What happens when you have a breakdown – Nick Elston

Nick Elston for Smart Divorce

Tamsin speaks to inspirational speaker, among many other things, Nick Elston. He speaks about his breakdown, what it felt like and how he found the help he needed, leading him to help many many others.

Nick Elston is one of the highest-profile and leading Inspirational Speakers on the Lived Experience of Mental Health. In life, we can either let our adversities, our challenges, define us negatively for the rest of our lives…or…we can choose for it to forge something beautiful, something powerful – something that never would have existed without you going through your ‘stuff’ in the first place. Described as a ‘BIG man, BIG heart, BIG story & BRUTAL honesty!’, ‘Utterly inspirational, absolutely engaging!’ and ’10/10 –a Speaking Masterclass!’ – Nick shares his experiences of Mental Illness, Mental Ill-Health & Breakdown worldwide –through his powerful, inspiring, engaging & emotional talks. Most importantly, Nick shares his ‘Lived Experience’ through insights, tools, tips and techniques on how to manage Anxiety in Life, in Business – to implement immediately. In his own words, Nick says ‘I see Lived Experience as the vehicle that takes individuals and organisations from the problem to the solution – but it’s NOT the solution. So, what does Nick bring to the table? Engagement. You can have all the well-being & Mental Health initiatives you like – but unless you get engagement in them – absolutely nothing changes. ’For Nick – his talks are where Mental Health meets Personal Development – focusing not just on what anxiety is – but what anxiety does – how it keeps us in a comfort zone, stops us from living life on our terms & ultimately how it affects our success – by our own definition. Nick is regularly featured in the global media, the BBC, industry shows and publications – his talks are delivered to stages, events, boardrooms, businesses, factories, government organisations, schools, universities, prisons & establishments WORLDWIDE!

Website: www.nickelston.com

Trailer video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TszqlHT4Gj0

Find Your Voice: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/cc/find-your-voice-live-831469

Tamsin is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years experience. She works with couples and individuals who are at the end of a relationship and want agree how to divide their assets FAIRLY without a fight.

You can contact Tamsin at tamsin@smartdivorce.co.uk or arrange a free initial meeting using https://calendly.com/tamsin-caine/15min. She is also part of the team running Facebook group Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK

Tamsin Caine MSc., FPFS
Chartered Financial Planner
Smart Divorce Ltd

P.S. I am the co-author of “My Divorce Handbook – It’s What You Do Next That Counts”, written by divorce specialists and lawyers writing about their area of expertise to help walk you through the divorce process. You can buy it by scanning the QR code…

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(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)

Tamsin Caine 0:06
Hello, and welcome to the Smart Divorce Podcast. I’m Tamsin Caine and I will be your host during this our series 6 of the podcast. We’re delighted that you’re joining us again, and hope that you really enjoy today’s episode. During series 6 we’ll be speaking to other divorce professionals who help in perhaps some of the more unusual ways. So we will be speaking to lawyers who deal with international divorce. We will be speaking child inclusive mediation to name a few. I really hope that you enjoy today’s episode. Let’s jump right in. Good morning, and welcome to the Smart Divorce podcast. I am so delighted I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this. And to be joined by the really lovely and gorgeous Nick Elston. Hi, Nick, how you doing?

Nick Elston 1:06
Hello. And I feel under a lot of pressure to perform this kind of a build up. But thank you very much. It’s really nice to be here. Thanks Tamsin.

Tamsin Caine 1:14
No pressure, whatsoever, I just know this is gonna be a fantastic and really useful conversation. So let me let me tell listeners a little bit about you. So you are a mental health advocate, transformational coach, and motivational sorry, inspirational speaker, and crikey, having heard you speak and having had a one to one chats with you I can I can vouch for that not to put any pressure on you

Nick Elston 1:46
be lined up for a ….

Tamsin Caine 1:51
It’s all gonna be fine. It’s all gonna be fine. So I guess, I guess from from my point, I thought it might be useful to talk a little bit about how we met, because actually, it’s probably I’m trying to think now but I think it’s about two and a half years ago. And we met a bit like this really didn’t we on Zoom, mid COVID pandemic, when we’d been introduced because I was falling apart essentially. And my gorgeous colleague Steve had heard you speak at a conference and thought you might be able to help drag me out of the out of the depths of the depths. Do you very kindly offered to speak to me? So I suppose that the start is, you know, where does this come from? You’ve obviously got experience and mental health issues yourself. So could you tell me a little bit about your story?

