By Jeremy Godwin
Welcome to the first ever post for Let’s Talk About Mental Health, a podcast and blog about mental health and wellbeing (funnily enough!). This week I’m talking about resetting – making a conscious decision to take control if there’s some aspect of your life that is making you feel miserable. Let’s talk!
A few weeks ago I quit my job. To cut a long story short – I had been very unhappy for quite a while and had been talking to my partner about leaving, but I just wasn’t completely prepared to cut the cord and so I had been taking my time to explore my options. Anyway, I came to work one Monday and opened my emails to discover a pretty lengthy note related to a mistake I had made which had blown up. While I could have stayed and resolved the issue, my gut instinct took over in the moment and I realised that I was being presented with an opportunity. In short: sometimes you just realise that you need to hit the reset button. In my case, I knew with every fibre of my being that it was time to leave and take a risk on doing something that I truly feel passionate about.
Which brings me to this: welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health, my weekly blog and its accompanying podcast (which has launched on October 7). I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time however something – mainly fear, if I’m completely honest – kept on getting in the way. Well, no more!
Before I continue, a quick word of warning: this is a MUCH longer post than I will normally be writing, because I have a lot of stuff to cover about the podcast/blog as well as the actual content for this week, so settle in or feel free to jump down to the ‘Resetting’ section if you’re in a hurry (or grab the podcast on your preferred platform here)!
Some of you might have been readers of the blog I used to write up until a couple of years ago, or have read some of my books about mental health and wellbeing (like 2015’s Depression? F*** Depression!). If you’re new here you might not be familiar with my story (and if you’re not new, you probably don’t know what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years since I went silent on the writing front), so here it is in a super-quick condensed version.
In late 2011, I had a total nervous breakdown which then led to roughly six years of debilitating anxiety and depression. I had previously been working in management in the corporate sector, and when I couldn’t do that anymore because of my mental health issues I chose to return to full-time study while I was dealing with all of the personal crap that I had been ignoring for too many years. Along the way I completed a degree in Sociology and Psychology, and then in mid 2018 I quit drinking for good because I finally accepted that it was a dangerous form of self-medication which was getting harder and harder to control.
I went back into the business world in September 2018, although this time I was working for a SME (small to medium enterprise) rather than a big corporation, and for a while I was happy. My job involved working in the employment services industry and I thoroughly enjoyed helping people in need, although there were many not-so-great elements of the role which I tried to overlook. Then a few months ago a management opportunity came up and I jumped at it, which is hilarious in hindsight because I had always sworn that I was not going to return to management however my ego took over and I leapt at the chance to do something more challenging that would tap in to my previous management experience. It took me exactly one week and one day to realise I had made a monumental mistake. I was good at the job but I hated it. Any personal connection with clients, any opportunity to feel like I was making a tangible difference, went out the window and my world was replaced with targets, complaints and personnel issues.
My anxiety returned with a vengeance and I began comfort eating again, putting on 15 kilograms in the space of less than four months (I know, it’s a talent!). I spent over a month talking to my partner about how much I wanted to leave, but I stayed through a sense of obligation. Obligation, however, is never a good reason to do something, because there’s always something or someone to keep you tied to one spot for much longer than it is healthy to do so. In my case, I decided not to resign and instead I told my manager and team that I was going to step down from my management role (I was on a six-month contract in the role so I had the option to go back to my client-facing role) – then I found myself constantly second-guessing my decision because people at work kept on telling me how good I was at my management role. I very quickly learned a valuable lesson: just because you’re good at something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for you, and if you have made the decision to put your needs first then you have to stick to your guns.
Funnily enough, fate seemed to have a bit of a hand in giving me the push I needed to leave the company once and for all. When I realised one day that I had made a massive error at work, I took it as a sign: I could either stay and fight, or leave and reset my life. Something suddenly clicked, and there was no hesitation in my mind: I submitted my resignation on the spot. It was time to reset. Which brings me to now…
Since leaving my job at the end of August, I have spent the past few weeks in “re” mode. Resetting. Reviewing. Refocusing. Reinvigorating. All of those glorious “re” words which speak to our innate ability to embrace change if we just stop fighting it. Because life is change. You do not need to keep on doing something if it’s not in your best interests. Reset. Do not let fear hold you back from living a life that feels right to you – if it doesn’t harm others, go for it and be the you that you want to be!
