Lockdowns all across the world have and are continuing to affect the health and well-being of so many of us.

A few months ago a former high school mate of Mitch’s, Tom Norton who now lives in the UK, reached out to Mitch to share his personal struggles. He mentioned at the time that his SPEAK UP! Stay ChatTY hat has always reminded him to talk about his emotions and the challenges he is facing.

Recently, Tom shared the below internally with his colleagues for World Mental Health Day.

With Tom’s permission, we wanted to share his brave story of identifying mental health challenges and how by working at things and getting a better understanding of his own well-being needs, he was able to overcome the hardest parts and find his new balance and happy medium.

This is Tom’s story:

“Without the normal boost from seeing family and friends at Christmas, I returned to work in January as flat as a pancake.

There was no real recovery over this period and I started 2021 running on fumes. I was working from my bedroom and only spending an hour or two outside of this each day. My wellbeing took a big hit, and it’s taken a lot of work and support to get to a place where I’m much more able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

After returning from the Christmas break, I made it through three full days before things became too much for me to handle and I cracked. I took a day off. Then another. Then a week. My managers and project team members were incredibly supportive, as were my partner and friends. Taking time-off gave me the space I needed, and after speaking with a psychologist through the Employee Assistance Programme I had some things to focus on and make sure I was using that time effectively.

I confronted some toxic expectations I was putting on myself (“people expect perfection”, “it’s all up to me”, “This is really important and I need to get it done now”), and got a new perspective on wellbeing. I realised that I was spending most of my time doing things that took energy away, and I was neglecting activities that give me energy. Focusing on and investing in these made a noticeable difference within a few days. Now when I start to notice my mood and energy levels drop, I know that spending time reading, writing, connecting with friends, and playing music help to restore balance.

My managers were incredibly supportive, and realised that taking a day off and seeing how I felt the next morning wasn’t giving me enough room to recover (I would feel relief during the day, but when the sun went down the anxiety started to build again). They helped me to offload some responsibilities that were overloading me, and checked in on me regularly when I started back at work. I was fairly open about my experience, because I think that’s important, and had some really great responses from people in my team who were feeling the same way.​​​​​​​

It’s so fundamental that we understand our own wellbeing, and I think a good place to start is reflecting on the activities that, a) consume energy, b) are energy neutral, and c) give you energy. With this awareness, you can start to find a healthy balance among these things, which is the foundation to maintaining your wellbeing sustainably. I noticed that I was spending a lot of time following Australian politics on Twitter, which was getting me worked up (i.e. consuming energy). So I took a break. Instagram wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t giving me anything either (i.e. energy neutral), so I took a break from that too.

To fill this void I started spending more time on things that were novel, interesting, and otherwise enjoyable; cooking, DIY, listening to a podcast about fighter jets (I was obsessed as a kid), reading fiction, and playing guitar. I’m back on Instagram, and I take a look at Twitter occasionally, but I’ve got an arsenal of things to help me keep everything in balance and my wellbeing topped up.”

Thank you for your bravery, and for your insights Tom. And credit to you for being an amazing advocate for mental health and positive well-being 😊💙

If this reading this brings up anything for you, please contact 000, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the Get Help section of our website.