I’ve had health anxiety for as long as I can remember. At age seven, I’d assume migraines were brain tumours. From my intense studying of medical encyclopaedias, I knew all of the symptoms.
Family illnesses exacerbated what, back then, was considered ‘hypochondria’. My little sister got leukaemia and was very sick, then, 12 years ago, my mum was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a year. If I ever felt ill, I would remember them and think the worst.
It was sporadic though – and manageable – in the early years of my career. Then, having my daughter and getting melanoma quickly afterwards triggered a particularly bad phase that has lasted the past four years. It can be all consuming at times.
Surprisingly, this crisis has felt like a turning point.
It might sound strange, but I’ve had zero anxiety about getting COVID-19. In fact, the change in lifestyle has actually helped, forcing me to slow down and tackle the root causes of my anxiety. I’m not constantly travelling, rushing around and working late. I’m spending more time with my family and know they are safe. That has been so calming for me.
To lead the business through this challenging time I’ve had to prioritise my mental health. It has proved that, to tackle the big issues, I need to go back to basics and prioritise what’s important. Anyone with anxiety should look at all of the contributing factors. I’ve always rationalised that mine was down to my sister and mum, but I’ve realised that a lot is actually triggered by ‘mum guilt’. In stepping back and recognising that, I can make changes for the future.
When this ends, I won’t rush back to the way things were. Work is important, but you can still deliver while still looking after yourself and your family. Even more so.