Running a startup is very stressful and there is a lot on the line, including your name, reputation and finances. The article highlighted that being an entrepreneur can lead to ‘self-doubt, imposter syndrome, loneliness and burnout.’
In a survey conducted, it showed that only 25% of startup CEOs have some kind of executive coach or therapist to help them overcome their daily anxieties and stresses – suggesting more support is needed to help those entrepreneurs manage the stress of running a high-risk venture.
Mental wellbeing is an important factor for any startup founder, Forbes continues. The levels of stress and anxiety can shape one’s creativity, productivity and ingenuity. Taking care and managing your stress will preserve your talent and innovation and help you to become the best leader possible.”
“Startup founders and entrepreneurs are often taking on a huge risk financially, with hopes that they can raise enough money, grow a large company or exit for huge sums.”
“In the short-term, this means taking a financial pay cut, working significantly more hours with the hope that their proposition becomes established and successful.”
“But the process can be incredibly stressful. For example, a lot of startups do not really make money until they exit or are bought out, so regardless of how many hours you work in the first few weeks, months or years, your financial position does not necessarily change. Bear in mind, that you might be missing crucial time with your family, loved ones or you are not fully present in the room because you ‘cannot switch off.’”
“Running a startup is a huge financial risk and there is always going to be someone better funded and getting more PR. So don’t sweat, just do it for enjoyment.”
“Meanwhile, it can be soul destroying to see other competitors in your space or people you know getting massive PR, large funding rounds or sales – and you can really start to doubt yourself and feel like you’ve hit a wall. It becomes a horrendous spiral of jealousy, anxiety and doubt, whilst you have been underpaid and overworked for too long.”
“More than 50% of startups fail, yet it doesn’t stop people creating them, and new businesses being created daily.”
“But I think before you get into a startup, it is important to manage your expectations and understand your vision.” explains Tannenbaum
“You might need to look at this like, ‘I am going to work hard for 3 to 4 years and then reassess if it does not work out.’”
“And also, you just have to do it for enjoyment,” he concludes. “After all, running a startup means that you are calling the shots, not having a boss and being able to hire who you want. So if you can enjoy the everyday part of running a business and a startup, that’s great, and if you happen to make a lot of money, well even better!”
Daniel Tannenbaum is the co founder of start up news site Techround
I really wanted to write today because the sun is shining, apple blossom is on the trees and Spring is finally here! I always feel more hopeful and happy once Spring is here but living with bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder can mean that some days are harder than others.
This week, I have really struggled with low mood and social anxiety. I’m an optimistic person and sometimes I pack too much into my days and end up having a panic attack because I can’t cope. This is what happened to me yesterday when I decided it would be a great idea to pack in too much, including going across London and delivering many Body Shop orders to my customers and friends. My social anxiety was so high (I think largely due to being in lockdown) , I just wanted to hide and I ended up sleeping to escape my feelings and feeling super low. I am lucky that I understand what to do when this happens and I have a husband and family who support me too. I am still in therapy for my panic disorder and it has improved a lot but there are times when it gets triggered like this week.
I have also found that I am worrying more about what people think of me- if I have said the right or wrong thing or upset anyone. Its so silly but due to past rejection I get scared and those fears bubble to the surface.
On Friday, I had a really productive therapy session. There are a lot of worries about the future that I still hold and being able to unpack them in therapy is really useful for me. I am doing EMDR trauma therapy but a lot of it is talking out and facing those triggers one by one. I have a very good relationship with my therapist and having a session often calms my mind.
In positive news, last week I became an aunt to a beautiful baby girl, Cara Harriet who is the sweetest little baby. She is a joy and light in all our lives and I feel so lucky to have a little niece! My sister and brother in law are amazing 🙂
And in other good news, in April, my essay in the Book of Hope by Jonny Benjamin MBE and Britt Pfluger will be published alongside many others I look up to (Dame Kelly Holmes and my friend Hope Virgo). So there are good things as well as bad!
