Have you ever heard that phrase in your workplace? Has someone said it to you? Have you overheard it? Or have you ever said it to anyone yourself?

I have. Please forgive me. Back in the day when I was employed in a corporate organisation, I know I said that at least once as a middle manager. I had it said to me at least once too.

Even if it wasn’t said to me, I often felt the pressure of expectation to ‘perform’ when I was returning to work after having my children, when I suffered the loss of a loved one, when I had been unwell or when I was having a really bad period (luckily for me that was not often).

When I started my own micro business in the UK, I learned a lesson really quickly – that I was at the heart of my business and therefore my business didn’t exist without me. The lesson it takes much longer to learn is that my health, wellbeing, happiness was key to the success of that business. In fact, it’s more than that. It’s about survival of the business, regardless of size or turnover.

When you run your own show, you know logically that if you are physically ill there will be a problem. What you don’t realise in many cases is that mental wellbeing is equally important. In fact it’s more than that. Mental wellbeing from minute to minute is really really important. It matters every day.

Saying ‘leave your problems at home’ is like saying ‘cut your arm off, leave it outside and then pick it up on your way out’. It’s complete nonsense, it’s unachievable and it’s a myth. Those who say they can do it, or they do it, actually mean something different. They mean ‘I’ve been a total pain in the arse all day’ or ‘I’ve blamed everyone else today because of my low mood’.

Therefore investment in personal development, personal wellness, relaxation, happiness, taking time off MUST become part of the dynamic of each working week. To survive and to thrive.

I have yet to fully learn this lesson – to say to clients, friends and family that ‘no, that’s my family time’ or ‘no, I don’t work in the evenings’, ‘no I don’t work for nothing’, ‘no I don’t do mates’ rates’ or ‘no, I’m on holiday’ or ‘no, I’m away that day on a spa event’.

Therefore I thought during 2020, I would share with you some of the things which disrupt my mental health on a daily or weekly or monthly basis which we face – or which I face and which have a negative impact.

I don’t do this to say I’ve got poor mental health – I share this to show that I’m a human being and mental health can be affected in tiny incremental ways as well as by much bigger triggers. I let things get in my way, distract my focus and I too need to keep learning and growing and developing.

An emerging theme….

During January and February, I can identify three things which have really disrupted by focus:

  1. Worry around one of my children being ill while away at university, even though she’s an adult.
  2. Concern around another of my children’s struggles to get a break in a career about which she’s deeply passionate and I know absolutely nothing.
  3. Anger over a business contact who gives the impression of being caring and successful but behind the scenes is passive aggressive and doesn’t pay the bills.

Some of these things will be very familiar to anyone running a business. It’s impossible to separate your family life from your business.

In my case when it comes to children, there are practical disruptions like multiple phone calls to various people and long drives backwards and forwards. However I often find I’ve been staring at the wall thinking and an hour has gone by. I’ve not even looked at my to-do list and the day is slipping by.

With the dodgy business owner who appears to be one thing, but has turned out to be another. There’s that continuous inner conversation about how could I not have spotted that? Why was I so friendly and so uber-promotional for her for all of that time? Why didn’t I spot that this person stroked my ego often which blinded me to the danger signs? Why am I surprised when someone turns out to be a turd wrapped in gold – it’s not like I haven’t experienced this before? Have I ever become that person to someone else? I’m sure I have on the odd occasion (not around paying bills though).

How do I deal with this? The family stuff, I don’t have the answers I’m afraid. You have just have to find your way through. Sometimes I do it with great ill will and anger, which is actually sometimes fear. I get frustrated when I can’t solve problems and, for your children as they grow – you cannot always make things right. You have to try to keep them positive, keep them motivated and help them keep their self belief.

With the work stuff, that’s a little different. I do have a little strategy which has served me while and it has been learned over time. You succeed or you learn. I have found that when this happens I do need to take and own the lesson. What did I do myself to contribute to this and what can I do better? In this case, with the support of a very successful business person I’m privileged to work with, the lesson is to do basic due diligence, even around attractive and shiny objects. If I had done some basic checks on Companies House in the UK, I would have been asking some questions around finances early doors with this person. Not when it’s too late. A good lesson learned for 2020. What lessons are to come?

*Fiona Scott is a UK journalist with more than 30 years’ experience in print, radio and television. She’s also run her own media consultancy for more than ten years and works with companies to raise their profiles through words, pictures, animations and video – as well as managing their strategies on and offline. She’s also a working parent with three children and lives with them, her husband and their dog in the South West of the UK.