CheckdMedia CEO Jamie Knowlson on Mental Health

CheckdMedia CEO Jamie Knowlson talks about his first-hand experiences of Mental Health

You've asked to share your first-hand experiences of Mental Health, how come?

Well, first off I’d had zero education about it growing up. In the schools, sixth forms and workplaces I attended it was unheard of. Physical health was huge, but mental health wasn't mentioned, ever. I think it's extremely important as an employer to safeguard all members of staff; so hopefully if I share what I’ve experienced since starting the company in 2012 it will help others, in the company and our readers!

So 'Burnout', what's that?

Before CheckdMedia, I wouldn't have had a clue, and definitely wouldn't have associated the symptoms with my mental health! Setting the scene, earlier this year I was under a bit of pressure. My Girlfriend and I have bought a house, which we're renovating ourselves, currently living back at our parents, after 5 years of being independent. It was a really busy time for the company as we entered QTR 3; I've always been ambitious, almost live for work and love to be busy. People use the saying 'burning the candle at both ends', but without noticing I’d gone past that. I started noticing I was skipping meals, not sleeping well and being grump(ier) than usual. Work, work, work continued until I started noticing physical things, feeling sick, randomly nervous and then anxious. Now I’m a stubborn person, I don't like admitting any weaknesses and continued to run at my usual pace of 100mph until my body essentially gave up. I was exhausted, weak, couldn't think straight, couldn't make a decision, was staring into space, nosebleeds and felt ill so I booked a doctor’s appointment. The GP diagnosed me with Burnout. A stress-related illness and was ordered to 4 weeks off work! 4 weeks?! The guy was mad! I remember laughing at him and saying “you're joking”. He replied with "If you don't stop, you will have a heart attack". Bang, that hit me like a sack of bricks; I remember the emotion becoming overwhelming on the way home and feeling completely lost in myself. Severely anxious and depressed.

Wow so how did you deal with this low?

Well the timing couldn't have been any worse, I was supposed to be an Usher to a really good friend of mine two days later, go to the Joshua v Parker fight with clients, a bunch of important meetings, a friends stag do, all in the space of a week. I had to face up to the situation I was in, cancel everything and put myself first and rest. It was horrible sharing it at first, but once it was out in the open it was like a weight off my chest. My business partners, friends, family and girlfriend were all brilliant. I had a solid 4 days of sleep, turned my phone off and just re-focused myself. 

What measures have you put in place to stop you returning to burnout mode?

Well I've been seeing a specialist in mental health for 8 weeks, which has helped educate me massively. Not just for myself, but to spot it in others around me and the guys here at CheckdMedia too. The main things I’ve had to change is my work/life balance, down time and uptime. There's no point working 24/7 and not spending leisure time with the people around you. 

So how do you switch off and relax?

Exercise is brilliant for winding down after work: it doesn't have to be a full of gym session, it can be a run round the block, a cycle, a swim or anything to get the heart pumping. 

What top tips would you give?

Well obviously I’m not an expert, I can only share what works for me:

  • Keep a healthy diet
  • Get your solid 8 hours sleep
  • Exercise 3/4 a week
  • Keep alcohol and smoking to as minimum as much as you can
  • Don't over commit - Something I was terrible at. Be selfish and only do things if you can fully enjoy
  • Apps such as Headspace, Calm or Mindful are really good - some great sleep stories on there that work a treat
  • Talk to people around you - I've had nothing but really good support since my experience with mental health

How do CheckdMedia support Mental Health?

We've had some great speakers come in and share experiences around Mental Health. Sale Sharks came in earlier this year and did a fantastic workshop around it. We've also got various messages around the office and for Mental Health Week back in May, we organised a 'Curry and a Chaat' night which was a success. All the Directors are really proactive around making sure our team feel well and supported here.