Our Director opens up about his struggles in isolation…

Martin Gracie

Martin challenged himself to discuss mental health openly and share his personal challenge in this current climate.

 I suffer from the big D. Yes, depression has been a part of my life for a number of years now. But by the grace of god in more recent times I have had some really strong tools that have helped me manage my days, keep me positive and most importantly challenge my natural way of thinking –  that natural way of thinking can often be my worst enemy. As you can imagine owning a business brings its own set of stresses in these current unchartered waters and that coupled with isolating from the world is the perfect recipe for a perfect storm.

In my normal routine I rarely or never work from home, as its really important for me to be able to put on a strong exterior, go to the office giving and getting energy from those around me. When it became clear to me that we would need to close the doors of the office for the interim, I had an extra level of panic set in.

The first few days at home I felt my mental health deteriorate pretty rapidly, I couldn’t/didn’t get out of bed until half way through the day, I was showering late and being consumed by negative media. Of course with all this time to myself, any negative seed of thought in my mind was an all encompassing fully grown tree in no time! I found it more and more difficult to leave the house, to even go for a walk, and also started to find it hard to even check my phone.

Pretty rapidly I identified that I was going down a dangerous route and had to try to shake things up pretty quickly. ‘Playing the tape’ through to the end in my mind I knew that this behaviour hadn’t served me well, but found it hard to stop my natural mind allowing this course of action to occur again. So after some lengthy internal dialogue I decided to put some personal rules in place that have really helped me over the last week or so and I wanted to share these in the hope that it might help someone else out there:

  • Don’t listen to your body for the first 10 minutes when you wake up.

My mind will let me roll over and go back to sleep several times, remaining groggy and setting me up for a “wasted day”. Although our outside world might be all over the place at the moment, that doesn’t mean you cant have routine. When I wake in the morning now I ignore that urge to roll back over, I get up and get showered, have some breakfast and coffee. That alone initiates a feeling of accomplishment and routine

  • Find something professional and personal that you can do right now, something that life wouldn’t normally allow you time to do

Start that art class you always wanted to do but never had the time, or something of the sort, there area a million free things on Youtube its actually incredible! I’m threatening to do a singing class – god help all my poor colleagues when this is all over (and my dog in the meantime!). Professionally, work on that project that has been lingering about, the one that you have wanted to get done for so long now, but the everyday has just not allowed you to do it

  • Stay connected

Anyone with mental health issues will know that isolation is our best friend, but really our worst enemy. In times like this it’s really important that you reach out to people and let them know you’re struggling, having that person to person contact, even if it is “virtual” is invaluable. Just voicing your struggles with another human is food for the soul!

  • Exercise

When I get into a negative state of mind this is the first thing to go, but it’s so very important. Remember when you had to study in school or university and you had that immaculate working station, brand new stationary all lined up perfectly, the house cleaned top to bottom – but you couldn’t find the will to just sit down and actually open a book?

What did you realise as soon as you started? This isn’t so bad why didn’t I do it earlier?  Exercise is exactly the same, rarely does anyone complete exercise and say “I wish I hadn’t started that” – injury suffered excluded!! There is a Nike Training app called NTC which is amazing, it has all types of exercise programmes from 15 minutes light yoga to 1 hour intense weight training sessions. It’s a paid subscription but I just saw the other day that they are offering it free given the current climate

  • Have acceptance

Quite often we can beat ourselves up about situations that are out of our control. This current situation we find ourselves in definitely qualifies for one of those times. Catastrophising will only cause your own mind despair. We cant change what’s going on out there, we just need to have acceptance, adjust life accordingly and ride the wave

All of the above suggestions are the complete opposite to what my natural mind wants me to do. But by identifying, pushing through, going against the grain and challenging myself every day over the last week or so, I feel much better than I have in a long time.

Written by Martin Dineen, Founder & Managing Director of MJD Executive.

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