So, here you are reading this…why are we starting this blog and journey and why now? It has been an eventful 30 something years. On the surface it has been plain sailing; extremely lucky enough to have a good education, great travelling experiences and eye opening meetings with people from all corners of the globe. However, there has been this constant lack of fulfilment and purpose. People can tell me many a time…but what about this or that – you did well to do it! However, I always seem to find a flaw or respond with ‘you’re just trying to be nice to me…’
What has caused this over arching feeling… well a lot to put it bluntly. A fortunate upbringing with quite a few very unfortunate events…I saw the reality of what losing everything around you means and completely changing one’s lifestyle from stability and comfort to uncertainty and constant worry. We uprooted home a couple of times but what impacted me more was witnessing first hand what financial and emotional stress can do to people. The responsibility of having a full nest but a less full bank account dictated my parents lives and it pushed them in ways I can only imagine and now only admire how they managed it. I had to keep my teenage angst and insecurities to myself as there were bigger fish to fry. It was then I had my first meeting with anxiety and the impact anxiety had on others and on me. There were not only tears but fears, upset, anger and damn right frustrations.
I was not the most glamorous of teenagers when things were falling apart, socially awkward, slightly friendless and very spotty. I tried to be ‘funny’ as a way of winning friends… at first it was hit and miss…but soon enough it worked. Well, it worked with winning friends…not really winning the attention of the opposite sex… that came MUUUCH later…. A few years, hair straighteners and spot antibiotics later.
This experience from age 12 onwards taught me how much stress can dictate and haunt people and their minds. I saw who judged and who stuck around us in our time of upheaval. I saw what loyalty and a strong family fabric truly means in a time of turmoil that lasted well over 10 years. I saw the severe scars long periods of stress can have and still has on me and others close to me. Money has come and money has gone and so it will…but what people take for granted is that stress can come and also go but it can also stick around for an infinite period with long lasting, mental health repercussions.
For me, the repercussions are anxiety (which may not just have been experiential but caused by a pre-disposition!); fear of failure, fear of not having that stability ever again, desire to succeed to avoid any such upheaval again and it has energised me with a passion to have an impact somehow greater than myself. Despite this passion, my career progression since graduation has not reflected a successful manifestation of this. From law school (why on earth did I get put down that unsuitable rabbit hole)…to a highlight of working in NYC for a year straight to almost 18 months of unemployment… it was an all time low. At an age (mid twenties) when people were out and about doing and seeing I couldn’t do much at all…this further reaffirmed my fears, anxiety and feeling of doom that I felt growing up.
I eventually had a breakthrough in what I thought was a perfect opportunity… but only was a stuffy corporate job without the perks. A toxic atmosphere that quashed my passion and my self esteem further.
Fast forward to today and I have decided to take fate into my own hands. Battle head on with my career satisfaction and the anxiety that lives around me. I want to do, create and have impact through my own thoughts and ideas and ultimately by learning, giving back and helping. This sentiment comes more and more to the forefront of my mind especially as we enter an inflection point on mental health, the stigma attached to it and it’s overarching impact on society. Every week, 1 in 6 people in the UK will experience a common mental health problem. For employers, this causes a £30bn annual loss due to lost production, recruitment and absence (Source: Mental Health Foundation).
Now, the solution is not just to help others by giving a finite resource but by giving stress and anxiety coping mechanisms that can be used. There are a plethora of resources out there (many of which I’ve tried) but we want to learn more, delve deeper and share more, through Thought Candy. One of the most effective tools I’ve found so far – that I should have implemented for the last 30+ years – is simply speaking and opening up. This ensures thoughts, especially negative ones, can be aired and not left to fester and define our behaviours. An active way of doing this daily is actually using the notion of gratitude. Focus less on what you do not have and more on what you have. The simplest of pleasures, an iced cold ribena on a hangover – that’s mine! – to the people you take for granted every day. Would you rather have them or that promotion? Yearning or appreciating? What really will give you the best antidote to your negative, anxious thoughts…come on this journey with us and we’ll find the answer together.