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Dear Nick: ‘I cannot get any proper work done’

Mental health coach Nick Elston advises an accountant who feels overwhelmed by the number of time-consuming tasks the coronavirus outbreak has added to their already busy life.

4th May 2020
Speaker and coach #TalkingAnxiety
Columnist
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Working from home
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The dilemma: Does anyone else feel overwhelmed by all the nitty-gritty we are now dealing with? I cannot get any proper work done.

I thought I was busy before all this began but now it all feels like disorganised shambles of random time-consuming stuff, including client outreach, cashflows, furlough, making sure clients cancel their direct debits, etc. And that's with four kids at home. I feel like running away.

The response

Nick replies: It’s been brutal in every aspect to all of us, with our own unique challenges. My business was wiped out overnight. All of my ‘gigs’ were public and private events in person, which is no longer an option.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world forever, but this is not necessarily in a wholly negative way. There are positives.

Most clients and other people that I have spoken to are either in ‘survival mode’, wondering if they can survive financially, if their business will survive, if they can put food on the table, etc. or, they are in ‘evolution mode’, which is where we feel confident we have done all that we possibly can do to ensure our survival and are now on to how do we create our new reality based on the new normal.

Depending on where you are and where your clients are, and recognising that you can be somewhere in between those two phases right now determines how we react to the challenges that this unprecedented time have presented.

Most of my work recently has been around spreading the message of ‘lived experience’ tips, tools and techniques on managing anxiety in life and in business, with a specific twist on today’s circumstances.

In fact, even today as I write this, I have just been booked to speak at the NHS Virtual Summit in May to deliver my talk to the front-line staff who are literally risking their lives to keep going and, in turn, keep us all going.

A lot of people (maybe you see this in you or your clients) are making bad decisions or operating from a place of fear right now, as we all have a varying degree of low level anxiety or dread and it puts us into the ‘freeze, fight or flight’ state of survival.

Regrettably, we cannot change the situation or the circumstances that we find ourselves in. However, we can change how we react, how we proactively go forward from here. We cannot control the uncontrollable; the pursuit of doing so will create extra anxiety.

I believe the best thing that we can do right now is to set our boundaries.

Let’s assume that you have moved away from survival mode – you have established that you could come through this as a business. How do we maintain our mental health, wellbeing and resilience every day to ensure we go again strong?

The world’s greatest minds don’t know when this will end, or even what the end looks like, so who are we to take a stab at that?

All we have is today. It becomes very much like Groundhog Day – but actually that works as an anxiety mechanism.

Anxiety to me was regret from the past or fear of the future, very rarely was it today. That process formed an instrumental part of my recovery from my mental illness and breakdown.

So what boundaries should we set?

Working hours: ensure that you set your working hours and stick to them. Ensure a healthy split between your work life and downtime, which will help you recharge, recover and go again stronger the day after.

Daily routine: there was an amazing commencement speech given by a US Naval Commander on the importance of making your bed – I strongly suggest you watch or listen to it. He says that from a mindset point of view, the practice of making your bed means you achieve something straight away and then have a made bed to go back to later.

I absolutely get that. It’s the same reason why we should shower, dress (even a splash of cologne or perfume makes a huge difference!) and prepare as if we were going out into the world. It means we are going into the day with proactive intent!

Working space: I have a home office, but as the lowest in the pecking order, since my wife has been working from home, the dining table is now my new workspace! It’s also next to my lounge where I relax. So I pack everything up – banners, cameras, paperwork – at the end of every day. Out of sight, out of mind.

With your clients: manage their expectations. Right now they could be triggered by global events and expecting you to know everything about the latest scheme or incentive – just after the words have left Boris’s lips!

Be sure to tell them what can be expected from you, in what time frame and don’t be afraid to charge for work right now. There is a massive shaming exercise going on with people charging for what they do at the moment. If we all stop doing business, not only will we damage ourselves, our business and our families, but also the economy.

With your family: this can be quite a sensitive one but have the courage to ask for your own space, your own time to do what you want to do. I have spoken all over the world on this stuff and in the UK we have a real problem culturally as we are wired to believe that self-care is selfish. As per the aeroplane adage: to help save others, put your oxygen mask on first.

I’m guessing you live with the people that you do because you love them – however, the level of intensity created by isolation and lockdown will test the strongest of relationships.

I hope that these insights help. You can find more on a video that I put together: ‘Coronavirus: How to manage Anxiety when working from home’ Stay safe, stay well, stay strong – and as always, I’m here if you need to reach out to me.

The dilemma this month was based on the Any Answers question: Anyone else struggling with all the nitty gritty?

Replies (5)

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By GTUA
05th May 2020 10:31

Wonderful article - many thanks!

Thanks (2)
Replying to GTUA:
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By dwgw
05th May 2020 11:57

Agreed. This is a very good and helpful piece.

It might seem like simple stuff but the best generic advice usually is. A lot of people are too stressed, anxious, self-absorbed etc to see it for themselves.

Thanks (1)
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By GTUA
05th May 2020 10:32

Wonderful article - many thanks!

Thanks (1)
7om
By Tom 7000
05th May 2020 13:59

supply and demand
If I said accounts were free... there would be a 500m queue down the road
If its £5k there's one client

If you are going to do all this furlough stuff etc for free... what do you expect

Thanks (4)
Replying to Patch:
By Ruddles
07th May 2020 14:34

Just wondering what you've called her - Frankie II?

Thanks (2)