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Wedding Industry Mental Health with Linda Sage from Successful Mindset

James Pearson
Hello, welcome to Cast of Creatives, the series dedicated to exploring creative work and the impact that this has on mental health and well being, I’m James Pearson founder of Wedding Industry Mental Health and Wedding Espresso, and I’m delighted today to be joined by Linda Sage, from Successful Mindset. Linda, how does today find you?

Linda Sage
Hi James, thank you so much for inviting me. Yes, it’s been great because I’ve been travelling for the very first time in 20 months, I’ve just literally got back.

James Pearson
And how does that feel?

Linda Sage
Actually, you don’t realise how much you need it until you’re doing it. Before I went, I was still asking is it the right time? But Nana duties called, so that’s why I went.

James Pearson
I think I’ve been in a similar situation although I haven’t been on a plane yet. I have driven long distance to have a mini break up in Scotland, and just that feeling of driving somewhere else. Bliss, so wonderful. So share with everybody a little bit about your career up to this point and what led you to be working in the mental health space.

Linda Sage
Oh, well I have about 40 years behind bars, but very luckily, they’ve always given me the keys to come back out again. So, my background is criminal psychology. It wasn’t that I set out to do that, but while I was doing my first psychology degree, a friend of mine was working in a prison and I did some work with the local police, and it’s sort of fell into place and you know, when the light goes on and it feels right. I’m a very, very fortunate person that I don’t think I’ve actually worked many days in my life. I’ve had so much fun in what I’m doing and learning and I’ve travelled the world, have done a lot of the speaking circuits, I’ve worked in the Middle East, a lot throughout Europe, EU, US, Canada, Australia, and of course here in the UK as well. So a lot of the notorious and infamous prisoners of the late 20th century, early 21st century, I’ve had the pleasure of having conversations with, but other than that, a lot of other lovely people as well. Because I’ve also done an awful lot of work within mental health and hidden disabilities, because my husband and my daughter are both on the autistic spectrum. And my grandson is as well. So, we’ve learned a lot along the way, not just about working with people, but actually living with people with hidden disabilities, and the value they can actually bring to relationships, to workplaces, when everything is there to help them.

James Pearson
Interesting. In all your experience then would you say potentially there is a link between autism and creativity?

Linda Sage
I certainly think there’s a way of it helping. Both my husband and my daughter are very, very artistic. He qualified as a graphic designer, my daughter is a fantastic artist, and a lot of work I’ve done with people have included different types of creativity of some of them, like in writing. Even with Dyslexics, being able to dictate a story, and then the translator or auto writer doing it for you. Now being able to write it down and say it in your own words, opens up a whole new field. The crafts and needlework design, you know, a lot of chefs, a lot of those are either on the autistic spectrum, or ADHD, or the other things that go around that circle as well.

Linda Sage
So I think there’s a lot there, and I also think that creativity gives them an outlet and is certainly a way for a lot of people that I know, to actually calm themselves, they find perhaps meditation and things like this too difficult to start with. Because actually being able to sit still for any amount of time, it is horrific for them, it’s actually scary. So, to actually be able to sort of calm yourself first before you go into anything, that’s a little bit more quieter, always, always helps. It opens the doors and it does make them realise that they are able to calm down a little bit. Very often, their minds are going hundreds of miles an hour, and that’s what they are used to. So actually being able to open the door and say right, you can bring things down. And also for sleep, because it often helps with sleep. My daughter, when she was very little, we took her to… we were living in Kent at the time, we took her to the osteopathy school, and she had cranial massage, and for the next two nights she actually slept for seven hours. Because I was so used to her not sleeping, I had to constantly make sure she was still alive, because I was going to check on her breathing, because she was asleep. So, there are ways and forms of doing it, but it certainly takes an effort, things that perhaps we take for granted, they need to work out.

James Pearson
It’s interesting that you brought that up, actually, that the difference between being hyper busy and then not doing anything at all. Because I’ve literally just written a piece on this very subject. And it was from my own experience of working in the wedding industry where I would have spent the last 14 to 16 hours running around like the busiest bee on planet Earth, capturing as much video footage as I possibly could, and caring so much for the couple that I was recording it for. When I got home, it would be midnight, maybe a bit earlier, empty house, lights off, absolute silence, and I always had trouble navigating that shift, because I’ve been so switched on. And then I was so off, and it was jsut one of the things that really, really tripped me up. So that’s fascinating that you brought that up, actually, that’s great.

