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Bereavement and Finding Your Way Back to Work

You're running your own small business; it's ticking along and you're feeling quietly confident that you have control of all aspects of your work: the daily social media management, freelancers, deliveries, meetings, design and artwork, deadlines and even though you and only you are controlling all of these tasks, they will inevitably end up controlling YOU if you don't find the right balance between your work and your life.

Alright so your work/life balance is suffering a bit, okay a lot, but it'll get better right? You work hard to find that 'better' stage that you keep going on about. You keep telling yourself and the people around you, “yes things are going well thank you, I've got this meeting setup, I'm attending that expo, I'm starting a new section of the business to grow that side of things, it's all going to happen this year, I know it”. That famous 'Only Fools and Horses' one-liner then comes to mind, “this time next year Rodney...” and you spout it and make yourself laugh. But in truth, it's a struggle, isn't it? Juggling kids, your partner, work, weekends with the family and ferrying your kids to their school and activity events. You endure and your patience and mental state are put to the test.

I was running my own magazine for close to 3 and a half years, juggling all the duties that came with it but gradually my health and my family life inevitably started to suffer. I made the choice to be self-employed after my son was born so that I could raise him and go to work as well; as so many parents do. But while running my magazine I had no idea until now that while it was growing, it was gradually taking over my whole life - seven days a week. I wasn't sleeping, I had constant chest pains, which led to trips to A&E, caught bug after bug because I was so run-down but still, I kept going. I kept telling myself, it'll pick up soon so that I can take on more freelancers to free up my time to be with my family and take some time to rest from the stress.

But then, suddenly, the worst possible thing that can happen to your family happens... bereavement, followed by grief, pain, lack of motivation, consuming sadness, fear and loss.

I received a call from my partner early one morning asking me to stop my magazine deliveries and get over to my parents’ house as soon as possible. I asked him if everything was okay because I could hear in his voice that something was clearly wrong. I wondered if someone was ill or worse, so I immediately made my way over to my parents’ house where I saw my younger brother's work van parked on their drive and I thought, GREAT I'll see Steve when I go in, haven't seen him in a while, brilliant! Steve worked all the time, another self-employed hero like me, that believed he was untouchable. That's how we were brought up. Work hard, reap the benefits and be successful, done, easy, just like that. But when I went in, I called out as I usually do and asked where Steve was and then my Mum, in a terrible state delivered the news.

My little brother had died. 

My Dad well, I never want to see my Dad in that state ever again. As my Dad held me in his arms he told me that Steve had died the previous night of a heart attack. He was alone when he died and since his tragic death, I now know that he'd actually had enough of working for himself and he'd taken on a new job, just that week in fact, so that he could get away from the stresses of running his own business but sadly he was too late.

It was then that the world changed for me and my family and my work was instantly no longer as important as I believed it to be. After we told my son the awful news, he sat for a moment staring at me and then said “this is a wake-up call for you Mum, I don't want you to end up the same as Uncle Steve” and he burst into tears. My parents agreed and so how could I continue running around like a busy fool trying to maintain a very demanding business that, let's face it, a team of people would usually run?

I took take time out to help my family arrange Steve's funeral and contact everyone concerned to deliver the tragic news. As well as this I had to inform colleagues and customers that my business had to go on hold for the foreseeable future. Well, this is a life lesson isn't it, when bereavement hits your family like Thor's almighty hammer you must stop what you're doing and try your best to put your life back into perspective and realign your priorities. Grief and trauma take a very long time to come to terms with and while you're running your own business it's even harder. That's the time when you pack it in or gather strength from those around you who help and 'muck in' with day to day tasks, even the most simple ones like getting up each morning and getting your kid to school.

Months later I closed the doors on my magazine and I've since gone back to doing what I enjoy, commercial graphic design at a digestible pace, as well as continuing as a Kung Fu Instructor with my partner. Kung Fu, in fact, has helped me calm my mind and focus through the fog of questions. Why didn't Steve get checked by a doctor sooner? Why didn't he slow down? Why didn't he come to us if he needed help? And a million others.

Steve was such a talented mechanical engineer, but what I found out after his death was that he was also, a magnificent artist. He built and made models and structures from stainless steel and other metals. He made a beautiful owl which now lives in my parents’ lounge. He made a replica of Thor's hammer, flowers, bespoke garden heaters, all by welding and shaping metal. We all miss him so much, his friends, family, work colleagues. Everyone was so shocked to hear what had happened. He was only 41 years young.

If you run your own small business and your health starts to deteriorate and your work/life balance is out of sync then take a step back, prioritise. You don't want your family members and friends to be struck by grief. Take some time out and think about what's important for you, for the sake of your health, your state of mind and ultimately your family.

Work will always be there tomorrow; tasks can wait. Life won’t. Time won’t. So don't waste it.

By Samantha Hallam.

Menopause and the Workplace 

The menopause was never a subject talked about when I was growing up. From a personal perspective, I was not living with my mum when she went through the menopause; she says that she went through it relatively unscathed apart from a ‘’thickening around the waist’’. 

