Adventures of a free range trainer. Month 1.

My first month of freelancery is done. Some progress made – a two day course in Halifax, an awareness session in Bradford, delivering for a Trade Union, and an arrangement to work with them through next year which makes this viable for now at least. Great news! A few other irons in the fire, possible interest in working with organisations and companies.

What else have I learnt? Some social media stuff, some about the pros and cons of different kinds of networking. And some about the particulars of solo working, working at home most of the time. Am I lonely? I’m not sure. I’ve taken to listening to LBC and occasionally interacting with it via twitter. Substitute for office conversation I suppose. But my office wasn’t particularly friendly by the time I left it. Once upon a time I had a group of good friends and colleagues and we used to socialise and get along well. But time and tides changes things, and it became a pretty lonely place in the end.

We spend so much of our waking life at work – we should make it as bearable as possible, would it be so bad to aim for enjoyable? Something we discussed in the Mental Health Awareness session I ran – about how many of the changes made in workplaces over the past few decades, in the name of cost cutting, professionalism, time & motion, productivity etc, have had unintended consequences for our wellbeing. Little things, someone looks at a spreadsheet of costs, says, we don’t need to pay for this, say, license to be able to play music in a factory. Or they decide that people shouldn’t be listening to music or the radio because it means they aren’t focused on the job, or it’s not professional enough. But what they don’t realise is that while they may save 5% in costs, they are losing a 10% productivity boost that the increased wellbeing benefit of such a simple thing might have been having. Taking the worker’s mind off of a repetitive task, giving them something to think or talk about, masking industrial noise which can be linked to increased risk of developing mental ill health.

Little things. Like pleasant working environments, bright decorations, natural light. The ability to go outside for breaks, get some fresh air. A green space to sit and maybe eat lunch.

Working for myself – this is all in my hands of course. I said I would go for a walk every day, eat a healthy lunch, do something creative, keep on top of my housework. I need to work on that. I need to develop a routine, make myself stop and have breaks. And I do need to get some human contact. Much as I love talking to my cats. I haven’t escaped work related stress or anxiety. Not yet. But it is of a different quality, and feels more in my hands to resolve. I have had some bad patches of insomnia, and anxiety before training which had me shaking and nauseous. But I got through them with mindfulness, breathing exercises, problem solving.

I’ve learnt some other things too.

  • The Japanese have a word for suicide caused by excessive work stress. Karojisatsu. (Not sure I’d call it suicide if an employer puts you in that position.)
  • Mental health can be influenced by workplace exposure to chemicals, noise, light, and even aromas.
  • MHFA Lite doesn’t seem to attract much interest. I had to cancel the three I had planned. (I have decided I probably will only offer these as part of a wider in-house programme for workplaces. I don’t like messing venues around by cancelling.) I think I might develop something more affordable for community use.
  • I need to remember to carry business cards.
  • But – I can do this.

October is busy – courses in Leeds and Hebden Bridge next week, Awareness training in Wakefield, and then co-training in Todmorden. Hopefully I will get to run the Higher Education course on the 25th in Leeds but we will see.

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