Right now, as I sit to write this, it's World Mental Health Day and I'm sat in sunny Hong Kong. I came out here to visit family and honestly, just take a bit of a break. As I'm self-employed, breaks are never complete breaks. I have too many deadlines and too many amazing opportunities to bring my life to a complete halt. But, what I can do at the moment - and what everyone can do, no matter how busy you are - is slow down.
This was an essential skill I had to learn back in 2015; I had to learn it the hard way after being diagnosed with glandular fever for the second time. Not only did I physically have to slow down, but mentally and emotionally as well. Before that, I was the type of person who was always on the go, far too busy, had a million balls up in the air and was great at managing all of them simultaneously. I never stopped. People marvelled at how I was able to get so much done in such a short space of time, and I LOVED that. What people didn’t realise (and the secret behind doing all of that) is that I periodically got ill - very ill - every six months and would be bedridden with one ailment or another. I never really thought twice about it at the time, and thought it was normal to function this way. But now, in hindsight, I can see those periods of my life were a result of burn-out. You see, burn-out doesn’t always come with the complete mental breakdown that's pictured in all the movies. Sometimes burn-out is simply getting so physically ill - or just exhausted - that you have no other choice but to slow down!
Slowing down is hard, particularly in a society that applauds and honours being busy 24/7. We live in a world of 'no excuses', 'hustle', 'grind', 'if you want your dreams work for it', and even quotes like 'you have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé'. We've become a society that praises the busy, almost to the point of paralysis, so going against the grain and having a good work/life balance is hard. Not only that, it will bring up all your emotional junk because whilst you're running around like a headless chicken, you have no time to sit and think about thoughts you've been avoiding. Get glandular fever, and you'll start to feel suffocated by them.
I won’t tell you it was easy. It took over a year to finally get the knack of slowing down without finding some excuse to speed up again, but it is so worth it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it’s the main thing that has led to my stability in my mental health. Slowing down gives you the time you really need to really check in with yourself and build a connection with your mind and body so that you know when you need to take some time out.
So this Mental Health Day, I want to encourage you to take some time for yourself. You don't need a reason to take a break and you don't need an excuse to give yourself a mental health holiday. That doesn't mean you have to bring your work to a complete stop, but it does mean you need to take the unnecessary things off your to-do list. You do not have to feel guilty for resting. Instead, just like you'd have rest days from the gym, see it as your way of respecting your mind and body by offering it some much-needed TLC.