The official definition of the menopause is 12 months since your last menstrual period and the perimenopausal definition is the time when women transition to the menopause. Experience of the menopause can vary, with up to 34 potential symptoms.

20% of women will have no symptoms 

60% of women will experience mild to moderate symptoms 

20% of women will have severe symptoms 

‘’The average age of women to experience the menopause is 51 years old when they are in more senior posts and may have more stressful jobs that can be more difficult to juggle around family life, let alone cope with having menopausal symptoms too’’ 

Yet, even though the menopause is natural and will affect every single woman at some stage in their life (statistically for around 4-6 years), this topic is almost taboo. I am passionate about raising awareness in the workplace, I think symptoms should be openly talked about with both women and men. Companies should investigate menopause policies, including having fans, cold water and water sprays commonplace in the offices where women work, demonstrating empathy to their female workforce if they are having a bad day, women being able to talk to their colleagues or managers and feel safe to say I need a few minutes to cool down and go to another room or outside with no judgement. 

‘’With around 3.5 million women aged between 15 and 65 years currently in employment in the UK women now represent nearly half of the UK labour force.  That surely makes menopause mainstream and as important as any other occupational health issue’’ Source – www.menopausematters.co.uk   

But there is also a fine line here that we don’t create a division between men and women, where women can be potentially labelled as/or patronised with ‘’oh she is just menopausal’’.  I am fortunate to have close friends of the same age, embarking on this journey together. There are a variety of reasons for the starting age and physical symptoms. When we meet up, we ask each other ‘’have you felt like this?????? Are you????’ to be greeted with a resounding YESSSS!!! It is so therapeutic to know that we were not going mad or on our own and we don’t have some other condition that we should fret about. 

My first experience of being perimenopausal, was the springtime of last year when I was suddenly struggling to deal with stressful situations at work. My symptoms were: 

• Lack of sleep  

• Very tearful and low in mood 

• Anxious and worried about events that would normally not faze me 

• Lack of confidence 

• Sudden bouts of unreasonable rage and irritability 

• Reluctance to be sociable 

• Poor concentration 

• Forgetfulness 

• Weight gain 

• Headaches/Migraines 

• Hot flushes 

• Night sweats 


I felt out of control and in a very dark space, I didn’t feel like me anymore and that my family would be better off without me.  

I was fortunate to have someone ask me if I was perimenopausal, this was not a phrase that I had heard before or even associated with my age of 49!! So, I went to the doctors due to my extreme low mood and tearfulness, he then prescribed me anti-depressants which I felt reluctant to take but at that time saw no other alternative. By doing some research, I have found that the anti-depressants have different side-effects which can reduce hot flushes and /or night sweats, it is up to the individual to decide the route they want to take. 

• Through talking to other women, I found out that this is a very common scenario, with a reluctance to prescribe HRT. There are a variety of treatments including Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) out there - for more information please see: wikipedia.org.uk  

• An award-winning, an independent website providing up to date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options is - www.menopausematters.co.uk   

• For Menopause in the Workplace please see - unison.org.uk

To update you on my situation, I only took the anti-depressants for approximately six weeks, my sleep pattern settled and my fear of becoming dependant overtook the initial need to take them so I stopped (they recommend you do this with medical advice and not just stop taking this type of drug). 

I have self-managed my situation to date, some days are better than others. I still have night sweats and frequent hot flushes, and my sleep pattern can be erratic, I now practice giving myself space and time and understanding. I purchased a Peloton bike back in the Autumn and the sessions have made a huge positive impact on my wellbeing/mental health. I often do about 3-4 sessions a week and I have noticed I am happier and slowly losing weight. I agree with some of my critics that I should be outside or in a group of people exercising at the gym, but my working days are long, and I start early so I don’t always have the time to drive to the gym. The weather is not always conducive to getting outside either, I can jump on my Peloton at 5.30 in the morning for half an hour and then be ready to face the day ahead. I am very fortunate that I run my own company so I can have a fan at my desk and leave when I need to compose myself. 

I still toy with the idea of HRT, watch this space……….                

Written by Sarra Hawes, Director of Hawes Building

Why quitting doesn’t mean failure

If you ever reach the point in business or a job where you’ve had enough, and you utter the words “I quit” it can feel like an abject failure. After all, you are walking away from the very thing you originally set out to do with such hope and enthusiasm. You’ve sweat blood and shed tears over it - giving it up ain’t easy.

It’s particularly hard to admit a business isn’t working or a job isn’t what you expected it to be, that this fantastic idea you had just doesn’t quite cut it, especially if all those around doing a similar role appear to be enjoying runaway success and healthy growth.

But, as with everything in business, it’s not quite as simple as succeeding or failing. Shutting down a business doesn’t always mean failure. Giving up a job that on the face of it should be amazing, doesn’t mean you’re a loser. In fact, it can be a pragmatic and sensible route to take when something really isn’t working and the time or money to get it working is just not worth the investment. In fact, carrying on doing the same thing when you know it isn’t working is a failure in itself. And ploughing on regardless can lead to lower productivity, ever-diminishing returns and a poor sense of self-worth.