Nick Elston 2:53
Yeah, sure. Thank you. So I guess it’s important to stress, I’m not like a counsellor, or kind of an advisor, you would want that trust me. Far too empathic for that, oh, I just agree with everyone I’m talking to which is not a great trait for again, so to be honest, but but my kind of experiences come from my own mental illness, having obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD in my childhood and my young adulthood, which then morphed into something called generalised anxiety disorder, or GA D, which is statistically more common, weirdly, but less commonly known. I think we don’t tend to speak about the signs of high anxiety. And also as links to things like depression as well for sure. But because the solutions, new awareness just weren’t in place as they are now, as I got older, it just kind of really snowballed, I guess. And for over a decade of my professional life, I was running at a high state of burnout. And then, and then I had a breakdown in 2012. And in a nutshell, and speaking kind of was my therapy, and then then it suddenly became my thing. What I found was by standing up in sharing my experiences, people started sharing their stuff back with me, and everybody anticipate that to be honest, because I think as humans, we’re not used to hearing the unfiltered truth nowadays, and even in 2012. And we wonder whether there’s a stigma around things like mental health for sure. But but me sharing my stuff, people started sharing their stuff with me. And, and that’s kind of what got me into the engagement part of mental health was as opposed to the solution focus stuff was because why is it that all of these people have these challenges and adversities and struggles, but they either don’t feel educated, inspired or empowered, or a combination of all three, to reach out for help when they need it. And and that’s kind of the real nutshell approach of what I do. Now. The rooms got bigger, the audience’s got bigger, but the general theme is the same. I’m doing what I do to try and help increase engagement in the initiatives and solutions that are out there. And from the speaking coaching side of Things is helping people to start to change their narrative. So delivering emotional stories on based on our own experiences, as you very bravely said just now, I think that’s the reason why it took me into the person and education space as well. Because I do believe there’s transformation to be found through changing our narrative through speaking because intimate.

Tamsin Caine 5:20
Yeah, no, I absolutely agree with you, I have a strong feeling that we don’t in the UK, do much about our mental health, we have this fear of people thinking if we don’t see a therapist, or psychiatrist or psychologist or whatever, that everybody’s gonna label us as being nuts. You know, if I’m nuts, that’s fine.

Nick Elston 5:47
I think you’re right. I mean, culturally, and generationally in the UK, we’ve got a real challenge that we’ve been brought up to believe that self care is selfish. So we all feel guilty. When we put ourselves before anything or anyone, you’re very often find, you should be doing something else. That’s the language that we use. If you are freelance, for example, you’d think nothing of working at 11 at night, would tell yourself off about stopping at three in the afternoon. And all of these things that really kind of have an impact on our mental health generally. But it isn’t the case globally. So working in, for example, like the US or Australia put into two extremes, actually, it’s a very different approach to self care is nothing’s kind of off the off the table in that sense, maybe even too much the other way in terms of the US, but somewhere in the middle is the truth.

Tamsin Caine 6:32
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, our audience are obviously going through divorce, separation, dissolving a civil partnership. And it’s a really high stress, high stakes period of your life, and you’ve got to be emotionally on it in order to make the massive decisions that you’re only only really going to make once and interestingly, so second series of the podcast, we interviewed people who’ve been through divorce and come out the other side. And, and we’re in a good place, an Auburn one of them had been through therapy during their divorce, and the one who hadn’t had come through divorce and then hit a brick wall and had to go through therapy data. And I’m pretty sure that’s, that’s kind of where I was, when we first met. I think it might be useful. I don’t know if you mind me asking you that. If you could just tell us a bit more about you say you you had mental health problems, then you hit a place where you had a breakdown. Would you mind describing that to us? Because I think it’s really helpful to understand what for our audience, what that what that looks like, when it feels like what you go, what you go through?

