Maybe the title of this blog should be “How to start your own business, working at home as the sole breadwinner at the start of the recession with a newborn and an 18-month-old.”
Everyone has those mad times in their lives where you look back, and you don’t quite know how you coped. I spent the first three years of my daughter’s life (and the first 18 months of my son’s) living in the UK, somehow making a living completing a few Retail executive search assignments for a few Russian retailers. We had some savings as a cushion, but during the depths of the recession, there was nothing more stressful than seeing the bank balance taking a hit month after month….
The kids weren’t sleeping so well, I was doing my best to help my exhausted wife, and I had the responsibility of keeping us financially secure. When the eyes start to close, in this situation, you can’t afford to stay in bed all morning, no matter how alluring it might seem.
I quickly learnt that having a system to keep me functioning is what would keep me sane. Proactively “managing” my tiredness helped me to get through the day.
It was a busy time, so when someone suggested that I get some exercise, I didn’t quite understand at first. Rocking my colic-plagued son to sleep for hours seemed to be plenty of physical exertion. However, the adrenaline rush of an intense bike ride for 30 minutes during the morning sleep somehow firmly put those broken nights behind me.
That bike ride also let me get some fresh air into my lungs and sun on my face. Vitamin D is vital for wellbeing, and getting out of the house into the early morning sun worked wonders. It also freed my mind from all of the daily worries and gave me an escape from pretty much everything. I loved that bike.
Ensuring that I drank and ate regularly was my second strategy. When you are running around with your pants on fire, it is hard to remember that you need to give your body some fuel. I constantly had a pint glass of water next to my desk and tried to eat little and often to ensure that my blood sugar levels didn’t dip. I ate lots of green veggies and ensured a healthy mix of proteins and complex carbs.
Probably the most important thing that I learnt to do was to have some “slow” moments in my day. When you have a to-do list the length of your arm, it is easy to get overwhelmed. I tried to take regular five-minute breaks where I could close my eyes, breathe deeply and remember all of the amazing moments with the kids that day. After those five-minute breaks, the tiredness seemed to disappear.
Music was my saviour. Cheesy pop was the order of the day. Somehow the lyrics took me to an entirely different place, and I would get into my work zone with my headphones on and an uplifting beat coursing through my head.
If you have the support of a loved one when you feel that you can’t go on, it is often the thing that keeps you from slipping into something a little more dangerous. Both my wife and I may have been on the verge of depression, but with the ecstasy of being new parents, we got through it together and still had a lot of fun and laughs with the kids. There is nothing like laughter to give you a lift!
I still look back and wonder how we did it, but we got through it, and if I ever have a similarly difficult period again, I will know how to get through it.
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