I am doing a lot better- I dont rapid cycle, I havn’t had an episode of mania or hypomania since 2014. My brain seems to like Lithium and Quetaipine (a mood stabiliser and anti psychotic). I have to learn to be kind to myself and practise self care, because my social anxiety is a fear response from the past.
Being kind to myself is of utmost importance. Heres a list of what I do when I am having a bad day: take a nap, have a bubble bath, read a book, hug the guineapigs and Rob, talk to Rob, a friend or family member, put on a face mask, cry, breathe and listen to calming music, watch a good TV show (I have been watching First Dates Teens), book in a therapy session, eat something nice, put some make up on, wash my hair, wear an uplifting perfume.
There’s nothing inherently wrong about staying at home. On the contrary, it’s the perfect opportunity to focus on your work without the typical office interruptions. Besides, you don’t need to get up early to get ready for work anymore. Bliss!
Or at least, that’s what you used to tell yourself during the first lockdown. But half-way through the second British lockdown, you’re finding it hard to stay positive about the situation.
A simple chain of emails with a coworker makes your blood boil. They’re asking if you can edit your previous report. They don’t like the way it is written. They’d prefer a more energetic text. You roll your eyes. It’s an informative document, not a piece of poetry, you think to yourself.
You bite through your lips during the next video call, trying to contain your frustration. Why are clients changing their minds again? They already gave the green light for the project, but now, they want everything redone again. You cheekily pretend the doorbell rang to escape the call for a few minutes while you try to calm down.
Why is everything so unbearable these days? The answer is simple: Lockdown takes its toll on your mental health. Don’t be harsh on yourself.
Feeling tired, stressed out, and angry is a normal reaction during the pandemic. In any other situation, you would plan a relaxing vacation away from the hecticness of everyday life. Unfortunately, there is nowhere else you can go. So how do you take a break when you can’t go anywhere to recharge your batteries?
#1. Book a few days off
You may not be able to go anywhere, but turning the laptop off for a few days can already make a big difference. Working from home means that you can’t truly compartmentalise work in the way you used to. There’s no way you can leave your office worried at the door when coming back home. The home office has brought work inside your home. A lot of professionals tend to check their emails on their phones, long after their working hours.
On top of that, you’re more likely to work longer hours at home, as there’s no rush to leave the office on time. Compared to the typical 8-hour day, it’s easy to see why you’re exhausted! Don’t be afraid to book some holiday away from the screen.
Also its important to check with your office about their vaccination policy even if you are working from home or having time out. It is important to be safe and well.
#2. Reach out to an expert
Sometimes a short break isn’t enough to take your mind off work stress. Working from home makes you more vulnerable to mental fatigue, as you’re more likely to work overtime. However, when the fatigue reaches such a level that you feel emotionally empty and powerless, you may want to reach out to a doctor. Indeed, what you may be experiencing is burnout, the sensation that there is always so much to do and that you can’t meet the expectations that your work has from you.
You may not be ready to reach out to a therapist to discuss your issues, or perhaps you are not sure what you should be talking about. But you can reach out to an online doctor service to find tools and tips that can help you cope. You can consider treatment for anxiety, for example, which can help you relax.
#3. Create a strict schedule
According to a LinkedIn study, many home-based employees feel the pressure to appear busy. Many are worried about how coworkers and managers perceive them. As a result, overtime has become the new normal. Britons working from home are doing the equivalent of 4 extra whole working days per month.
It is exhausting, both to the mind and the body. You need to create a schedule that respects your work/life balance. Reduce overtime by blocking time in your calendar for yourself and your family. For instance, if you’re unlikely to stop working at 5:30 PM, book an appointment for yourself after work. Why not schedule your home workout at 6 PM? Make sure as well to book lunchtime away from the desk, even if you’re only going to the kitchen to heat leftovers. You need to reclaim your spare time.
#4. Introduce a soothing routine
How do you soothe the mind when anxiety won’t disappear? Making time for your mental health can transform your perception of lockdown, and also improve your productivity at work. Yoga is an excellent tool to let go of stress and clear your headspace. You can start noticing positive effects after only a few minutes of exercise. Making yoga a daily practice can help gradually take back control of your emotions and regain your peace of mind.
