My wife Jen and I are polar opposites in many ways. Perhaps that’s why we work so well together.
A recent example of this was when myself and Louis had a trip to Bali, without Jen. Whilst she stayed at home with Ted, who definitely wouldn’t have been able to manage the 24 hours of travel, we headed to a monkey sanctuary to see the long-tailed monkey in the wild.
During the trip, one monkey decided to bite Louis. Yes, bite him! When you’re in Bali and you get bitten by anything, it can result in quite serious medical consequences. Luckily for us, the bite wasn’t bad at all and left barely a small bruise. No skin was broken and there was no blood which meant that Louis was perfectly alright and there was no need for medical intervention. We checked this information with at least 5 members of staff and were informed repeatedly that if the skin was not broken then no medial intervention was needed.
Not that Jen accepted this. Her brain went into overdrive and fear set in. What if the worst happened?
I had so many missed calls on my phone and voicemails of Jen’s panic-stricken voice demanding we went straight to the doctor to get Louis checked out.
Despite knowing that the bite was not even close to being severe enough to visit the doctor, she could not calm herself down. Meanwhile, Louis and I were enjoying a surf lesson.
I do get it. We were the other side of the world and she couldn’t see for herself, but Jen’s go-to response is fear, anxiety, stress and worry in almost all aspects of life.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t be more laid back. Except for 1 thing…
There’s 1 thing I fear, and that’s not being able to provide for my family. Whilst this doesn’t manifest itself on a day to day basis, it bubbles away deep inside me and does cause me many sleepless nights. The expectations I place on myself are often unrealistic resulting in falling short and causing a lot of personal angst.
When AXA PPP healthcare got in touch and asked me what I fear, at first I was reluctant to say anything. I didn’t want to admit my fear. But when I did, it felt really helpful. This then led to a coaching session with a physiologist whose background is in psychology and health coaching, named Amy.
The focus of the session was around how my fear of not being able to provide for my family leads to a huge motivation to work as much as I possibly can. Good in part, but not when it leads to burnout. And there are occasions when I feel as though burnout is only 1 step away. I often work 12-15 hour days and I work 7 days a week. I haven’t had an entire day off for 3 years.
My fear is deeply rooted, some aspects from a childhood where my father was made redundant and others from my current financial situation. Whatever the roots of it though, I don’t want it to hold me back, but instead embrace it and use it to grow and become stronger as an individual.
Amy started the session by asking me to explain my fear, my daily routine and the impact the two have on each other. She then introduced me to ‘The Stress Bucket.’ A metaphoric container that we all have, in which we pile the many stresses of life; kids, work, family, illness, finances etc.
We then discussed how we can go about releasing contents from the bucket in 3 different ways:
- Social interaction
- Changing our mindset
- Physical activity
For me, my mindset is usually pretty strong and I find it fairly easy to adjust it accordingly so I decided to focus on physical activities and social interaction.
Blogging heavily relies on social media and being present on the various platforms A LOT. Which means that much of my time is spent creating content to share. So much so that it’s very rare I ever switch off and take time out. The reason being, I’m fearful that it will have a negative impact on ‘work.’
So Amy encouraged me to come up with my first goal.
Could we have one family activity a week that we do not put on social media?
I mean, we do this occasionally, but usually, I am still focused on an aspect of work. The challenge is to just be in the moment and forget about paying the bills, creating content and work. For people in the traditional workplace, when not at work, they can forget about it; we can’t. Because our life is work and work is our life.
Amy then suggested I create a goal based around physical activity too. Keep fit & healthy was something I used to be very passionate about. Nowadays, I’m either looking after the kids, working or sleeping with very little time to get out for a run, a game of footy or a bike ride.
And when I do have the opportunity, I’m fearful that taking that time for myself would detract from work, the kids or sleep! So I tend to pass it up.
The goal is to book something in each week, just for me to get out a do something physical, regardless of whether there’s a to-do list as long as my arm.
Once we came up with these 2 goals, Amy introduced the very simple process of testing them out. Sometimes my fear of losing momentum on social media or getting behind with work taking time for myself is worse than the actual reality.
The expectation my fear gives might not be the reality.
Actually, I know this is the case from living with Jen and I’ve even told her the same thing. (It’s different when it’s yourself though, right? Do as I say and not as I do and all that!)
Jen’s fears are countless; fear of flying in an aeroplane, fear of death, fear of tunnels, fear of enclosed spaces, fear of germs, fear of illness, fear of getting old, fear of missing out on something, fear that our children grow up too fast and she’ll miss it, fear of bad things happening, fear of what she reads in the news, fear of fear…
Whilst I had Amy on the line, I wanted to pick her brains about how I could best support Jen through these things. She came back with 3 things:
- Not to dismiss her fears.
- Test out her fears in safe, controlled ways.
- Provide empathy.
She also suggested something for both myself and Jen to try.
That at the end of each day, we write down a few positive things that happened that day. It’s all too easy to spend all our time mulling over the challenges and hardships we may have incurred that day, so instead, spend time on the small positive happenings.
The coaching session with Amy was incredibly positive, and on reflection for 1 key reason. Amy didn’t just listen and then offer solutions, she instead encouraged me to come up with my own solutions. She skilfully led me to my own conclusions and my own goals.
I found this far more beneficial than a guru telling what I need to be doing differently. She taught me to own my fears and make some changes to my life so the 2nd half of 2018 can be even better.
So often the media says that we should fight our fears but through this process, it’s much more beneficial to embrace them, learn from them and make them work in your favour. I don’t want to lose my fear because it provides healthy motivation to do my best but I needed help to avoid falling into the pitfalls that come with it.
The bottom line is that my mental health is at stake here and through a 1-hour coaching session with an AXA PPP healthcare professional, I feel recuperated and ready to move forward with my life.