How Getting An Office Helped My Mental Health
Like a lot of true-blue startups, our company was started at the kitchen table - which was to become my ‘work-station’ for a long time.
While I have always had a desk at the university research office, a huge part of my work (research and business) has been done at home. With two young children this made the child care juggle easier as I could work when they slept and for a large part I was still breastfeeding both of them. Before our second baby was born I did have one of the rooms of our 3-bedroom place to do quiet work if I needed it…but I lost this after his impending arrival.
When it came to writing my book (The Nourished Baby), just like my thesis, it was also largely written at the kitchen table late at night, as well as in a desk in our eldest sons room. This meant I could shut the door and forget the rest of the chaos of the house while looking out to at least something green.
Not a long-term solution but one that worked in the interim and indeed I got the book done!
Recently we have had an Au Pair start with us to help with the travel and our book tour. This meant that we moved both boys into one room and I could no longer steal their room any more.
In an attempt to still have a space I could work ‘peacefully’ at home, we moved a desk in our bedroom – worst idea ever! Unknowingly when we did this it meant I literally had no escape from my work as I was sleeping next to it and saw it first thing in the morning. I also made the mistake of trying to work there while the boys were at home – that was nothing short of disastrous for all of us.
In addition, I found it brought me right back to my flatting days where I had a desk in my room and I felt like I had not progressed at all since this. This was topped off with our business stock no longer being contained in a small cupboard but spilling out to into the lounge, the garage and what felt like every corner of the house! While this was a sign our business had rapidly expanded, the ‘never-endingness’ of things was starting to pile on top of me.
I felt this was all really affecting my mental frame of mind and my outlook on how we were doing business wise and life as a whole – all big warning signs mental health wise – but I felt unable to change anything.
Having our own office had been on the radar for both my husband and I, as we both have businesses, but it felt like such a big leap – bigger than we were ready for. Then I saw a post flick up on Facebook by a friend I knew with a property management business with offices for lease at a reasonable price. I said to my husband we should take a look. As it turned out the lease was month-by-month rather than committing to a whopping six or 12 months like others we had seen. So we took the leap!
It was THE BEST THING we ever did especially for our mental health.
We cleared EVERYTHING out of home. This means when we come home we do not just see work everywhere, and can have an ‘off-switch’. I have even left my lap top at the office some nights and one of us will even leave a cell phone there sometimes – totally off-line.
It does not have all the mod-cons but that is ok! I started with a trusty Nairns Oatcakes box to put my lap top on and have upgraded slightly now to some clever warehouse boxes to enable me to have a standing station. On the night we got the office, we went to Kmart (very late – love Kmart midnight closing hours) and like excited children we whizzed around with a trolley and got office supplies just for us! My one ‘not-needed’ item was a glass terrarium ($10!!) – just because as I have always wanted one and like having some ‘green’ around me…plus I have put some of the boy’s dinosaurs in there so I have a little bit of home with me.
I just LOVE having a tidy space to work which is exactly how I left it and no washing piles around me. I should really say tidy-ish - my hubby is not as neat and particular as me but that’s ok I don’t touch his desk – I can even put up little inspirational quotes in their holder which was gift given to me by one of my best friends when I finished my thesis. We have also found the office is great for our team all of which are mums too.
Often on social media we don’t see this side of the journey – the ‘growing’ side where things are not all perfect, where there was once a kitchen table for a desk, and a desk in a (very) messy child’s room – to a first small office and I think this is important to share. I want to remember this journey too - one day we will have a fancy pants office, and I hope I look back on what has been a ‘big move’ for us at the time into here.
As it is Mental Health Awareness Week - this is also a gentle nudge to encourage you to see what might be affecting your mental space at the moment, it might be something small that can change it – even like a little quote holder or some new stationary.
Our mental health and space is EVERYTHING - it is THE TOP priority not the bottom.
I so know how hard it is when there are so many pressures, very limited budgets and time.
Like me, there may be some warning signs for you and the small things which we think may not help all do really count. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone about this – they may not have the answers but it will help you feel less alone. Many of us do struggle underneath the highlight reels we see on social media – you are not alone.
xxx Dr Julie Bhosale
For more information on Mental Health Awareness week check out the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand Facebook page and website.
If you are concerned about your mental health, anxiety or any health concerns (or that of someone you know) please contact your GP, Life-Line (0800 543 354) or one of our mental health services.