It’s been a week. My fourth in this contract and already the funemployed memories have become blurry. Returning to the corporate routine has really made me think about what I want from my next job and next employer. Of course, I have been thinking about this almost non-stop during my break but putting on my corporate armour has been quite a jolting experience in some ways. It’s put me back in professional shoes that I haven’t worn for the best part of a year, and that’s a big mental adjustment.
There’s no denying I was exhausted, highly stressed and close to burnout by the time I left my last job. As much as I enjoyed the role and my closest colleagues, all of the interstate travel and dealing with some appalling behaviour from others at the company took its toll on me physically and mentally.
In fact, the past two years have pretty much been the worst of my life – personally and professionally. I’ve only just realised that thanks to the emotional perspective I have gained from stepping off the corporate hamster wheel. Looking back, I’m not sure how I had the resilience to keep going. I’m a strong person but I think maybe I was already broken by the time I walked out of the office for the last time. I just didn’t know it.
I don’t really discuss my personal life here, mainly because it’s really not that interesting most days. But suffice it to say, over the past two years there was an ongoing situation that caused such acute anxiety in me that some days I couldn’t leave home. I don’t say that lightly, by the way. Anxiety is an absolute bitch and again, with the benefit of perspective, I’ve realised that I’ve probably had it in a mild capacity throughout my professional life, if not longer. That said, I’m OK now. Great, in fact. This post isn’t a pity party. But context is important.
This week, the universe spoke to me. The stars aligned and I heard so many things about mental health, wellbeing and balance that reflected what I’ve learned recently and put into practice to bring me to the great place I’m at today.
The first sign from the universe was a conversation with a lovely lady who used to work for me. She’s moved interstate, left an unhappy relationship and is now in an amazing job. I’m really proud of her. But she told me that the behaviour of two men at our former workplace was so terrible that she’d had to work through it with HR. One of those men is Mr Rightside, so I’m feeling guilty for not shutting that down properly before I left. That discussion reminded me of the behaviour I absolutely will not tolerate in the workplace, either for myself or for anyone in my team. My final comment about that terrible man is that Karma’s a bitch and it’s going to bite him on the ass in the worst possible way one day.
Second, I listened to a podcast from Voices of Value with Melbourne-based life coach Shannah Kennedy on my drive to work earlier this week. It was a discussion about the things we can do to find clarity and purpose in our lives. Meditation. Breathing. Exercise. Floatation therapy. Gratitude. Eating well. Sleeping well.
For me, these are the one percenters: a myriad of small habits and practices that on their own may not make a significant contribution to my health and happiness. The cumulative effect is genuinely game changing. I’m no Olympian, clearly, but this HBR article is an excellent explanation of how those one percenters can be game changing:
Shannah is a life coach and has studied extensively to have this wisdom. It was a pleasant surprise to know I’d worked out most of this on my own since leaving my job. She did, however, speak of the need for a 20-year plan. That’s on my list for June.
Voices of Value has quickly become one of my favourite podcasts. I listened to another episode this week with former footballer Wayne Schwass about his personal mental health journey. He’s established a social enterprise to open the discussion about men’s health and suicide prevention. On the podcast, Wayne was incredibly honest about his experience and I feel strongly it’s the conversation we all need to have. Seven men die from suicide in Australia every day. Every. Day. The scary thing is that larger numbers of women attempt suicide than men but are more likely to fail in their attempts to end their lives. This podcast was serendipitous because I’m attending a networking breakfast in a couple of weeks where Wayne is the guest speaker, discussing emotional wellbeing for leaders. I’m even more excited now that I’ve listened to the podcast.
By no means did I ever consider ending my life. But if you or someone you know needs help, contact the wonderful people at Beyond Blue
The final message from the universe came at the end of the week, when I had coffee with a woman I saw present at a tech conference earlier this year. Her presentation about burnout, recovery, vulnerability and self-care resonated with me so much that I fan girled and sent her a message. She was kind enough to meet me for a coffee where we both spoke about our collective experiences with stress and anxiety in the workplace.
We covered a lot of ground, but one thing she said has really stuck with me. And it’s this: If you don’t look after yourself, you can’t look after anyone else in the workplace or at home. We all need to know the indicators of when we’re not OK and know what course correction we need to get back on track. And that’s what I’ve spent most of my time working on since I left my job last year.
Do you know what I realised? I’m grateful for the past two years and what I’ve endured. Yeah, they were terrible. Horrible. At times I felt like I couldn’t breathe. But here I am. Happy. Healthy. Balanced. And so much stronger than I was. But, most importantly, I’m now equipped with an incredible kit of tools that I know will keep me that way. And that’s also helping me develop a clearer view of what I want to do in my next job.