Thompson Travel owner Sharon Thompson shares her tips for staying sane at work

Three years ago this month, I lost a travel friend to pancreatic cancer. I’m sure a lot of you will have heard of Aundrea Bannatyne, as the travel industry, especially in Northern Ireland, was distraught at the news of her cancer and again at her loss in August 2017. Many wonderful people in travel worked tirelessly to help her get the care she needed – that is what our industry is like.

These past five months have been a disaster for us all, but when I think of my own mental health and attitude to it all, Aundrea comes to mind. She had the best saying: ‘Suck it up, buttercup.’ Imagine knowing your life would be cut short way too soon and still having that attitude – amazing. It puts everything into perspective.

Life is what it is, and when there is absolutely nothing you can do about what is affecting us, we must think about how to get through it. I’m not talking about how we’ll get back to trading again; there are plenty of opinions on that. I’m talking about our own health, mental and physical.

Stay healthy

From the outset of this pandemic, I have repeatedly reminded myself that this is not our fault – it isn’t. We couldn’t have prepared for the longevity of this. We don’t have answers. We don’t have a date for when we’ll start making money again instead of losing it. We don’t know if our businesses will even survive. So, outside all of that, what can we do to keep ourselves sane?

I’m no expert in mental health but I have some techniques that I use, as a small-business owner, to stay sane.

“As for keeping yourself sane outside of work, make some time for yourself. Pick a TV series to watch; get outside (even if it is raining); or try an online fitness class.”

One of the most important things is making sure you focus on what is necessary and relevant to your business. You don’t need to know what’s happening in Honduras if you don’t book any of your customers there, for example.

As for keeping yourself sane outside of work, make some time for yourself. Pick a TV series to watch; get outside (even if it is raining); try an online fitness class or get back to the gym if it’s open; paint; meet a friend (preferably one who doesn’t want to talk about Covid); find a new hobby, or look again at an old one (I’ve got back into music). My kids are all adults now, so forgive me if my suggestions sound selfish (I don’t have to worry about school uniforms or exam grades), but do try and make some time for yourself.

Bounce back

Count your blessings. Don’t start today by dwelling on what you couldn’t control yesterday. If you believe you can do something, you can. We can’t change what we can’t control, but we can control how we respond to a challenge.

Focus on what you can influence, whether that is a colleague, your family or the government. Manage what you are afraid of, and counter stress by eating, drinking, exercising and sleeping.

“We in travel are made of strong stuff. We fall down but we bounce back. Just remember what Aundrea would’ve said. Suck it up, buttercup.”

Think too about the things you’ve already achieved. Push your limits; a failure now can be a success later. Think outside your comfort zone. And will any of this matter next year?

We in travel are made of strong stuff. We fall down but we bounce back. Just remember what Aundrea would’ve said. Suck it up, buttercup.


Agent

My tips for staying sane at work

  • Set working hours each day. I’ve committed to 11am‑3pm Monday to Friday and told customers. Phones are answered between those hours leaving time either side to make calls and deal with other issues.
  • Go to the office if you can. Separate work from home life.
  • Keep up to date with necessary news – not the rubbish on TV.
  • Focus on what will help you in your job. If cancelled flights don’t affect you or your customers, ignore that news.
  • Look forward. Keep customers positive about future trips, even if they’re for 2021 or beyond.
  • Look at your overheads and see if you can reduce them.
  • Keep in touch with travel friends – we all need each other.