• Nathan Thompson

Punch stress in the face

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

Going self-employed? Freedom awaits, pick your own hours, be your own boss, choose how you work. sounds great doesn't it. But it's not always sunshine and roses, sometimes there are hard decisions, making staff redundant or costs creeping up and sales income not going up to match. Things can get pretty stressful.

This blog is all about stress, and I share some tips that helps me. DISCLAIMER: I can be quite blunt with the way I see things, that's not because I don't care, but because sometimes that's what I need, someone to be blunt to me. So, I have written this in the way I would like someone to tell me what to do.

Let's not be under any illusions here. We are all susceptible to mental health. It may be because of a biological 'malfunction' in our brains, or Environmental Conditions, such as suffering some kind of trauma. [1]

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves" Henry David Thoreau

Each person is affected and copes with stress differently. A study done by Heather Rusch (et al) in 2015 [2] found that women with more "mastery and social support" were psychologically more resistant. And according to The Lancet Psychiatry journal, there is a link between our physical health and our mental health. [3]

I can come across as resilient, like nothing phases me. I spent six months in Afghanistan, where the threat of being killed was a very real possibility every day. So you might think I would be able to cope with the stress of running my own business fairly well.... A few years ago both my wife's business and mine suffered big losses due to factors largely beyond our control. It led to high levels of stress, anxiety and depression (and A LOT of wine in the evenings!). But...

Feeling stressed, anxious or fearful is normal. Those feelings have played a part in Humanity's success as a species (bashing predators over the head also helped but bashing a customer/client/supplier over the head is... frowned upon!). I'm not saying they are nice feelings, quite the opposite. It is, however, when they take over that it becomes a problem.

What can we do to combat stress before it takes over? I'm going to share with you some tips that I use to keep myself in check. None of this is groundbreaking, but sometimes the most obvious solutions can allude us when we are staring at something for too long.

1. speak to someone.

I'm not the most talkative, especially when it comes to my feelings (I'm a bloke so I don't generally have feelings...). But (as is backed up by the research above), being social and talking about something really does help. REAL WORLD: I was put on a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural therapy) course by the GP. Personally, I found this a complete waste of time, but talking to a couple of people after the session (and joking about how useless it was) made me feel better, that it wasn't just me.

2. Exercise

Yes, I was a soldier, but no I am not a fitness nut. I don't enjoy running or cycling or going to the gym. But, I do it (not as often as I perhaps should mind). I tend to reserve this one when the stress is getting too much, I stick the trainers on and I go for a run, only around the village (I'm too unfit to go any further these days!) or I go for a swim. Find an activity you can do, better still, combine with point 1 above and do it with someone. Physical exercise helps lower the risk of physical conditions but is also is linked to lower risk of mental conditions.

3. Get organised

You may have seen my blog "thinking inside the box" about getting organised. I often find that I'm stressed when I don't know what’s going on. Take a moment and make a list of the jobs you need to do, break them down into manageable chunks, set deadlines when each one needs to be completed. You don't build a skyscraper by plonking a load of wood, concrete and metal in a pile and saying, "right lets crack on shall we". Why would your tasks be any different? Writing a book? Break it down, research, planning, characters, plot etc. Producing a show? Break it down, Set & costume, rehearsal space, venue hire etc.

4. Give up the booze

Alcohol is a depressant, fact. You might think you need a glass of wine or beer after a long hard day (believe me I know I've been there!) but if you're already feeling depressed, it isn't going to do you any favours. I’m not saying abstinence (that's giving it up, not Absinth, the funky green liquor!) is the way to go, but if you're drinking every night then you definitely want to look at cutting back.

5. Reflect and change

Take some time out to just stop and reflect on what is causing the stress, or anxiety. is there something you can do about it? You might not think so, but try step one, talk to someone, try step 2, are you able to cope with the stress better after a good work out? Have you stopped and organised the tasks? Most importantly, have you asked the question, "why am I stressed?"

One of my biggest pet hates is someone moaning about something, and then not doing anything about it. if you "hate your job" and have been saying that for years...


it's not easy, and it might be several years before you find the answer.

STORY TIME (this one is short, extreme and no Jim's were harmed in the making of this story, but I think illustrates a point):

Jim's Job is to sit at a table and get slapped in the face all day by Kevin.

one day, Jim is talking to his friend, sue, "I hate my job" says Jim

Sue asked, "Have you tried looking for a new job?"

"Oh no, I've been doing this so long I'm used to it, plus it's good money" said Jim

Can Jim really complain about his job?

If you are struggling to cope, then speak to your GP. If you can't get seen straight away try a charity helpline, there are plenty to be found on google (I've included a couple of links below that you might find helpful)

Better Help - an online chat with a therapist: https://www.betterhelp.com

Anxiety UK - support for people with anxiety - http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

CALM - Campaign against living miserably (for men aged 15-35) - http://www.thecalmzone.net/

Men's Health Forum - 24/7 stress support for men -https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/beatstress.uk

No Panic - Charity for support with panic attacks and OCD - http://www.nopanic.org.uk/

SANE - emotional support for people with mental illness - http://www.sane.org.uk/support

[1] https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-causes-mental-illness#2

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4356866/

[3] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30227-X/fulltext#seccestitle10

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-benefits-of-exercise/

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