Linda Sage
You also find a lot of perhaps actors, and in particular, comedians, when they’re doing late shows and things like this, it’s very, very difficult for them. And if you read their biographies, by the time they get around to writing it, they’re quite honest about it, and that’s where the drugs and the alcohol kick in because they turned to them to actually unwind afterwards. Because coming off from being so hyper and then going into a normal world and trying to just then go to sleep, or live normally, it’s very, very hard, they are coping strategies that don’t help over long periods, really.

James Pearson
So, given that wedding suppliers are essentially all creatives, highly creative people, and the world is opening up to being more accepting of mental illness and talking about it and having this open discussion. What would you say are the early signs of self awareness? How does somebody develop a self awareness that they might have something along those lines that needs to be cared for, or at least to talk to somebody about?

Linda Sage
So there’s two big things here actually James, because denial is the biggest most comfortable comfort blanket that we all have, And we all do it. We make excuses for ourselves “oh it’s just a bad day”, or “I’ll just get through this”, “Oh, it’ll be better”. And that’s one of the reasons that most people have over a year before they actually speak to people about the way they’re feeling. And men, unfortunately, are far worse at this than women. So it’s just one of those things, denial is comfortable, because we don’t really like to talk about mental health. People actually prefer to say they’ve been in prison than they’ve been off with mental health issues or depression, because still in the employment sector, it’s not trusted, and there isn’t that amount of support there. There really should be, because I personally think there’s two pandemics going on.

Linda Sage
Obviously we have the COVID one that seems to have fluctuated now, but the mental health pandemic that’s coming has not even hit yet. Over the next three years we are really going to see some of the outcomes of this in the mental health field, and in all age groups. Because even the youngsters, lots of them, missed our on developing social skills. People going through university didn’t get that learning curve about being away from home, and starting to budget, and starting to time manage for themselves, which are all lessons we learn just by being away from home and doing other things. So all of this is going to come in over the next few years. They’re going to be important in the employment sector because there are skills that we transfer into the employment sector, so they’re all going to be coming to a head. So the next few years is going to be really, really important for supporting people with mental health. I also think that being able to say that it’s not just mental health, perhaps we just need another name, because if we break her leg or we cut our head and go to a doctor, or we have something else, we just carry on, it’s quite normal. But if we talk about going to a therapist or psychologist, people don’t like to say it, they don’t like to talk about it. So just getting that much understanding and thinking into ourselves is vital. We actually know the information, but knowing and doing are two completely different things.

Linda Sage
And even with my background, I knew of all the things you should be doing, sleeping and the eating, and the exercise, and drinking water, and everything else. But I still had my big burnout in 2005 because putting it into practice is completely different to knowing it. We can know it, and we could give the information to everybody else, but not actually taking it in for ourselves. So, people around you know if there’s changes, because whatever is normal for you is normal for you, it doesn’t have to be normal for everybody else. But if there are changes in that, and there’s no crib sheet, people will eat more or people will eat less, or people will sleep more, or they will sleep less, or they will be in tears or they will be… There’s a whole myriad of different symptoms and signs, but looking at them, for people that know you, because we are the worst people to see ourselves. And people that care for others are the worst ones on the list, because we always put ourselves on the back burner, even to the point that if we’re doing something for somebody else, I’m sure James you’ve done this, you’re running around for your couple, you even put off going to the loo, until you’ve finished something. Yes, just your basic care. It doesn’t mean to say you’ve got to be egotistic, or you’ve got to be selfish, but bringing that balance and saying, I am as important as everybody else, and bringing that balance back in.

James Pearson
Interesting… which is actually probably really hard to accomplish on a wedding day, I think it’s probably the most difficult set of circumstances, given that you go in, it happens once, and you’ve got to nail it on the first take. That’s quite a pressure, right?