Admittedly, yoga if not for everyone. Perhaps, you’d prefer a different kind of workout to alleviate stress. Or a relaxing bath after work. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you stick to it.
#5. Seek new interests
Lockdown is shrinking the world around us. After a few weeks, your entire life revolves around your home office desk, the bedroom, and the couch in the living room. You feel trapped in a tiny routine. While going out is not an option, you can consider introducing new things in your daily life. Something as trivial as reading a book or watching a new TV show on Netflix can bring a sense of renewal and excitement.
#6. Allow yourself to be lazy
The art of doing nothing is a complex skill to acquire. We live in a society that believes that productivity is the only way to create value. We reject unproductive and passive activities because we’ve been conditioned into thinking that doing nothing is bad. The truth is that doing nothing can give you the time and space you need to recharge your batteries. Sit on the couch and let time pass without checking your emails or reading the news. Your mind doesn’t need constant stimulation. On the contrary, the absence of intellectual engagement is necessary. The hyper-productivity race is destroying your sense of self and your mental health.
#7. Stay in bed a little longer
Do you wake up feeling refreshed? No? You’re not the only one. A whopping two-thirds of people have been struggling with sleep quality since the beginning of the pandemic. The combination of pandemic anxiety and long working hours creates a sleep deficit. Ultimately, it affects your mood, your mental focus, and your energy levels. Why not go to bed a little earlier today? Don’t be afraid of changing your sleep routine to find what works for you.
#8. Have realistic goals
In lockdown, I’ll learn a new language.
I’ll get fit.
I’ll repaint the bedroom.
Don’t overdo it. Staying at home doesn’t mean you’ve got more time at your hands. Setting unrealistic lockdown goals will only stress you out.
As silly as it sounds, laughing is still the best medicine when it comes to releasing stress and anxiety. Sit back and watch your favourite comedian on TV. Zoom with friends for an online quiz or an escape room game. Laughing your heart off is not just good for your mood. It helps to break the cycle of stress and self-guilt that leads to burnout.
#10. Make time to go out
In winter, the seasonal affective disorder is at its worst. Even without lockdown, you’d be naturally getting less exposure to sunlight. But right now, it’s important to make time to go out of the house and walk in the sun. Whether you’re just going to add some seeds on the bird’s table in the garden or walking down the street to your local shop, you don’t need more than 30 minutes a day to regulate your mood. It can make a huge difference.
Feeling drained, tired, and irritable is a normal reaction to lockdown. As more and more people are reporting mental health symptoms, it’s important to take preventive steps to avoid Covid burnout. Take back control of your routine and your mood as you’re staying at home.
I have wanted to write this post for several weeks, but so much has been going on personally and I have been really emotionally drained (and launching my new business too). Let start at the beginning.
At the end of May, my mother in law (who is carer for my father in law with terminal brain cancer) was taken very unwell. She was rushed to hospital with stroke like symptoms and put into an induced coma on a ventilator as her lungs were collapsing. We were super scared it was Covid as she was shielding anyway and it came completely out the blue, on the day of her 60th birthday after we had celebrated.
She is the main carer for my father in law and so my husband Rob had to move in to their house to care for his Dad and support his brother. (cue frantic phone calls to the doctors surgery, hospitals, Macmillan nurses and Jewish Care, all done by my incredible husband).
Thankfully, my MIL came off the ventilator to breathe unaided and she tested negative for Covid 19. We think she caught a severe bacterial infection and she then got pneumonia in her lungs. She was in hospital for 4 weeks and discharged 2 weeks ago and is making amazing progress with her physio team and her speech. She is still frail but she is recovering slowly.
This blog post I don’t want to make about my in laws because they are private people. Dealing with all these scary changes has been tough on my mental health (and everyones).
We are slowly slowly coming out the other side, although we know my FIL will worsen in time due to the nature of his illness.
