What a year this has been – and it’s not over yet.

To say we are living in difficult times at the moment is somewhat of an understatement – COVID, Brexit, the recent American elections.

It’s a difficult time for everyone – and it’s all bringing up a bunch of fear, uncertainty, anger.

So much is up in the air, and we are all just trying to get through each day, working from home or on the front line, keeping our families safe.

One of the positive things about all this is that we see a rise in conversations about mental health, and rightly so.  A call to look after our employees and make sure that they are keeping well, and not showing symptoms of mental health issues.

Of course it is right that we are looking out for others and making sure that they are doing ok.

But i also want to emphasise that you need to look out for yourself too!

I have recorded a podcast with three things to do about that:

  • Find your people because you don’t need to do all this on your own
  • Reset some boundaries, because “no” can be a complete sentence
  • Move through the overwhelm by doing any damn thing.


Below is a transcript of what I talk about in the podcast.  (OK, it was the starting point for the recording, but it has the main bits in it 🙂 )

If you, as a leader, parent, employer want to get through COVID and everything else without suffering from mental health issues, you must remember to also take care of your own health, even if every part of your being and conscience tells you that you need to put others first.

Today I want to talk about three things that you can do for just that.

You are doing the best you can do, faced with all this uncertainty in the world.  You are taking tough decisions about staff, business models, how and if to continue with your business.

You are taking on additional elements of work as your teams have been on furlough, or self-isolating, or as you need to let go of some staff.

Where you no longer have a commute to work, you are turning that previous travel time into additional work time.  Juggling kids and everything else.

It just keeps on coming, spinning 142 different plates at once, trying not to drop a single one.

I get it.  Its tough to cope with all that uncertainty.  Life would be amazing if everything was black or white – you would know exactly what to do in every situation because in some ways it would be under your control.  But life is not black and white – there is an overwhelming amount of grey.  You spend most of the time surfing that grey, and in doing so you are worried, angry, frustrated.  That emotional toll is exhausting.

And worse, its tough to reach out and ask for help.  You are worried that it would show weakness to ask for help.  You are worried that others will define you by that, see you as some kind of broken doll.  So you say nothing.

You suffer in silence, exhausted from spinning all those plates and trying to make sure that nothing falls.

But there are things that you can do to look after yourself and help you get through it.

Getting back control and headspace in your life so you can breathe again can take time.  I am not going to pretend that a single blog post of podcast will change your life forever and get all that space back, but I do want to give you three small things you can do to make a start.

Here are the three things I want to talk about today:

  • Finding your people, because you don’t need to do this alone
  • Setting boundaries, because “no” can be a complete sentence
  • Moving through the overwhelm by doing any damn thing


  1. Finding your people, because you don’t need to do this alone

When the going gets tough, the tough can tend to dig themselves in and avoid seeing people.  No one wants to be the miserable soul in the corner, bringing the atmosphere down.

So we lock ourselves away and don’t reach out.

However despite all that, we know that our relationships can be the saving factor for our overall well being.

In a study performed by Harvard, researchers followed 268 grads for nearly 80 years, and would interview them at regular intervals about their lives and well being.  Asked what the biggest learning was from the study, Robert Waldinger, Director of the study, responded that “the surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. … Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self care, too.  That, I think, is the revelation.”

So, I ask you – who is one person in your life, who you know loves you and has your back.  It might be your partner, or a parent, but it might equally be someone outside your family.  The person who will not look at you in disappointment, nor try to start a pity fest about who is more tired, and simply listen.  The person who you know sees you for who you are not what it is you do.

Reach out to them, tell them what is happening.  Ask for their support.  And let them do just that.  Support you.

  1. Setting boundaries, because “no” can be a complete sentence

I don’t know about you, but I have spent half my life, if not more, believing that everyone else must come before my own health and wellbeing.  Clients, teams, bosses, family – in whatever order resonates for you.  Everyone else but myself.

Because of it, it can be difficult to put boundaries in place, to protect our own wellbeing.

Those of us working from home have seen the boundaries between work and life merge more and more.  The husband of a friend of mine, for example, no longer has an hour and half commute each way to Dublin every day, so instead hits the study at 7 am every day until 9 in the evening, with barely a half hour break over lunch.  Because he feels he “should” be working seeing as the time otherwise spent on the commute is no longer tied up.

And some of us have taken on more responsibility while our teams were out on furlough or self isolating, or because we saw colleagues juggling kids and home schooling and felt obliged to take on some of their workload.

In these times of COVID, that belief that we need to put others first is even stronger, particularly among women.  We see that many women have taken on the brunt of the impact of COVID as they have taken care of the home schooling, worrying about the shopping, keeping everyone safe.  Jobs that they may not have had to take care of in the past (kids going out to school, delegating some of the tasks, we didn’t have a pandemic to worry about).  We have taken on more things with little question or negotiation.

Just a couple of examples of how boundaries have gone out the window in recent times.

But we need to get them back.

How do you know if your boundaries have been crossed?  Sometimes it will be clear, and you will feel that resentment bubbling.  Sometimes it will be less clear – but will nonetheless come away and rant and bang the pots around in the kitchen.

So the second thing I would invite you to do, is look for areas in your life where you are not imposing boundaries, and are letting the lines between work and home life blur, or otherwise take on more and more things without any question.

How would you like things to look instead?  Maybe its setting the time you want to finish for the evening; taking proper breaks; or wearing something other than track suit bottoms all day.

Establishing those boundaries can help have a feeling of getting control back in your life.  At the end of the day, you will never have full control over anything – the world is not made like that – but, there are some things that you can manage completely.

  1. Moving through the overwhelm by doing any damn thing

For me the biggest overwhelm can come when I have all these plates spinning at once, and no one thing ever seems to get done.  And because its not done and finished, I cant put the plate down.

So now when I am feeling that overwhelm, I get moving again with this notion of #DoAnyDamnThing.

Just do one damn thing and finish it.

Now, I don’t necessarily mean one of those plates.

I am thinking a lot more simple than that.

Like take those four water glasses beside your bed downstairs and put them in the dishwasher.  Or take the washing out of the machine and hang them up.  Or clean up the cat vomit that has dried into the carpet from three days ago.

What ever it is, the idea is that it is something small that you have been meaning to do for ages, that you just get on and get done.

Because I can tell you, the sense of achievement makes my heart sing.

And inspires me to keep on going with the rest of it – breaking those other bigger things down into smaller more manageable things to get done.  How does that help my mental health?  Well for each of those small things that get done, that is one less thing I am worrying about. 

Freeing up headspace to think about other things.

So, there are three small things that you can think about to look after your own mental well-being, even when every part of your is screaming out to put others first.

If you want to think some more about how to get back some control and headspace in your life, then check out my burnout buster programme for more details on how I can support you.

In the meantime, remember – you are not alone in these difficult times.  If you come talk to me, that’s great – but whatever way you look at it, remember you have people in your life you love you and want to support you.  So reach out and tell them what you are going through.

Sending love