In my previous 2 articles I discussed the frustrations of running a business and their impact together with options to overcome them. In this article I am going to tell you a bit more about my story of how Lily helped me and how I have coped. 2 years ago my husband and I returned to the UK after living in South Africa for 34 years. We emigrated there in 1983 with our two small children after my husband was made redundant. At that time there were very few opportunities here due to high unemployment. We thought we would have better opportunities in South Africa to live and work and raise our young family.

We worked hard and both had successful businesses there, a beautiful home with a swimming pool, a holiday home, servants to tend the garden and clean our home, we could afford private education for our children and we enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle in a lovely sunny climate.

For many years it seemed that we were living in the land of milk and honey but over time things gradually began to change. The decline in the economy resulted in an escalation of crime, particularly violent crime.

In 2014 we were over here in Wiltshire for a holiday when we suddenly realized how we weren’t unconsciously looking over our shoulder all the time expecting to be a victim of crime. We hadn’t realized that that was what we were doing in South Africa.  It felt wonderfully peaceful and safe to freely walk around; So much so that then and there we decided we would eventually move back to the UK, although we didn’t know when.

We enjoyed a lovely holiday and returned to South Africa and got on with our lives, putting all ideas of emigration on the back burner. We weren’t quite ready to give up our lifestyle. 18 months later something happened which made our leaving more urgent. Our daughter-in-law was hijacked by 5 gunmen with her two young children in the car in an upmarket suburb in the middle of the day; It was then that we decided it was time to leave.

We put our home on the market and made arrangements to transport our possessions plus 2 beloved dogs here to the UK. We were so excited to be returning to the land of our birth and couldn’t wait to show “our girls” (that’s the dogs!) the beautiful countryside.

When we arrived it suddenly dawned on us how much we had given up. We had no home, no friends, no job, and at 68 and 65 respectively we had to build our businesses again from scratch. Because of our ages getting any kind of job was impossible. We were also worried about money because at that stage we hadn’t sold our home despite it being on the market for 3 months and we wondered whether we would be able to sell it (the property market was in dire straights) and get any money out.

Also because of the declining economy we lost 80% of our wealth overnight. When we emigrated in 1983 there were 1.6 Rands to the pound. By 2017 it was 20 Rands to the pound! R1.5m = £75,000.

Things were quite grim, but it got far worse! We had only been here 2 weeks when our beloved old dog Lucy died. Losing a beloved pet is heart-breaking for everyone but for us it was especially so because we were not in a good place mentally and emotionally due to our new circumstances.

Although we were devastated, we knew that this was just another thing that we needed to withstand in order to build our new lives here. Losing Lucy so suddenly could have been the last straw to knock me sideways, but it didn’t because I was resilient and knew what I had to do to be motivated, focused and strong to keep going to re-build my new life.

Even though I shed a lot of tears I knew I had to keep going. I could have got depressed but I didn’t.  The reason I didn’t was because I was mentally stable due to the work that I do and the knowledge that I have.

For many years in my private practice as a therapist I have helped many people to overcome mental health challenges such as stress, anxiety and depression and I knew that if I took steps to promote good mental health then I would have the resilience to cope with the challenges of life as they arose.

I knew that although life’s major events (divorce, moving house, financial loss, chronic sickness and losing a job) could trigger mental breakdown, it’s not the events itself but rather a person’s response to challenges that cause mental illness.

I had to learn to be at peace with uncertainty because worrying about something that might not happen, imagining the worst possible scenario wouldn’t change anything. I spent many years in private practice equipping my clients with tools to reduce worrying and to promote flexible solution focused thinking.

Even though there was some stress and uncertainty I took deliberate practical steps to manage that stress which among other things, involved some physical activity (poor Lily, our remaining dog, was depressed, confused and grieving). If it wasn’t for Lily I might have resorted to staying in my pyjamas all day – she gave me a reason to get dressed and go out. We both needed to get some fresh air and to get our bodies moving and give ourselves a break from worry and sadness

Over the past 2 years not a lot has changed but I am living my life for today, grateful for what I have and I am enjoying sharing the beauty of nature with my beloved Lily.

If you would like to receive a free copy of my “worry well” for solutions template please contact me with the request “worry well”.

I have developed an experiential workshop which can be delivered over 4 x 1.5 hour sessions outlining 5 practical approaches to promote good mental health. When we have good mental health, we can cope better with the challenges of life and be resilient.

In my next article I will tell you a bit more about myself and my work