So what flowers are blooming during this adversity?
-On Saturday will be our first wedding anniversary and we will spend it together. Its been a rollercoaster year but I am so thankful to have Rob by my side!
-I am loving my new Body Shop at Home business and my team and incredible managers. It really has been keeping me sane throughout this time of family lockdown and I can’t thank Sarah Cardwell enough for introducing me to the business. The products are so good for self care and healing too, which has been so needed and I have made lots of new friends. It keeps my mind stimulated and earns me income too- I am so grateful.
-Yesterday, Robs kind family member went over so we could spend some proper quality time together (thank you). We went for a walk in our favourite little village near by where there are cottages and flowers and village green and pond- I took lots of pictures of my dream cottages and gardens. Then, we got vanilla chocolate milkshakes (first time in a café post lockdown) and visited family. It was so special just to have US time, so rare in this current time for our family.
-This blog is continuing to grow and turning into a side business and for that I am ever grateful. I am also loving sharing peoples personal stories and hope it is a useful resource.
-Our guineapigs Midnight and Nutmeg are a source of joy and give great cuddles.
-Friends and familys kindness and messages help so much. I havnt had a therapy session in a while but will do.
I am feeling positive but there will be rough days ahead in the coming months. Today though, I am enjoying slightly more calm and peace again before the potential storm, and watching the flowers that are blooming in adversity.
One of the major causes of burnout happens when we’re in situations with minimal amounts of control over what we can do. Nowadays, it can seem like stress and burnout are a normal part of modern day working life. The World Health Organisation listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon and they define burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a lot of pressure to spend our time focused on productivity. These have been seen in the form of achieving full productivity at work or working from home and also being productive by working on self-improvement. The focus on productivity came from the idea that if you focus on driving forwards during the pandemic, this will help get you get through it. While this is true some people, others will need this time to focus on their mental health and simply do less. Getting through a pandemic is not a one size fits all.
Put simply, you should listen to your body and do what you want to do, instead of what the world says you should be doing. Acknowledging that we are all living in an impossible era is the important first step. There is an adaptation period that needs to happen and this period will be longer for some people than others.
While you should try your best to fulfill your work duties, you are allowed to voice if you are struggling. You do not need to work full time, learn a new language, start baking, take up a new hobby and exercise more if you don’t want to. Take it one step at a time, if you finish work or finish your working from home hours and want to spend your free time on something productive, then do and if you don’t, relax.
How to avoid burnout
While we have covered a little on current pressures to be productive, this section will dive into the absolute fundamentals.
Get enough Sleep
Key workers, those working from home and those who have been furloughed all need sufficient sleep. This can be particularly difficult for key workers who are working long, hard shifts and also for those who are simply stressed out by living through a pandemic.
Typically, during your normal routine, you need six to eight hours of sleep each night.but if you’re doing more than your usual routine, you will need around eight hours a night, plus one period of relaxation during the day. Relaxation can be just sitting somewhere quiet for 10 minutes. If you’re approaching burnout you need eight to nine hours of sleep each night, plus two breaks.
Stress can make it difficult to sleep, so be mindful that to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll need to combat your stress levels.
Exercise More or Exercise Less
Exercise helps alleviate stress which is great for creating a good sense of well being. Those who exercise regularly can experience increased energy and productivity. Regular exercise will help you get a good night’s sleep, which will go a really long way for your mental health.
The most important thing when exercising during a stressful time is that you only exercise when you’ve had enough rest. Otherwise, you may plummet yourself further into burnout, especially if you don’t usually exercise. You need to listen to your body, nobody seems to tell you to exercise less, but if you’re burned out, you should.
Don’t Ignore Stress
Short-term stress that is manageable could easily turn into burnout over time. You should voice your stress to employers if you’re still working and reach out for any available help. You can also practise deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques that can help calm you.
Keeping your mind on track and continuing practicing positive thinking. Small techniques like these can work surprisingly well. It can be extremely difficult to remove ourselves from high stress and demanding roles, but just by taking five minutes out where you can really make a difference in terms of mental health. This will positively impact on your ability to do your role as well as everyday tasks.
