Here goes!

Three years ago, I started training as a health coach. There comes a point in your career when you start to crave something different and to feel more connected to your purpose. I knew I wanted to have something to move from my corporate career to. I have also seen many of my colleagues being made redundant and lose their identity because they didn’t know what to do next. There seemed to be a void in their life. I didn’t want that for me!

What I didn’t know was how much I would need the work for myself.

Two years ago, my dad passed away, a little before that my mum was diagnosed with dementia.

Things had been pretty stressful, but they all came to a head last February when we had to make the decision to put mum into a home. It was one of the most stressful, terrible times in my life. Seeing my mum confused, lost and sad broke my heart. We had no choice other than to do what we did, it was for her own safety as she had been leaving the house in the middle of the night to go out and anything could have happened to her. It still felt like a terrible thing to do.

My career had always been a priority, I had a big job, looking after lots of people, very demanding on my time and I always had to be ‘on form’, however it was becoming more and more challenging for me to get through what was going on privately and be that inspirational leader that can deal with anything at work.

I eventually told my boss how I was feeling. She said to do whatever I needed to do. There is no judgement here, as I have definitely said the same to my team. It is quick, avoids a lengthy conversation and gives the impression you care. At the time that felt fairly helpful, however, what I really needed her to say was ‘what do you need?’

I have always been a strong and resilient person, however for the first time in my life I didn’t feel that way. I certainly didn’t want to go to the doctors as I knew I would have been signed off work.

At times, I felt like I was shrinking, and the roof was coming down on top of me. While I was dealing with what was going on with mum, we had to put my dog to sleep. Max had been part of our family since he was 10 weeks old and he was then 14.5 years old. Dog owners reading this will understand, it is like losing a family member and I was devastated.

My confidence really took a dip and for the first time in my life I actually used the sentence ‘I feel stressed’. Fortunately, because of my training, I knew how to take care of myself. I was meditating twice a day, journaling, practicing gratitude, using conscious breathing, everything I could do to take care of myself and get myself through. I truly believe this kept my head on straight.

If I hadn’t have completed my health coach training, I would have been getting through the week on coffee and wine! That was an old habit of mine!

I made the decision there and then that I wanted to help people who were struggling with their own confidence and support them to get back into their stride. I learned that one of the most stressful times in someone’s career is returning to work after a period of absence. That’s when I set up my own business called Return to Work, I work with people who are struggling with confidence as they return to work, I help them return to work better than ever.

I did a lot of research about what people experience when they are coming back after absence; confidence dips and anxiety increases, exactly how I felt.

Now my mission is to support people in this situation, and I have developed a 5-step system which does that. I have worked with many people who have achieved things they didn’t think possible as a result of the programme. It is so rewarding; I am living my purpose.

There are a few reasons that I am sharing this now:

  • Having been a senior leader for many years, I have been on the receiving end of many in-house coaching programmes. None of them worked on me as a person, they were either leadership or performance programmes
  • The less face-to-face contact we have with people, the more effort we need to put into understanding how they are really doing
  • Many people will be feeling anxious about going back to the office and they may not want to open the flood gates to that conversation. It is important there is support in place that allows people to share what is going on for them and receive whatever is needed
  • The people you think are OK (like me) may not be, make your relationships a priority. Your people are your greatest asset
  • This is why I do what I do, things are not always as they seem and it is ok to need a bit of support, it can make all the difference

My mum is still in the home, her mental health continues to deteriorate, and I like many others am sad that I can’t see her or hold her hand, worse still that she has no idea why we are not visiting.

We are all going through stuff and we all need extra support at times in our life. Whatever that support looks like, be sure and ask for it.

For the last three years I have had an external coach and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without that support.

Those of you who are leaders, my advice is, take more time out to ask better questions and make sure you are tuning in to what isn’t being said as well as what is being said.