The HR Juggler

The 25% Club: Recovery

Posted on: February 11, 2013

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This post is part of the 25% club series dealing with the topic of mental health, particularly as it relates to the workplace. Some of the posts, like today’s, will be accredited, others will be anonymous – all have a powerful impact and help to shine a light on a topic that we need to talk about so much more than we currently do. Todays’s post is written by Wayne Singleton, who can be found on Twitter @SingletonWayne. 

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I’ve read the other blogs about mental health that Alison has posted and feel that my story can’t really add a great deal to what’s already been said.  I was off work for a while due to many things that happened in my life that happened at the same time which ended in me suffering from a period of stress/anxiety.  This was around five years ago, and, honestly, I’m probably only just recovering fully now.

I knew it probably wasnt right to throw up every morning after brushing my teeth, but I carried on.  Then one day, I threw up, and carried on, and couldn’t stop.  Then I sat down on the bathroom floor, I realised I couldn’t go into work and the shutters came down…

I don’t want to focus on what happened or why, but to focus on what I believe helped me, some of the tools and techniques that I really found useful and helped me recover much quicker than I probably would have done without them.  I thought myself as a bit of a stress expert before I became ill, and enjoyed reading about it as a pet subject, so I was well versed in the symptoms.  This also helped when I went to the doctor and he reached for the prescription pad while saying ‘I’ll just arrange for you to have some drugs’….  No, no you won’t thanks very much Doctor.

A couple of the keys for me were rehabilitation and exercise.  I knew that, despite being in a shocker of a state, I needed to get back to work as soon as possible, even though this put a bit of extra pressure on me at a time when I needed to rest.  I think that this was a bit of anchor for me and proved to be something to work towards.  I eventually returned a matter of weeks after I’d been signed off, and thanks to an understanding line manager and supportive department, I returned on a rehabilitation programme in a different job, building my hours up over a few months.  I think that, if I had gone back to work full-time straight away, I would have ended up truly broken and probably wouldn’t have returned to my employer at the time.  I’d seen this rehab approach work incredibly well before my issues, and can vouch for it wholeheartedly now.

Within the rehab aspect is also sleep.  I think that all of us fret about work and have sleepless nights, and I think that this contributed to my illness significantly.  I LOVE sleep at the best of times and can generally snatch a snooze whenever and wherever (when I was a child I ‘famously’ fell asleep between leaving the top of a slide and reaching the bottom!), but this definitely hadn’t been the case in the months leading up to me being off.  I found myself sleeping for hours during the day, and in some circumstances zoning out for long periods while I was awake.  The latter was particularly frightening when I was out running on the fells, which brings me on to exercise…

I’d started running after giving up smoking a number of years ago, and had worked my way up from 10k to marathon distances.  For various reasons, I hadn’t been doing enough of this hobby/pastime/love and realise now that this is essential to bring a bit of balance and stability to my life.  I’m fortunate to live in the South Lakes so have access to an incredible playground to exercise in, and spending anything up to eight hours trotting round the fells leaves me feeling exhilarated and my head ‘empty’ as far as worries and work thoughts are concerned.  Running gives me time to work through the anger and frustrations that we each experience in day-to-day life, and I’m a big advocate of supporting people in discovering a sport/exercise that they can enjoy.  I think it’s really important that in times when we’re struggling, we need to be a bit selfish and take time out to reset and ponder things – exercise can be a good way of having some ‘time off’.

I think that all of the ‘normal’ recommendations also apply when looking at stress/anxiety in particular are also helpful – less booze, less caffeine, eat more healthily, all have their place and I guess all contribute to leading a more balanced lifestyle.

I’m not sure that my ‘story’ is groundbreaking, or innovative, but I promised myself that I’d always try to share what worked for me in an effort to prevent anyone else suffering what was a pretty horrendous period in my life.  I’d urge anyone working in HR to do a bit of research on mental health and the wide spectrum of illness/affliction that this covers, in an effort to understand it for all number of reasons.  Not least of which is to help ourselves should it happen to us.

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If you care about mental health and want to make a difference there are lots of things you can do

  • visit Mind’s website and check out their excellent corporate resources
  • take the ‘time to change’ pledge
  • share your story and read those of others as part of this blog series. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch with me on Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or through the comments section of this blog
  • we are forming an #HRforMentalHealth team to fundraise for Mind by running the Royal Parks half marathon in October. Register here if you’d like to join us – we’re a friendly bunch with some first-time half-marathon runners joining us :)

 

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