Nick Elston 7:45
I think it’s a great question because we shouldn’t talk about what things are high anxiety looks like, because it can be dressed up as very successful, we can be very successful, driven by high anxiety, high nervous energy, that kind of stuff. So for me, it was that in personal relationships, it was jealousy and insecurity, it was aggressive or defensive behaviour, lethargy, a lot lack of energy or hypersensitivity when you feel the world’s happening at you, not around you. And that’s that’s a real for me, that’s still the biggest warning kind of red flag that something’s not going right with me is when I start to feel that kind of defensive kind of feeling with where Phil the sensitivity of every, every single is going on around me. I think given the theme of your podcast, I had a break in 2012. I think it’s no surprise it came after the decade where I got divorced from my first wife, and the challenges that presented and looking back now I never had counselling, like you said, going through that process. My counselling happened after that period. But looking back now it’s you can understand kind of the you can carry so much stress for so long. But as somebody once told me, you can only run for so long until you stop. And I think that’s the problem is we carry and carry and carry and then we collapse. And I think for me, the simplest explanation, explanation of burnout is when your output consistently piques your energy, I was fueled by an app that I’ve never really spoken about this in public where I’m happy to today, of course, but I was fueled by kind of insecurity and paranoia, stemming from my kind of relationship before, and also the kind of family breakup before that as well. And it kind of set the blueprint for fitness and really bad kind of decisions along the way. And it was only really after that point that things started to get better. And when I met my now wife, who was very, very patient with me, and I took a lot of baggage into this, and she had the patience to kind of sit down and work through that with me and I think that’s something to be said for that too. I think there’s also something to be said for that for all these experiences in these very So we have there are always learning points, you don’t feel them at the time you don’t see them at a time when some of these things seem brutal. But you absolutely do learn and evolve if you apply those learnings the right way. So it has to be said all the great things and the exciting things that have happened happening for me right now have come from my biggest challenges. A very often you see people that say, like, Oh, I’m done, I’m done with that done with him. I’m done with her. I’m done with this. And I think we’re never really done in any given situation. We just don’t see what the way forward looks like, because we get so clouded in emotion.

Tamsin Caine 10:31
Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. I think and I have heard you talk about chapters before that. And that certainly, the way that I view life as well, you know, you you moving on that, that that’s the end of that particular relationship. But it can be something that without that experience, you couldn’t move on to the next chapter and open that and move on to something positive. So I think it’s easy to kind of see the end, rather than seeing the beginning, I like the idea of moving on and seeing the beginning of something of something new.

Nick Elston 11:07
Yeah, I think chapters are important, I’ve always had a problem, I’m not a details guy. So I’ve always had a problem with engaging in my big goals, because it just seems far too far away to be either achievable, or I get overwhelmed by the kind of the big, grandiose kind of nature of my goals. But actually, by breaking it down into chapters, as you say, actually, I find it really manageable. But also recognising when when I hit one of those chapter marks that the next day I wake up feeling completely empty. So it’s about keeping those kind of what does the end of the next chapter look like? And I think we break it down that way, we kind of take the pressure off of ourselves as well. And I think there’s certainly something to be said for when you go in through personal challenges, I think the thing I’ve learned the most, and again, it’s not something I’ve really shared is that any highly emotional circumstance like going through divorce or anything that has a lot of emotion thrown into it, I started to use this technique very early on called Cold processes, I don’t know where that come from, I may have read it a moment heard it, I don’t know where I come from. Whereas you start to take the facts from a given situation and try to put the emotion to one side. So in the example of divorce, I know that my divorce was held up, because actually there was a lot of things around confidence for me to push it because actually, it wasn’t being given easily. It wasn’t very amicable in that sense. There was also lots of different things thrown in the back kind of family dynamics and lots of different things thrown into the mix. So for me actually tried to turn it into more like a tick box kind of thing, a project things like I need to do this, this and this and this, and allow the emotions just to fall in around it. Now, that won’t work for everybody. But I think certainly with my nature, maybe it’s an OCD thing. But for me, it really helped me to go through any emotional period from getting overly worked up emotionally as you bring it down to the roots off, right, what’s going to move me along faster? Because if we get caught up in the emotion, we stay stuck in that moment that way.

Tamsin Caine 13:00
Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting, you say that, actually, because I had somebody and I can’t remember who it was either, because clearly I’ve got a memory

Nick Elston 13:10
span of a goldfish, which funny is a good thing.

Tamsin Caine 13:15
The cold process that you talked about it was it was somebody saying treat it treat divorce as a business, like a business negotiation, rather than bringing the emotion of everything else into because you bring the emotion in that’s that’s kind of what tips it to be much more difficult to make those big decisions that you’re going to be called to make, essentially.