Outside of work, try and not put yourself in situations that may cause you unnecessary amounts of stress. Your brain can only take so much psychological stress at one time.
If productivity is really what you want to improve on during the pandemic, remember that productivity is not the start, it is the end product of other positive actions you’ve taken to get there. Productivity without burnout will happen when you look after your mental health. This blog was written by writer and psychologist Jade Mansfield – The Worsley Centre, a centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling.
COVID-19 is a pandemic, with just under 500,000 people affected around the worldas of March 26th 2020.
To put things into perspective, mental health currently affects 676 million people worldwide. It’s not a pandemic, it’s an epidemic.
Mental health isn’t contagious. You don’t contract depression from shaking hands with someone that has it. But it is a crisis that’s often overlooked. In fact, 70-75% of people with mental illness receive no treatment at all, choosing to remain silent. This is particularly true in men, who make up 75% of all suicides. In the UK, men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the country.
Mental health caused 44% of all sick days
1 in 5 employees have called in sick to avoid work. And no, this wasn’t because they simply didn’t want to go. It’s because their mental health had become too much for them to do their job.
Rather than be honest, 90% of people lied about it, using another reason for their absence.
In 2019, there were 602,000 total cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK. That’s 44% of all health-related sick days.
The cost of this is projected to be between £39.4 billion to £99 billion each year for businesses. If you break this down, it can cost employers £1,300 per employee if they don’t have the mental health support in place for their staff.
“My mental health has impacted my work. It’s caused me to leave jobs, to call out some days when it’s just too much for me to do normal day to day activities. I also have tried to go into work on days where I’m not 100% and my quality of work and productivity have suffered.”
Rhea – Via Adzooma.
69% of people say working at home helps with mental health
Here’s the light at the end of the tunnel. According to research, 69% of people believe that working at home improves their mental health.
Around the world, offices are shutting en-masse, sending entire workforces to complete their jobs from the comfort of their own homes. If there’s ever a time that people needed space to focus on their mental health this would be it.
Its given employees the space they need to recover mentally. Beyond that, it’s showing employers that their business is capable of functioning remotely.
The positive outcome of this is that hopefully after the COVID-19 crisis, we can set up a world where employees aren’t needed in an office every day. A world where employees are free to work at home and care more for their mental health – reducing office-based overheads and the cost of sick days.
Astonishing mental health data
The data on mental health was complied by interviewing employees of a range of digital marketing and technology companies, including Google, Facebook and The Independent. It revealed stark information about the current state of mental health, such as:
67.9% of people state that their mental health has impacted their work.
57.5% of people state that work has a negative impact on their mental health.
Only 32.1% of people have told their employer about their mental health.
Of the 67.9% of people staying silent on mental health, 83.3% of them don’t plan on ever telling their employer.
66% pf people feel that their work is understanding about their mental health.
But 46% of people feel like they don’t have enough mental health support at work.
90.4% of people believe working flexible hours can help with mental health.
Only 24.4% of people have mental health first-aiders at their work.
91.7% of people believe there should be more services for mental health.
89.9% of people think the government doesn’t do enough to support mental health.
Only 28.6% of people currently access mental health services.
But if more services were available to them, 66.7% would access them.
One of the best things to come of out the COVID-19 pandemic is people working together.
Communities are being brought closer and we’re showing compassion and offering help in brand new ways. If you’re ever unsure of that, just watch a video of people coming together to applaud everyone who’s working to stop the virus every single night. It’s a wonderful show of camaraderie.
It’s a global crisis and we’re in it together. Now, hopefully, we can carry on this momentum to help with mental health and continue the fight for better mental health support.
With support, we can get better. We can push for positive change to help the crisis. Without support, it will only get worse.
Together, let’s take action and break the silence.
