approach to work.

I’m guilty of having bad habits, developed when I wasn’t as experienced or had made as many mistakes. It’s hard to change them.

But I can try to change them in others who have yet to develop them. And I try to change them in organisational cultures so that no one else gets sucked in to them.

What value are you as a spouse, parent or family member if you work too hard whilst at work and are ill for half the time you’re not at work?

There’s got to be a middle ground.

Running my own business I get the freedom to work less when I want to and more when I want to. It means I can sometimes (note, sometimes) manage the peaks and troughs of work and holidays better than I used to be able to.

I get to relax without it being an all or nothing thing. Relaxation is massively important, but the act of relaxation shouldn’t be a shock to the system. It shouldn’t bring the onset of minor illness.

Otherwise, when we eventually retire we are going to have one hell of a shock.

Now I’m not advocating working when you’re on leave like some do, or operating on wind down when you’re at work like some do.

But there must be ways we can help people to relax more as they approach a period when they need to relax, so that they can actually enjoy being away from work and not be ill for the duration.

We don’t want people coming back from leave even more tired and stressed then when they went.

Within organisations, we can surely help people to learn how to relax at work – and who knows, this may even unlock some creativity and engagement.

As a PT and HR professional, I’ve got a few ideas about how – but what do YOU think?

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, we’ve had a great Xmas (my minor illness aside) and it was great to get all four of my children under one roof for 24 hours on Xmas Eve / Day, for the very first but hopefully not last time.