Nick Elston 13:39
Yeah, and I’m not anti, as you know, I’m not anti emotion, that sort of that emotion is the one thing I actively promote as emotionally connecting with things and recognising our emotional connection with things. But there are times where actually does serve against you. And I think especially if you’re coming from a point of adversity, your narrative is I mean, we’re hardwired to look for danger and fear anyway. But if it’s compounded by what other people are telling you that the situation that you’re in, it’s kind of like when you ruminate on past events. So you may find yourself going through a situation where you’re constantly ruminating on something, a past event, relationship or decision. And you feel those feelings of regret and remorse and sadness and guilt very much in the moment. But when we compare our past in the present, we’re never remembering 100% in his accuracy, and the worst we feel today, the worst already called past memories. So we ended up you can understand the spiral now that people go from that point into a depressive state. And I kind of see this in people where anxiety brings people down and depression keeps people down to a fine line between the two. But talking about emotion reading things is crucial. But in some points, we need to go through the process as well, I think is that same argument with mental health, isn’t it? I think, not to the same degree. But when people say man up they don’t really mean man up in it. instance. But there needs to be some level of, of effort of kind of interaction by the person who has that line in the sand. And suddenly you have got across that by yourself. People can catch you the overside. I think we know this really?

Tamsin Caine 15:16
Yeah, it’s interesting you say that actually, because it is, when you’re when you’re in that space, I mean, for me, my experience of my breakdown was very similar to how I’ve heard yours described, like, you just, I couldn’t do anything, I was almost frozen in time, I couldn’t pick the phone up occurred in. I mean, I love chatting to people, as you know, and I couldn’t join a client zoom call, which is my favourite bit of my job. And I was just, I was just frozen. And the only person that I felt I could I could call which is really strange was was my colleague, Steve. And he was just like, put everything down. Just walk away from work for for a bit, and just just put everything down as you don’t need to do anything. And that was, that was kind of how I felt it. Just that resonate with you does that?

Nick Elston 16:11
Yeah, I forgive me are talking about it. And thanks for sharing it is. It’s one of those things, it’s kind of like, I kind of feel like it’s a motion overload. So that if you when I’m sure I’m speaking to the converted here, based on our experiences, but in a really weird high five, I think that when I when I get massively overwhelmed, I, my straight action is to disconnect. So it’s been called mancave mode. So you kind of like shut off your support network, you close the blinds, that’s it, put your dressing and slippers on still love doing on the weekends. And we’ve all got a place to go you have a she shed, for women in the audience, we will. I think I mean, that’s the thing. So but if you look at the on a very serious note, if you look behind that logic, what you’re doing is that when you disconnect, you don’t feel anything. And I think actually the worst thing in life is not feeling pain or anger is feeling absolutely nothing at all. Because, sadly, over the past two and a half years with a pandemic, a lot of people have experienced this for the first time when they’ve lost that sense of what normal is. So you may have found yourself kind of laughing in the right places, or I always laugh at my own jokes. Anyway, this is nothing new for me. But like you go through the motions of having normal conversations about really feeling those conversations. And I think that’s kind of what it feels like really on a bigger scale to get to that point where the worst thing in life is feeling numb is living under a haze. But few things why we do that is to cut off in in hate you cut off feeling love to cut off feeling bad, you cut off feeling good, you kind of have one without the other. So you end up living in that. And it is self content. It’s self created kind of numbness, but it’s a protection mechanism in a way.

Tamsin Caine 18:00
Yeah, no, absolutely, totally agree with that. It is a really odd feeling of numbness that you just eat, you know, you can’t function and do even the normal basic things that that people do. So we’re in your experience hat. So now that you got out of that, that kind of break down episode, what? What were your steps? What did what? And no, this won’t necessarily work for everybody? What did you what path did you go down?

Nick Elston 18:29
I don’t even recommend it to anybody. I think genuinely the biggest shift was I’m without getting too dark about this. But it’s important to say that this, this could be something that consumes us all, we let it out. And I think that’s for me, I just saw that decision really clearly. And I think especially in a professional environment. So when I went to the site had a breakdown outside of the networking business networking meeting. So about two weeks later, I told people what happened. And And despite what I hear on the news, and social media, humans are essentially good. You just need to tell them what you need. And I think that’s what I found. And that was the kind of starting point for me. I had very open conversations, my challenges were around OCD, so compulsive and obsessive behaviours. So I had to kind of lay some ground rules, whether it’s my wife or my family to say, look, if I ask you for reassurance on something once and to me if I ask you twice, ignore me, and actually be that upfront with people. Because actually, you need to give people an upfront agreement on how you want to be engaged with. I think, unless you communicate that, then we can’t really expect people to deal with us on our terms. And and that was tough. And for quite a long time after that. Still working through that kind of insecurity, the paranoia that things that OCD can bring. Along the way of course picking up kind of professional services too, but that really came later actually, the when I felt like I was honing what I was doing, but I was listening to loads what Mo’s made so many mistakes along the way. Absolutely messed up along the way, of course, but also trips over things that worked as well. And I guess for me, in 2016, was when I first started to talk about this stuff in a big way. That’s where really the transformation really kicked in. Because then you start to see the value of your experiences, not just keep replaying them in the first kind of first party, you replay them from a perspective what people can learn from your experiences. And I think there’s something in that for all of us if we, if we start to write the story of our life, but from a as if a narrator, were reading it like a Morgan Freeman kind of voice, then actually understand that people can learn so much from what you’ve been through, but we never see the value of our experiences. If I said to any of your audience now, namely 10 things you hate about yourself, you reel them off straight away, namely, two things you love about yourself, you’d really struggle. And I think it’s that narrative that defines us. So if you’ve constantly been in a situation where you feel any form of toxicity, that will have an impact on your narrative. And your narrative defines how you go into life and business and everything else.