Linda Sage
Yes. I mean there’s lots of situations because obviously stigma is a great part of mental health, and there’s three types of stigma, there’s the personal sigma, the professional, and the cultural. So the personal is the pressure that we put on ourselves, our expectations and things like this. Professional is the unwritten laws of what’s expected of you. Even with yourself, you can take some footage, and it might not be the best in the world, but I’m sure some later on will be absolutely wonderful. So, if that little sections missed, the whole day is not a disaster. So putting the rest of it together will make up for it. So again, it’s about making sure that those expectations aren’t so far off the ball that there’s no way that you can actually achieve them, because you’re not going to get every single minute. 100% is impossible. But what you’re going to put together afterwards is going to look great. And then the cultural one, because there’s still an awful lot of cultures and different areas that taboo mental health, completely. And when you belong to one of those cultures, then it’s even more difficult to open up because they just deny it, they ignore it, and so from there, it’s an even harder way of bringing mental health into the equation. And there’s often lots of people that are suffering really badly, but just can’t talk. So it’s, sometimes they find other ways of coping with it, be it alcohol, or if it’s narcotics, or things like this. It’s not a great way of going, it’s a slippery slope.

James Pearson
Yes, I had personal exprience of coming to terms with levels or aspects of perfectionism. Because of my work, and you can imagine this, if I paint the picture for you. I’ve set up in church to film the ceremony. I’ve got a camera at the back and a camera at the front, and the photographer perhaps is taking pictures next to me, and he’s standing next to the tripod and it’s moving the floor slightly. So the tripod is wobbling the camera like this, and this might be happening as the Vows are being exchanged. So this sense of panic, terror and fear hit my soul, because I know that I can’t fix it. I know that I can’t change it. I know that I can’t go back and do anything about it. And I think, years of that, layered up, programmed my mind to be obsessive about the quality of nearly every single thing I was doing. And that’s pretty much like what you’ve just described, right?

Linda Sage
Yes. There’s lots of things that we’ve built up in ourselves, our expectations, and what we think other people expect of us. None of us can read minds. But we all put these layers in to say that “oh, that’s what they think of us” or that’s why we don’t ask them, we just make these great big stories and assumptions to say, “Well, I’m never good enough.” Well, you are. It’s just that you’re making your barriers impossible. So, in that way, yes. Your self fulfilling prophecies are going to be that you’re not going to achieve it, because that’s what you’re setting yourself out to do. It’s really important that you are bringing this reality back in, and making sure that you’re doing your best for you. Because if you are at your best, you can do your best for others. But when you’re not at the top of your game, you know like if you’re tired, or, you know, you’ve done the extra little work for somebody overnight, and you turn up the next morning… how can you possibly function 100%. So you’ve already set yourself up to then castigate yourself even more. See, I knew I wasn’t good enough. See, I knew that wouldn’t happen. And especially if you’re new at something, you know, 9 times out of 10 within the first year, people let themselves go, because they’ve stopped doing it, they give up on that dream of being an entrepreneur, or starting their own business. Because they’ve talked themselves out of it.

James Pearson
Which brings me on to thinking about how visual the wedding industry is, and maybe the dangers then present inherently in social media. If I fire up social media these days, I am bombarded with work that is absolutely exquisite, and there’s no other word to describe it. If I rewind a really short period of my career, like, a few years, a couple of years, three years, the work wasn’t all of that standard. I think it’s absolutely shot up, and the pressure on people, even getting started, must be phenomenal. How would you navigate those kinds of thoughts when you’re constantly comparing where you are and what you can do to what everyone else is putting out there.

Linda Sage
That’s the word “compare”! Don’t compare your work. It’s your work whether it’s the way you’ve taken it, the background you put on it, the lighting you put on there, the shading. It used to be a reporter’s job to report the news. Now, everybody with the camera is a journalist, you get stories up everywhere. Yes, even I can take a good photo because I’ve got an iPhone. Not that I am any good with the camera, I’ve had a Nikon for about, probably about eight years now, and I’ve probably used it three times. Because to start it up, and get it download… and then it’s just like, really? I can come on, zoom, I can record a whole training session, I can put it on moviemaker, top and tail it, and obviously I can put the front end and the back end in, and I’ve got something presentable, and I know nothing. You’d probably look at it and pull your hair out, but to me, it’s good that people can see, and they can understand what I’m talking about, and I can get the message out there, and I can cope with it.