Recognising a business’s limitations or indeed your own limitations, is actually a sign of business acumen, of being self-aware enough to know when it’s worth cracking on to break through to the next level or when to call it a day.

It is really tough though, and if you didn’t shed a tear or two over what you’re giving up, then you wouldn’t be human. But having said that, making a final decision can bring stress relief and a feeling of unexpected peace. It can also open you up to new and exciting possibilities, allowing you to recognise the areas you excel in and to pour your efforts into them. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining…

That final leap can be terrifying but often it’s the thought of it rather than the actual action which is worse. Imagine standing on the edge of a precipice and you can’t see what is below you, but you’re trying to decide whether or not to step off into the darkness. It’s a little bit like that. But when you take that leap of faith, more often than not you’ll find underneath all that apparent darkness is a solid landing and a bright future ahead of you.

Written by Fay Millar 

HOW TO MANAGE THE FEAR OF FAILURE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH YOUR GOALS

QUOTE: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”- Winston Churchill

As a business owner, I often struggle with the pressure of being the sole decision-maker.  And when the stakes are high, it can be difficult to trust my instincts without feeling nervous about making mistakes, we can all relate to those gut retching moments. These stresses come with the territory for any entrepreneurship and fear of failure is a common issue - after all, no one wants to be unsuccessful. But when the anxiety about ‘getting things wrong’ makes you miss golden opportunities or stay stagnant within your comfort zone, then it’s time to take action. 

I recently re-branded my events company. This was a big project which required a sizable financial investment and it took the best part of a year to complete – with many leaps of faith along the way. I decided to re-brand to evolve my business and to take my plans to the next level. But I had to build resilience against my inner voice screaming at me which wanted to procrastinate and self-sabotage, and I tackled my fear of failure to emerge as a bolder decision-maker. I would like to share with you what I learnt: 

1.  BE AMBITIOUS AND ORGANISED 

The very nature of being an entrepreneur means we are all goal-setters and go-getters. Our aspirations are the guiding lights in our professional and personal lives, yet the fear of failure can prevent us from pushing ourselves to be the very best we can be. Fear often stems from the unknown, so it’s vital you examine every detail and potential outcome before embarking on any new developments or strategies. I find it helpful to have a contingency plan and I feel more confident if I have looked at all-case scenarios before I move forward. I also try to be a problem solver. If I foresee any potential issues, I find out how to resolve these glitches before they happen. This enables me to feel more comfortable with my direction and my motivation before I start any project. 

2. BECOME AN EXPERT IN YOUR FIELD

Silence the nagging voice of self- doubt by understanding your industry and know the actual workings of your organisation. I have over 30 years’ professional events experience, but I don’t claim to know it all and I still take time in researching new trends and innovations in corporate event planning. I remind myself of my hard-earned knowledge frequently when I start to question my decisions. You can look too formal education or workshops to boost your skills or attend specialist trade conferences to keep in the loop.  The more knowledge and understanding you have, the stronger your instincts and intuition.

3. BE RESILIENT WHEN THINGS DO GO WRONG

As the world’s most famous school drop-out, Sir Richard Branson, said: “Don’t be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” This is certainly true of author J K Rowling, whose first synopsis of Harry Potter was rejected many times before she found a publisher. Indeed, many successful people are open about the mistakes they have made along the way, and it is up to us how we choose to deal with our errors and misjudgements.  I have to wear many ‘hats’ in order to run my company and so the potential for making a mistake (or two!) is high. But I make sure I am not too hard on myself when I do occasionally slip up. Every failure is an opportunity to grow and develop. You will have inevitably learnt something new, so take stock and reflect before using your newfound knowledge to move forward in a positive way. 

4. CONNECT WITH YOUR PEERS FOR ADVICE

A problem shared is a problem halved, and next time you are feeling overwhelmed, why not reach out to your business community? Other entrepreneurs will have likely faced similar situations and may hold the answers to your dilemma. The journey to re-brand my company took me into very uncharted territory, and I was so grateful for the guidance I received from my professional connections, who were happy to listen to my ideas and answer my questions. I relished the opportunity to expand my knowledge and felt braver taking on elements of the re-brand I had never tackled before. Having a supportive network helped in my moments of doubt – after all, it’s always good to have a second opinion. 

5. GIVE YOURSELF A POSITIVE TALKING TO! 

We all have a negative inner voice. For some people it so loud that it drowns out every other thought so all you hear are the doubts and fears. It then becomes impossible to tackle anything without stress and anxiety creeping in. But a negative approach will only bring negative results, so flip your mindset to allow only positive influences to nurture your self-confidence and self-esteem. Take charge of how you feel and act and recognise yourself as a thriving entrepreneur. I am not saying it is easy (there are days when I think what am I doing?), but only by truly feeling like you a worthy of success will you find those good things happen. And we all deserve that, right?

Written by Claire Catliff - Love Luxury Events

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