Tamsin Caine 21:10
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a heck of a thing to go from a breakdown outside to networking event to two weeks later go in and talk about it. I mean, like, I started talking about it, probably about six months after. And that was a really hard, really big deal for me two weeks. What happened in those two weeks that that meant that you could because I don’t think I could have done.

Nick Elston 21:44
So there’s a disclaimer here. So a disclaimer is I wouldn’t recommend that anybody gets to this point. But I think when you reached that point where you feel you’ve got nothing to lose, you kind of it takes us takes the fear away in that sense, I think. And I think it was really interesting. It happened at a business networking environment, which for those who are in that world will know it’s the ultimate bastion of mask wearing in terms of and it’s super can be superficial. So I wanted to go and just give give the reality kind of thing, just like, it was a terrible talk, I was shaking, I was crying, and it was awful. But everybody here that’s Give me a hug, love hugs mishaps over the last couple of years. And the other thing was, this actually was an interesting one, that dynamic shifted, because suddenly people started sharing their stuff with me. And that’s that was, I guess, that’s the most enlightening thing, what was a really selfish move, it changed almost instantly because it became about other people. It felt a lot better to talk about this stuff. And I think very often will our experiences. The reason why we don’t tell people is because we feel either people don’t want to hear it, they’re not going to listen and not going to understand or that you feel ashamed, or all these other different things. But when we open up about my stuff, people start to open up about their stuff, not just about mental illness that was about sexuality, and gender, and race and abuse and addiction, all these other things we experience in life that we just don’t talk about. And why is it these people have all these challenges not reaching out for help? And as I said earlier on, it’s that’s the gap for me. It’s not about the solution stuff. For me, it’s about getting people to the doors of the solution focus people.

Tamsin Caine 23:22
Yeah. So the solutions are immense, the number of different solutions, you know, that are available out there, it can be overwhelming in themselves, which is a bit ironic, really

Nick Elston 23:37
never know what’s gonna work for you and what works for you what may not work for me, and it’s, there’s not one, there’s no one fix, or there’s not been one thing throughout. That’s worked consistently for me. I can’t attribute that anything that has gone a long way to one thing. I think the closest thing is that when I attended a one day public speaking course, so actually wasn’t even counselling was in therapy in that sense, but it kind of is and, and speaking still is my therapy, as you know, I will share very often whatever’s on my head, right there right then, which scares the hell out of a lot of people. But it works brilliantly for me is therapy. But there’s so many things that have worked for 1000s of people that haven’t worked for me. And, and vice versa. There’s things that have worked like public speaking, where haven’t considered public speaking or greater fear than death. But we fear ridicule more than we do dying. So why did that work for me? I don’t know. I just I think there’s certainly a right time, right place because in 2012, I think not exclusively, but especially as a man, a six foot 324 Stone guy talking about this stuff. It just wasn’t a done thing at all. And I think that’s probably why it’s been successful to the extent it is now.

Tamsin Caine 24:49
It’s great that that you’re making it less, less than usual. Because I think as you said, you know, we need to talk about this stuff. It’s really important. To the number of people who have therapy and don’t say anything, the number of people who go to a psychologist and and keep it hidden from their friends and their family because they’re, they’re ashamed. And you know, mental illness is still, we still find it difficult to talk about, we still think that we’re going to be judged. And you know, even an eye there’s there’s loads of workplace work being done on mental health. And you know, that you’ve been involved in some of these and instil people like, well, I don’t want to tell them at work, because I don’t know what the outcome will be. And that’s terrifying in itself, isn’t it?