This guest blog was written by Danielle Strouther. She is currently writing lots of words about all kinds of unique subjects at Adzooma and searching for a word she likes more than discombobulated. She has a masters in Film and Television, so can tell people she knows what’s good on Netflix.
As some of you will be aware, back in 2017-2018, I helped as a volunteer with fellow volunteers (Lisa Coffman and others) to found the Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (Jewish sabbath) in our communities across the country here in the UK. The initiative, led by the mental health charity Jami and conceived by Rabbi Daniel Epstein, now runs in 150 Jewish communities.
This year, my dad Mike and I were delighted to be asked to share our father and daughter journey with bipolar disorder to Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue.
I have social anxiety- which includes at times a fear of public speaking. In December, I had a breakthrough, where I spoke for a short time at a conference called Limmud alongside my Dad and read from my book Bring me to Light. So, when we were asked to do this talk at Chigwell, I felt it could be possible.
I armed myself with the fact that I knew kind people in the community including the Rabbi and his wife and friends of my husband Rob (its the community he grew up in). I also wanted to share my story to help other people.
So, we stayed with a lovely lady in the community and had friday night dinner with the Rabbi and his family. On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling a little nervous but took my trusted anxiety medication for when I need it- Propranolol, and walked to the synagogue with Dad.
I managed not to have a panic attack and the thought of speaking to help others got me through (as did distraction, deep breathing and drinking a glass of water).
So, at the end of the service, we were called up to speak. Dad went first and talked about his journey with bipolar disorder from when it started for him in 1991 to finding recovery. Then, it was my turn.
I stood up there in the pulpit speaking to a packed audience with a prepared speech. I felt scared but also empowered and began to relax into the talk. I knew that by sharing what happened to me, being sectioned and so ill and talking openly, that I could break stigma and touch others. I was also so proud of my Dad for speaking so openly.
It was only after, when talking to people after the service, that we realised that about 150 people came to listen to our talk! We had some important conversations with people after our talk including someone very newly diagnosed and someone else whose niece had bipolar and is currently very ill.
I couldn’t and still can’t believe I was able to do that. However, since I have been very tired so trying to de-stress and rest as much as I can!
We just want to thank everyone who came to hear our talk and supported us, to every person who thanked us for coming and shared their stories with us. We are so grateful for such a positive reception and thank Rabbi Davis and the Chigwell community for having us.
The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat has had events in communities all across the country. It runs yearly and you can find out more here
Mental health is extremely important and has a significant impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. According to a recent survey by the NHS, one in eight 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed. As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child’s mental health. Fortunately, you can help improve your child’s mental health by creating a supportive family environment at home and learning the early warning signs of common mental health disorders, for example. With this in mind, here are some top ways to care for your child’s mental health.
Develop a good bedtime routine
Sleep plays a vital role in a child’s mental health. Research shows that there is a strong link between sleep problems and an increased risk of developing certain mental illnesses. In fact, one study found that four-year olds with sleep disorders have a much higher risk of developing symptoms of mental health conditions as six-year olds, when compared with children without sleep problems. Experts at Little Lucy Willowadd – “Sleep keeps you calm, your mind alert, and recharges your body to enable you to get up and face each day.” For that reason, you must try and get your child into a good bedtime routine from a young age. Here are some top tips to help your child sleep better:
Create an ideal sleeping space by providing a comfortable bed, installing blackout curtains, and minimising any outdoor noise.
Encourage your child not to use electronics like smartphones before bed.
Get your child into a consistent routine where they go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Try to keep this the same on school days and weekends.
Make sure that your child avoids any caffeine in the afternoon or evenings.
Visit your GP if your child has been experiencing sleep problems for more than two weeks, or if the symptoms are interfering with their daily life.
Exercise as a family
Exercise plays an important role in a child’s overall health. Along with the physical benefits, regular exercise can greatly improve mental wellbeing. This is because physical activity releases endorphins in the brain which creates feelings of happiness and alleviates stress and anxiety. According to advice on the NHS website, children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day.
