For those that haven’t read Charlotte’s guest blog – why not?! For those that did – I think we can all agree how brave she is to tell her story so openly.
And today I am immensely proud to share with you another guest blog, in honour of Mental Health Foundation‘s Mental Health Awareness Week, from the very talented and inspirational Lisa Ferris.
Lisa and I connected through some online networking, me for my blog and Lisa for her Virtual Assistant business, and I was thrilled when she offered to write a piece for My Anxious Life.
Lisa’s story resonates massively with me, as I know it will with so many of you. Her journey has been tough, but it demonstrates how you can survive the storm and ultimately use that power to propel you forward into happiness and success.
Do you have a desire to start up a business, but are worried that you can’t because your mental health is holding you back? Do you suffer with fear and believe that you’re not good enough?
Up until last year, that was me. Here’s my story: how I overcame my fears and worries, to start up my own business.
Around June last year I suffered with terrible depression and anxiety. It became so bad that I struggled to get out of bed; I would cry looking at the dirty pots in the sink, because I couldn’t face doing anything – I just wanted to curl up in bed and be alone. I would isolate myself from the world and struggled to get out of the house even for therapy, which was meant to be my ‘safe place.’ And in reality, it was – but in my head, I was convinced that everyone was against me, and I would use every trick in the book to avoid going.
At this point, I was on sick leave from work. My job at the time was an Executive Assistant at Citibank. It was a great job and I wanted to push myself to move forward with my career, but I couldn’t.
My anxiety and depression would constantly get in the way. I was frightened to be in front of colleagues in case they saw my anxiety and my flaws; I would get into a panic over the smallest tasks, that I knew I could do well. I was a highly rated employee, how could I not do the job?? I had a panic attack at work and would lock myself away and cry, ready to quit not just work, but life – my anxiety had WON! After all, that’s what it feels like, right? A constant battle with negative thoughts telling you that “you’re no good”, “you must be weird”, “why are you not normal?”
Eventually, my anxiety and depression built to a point where my psychiatrist encouraged me to check in to a mental health hospital, where I would receive daily group therapy and regular face-to-face appointments with him. He felt I needed to be in a safe place whilst I attempted to tackle my demons.
I checked myself in a couple of days later. Initially, I was incredibly frightened but you know what – going in to hospital for 3 weeks was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Connecting with others that shared similar stories and mental health issues as me was an incredible experience. I no longer felt on my own, and the best bit was that I made friends out of it – people who really understood my worries.
Shortly after being out of hospital, I took myself back to therapy – now I knew what type of therapy I needed and was ready to keep fighting to get the closure I needed. After a few intense months, I started to re-evaluate my life. And it was when my therapist gave me a homework task around ‘what makes you happy vs what doesn’t’ that I had a lightbulb moment and decided to finally do what makes me happy, and start a Virtual PA business.
I’ve since quit my job and have been running my business for 4 months now, which is going well. Does my anxiety and depression still get in the way? If I’m honest, yes it does. However, I’ve learnt to accept that is who I am and rather than feed it, I’ve learnt to look after myself when my mental health is bad.
Since the incredible help I had last year, my mental health is much improved, but I still have off days where fear and low self-esteem creep back in. So here’s what I do to tackle it:
Write down what’s bothering you
Or put it in an app like ‘worry-time’. This will help to stop you from stewing all day. Come back to the worry at the end of the day – give yourself 15 minutes to read through it and try to rationalise it.
For example, one of my worries from last year was that my therapist would give up on helping me (silly I know). She never gave me any reason to think that, it was just my anxiety-driven paranoia at the time. I wrote down my thoughts in the morning and came back to them at night. I asked myself “how true is this?” “Why would my therapist still be helping me if that was really the case?” Going through these questions logically helped me to rationalise and put things into perspective.
Ask yourself: “What makes me happy?”
Is it family time? Going for lunch with a friend? Going for a walk? Understand what it is that YOU like, not what everyone else wants you to like. Once you know this, ensure you add this to your weekly schedule. You’re never too busy! Surely you can find 30 minutes or so early in the morning, or later at night, to have some YOU time? Run yourself a bath, go for a walk in this beautiful weather. Get in touch with nature – you’d be surprised the great effect it has on your wellbeing.
Learn to nurture yourself
One of the benefits to running a business is managing your own time. If you feel low, or have too much bothering you – book the day off to look after yourself. Love and nurture yourself. What good are we to our clients/employees/employers and family if we’re not kind to ourselves? I’m due a date with myself soon to have a day watching Disney films as a way of nurturing my younger self, something I really crave.
I know this comes up a lot, but it really does work. For me, I don’t have a lot of time to mediate in the day due to work, however I’ve found that getting up early and going for a walk on a beautiful sunny day really helps my mood and productivity. I leave my phone and headphones at home so I can listen to the birds and really take in the atmosphere around me. I also find taking 10 minutes out of my day to play with my dogs helps my mood levels. It makes them feel good and in return it gives me pleasure seeing them having fun.
Listen to your body
A friend of mine recently told me that she knows a lady who takes a week off work (from her own business) during her monthly cycle. She’s come to realise that she’s not the most productive during that time, and her mood really sinks. So during that week she does things to nurture herself, and various outdoor activities to get in touch with nature – apparently it really helps her energy levels and soul. How great does that sound? And why can’t we do the same? Maybe not a week, I realise that might be near on impossible – but surely you can adjust your working hours slightly, or take off the odd day here and there?
Hopefully this helps and inspires you to really put yourself out there. And when your mental health pops up, just say “Sod off! I’m not getting in the ring with you today!” You’d be surprised the more you do this, the easier it will become.
Lisa is the founder of Your VLA – Virtual Lifestyle Assistant.
Your VLA works with a wide range of companies, helping to grow their business and revenue by managing tasks such as administration, social media and lifestyle planning.
Lisa also has a qualification in counselling and a real desire to make a difference. As well as an interest in Psychotherapy, she also has a love for Interior Design and Marketing.