September heralds a time of change, with younger children starting new schools and elder children leaving home for university or work, writes Alan Burke. Implementing change in our personal and professional lives can be critical to our mental health but it does need to be managed carefully.
Without embracing change we can stagnate. We fail to grasp the possible, we slowly lose our energy and enthusiasm for the new or undiscovered. However, change can be hard to manage and fear of failure is a strong disincentive to taking action. At the same time not making changes when they are clearly necessary can be a real barrier to making progress in life. When we don’t feel we are making progress, depression is more likely to creep into our lives. Life is after all about taking on new challenges and opportunities, and dealing with tough personal and professional decisions. If we are unable to embrace change we will struggle. On the whole change should be welcomed and not feared. It is natural and can be really good for us.
I know all these things but still, sometimes, find change hard to manage. When my eldest daughter left for university I was devastated and it took me many months to adjust – I suspect others will relate to this feeling. This change in family circumstances left me feeling sad and anxious and for a time I thought I would never adjust. But adjust I did and so indeed did my daughter, as children tend to do, whatever worries we parents may have. She is now thriving as a young women about to enter the workplace. Just in time for my second daughter to leave!
I’ve had a long fight with this sort of caution, fear and, at times, avoidance of change. Living with these issues has been a significant psychological test that has often blocked me from pushing myself to the full to see exactly what I can accomplish. My tendency has often been to assume that things won’t turn out well if I seek to make significant changes in my life, and this tendency is one of the scars of depression as I see it.
However, sooner or later depression can force you to make changes in your life and often your career. If adapting at your present job doesn’t help, then it’s probably time to look at other possibilities. However difficult, impractical or even impossible the alternatives might seem, it’s worth considering what else you could do.
I would urge all those contemplating change in their personal or professional life to go for it. Sometimes incremental improvements are not enough and wholesale change is required to rebalance our mental health. I read once that if you were halfway through drinking a lukewarm cup of coffee but had the urge for a hot cup of tea you would not simply pour the fresh tea into the coffee cup and hope for the best; you would first need to throw away the coffee and start afresh with the tea.
So why not give it a try and make some changes – it will probably turn out for the best.
“Sometimes I think depression should be called the coping illness. So many of us struggle on, not daring or knowing how to ask for help. More of us, terribly, go undiagnosed.”
― Sally Brampton, Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression
Property Minds Matter is a series of articles in which Alan Burke explores mental health in the property sector and how it can be improved, based on his own experience and struggles during 30 years in the industry.
Alan is a surveyor and former development director who has specialised in the identification and delivery of major projects and urban regeneration initiatives over a 30-year period. He’s worked for PwC, the Homes & Communities Agency, Langtree, Bruntwood, and Ask Real Estate. He now runs his own consulting business which offers property, regeneration, development and funding advice to clients in both the public and private sectors, and is also a mental health ambassador for Lionheart, the charity for RICS professionals.