It’s Men’s Health Week – put the tools down and give yourself a breather

From Tools Down founder, Kate Russell…

 

Through my work as a mediator over the last 18 years I have been very fortunate to have met people from all walks of life. About 40% of my clients are tradies and over the years I have noticed that the majority of my tradie clients’ relationships break down because they are working ridiculous hours day in, day out. They are so busy trying to run their business that they are rarely at home; they are not available to help around the house and to look after the kids and even when they are at home they are often doing the books for the business.

Tradies are often very tired and stressed out; and that makes them grumpy and difficult to live with.

About 80% of tradies are either self employed or sub-contractors. They have the constant demand of managing cash flow issues; they work in a world of ever changing rules and regulations regarding workplace safety; they are often socially isolated due to the nature of the job and most importantly they are usually doing all of this for their families.

But by the time that I usually see these tradies it’s too late. Their marriages have ended, they are not seeing their kids as much as they would like to, they are often dealing with depression and some are hitting the bottle too hard.

This is a terrible outcome for a group of people who are working so hard. This is a terrible outcome for their families and in particular, their kids.

So I decided to do something about it. To encourage tradies to put the tools down; to take some time out, to look after themselves better, to be more physically and emotionally available for their families. To find ways to run their businesses more efficiently and to create a community (on-line and off-line) to share their experiences and have each other’s backs.

So I would strongly encourage all the tradies out there to put their tools down this Men’s Health Week and give yourself a break. You’re doing a great job and sometimes you need to take a breather.

Check out the website for more information about Tools Down www.toolsdown.com.au

Rob the Uber driver is right, we need to talk about grief

Late on a Tuesday afternoon I was collected by Rob, the Uber driver, and whisked off to the Sydney Airport.

As was my wont, I immediately started chatting to Rob. Our conversation soon turned to living without children, after I said I was in Sydney visiting our youngest child, who has left his home town of Adelaide to study in Sydney.

Rob asked me how I had adapted to life without a teen in the house; he was interested because he didn’t get to see his 17-year-old daughter much anymore – well not since the divorce.

Rob and his wife separated a few years ago and he didn’t get to see his daughter for about 2 years. His ex-wife used her family’s money to pay legal fees to keep Rob away. He said it was a terrible couple of years. Rob now gets to spend time with his daughter and he has worked hard to restore their relationship but he is still sore and bruised from the drawn out legal proceedings.

He said that some of his friends say that it will be easier when his daughter becomes an adult. I said that I have worked most of my life in and around family law and I think his friends are right. I have constantly told my clients over the years that for whatever reason are not seeing their children to buy birthday and Christmas presents every year. That if, one day, their child seeks them out, they will have the evidence that they have been thinking about them constantly. That they did care.

I said it’s hard for teenage children of separated parents. They often side with one parent – it makes them feel safe. It’s less stressful for them. But when they become young adults and they start needing to know who they are and where they came from; they often seek out the other parent – that other half of their DNA.

Rob said that he has sent a smiley face via Messenger to his daughter every day since they separated. I said that is a lovely way to let her know that you care about her without being intrusive. He said she says she is going to come and see me this weekend. He said I don’t get too excited because I know something better might come along… but that’s ok. I said it’s terrific that she has even factored you into her weekend.

Rob said you know it’s really important that we talk about this stuff. I agreed. He said as soon as I drop you off at airport, I am going to ring my daughter and tell her that I love her.  He said she might be too busy to take the call… but I’m going to call her anyway.

– Kate

Playford Men’s Shed

Manager – Michael Smith
http://www.playford.sa.gov.au/mensprograms

The Playford Men’s Shed is a very impressive operation. With 44 members they are open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday under the watchful eye of manager Michael Smith.

The Playford Men’s Shed currently hosts 44 members in total with a core group who attend regularly and some members who drop in from time to time. They hold a barbecue every Friday and on the last Friday of the month they take a day trip. This month they’re off to the Largs Bay Hotel and in March they will spend the day at Monarto Zoo.

When Tools Down founder Kate Russell visited, she was not surprised to find that the majority of the cars in the car park were Holdens. But after speaking to a number of members, Kate discovered the men came from a diverse range of working backgrounds: from the Holden Plant, the Armed Forces, and one man who used to run childcare centres with his wife.