To give you an idea, examples of moderate intensity exercise include walking to school, riding a bicycle, and playground activities. Exercising as a family is an excellent way to encourage your child to be active. It also allows you to spend quality time together as a family and build closer bonds. Playing games in the garden, going for a walk in the park, or going on a bike ride, are all fun ways to exercise together as a family. You could also encourage your child to start playing a team sport they’re interested in, such as football, rugby, or hockey.
Encourage open communication
You must create a welcoming family environment that is built around trust and understanding. This will help your child feel comfortable telling you about any issues surrounding their mental health. Encourage open communication in your family and make sure you check on your child if you notice any changes in their behaviour i.e. they become distant or their eating habits change.
Remember that children tell people how they are feeling in several ways, not always verbally. A sudden change in behaviour may signal that your child is struggling and needs support. Always listen to your child and empathise with their feelings. Let them know that it’s natural to feel down from time to time and offer support in any way you can.
If you’re still worried about your child’s mental health, then speak with your GP or contact a mental health specialist for further advice.
Mental health illnesses in children are becoming increasingly common and can lead to several serious long-term effects. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for you to care for your child’s mental health. Encouraging healthy habits is a simple yet effective way to improve your child’s mental well-being. This should include exercising regularly, getting enough quality sleep, and following a nutritious diet. Along with this, you should also educate yourself on the symptoms of common mental health conditions in children and create a warm, trusting home environment that encourages open communication. Speak to a medical professional if you need to.
This guest blog was written by professional writer Chloe Walker.
What inspired you to write a book about yours and your daughter’s journey with mental health?
It was July 2017 and I was attending a summer party, hosted by the Marketing Society, the organisation that brings together business people working together in the areas of marketing and advertising. Gemma Greaves, the CEO, was delivering a speech, during which she announced that the Society was going to join the mental health crusade. This seemed odd, slightly incongruous. But then it dawned on me that times had changed. Mental health was no longer the taboo topic it was when I suffered my mental breakdown back in 2001.
Everyone was talking about it now. I also had another 16 years’ experience under my belt, including caring for Emily, my daughter, who suffered from anorexia from 2012 until 2018. So, I had no excuse but to come out of the mental health closet and leave a legacy of sorts to the world. And even if that book helped just one person, then it would have been worth the effort.
How did you manage to recover from your stress, anxiety and break down, what helped you?
It was the 19th July 2001. Extreme stress at work had brought on the panic attacks, which were soon followed by a mental breakdown and the onset of severe agitated depression. I was no longer communicating with my wife or my three young children, even though we were all living under the same roof. That morning, I went cycling down a country road. My brain felt like a jumble of spaghetti when I collided with a 10-ton truck. It appears I tried to take my own life.
That’s how I recovered from the breakdown, because when I woke up in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford a few hours later, the dense fog seems to have lifted. From that point onwards, I began to behave like a normal human being. No idea why. The physical impact caused by the accident to my brain? The awful realisation that I had come within a whisper of losing my life, my wife and my kids. There are far more conventional ways of recovering from breakdowns, but that was mine.
How did I recover from stress and anxiety? To be honest, I haven’t! I have simply learned to manage it over the years. I have put banisters in place that help keep me on the straight and narrow: I pick the right working environments, I manage my own expectations and set realistic goals. I satisfy my needs as an introvert. I take medication. I sleep well, eat well, exercise enough. But like all mental illnesses, be aware that it’s always lurking in the bushes, ready to pounce at moments you don’t expect.
(image: Mark Simmonds and Lucy Streule)
Did you find that Emily received good care and how did you help support her?
Yes, Emily received excellent help and support both from the NHS (Buckinghamshire Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, the Highfield Unit and Cotswold House, Oxford) and from the Cardinal Clinic near Windsor. The dedication and professionalism of all the staff was outstanding and they did their absolute best to help Emily through the illness. But here is the thing. The quality of the support and the hours spent coaxing a patient back to health have little effect or impact until that patient wants to recover.
