Managing your Mental Health
Without care, it is easily possible to become a victim of our own high standards in this industry – always striving for perfection which may be unachievable in a number of cases; or not realising the results we have achieved as we reach the end of a job as the change has been so gradual. Add the isolation of lone working, the lack of natural light and potentially a dark studio space and the effects of stress and anxiety can rapidly snowball to debilitating proportions.
Many people – realising how physical our jobs can be – are keen to look after their physical health by exercising, stretching and keeping mobile to ward off the aches and pains that are inevitable with manual work; but how many of us can honestly say that we pay the same attention to our mental health? It is easy to get into a rut and see no end to the daily grind so we thought it might be helpful to put together a Mental Health Toolbox to help in maintaining your own wellbeing.
Make a plan:
Prior planning and preparation prevent poor performance. You’ve most likely heard this phrase (or a similar version) before as it is so very relevant in all manner of applications; in our particular case, having an overall plan in place prior to commencing a job will help your workflow, and save wasted time in running around finding the bits you need for each stage. Furthermore, having a method in mind before starting each process – washing, decontamination, etc – will help to remove some of the guesswork.
Visualising yourself completing each stage before you begin assists you by defining an end point for each task and allows you to break-down a large task, that you feel daunted by, into smaller, more manageable, individually achievable steps.
This will not only help your workflow but also your use of time, and benefitting from the most efficient use of your time will, in turn, help to reduce any anxiety in having to work towards tight timescales and deadlines
Take regular breaks:
Office workers, sitting in front of screens for hours every day are encouraged to take the opportunity to take short regular breaks in order that their eyes can refocus on things further away; and also, so their brains can concentrate on something that isn’t artificial. We should take from this that we need time to rest and refocus our eyes and concentrate elsewhere too.
Far too many of us will be guilty of spending hours upon hours, staring at a painted surface in a dark, artificially and often oppressively lit room. Straining our eyes for prolonged periods, often leading to headaches and tension that in turn make us irritable and grumpy. This isn’t going to do our mental health any good at all, so we must realise the importance of walking away from the car every so often to make a cuppa, and then stand outside – or in a different environment at least – to stare at the horizon.
Use photographs to self-check:
How many times have you got to the end of a job and thought “I haven’t achieved anything” as there are still so any defects remaining? The use of your initial test-patch when polishing to demonstrate the difference you can make can be invaluable when defining your best polishing combination, but why not take a snapshot of it as well. It shows what you have achieved alongside what you had to begin with; and when you reach the end, losing any point of reference to what you started with, the ability to now self-check and see the difference you have made becomes absolute gold for those who maybe doubt themselves.
The same is true for any work in our industry. Whether it is ‘before’ pictures, prior to cleaning a filthy exterior or a 50:50 of a leather seat; you have given yourself a point of reference to see what you have done. Without this point of reference, it can be a similar scenario to attempting to gauge weight-loss by looking at yourself in the mirror every day – the change is so gradual that you cannot notice any difference from day-to-day but take a picture a month apart and now you start to see what’s happening.
This can be a massive boost if you start questioning yourself, or doubting your achievements. It is also important from a Customer Management point of view – but that is for another time…
It has been mentioned already, but is worthy of its own section. The ability of the outdoors to reinvigorate and refresh you whilst relieving stress and allowing time to refocus has been one of the most important things in my own Mental Health journey, and whilst I’m not about to get all “preachy” at you I really cannot recommend it enough.
As mentioned before, even just taking time to have a cup of tea outside, or standing and staring at the horizon can allow you the freedom of mind to reflect on what you have done so far and also to visualise what you are about to do without actually needing to concentrate on anything other than your own thoughts.
Call it a type of meditation if you like, or mindfulness if that floats your boat but get out there and feel the benefits.
At the end of the day, take some time to revisit what you have achieved and make a plan for the next day’s job or jobs. Continue the cycle but note what you have learned.
If you encountered a problem – talk it through with friends, colleagues or family. Never be too proud, or afraid to ask for advice. We are all learning every day and the ability to call upon others and have a “support network” where everyone can bounce ideas off each other can be invaluable at times, with each party being able to chip in and advise on any number of things. This is where Trade Associations or Approved Networks can really show their worth, providing there is a spirit of support and “all being in it together”.
When all’s said and done, this is only just tickling the surface but I hope that you can take at least something useful from what’s been written.
We need only our brains to improve ourselves – but if neglected, they can also be our worst enemy.