Nick Elston 25:38
Is I always tried to take the approach of why don’t people engage in something. So if you look at why don’t people engage in workplace wellbeing initiatives, actually, it’s very easy. We’ve been conditioned and brought up especially my generation of back, we don’t trust work with our personal stuff. But that makes no sense whatsoever, because through the organisation, you can get support tomorrow. And here in the southwest, that I think is a three month waiting list for CBT assessment, that alone delivery of the stuff. So we’re actually kind of cutting our own nose off, we’re not engaging, but we’re doing it on the old rules on our old definition of HR and people, leaders and that kind of stuff. Whereas I know from not just the work that I do, I’m married to an HR leader as well, the AAPs, Employee Assistance programmes, workplace initiatives, they’re all anonymous, they never see the person attached to that claim, or that counselling or whatever that may be. So we should engage with that with trust and with good faith, and recognise like everything in life, the thing that holds us back is our narrative. We are talking ourselves into a losing game when it comes to this stuff.

Tamsin Caine 26:45
Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t know what, obviously, you had a different way of starting to move forward than the majority of people. And my, my gut feeling when I was in that space was I just want to be fixed. I want to not feel this numbness anymore, I want to get back to be me again. And I literally went everywhere, looking for a solution. So I called the doctor and got some tablets, which I never took. I called a friend of ours who’s a Hypnotherapist. And she squeezed me into it into a slot and and she was like, don’t take the tablets yet. Let’s see if this works. And, and I’m incredibly lucky to say that that thankfully it Did you know it’s there were steps along along that route that really helped. But it’s not. I don’t you’ve talked about this as well. I know that I’m not fixed. Like I still even yesterday, there was like I had a couple of messages come through. And they hit me in this really weird way that may, that that kind of made me feel like I was doing everything wrong. And I still think you know, even however far down the road, you still need to kind of work on yourself. And is that something you found as well?

Nick Elston 28:10
Yeah, absolutely. Because there’s, there’s a massive difference, firstly, between mental illness and mental health. And I think when we start to define what mental health actually is, we start to see it for what it is it’s a neutral state. And actually, like you said, Actually, it’s more relative to self esteem, confidence and personal development than it is to mental illness in that sense. So I like to see mental health as a muscle, so something that we can exercise and nurture and nourish and care for every single day, to give ourselves the best chance of being smarter, stronger, happier, more successful. Well, there’s really subjective terms mean to you. And even if it’s in between periods of help, counselling, coaching medication, and and again, it’s something that I talk about openly that if as much as there’s been no one fix or that there also is a place for holistic therapy, as you mentioned, hypnotherapy or, or even medication is something that I’ve used along the way as well. And all of these things have a place. But I think the things that we need to do is to reclaim choice. The first thing we sacrifice when we’re going through any period of stress is choice, how we proactively choose to go into each and every day, because we get lost in trying to kind of control the uncontrollable, we cannot control pandemics other people what they say what they do, there’s so much we cannot control. The one thing we have is how we choose to go into the day. And we give that away. So we’ll go with the ebb and flow of somebody else’s life or we’ll wait for that perfect moment to start on. And this isn’t about we know we live in a Disney movie. We know we’re gonna get blindsided. We’re gonna get knocked off our feet and all that other stuff that happens to us. So it’s not about controlling is actually is about having that playbook in place that when you do get knocked down, how’d you come back as soon as possible. And as you said, different things work for different people. So even simple things like I love Swimming, that’s a big part of what I do now is kind of my exercise, I have a lot of country music, as you probably tell from the front of GitHub, that is not all about losing your dog. And this is the promise. All these things are part of my playbook. So a little bit in between. So I think very often, when you talk about mental health, you have two big reactions you ever think is going to be dry, heavy, boring, gonna try and fix you absolutely not. Or I’m going to light a bonfire outside, run around naked with a jaw stick up for anything, by the way, but somewhere in the middle is the truth. And I think that’s, we need to come away from this kind of either fluffiest ocean of mental health or heavy and I think somewhere in the middle is actually a bit that we can control. Even if it’s in between periods of help, so anything that’s really recharges you or nourishes your gives you energy is a really good thing to bring into your day.

