At the best of times I would describe my mental health as “the dance battle that takes place between the guy in the yellow suit and the guy in the black suit in the film clip for She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals”.
In “the Yellow Suit”, I’m eternally positive, spiritual, optimistic and ever grateful for everything I have in my life; in “the Black Suit”, I struggle with anxiety… and towards the end, they hug it out. COVID-19 really put the Yellow-Suit Guy to the test. My business was about 18 months old, I was working with some wonderful clients, working on projects that I really enjoyed, I wasn’t making millions of dollars (that was never the aim) but I was helping people and companies, and I was spending genuine quality time with my wife and daughter and on myself… and in what felt like an instant, that almost completely disappeared. At the same time that this happened, my wife broke her ankle.
All of a sudden, I was faced with a very uncertain financial future, I could see everything that I had worked for going down the tubes, I had to assume the roles of carer and “almost single parent”, and I now had to do all of this isolated from family and friends. I knew that I would have to rely on my own creativity, motivation and action to get through this.
It was at that point that some very familiar feelings started to surface: the paralysis that comes from obsessively and irrationally trying to think and rethink through problems, the desperate desire to get the f@#k out of here, the inability to sleep, and a very real physical sense of dread. The guy in the Black Suit was busting out some incredible moves and the Yellow-Suit Guy couldn’t keep up.
The problem with this (for me) is that when the Black-Suit Guy is dancing up a storm, the three things that disappear are my motivation, action and creativity.
After a couple of days cracking a bottle of wine far earlier than I care to admit, I knew I needed to do something or my whole family would be stuffed. So, I took some very deliberate steps:
- I accepted how I was feeling. I didn’t wallow in it, but when I was sad, I was sad; when I was frustrated, I was frustrated; and when I was happy, I played with my daughter.
- I changed my focus – I stopped looking at the months ahead and instead revisited my long-term goals to figure out what stuff I could do now that would help me get there. This made my current circumstances feel very small and temporary.
- I resigned myself to the fact that we would take a significant financial hit, which freed me up to focus on what I actually love to do, which is helping people and had faith that we would get through.
- I invested in myself – I did a couple of training courses; for me they were focused on Developing Grit & Resilience, and Productivity Systems. These renewed my motivation and desire for action.
- Then I deliberately sought out the joy in each day and looked for opportunities to be grateful.
I still have my bad days. But the Yellow Suit Guy has obviously been watching videos of Michael Jackson, because he’s got a wicked leg-flick into a moonwalk move that regularly puts the Black-Suit Guy back in his box.