It took Emily 6 years to decide that she had had enough of anorexia. and it was only then she finally got better. Anorexia (or Ana as we ‘affectionately’ called her) was a brutal enemy, unforgiving and merciless. More than a match for even the most qualified, most experienced doctors, psychiatrists and counsellors.
As a father, what was it like to see Emily struggle with anorexia and to try and save her at the time?
I have suffered from depression at various stages in my life and have experienced living at the bottom of the dark pit where Emily found herself. So, it was painful to watch her suffer because I knew exactly what she was feeling. The upside was that I was able to empathise and sympathise with her. I got it. And the way in which I talked to my daughter and tried to support her was more in line with what she needed. People who are suffering from mental ill health don’t respond very well to rational or logical arguments because their brains are temporarily ‘broken’. The neurotransmitters are not connecting with one another. They need lots of hugging, hand holding, being listened to and loved. An irrational and emotional approach is more effective than a rational one.
Where are you both now in terms of recovery?
As far as my daughter was concerned, it was just 12 months ago when the full-blown Anorexia Wars came to an end. We are all fully aware that war could break out again sometime in the future. As a good friend described it, all we could hope was “that Ana will get incarcerated and gagged in small section deep in Emily’s brain, a high security area from which she can never escape.”
Thankfully, at the moment, our daughter is flying high. She is living and working in London for ITV, eating well, drinking alcohol in moderation (trust me that is a positive thing!), firmly back on track.
As far as I am concerned, life is great. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I don’t think that you ever escape fully from either stress or anxiety, but I am determined not to let it get in the way of doing great things, trying new stuff, taking risks, saying things that you might regret, taking on people with whom you don’t agree. I want to make sure I end up under the right tombstone.
How has reaction to the book been and how was the writing process?
The writing process was a joy! I loved more or less every minute of it. Working closely with Kasim, my editor at Trigger to agree the overall shape and structure of the book, researching stories and expert perspectives/points of view to add colour, collaborating with the wonderfully talented graphic designer, Lucy Streule, around the illustrations. And spending hour after hour with my wife and family editing, tweaking, improving the book. A wonderful experience.
The reaction has been great, both from friends and from people I have never met.
Alastair Campbell comes into the latter category and he kindly agreed to endorse my book. This is what he said: “I loved this book and devoured it in a single day. Whether on his own illness, his mother’s or his daughter’s struggles, Mark writes clearly and without sentimentality. He is brutally honest about the reality of mental illness across the generations with important insights about how to survive it. Though it is filled with sadness and heartbreak, ultimately his story is a testimony to the power of love and of the human spirit.”
University-age students are more engaged with mental health and wellbeing than ever, and the study found that 1 in 4 students are very satisfied with their university’s mental health support.
Other noteworthy findings from the survey include:
• 71% of students say that their university offers affordable health and wellbeing programs (gym classes, yoga, meditation, mindfulness)
• 40% of students are concerned about their financial situation following university
• 45% of students find their university degree stressful
• 1 in 4 UK students find managing money stressful
The 2019 NatWest Student Living Index revealed that close to half of all UK students feel
extremely stressed by their degree studies. 1 in 4 students in the UK described managing their money as extremely stressful, while only 6% felt they received sufficient money management support from their university on average.
NatWest’s Student Living Index 2019 asked students from 35 top university cities about all aspects of student life, including the amount of wellbeing and mental health support on offer for students at university in 2019.
Is their degree the cause of the stress? On average, 45% of students in the UK feel extremely stressed by their degree Cambridge (60%) and Durham (57%) students are the most stressed by their degree studies. Have Universities supported students with mental health resources?
1 in 4 students are very satisfied with their university’s mental health resources, while 71% said that their university offers affordable health and wellbeing programs.
Interestingly, while students in Poole feel the most stressed by money management, the city also came last when students were asked about the availability of affordable well-being programs:
53% of students in Poole said their university offers affordable well-being programs, this is the lowest ranked city and 18% below national average.
Less than 1% of Students in Reading and Stirling feel supported by their university when managing their finances.
94% of students in Aberystwyth feel their university offers affordable well-being programs