Tamsin Caine 30:47
Yeah, I totally agree. I think I think it’s it, you know, we we exercise our body, don’t we, we do physical exercise, like you used to draw things swimming. And I’ve really started CrossFit for for my sins, but you know, for whatever, you know, I’m five foot six, and not particularly strong, but and you know, heading very quickly towards 50. But I love lifting weights, and it actually does almost as much for my mental self and self esteem to see myself grassing in the amount of weight I can lift and so on, as it does my physical strength. And my you know, my physical well being and I think, like you say it is about, it’s about what, you know, whatever works, we’ve got to know that physically you can respond to mental health issues, as well as you can mentally you know, these things come out in in all sorts of different ways. I know you mentioned musics been important to you in swimming, other kind of other things that you do to exercise your your mental wellbeing.

Nick Elston 31:58
Yeah, I tried to wherever possible, and it’s not always possible to try to manage my responses to things. So by sometimes taking a step back or taking a breath, or I think that’s probably the people pleaser, it still leaves lives deep inside me. And you kind of mentioned it already. Like you said, he gets some things that really kind of make you feel a little bit negative, I could give you 99 pieces of positive feedback right now. And if I gave you one negative Guess which one you focus on? That’s the challenge, so actually becomes less about mental health in its truest sense. And it becomes more about actually self awareness. So even if it’s somebody else’s opinion, does it make it fact? No? And also, does it mean that they’re actually being openly aggressive? No. But I think this is where narrative comes back into it is that is the narrative we use in any given situation. And that’s the bit that I try and work on throughout the day, and I think, has to be said, I feel that so I am on medication, I’m on drug, which kind of helps the GED side of my stuff. It’s a very low dosage, no, but that allows me to take that step back a little bit more. Whereas I was completely reactive before. So I’d be very much Evan flow, I could be up and down like 25 times in a day, actually just kind of evens me out a little bit more. So I think it’s actually the best example I can give, as a young lady once said at a school, that she what really makes her anxious is when she messages to a friend, and a friend doesn’t message her back. And we’ve all been there, right? Just me. But that’s not what causes the anxiety, because that’s just a transaction. She doesn’t say to herself, she’s not seeing the message. She’s doing something else. She’s busy. She says to herself, I’ve been disowned, I’ve been judged. They don’t love me anymore. We’ve fallen out. It’s the narrative which causes the damage, and especially given the theme of today, around divorce, especially going through a big heavy challenge right now. Actually, it’s your narrative, which causes anxiety very often not the fact of the matter. So I think that anytime you’re anxious about right now, and this is this is what I do, essentially. And it’s and I’m anxious about today, anything I’ve stressed about today, qualify it a fact check it is it fact, and if it is fact than I will do something about it, now I’ll reach out to that person, that event that situation, if it’s not an in the vast majority of times, it’s not it’s the narrative I’m using, that I’m assuming a worst case outcome to stuff we do this so often is scary. And when we start to take it that way, we start to see things as very, very manageable. And we take the peaks in the lowest away from the day.

Tamsin Caine 34:41
So useful. I can, I can see I can see myself using that. I am I remember somebody saying to me, kind of in the early days of of, of me having family struggle that Oh, well. What’s the worst that can happen? Please don’t ask me what the worst that can happen is because my worst thing can happen is really bad things happen, I’m, I’ve lost my home, my kids have gotten their house, we’re on the streets, you know, the the worst that can happen is so but but what can you you know, what can you control? And and what is fact that are so much more useful?

Nick Elston 35:27
Absolutely. There’s two phrases that I really don’t like. And the first one, as you just said is what’s the worst that can happen? Step into my world and I’ll show you what’s the worst that can happen? Isn’t that place, God the stranger things upside down, but in my head sometimes going to things it’s the second phrase I can never understand that can go ahead around this is that you did the best you could with what you had and all that kind of stuff. I’ve seen no, like, at times, I didn’t at times it was a deck at times I did all the bad things. And so I think I think that’s not valid. But I think when we accept that, to fully accept that everything that you’ve ever done, everyone you’ve ever been, everything you’ve ever said has led to exactly where you are now, the acceptance is liberating. I think that the difference is that we design the future based on fear. So given again, the theme of today, if you’ve been hurt in a relationship before it’s gone wrong, do you may ring fence relationships from your gender ongoing? Because you wrongly assume what has been as what will be now given the same players in the same location? Absolutely. But when do we ever play with the same players in the same location? And the reason that’s so important is because if we don’t do these things, we are creating that numbness we’ve already spoken about. I think it’s really important to recognise. That’s how we create that zone, that kind of like haze of kind of feeling. Not feeling normal anymore for me.