This is a Men’s Shed – no women allowed and they’re really proud of their shed. And so they should be – they do fantastic work for the local community (including giving used gophers a bit of a makeover). They have a mobile Men’s Shed (a fully fitted-out trailer with a barbecue), make mud kitchens for childcare centres and kindergartens, chook runs and toys. They are currently helping out the Civic Centre by mounting brilliantly painted doors from old Holden vehicles which is part of an art installation which is part of the Fringe.

This is a tight bunch of men. They look out for each other and take their health really seriously. On Friday 17 February they are holding a special day for members – Spanner in the Works Health Check. A local community health service is going to attend and give everyone a check out – both physical and emotional.  The Australian Men’s Shed Association have put together this men-friendly health screening program which is conducted in an environment in which the men feel comfortable – their own Men’s Shed.  They will put on a barbecue for all those who attend. The results of the screening are recorded in a special booklet that the men keep and can take to their local GP. What a great initiative!

What If…

I have been self employed for nearly 17 years.

I have worked very long hours doing very demanding work for all those years; and I’ve had my fair share of family issues to deal with too. I rarely take a day off, let alone a holiday. I work way too hard and have done so for years.

In January 2013 I went to the doctor hoping to get a prescription for something to help me sleep. I had not slept properly in months. The doctor tried to take my blood pressure on one machine and thought the machine was broken. She went and got another machine. The first machine wasn’t broken – my blood pressure was 220 over 110 and I was rushed to hospital for fear of a stroke or a heart attack.

The doctor in Emergency gave me a Valium as soon as I arrived because I was so stressed out. It didn’t touch the sides. He gave me another and admitted me to hospital. It took four days for the medical staff to get my blood pressure down to a safe level.

They had to check all my organs because no-one knew how long my blood pressure had been so high.

The doctors said – drink less alcohol, lose weight, don’t work so hard and get healthy. I said – yes of course I would look after myself better ….but I didn’t.

So in January 2014 I went back to my doctor for a prescription for something to help me sleep. The doctor took some blood. When results came back I was given the bad news that my blood pressure was too high and I had some other serious issues that I needed to deal with too.

Basically my doctor read me the Riot Act. She said if I didn’t change my lifestyle I was going to die, maybe not tomorrow but much sooner than I should.

Well, I didn’t have time to die – there are way too many things that I want to do. So, from that moment on I made significant changes in my lifestyle.

Instead of my husband and I enjoying happy hour every night, we went for a walk, I changed my diet and I made sure that I went to bed much earlier.

Initially I couldn’t walk very far but it didn’t take long for my fitness to improve. I walked further and further each day, joined the gym and eventually started running (read “running” very broadly). I ran my first half marathon in August 2015.

Now I do some exercise pretty much every day, even if it’s just taking the dogs for a walk. I don’t eat carbs and I go to bed really early.

I got my life back.

Before 20 January 2014 my colleagues would have said that I was fun, helpful and that busy person you ask to do things for you to make sure it got done; my family would have said I was cranky, stressed out, that I had a very short fuse; that I was rarely fun and sometimes they would have thought I was a bitch. Fair call I say.

Now they would say that I still work way too much, but that I am usually fun, that I am not so stressed out, that I cope with everything so much better. And most importantly, these days I usually sleep like a baby.

Tools Down is about improving the health and wellbeing of tradies. I know tradies. They have been my clients for years. I also know them, because they do what I do – work way too hard most of the time and as a result they don’t look after themselves very well. This impacts on their health, their relationships and, in the long run, their businesses.

So what if I could encourage other self-employed people (in particular tradies) to take some time out to look after themselves?

What if, we could recognise that we all need to take some time to slow down, smell the roses and enjoy life, in order to go faster and to enjoy our relationships with our families.

What if, we could develop relationships with people going through the same things as us, so we could safely share our successes and our stressors – so we could help each other out and keep each other on track.

What if by looking after ourselves better that tradies (and other self-employed people) were less likely to develop depression; less likely to attempt suicide.

What if it meant that tradies felt more connected and engaged at home, with the people that they care about the most.

What if that meant less arguments and happier times and better memories for our kids.

What if…

Becoming a Toolie costs only $200 per year. We hold monthly events that are fun and engaging and sometimes even educational. We have great door prizes which are all about pampering you and your loved ones. You also get one hour of advice from me for free on how to manage a conflict situation. Finally, we help out Men’s Sheds because $5 from every ticket from every event goes to Men’s Sheds to help them continue their great work.

Cheers,

Kate