How not to have a mental break down on a project

Here’s my handy guide how to stay sane on a work project.

I just had a meeting today with an old boss and he recommended that I learn lessons about my last work project to make sure I don’t fall ill due to stress a second time. So, I’ve outlined below my main learning points in three areas, social life, work life and mental health.  If I can stop one person going through what I went through by being open about what happened to me I will consider it all to be worthwhile.

Social Life

  1. Have one: Make time for it.  See your friends and family. If you either don’t make plans or keep cancelling, it might indicate your life is a bit out of balance. (P.S applying for business school is not an excuse.)
  2. Book holiday in advance and take it. I can tell you now your project won’t go to plan.
  3. Exercise; you need an outlet for the stress. Whether that a walk in the park, or a 1o mile jog, or run round a hockey pitch.
  4. Build in relax time:  whether that is watching the world go round, walking in the countryside, hanging out with friends, or watching latest trashy tv programme, it doesn’t matter. Just make time for it.
  5. In summary: Self-care!!!


The boss

  1. Try to get a good manager. Remember a good one, might be different from a nice one. If in doubt, go for the good one.

You and the bosses

  1. Delegate upwards. Be clear who is responsible for what. If it’s not your responsibility, why are you worrying about it or even trying to do it? Just highlight to your managers and move on.
  2. Highlight at an early stage if the project is going AWOL.
  3. Develop the skill of saying no to bosses. Old boss recommends going to meeting saying, we can’t deliver all this, but we can deliver that. Or to deliver we need more staff etc to deliver.
  4. Have regular one-ones with your manager outside of team meeting scenarios.


  1. Don’t work yourself into the ground for an undeliverable deadline. It’s not worth it.
  2. Focus on the process rather than outcome. You can control the work you do; not the impact. Do the best job you can with the time you have.  There no guarantee about the impact of the work, don’t worry about.
  3. Take time away from your desk every day. Get some breathing space. Best ways to do this include; buying a coffee at the coffee shop, or having lunch away from your desk.
  4. When it starts going wrong, or the project gets really busy. Stop!!!
  5. Take a moment to think and see what you can change and discuss your concerns with your managers as quickly as quickly as possible. (See section above on you and the bosses.)
  6. If someone to trying to rescue you/the project. Don’t question. Just do. When you’re in the hole, you can’t necessarily see how to get out of it.
  7. Now say this after me.  You’re silly if you allow work to make you SICK!!!!! Don’t do it.


Mental health

Switching Off

  1. Learn to switch off. Worrying about a project at 11pm at night, or when your trying to sleep is a bad idea. I use the worry list technique. Before I go to bed, write down my worries. I then identify what need to be done about them. (kinda like a to-do list.) My current boss suggests; take 10-15 out your morning and identify the day’s three priorities.
  2. Don’t use your work blackberry as an alarm clock; you’ll be tempted to look at work emails at 11pm at night. Who wants to know if their boss is silly enough to still be writing emails at this time of night? You’re even sillier if you respond.

Need Sleep

  1. Sleep: Get 8 hours kip a night. By all means have a late night, but balance it out. Your less likely to over-react if you have enough sleep.


  1. If you think your stressed. You are! And you might be worse than you think.
  2. Ask for some honest feedback from your boss about your performance and then use that information when you go to your Doctor.  If I had a better understanding earlier of how stress was affecting me I could have given my doctor more complete information and got the help I needed sooner.
  3. If you’re getting stressed, figure out why…really why? It’s all about how you process the situation.  My faulty thinking processes were due to fear of failure. Now you know your thinking processes; think about how to correct it and develop some better thought patterns.

Concluding point

Reassurance: Everyone will go through a bad patch; it’s quite normal when your taking on more responsibility, trying please people and potentially trying to go for promotion. It’s most likely to occur when you have limited control on what happens to you. Again. YOUR NORMAL!!!!


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  1. Fridays From The Frontline - Clear Admit Blog - December 27, 2013

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