Tamsin Caine 36:50
Yeah, I like that. Though. Rangan Chatterjee on his podcast talks about if you were, I think it’s something about if you were that person who’d had their experiences and live their life, you’d be responding in exactly the way that they are. And that’s kind of that’s quite I mean, it’s it takes some thinking about but it does. It sorts of sorts of comps, I think the idea was that he was trying to stop people. It was like road, he was talking about road rage, actually, which is interesting. And he was like, if you’re about to rage rage at somebody, think about what where they’re at maybe they’re like, gonna get sacked. If they’re five minutes late for work, and they’re already three minutes late, or, you know, you don’t know what’s going on in their life. So it’s about kind of kind of

Nick Elston 37:40
assumption is disguise woken up with the sole intention of getting me today. So we react with that same level of rage, isn’t it? And I think you’re right, I think there’s such a fine line. But I think we’re very, we’re, again, this is not a generalism because I appreciate a different circumstances. But I find that were very quick to judge. And when I first started delivering and prisons that what I found was the scariest thing wasn’t delivering in prisons, the scariest thing was if it wasn’t for the security, it was just like delivering a college that they were just normal people doing have just had either. Yet some absolutely not great people, it has to be said there was certainly a share of that. But most of the time they’ve ever had shockingly bad upbringings or made really bad decisions. And when you hear the human stories behind that, it just completely changed my opinion of working in that space. Because to start with it was a whole different outlay while I was going in, but go in there it just it just blew my mind. It said if it wasn’t for the security, it’d be just like being in a college with.

Tamsin Caine 38:47
Very interesting. Now we’re coming to the end of our time together and gutted about that, to be honest.Is there anything that that I should have asked you that haven’t or that you want to get across that perhaps you don’t you feel though, that we haven’t strongly enough?

Nick Elston 39:09
No, I genuinely feel this has been fantastic conversation. I think we covered a lot of things. I guess the one thing I want to say is the thing that I finished most and I talked to you like it’s such an important statement is also a great country music track by Gary Allen, if you are into country music is every storm runs out of rain. I think through the times we experienced we just need to know that that every storm has ever been 3d released survive because you’re here most of the time we thrive and most of the time we learn most of the time we evolve. We don’t see it at the time now. It’s because some of those storms are brutal and horrendous and they really batter us around. But this will pass. And I think that it’s important to keep a hold on that and know that you don’t need to see the way ahead to know that you’re not done. I think that’s really important right now so yeah, every storm runs out and that’s me I think.

Tamsin Caine 39:56
I love that. I love that. That’s absolutely fantastic. statement thank you so much for having joined me it’s been a it’s been fun and you have your own podcast as well don’t you? Do you want to? Do you want our listeners a little bit about where they can find it because they may well, like me want to listen to you many more hours.

Nick Elston 40:19
ingeniously titled The Nick Elston show took my inspiration from the Muppet Show. The we’re now into we’re well into season five. And the whole theme of the show is to bring on people that you see around a different walks of life. But to give them the unfiltered personal journey behind what you see on LinkedIn, for example, what you see on the sponge. So it’s basically taken away from the superficial element and given people a backstory, a place to share their backstory, and some of them are very interesting. That’s an amazing, that’s an amazing guest. So recently, if anyone’s a fan of channel four’s gogglebox we had an episode with Basset Siddiqui great episode. So yeah, make sure you check that one out. And last week for as we record this today, on the 14th of October, World Mental Health Awareness Day was this week, and we had a great guy called Gavin for who’s the founder of talk club and men’s mental health movement. So it’s a great place to check out lots of different people from different walks of life, and soon to come. Tamsin Caine.

Tamsin Caine 41:30
Amazing thank you so much for joining me, Nick. And thank you also for listening or watching depending on where you are. And so that you don’t miss any of these in the future. Please do subscribe. And please do give us a five star rating if you’ve enjoyed our conversation today, because it helps us get this to more people. Thank you and we’ll see you soon. I hope you enjoyed the episode of the Smart Divorce podcast. If you would like to get in touch please have a look in the show notes for our details or go onto the website www.smartdivorce.co.uk. Also if you are listening on Apple podcasts or on Spotify and you wouldn’t mind leaving us a lovely five star review. That would be fantastic. I know that lots of our listeners are finding this is incredibly helpful in their journey through separation divorce and dissolving a civil partnership. Also, if you would like some further support, we do have Facebook group now. It’s called ‘Separation divorce and dissolution UK.’ Please do go on to Facebook, search up the group and we’d be delighted to have you join us. The one thing I would say is do please answer their membership questions. Okay, have a great day and take care!