In this week’s podcast I talk through four main steps involved in resetting – reflect, reset, refocus and review (with an extra step – refine – if needed). What these steps mean are:
Step 1 – Reflect: Think long and hard about what’s going on in your life and why you might be feeling unhappy. What’s happening, or not happening, that is contributing to you feeling this way? And more importantly, what’s your part in the situation? What do you have control over? You can’t change other people, or things that are out of your control – all you can do is change yourself. Think through all of your options carefully and decide on what action you could take. Which brings us to…
Step 2 – Reset: Basically, make the change. Get on with it. Now, that’s probably over-simplifying it a bit because making a change can take a long time and be a lot of work, but if you want to get the ball rolling then you need to get the ball rolling. Do you want your boss to stop talking to you like you’re a piece of crap? Set up a meeting and tackle it head on, or start looking for another job if you really don’t believe you can have that conversation or that it would make any difference if you did. Have you always wanted to work in a different industry but have no qualifications or experience? Book yourself in for a short course online to get a taste. If you want things to change, you have to take action to make them change because they won’t just change themselves!
Step 3 – Refocus: Once you’ve reset, focus on the present and the future – there’s no point in dwelling on the past. Let go, refocus on your new path and get on with the next phase of your journey.
Step 4 – Review: Now, it’s time to review. If any of you have ever worked in the corporate world or on projects, you would know that any well-managed change program involves a post-implementation review process at the end, where those involved in the project take the time to go back over it and identify what worked well and what could have been done differently for a better outcome. It’s a useful process to apply in your personal life – in other words, taking the time to reflect on the change, thinking about what you’ve achieved and what you could have done differently for a better outcome. It’s not about dwelling on your mistakes; it’s about learning from them. That’s where the optional extra step comes in if needed – refine.
Bonus Step – Refine: When I say ‘refine’, what I mean is that if you find yourself reflecting on the changes you’ve made and things aren’t where you would like them or where they could realistically be, make a few tweaks to refine the situation. For example, let’s say you had that talk with your boss about not talking to you like shit, he or she was open to the talk and made a change to their behaviour, but now a month later they’re back to their old tricks. What are you going to do about it? For example, you might decide to bring it to their attention and address it before it becomes the ‘norm’ again, but this time you might tie it back to your previous conversation and ask how you might be able to support them as well to show how important it is to you that the change is successful.
If you’re thinking about resetting in some area of your life, there is a lot of advice out there however here are my three main tips:
- Think seriously about why you might want to reset – Why do you really want to reset? Is it because you’re unhappy or is it just because you’re bored? Make sure you really (and I mean really) know why you need a change and take the time to think through all of your options before you do anything, because making good decisions involves knowing yourself.
- Don’t make any rash decisions – In my case, I thought long and hard about what I was going to do for at least a month before I actually pulled the pin, so even though it might have seemed like it was a rash decision it was, in fact, quite well thought-out. Once you’re clear about wanting to reset and you are willing to commit 100% then you’re ready to act, but be prepared and understand that there is no going back because it’s not always possible (or healthy) to go backwards if you change your mind later.
- Be gentle with yourself – Change is never easy and you can’t reasonably expect to feel 100% happy with your decision overnight even if it’s what you wanted; you may go through a grieving process and that’s okay. Give yourself the space and time to feel what you need to feel so you can do what you have to do.
Let’s finish up with a quote which is worth taking a moment to reflect on – just before I do, a quick word on reflection. The art of reflection refers to taking the time to give something serious thought and consideration. I have been using quotes in my work (both my personal writing and also leadership development work that I used to do in the early 2000’s) for a while now, however I’m well aware that there are a ridiculous number of cheesy quotes floating around these days, especially on Instagram or those cheap typography signs you can buy for your wall from discount stores. If that works for you, then I have no right to judge, but I am also going to point out that slapping a ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ sign on your wall doesn’t automatically make you a better person – self-development and growth is a daily focus and requires you to dig deep in order to really confront those elements of yourself which might not be in your best interests, then doing something about them. So my point is this – don’t expect a quote to be useful unless you’re prepared to take the time to give it serious thought and consideration, and to apply what you learn about yourself in the process in order to grow.
With all that said (rant over!), here’s a quote about change that I particularly love and which I’d like to encourage you to reflect on:
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.”Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
So, that’s it for this first post! Thanks for joining me this week and welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health. Every Monday morning (Australian time) I will be releasing a new blog post and podcast episode talking about topics related to mental health and wellbeing. I certainly don’t believe that I have all of the answers, but what I do have is a passion for learning and personal growth, and I’ll be sharing that with all of you each week.
Head over to www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au for more information about Let’s Talk About Mental Health and to sign up so that my weekly post lands in your inbox, and you can subscribe to my podcast via your preferred platform (Spotify, Google Podcasts, Anchor, Breaker and RadioPublic – note that Apple Podcasts will be coming in the next week or two) as well as an audio-only version on my YouTube channel. Connect with me on social media – you can find Let’s Talk About Mental Health on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as @ltamhofficial.
Next week I’ll be talking about Mistakes – I hope you’ll join me again. Until then, look after yourself and make a conscious choice to put some positive energy out into the world!
Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Because the more we talk about it, the easier it gets.
Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2019 Jeremy Godwin.