Linda Sage
I mean you’ve got your starting point, all of us can always get better, you know, when I started doing it, it took me ages. Now, I can do it in a few minutes and it’s up and done. Facebook Live, I used to hate doing them, because of the new cameras. When you had old cameras, you didn’t have as many wrinkles or bags or sags. So it’s not about comparison. It’s the worst one really. So, when we look back in history, at art, some people love certain things, and some people hate certain things. Some sell for millions and others don’t. And yet in their lifetime, most of them were poor. So it was only after their death that a lot of the top artists actually got to become renowned. And lots of other people made lots of money off of them, that they never made from their art. So, you know, don’t compare. You’re not the same as anybody else, your view is not the same, your interpretation of your of works, not the same. So just be happy with what you’re doing. You can see something else, like you walk down the street and you can see a lady or you can see a man and think, oh they look really nice or, that looks really elegant. It doesn’t mean to say that you look less because of how they look. There was actually something on the other day that I saw, and it was about when you take a picture of a sunset, the picture never looks as good as the sunset you’re looking at. And when we do a selfie, we’re always picking holes in it, because it never looks right. But when you take that picture of the sunset, you’re not just taking the picture of the sunset, though, because when you’re there, you’ve got your emotions, you’ve got your feelings, you’ve got what’s going on around it. That’s just a snap of the sun, the sky, the sea, that you’ve got behind you.

James Pearson
Context if you like?

Linda Sage
Yes! So you know, the motions and things like that. And selfies are the same, you know, as you said about social media, you don’t go on and see loads of bad pictures of people, they’ve all been airbrushed or they’ve been treated. They’re not going to go on there and say sad stories. Everybody’s having a wonderful life. But from my experience, the people I work with, I know that is not true. So it’s just about getting that balance. Don’t take in everything, and don’t believe everything else, be you, and do you.

James Pearson
That for me was always one of the big ones in the sense that the wedding industry, by its very nature, always demands of people to be at their best, on top form, because it is such a visual thing. And at the end of the day, everything that wedding suppliers put out into the world is designed to entice people into their world, to say, come and be my client, I want to be your supplier, you know, everything is good in my world, and I’m having such a wonderful life. And it’s so difficult I think in this industry, to really present any honesty beyond that level, and I think, behind the scenes, that’s a massive danger.

Linda Sage
But if you actually take a step back, apart from being the wedding planner, or the photographer, the wedding caterer. I know my wedding was small and we were in Spain. We had lots of issues before we got married, and by the Wednesday before the wedding, I was ready to call it off. Yep, that was it, I’m done, enough. And I think most people go through the same or similar situation. It builds up and builds up and they get to a peak where it’s just nerves and irritations and frustration and things like this. So, being the calming influence is just going in and doing what you do best, what your job is, you know. If something goes wrong, you’ve got enough knowledge to be able to find an alternative, and then present things in a different way. But giving that confidence to somebody because they don’t know what you know, and they’ve got 1000 things on their mind, that it makes life just that much easier, and it takes that issue away. So, believing in what you’re doing and if you’re working with other providers, you know that they’re good at what they do. So you’ve got this working relationship that builds on one another. And if one of you has a bad day, the others won’t do, so they could help out too.

James Pearson
It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned that as well, because I’ve seen a number of suppliers who I would describe as “client centred”, in the sense that they’re less concerned about what they’re doing, they have the confidence in what they’re already doing, and then their attention is 100% on the client, as opposed to maybe more of that attention being on themselves and how they present, and the quality of their work. It’s a subtle shift, isn’t it, but it’s just almost turning the gaze outward instead of inward.

Linda Sage
It’s confidence isn’t it? If you walk into a situation, you know you can take a photograph. Whatever it is, if the whole cameras gets soaked in water, you can use your phone and you get a decent shot. But you know this, because you’ve got the confidence and knowledge to do it. If I walk in as a speaker, if you walk onto a stage anywhere, you know, the AV might not work, the mic might not work, or they tell you oh you’ve got to shorten it by 10 minutes, or you’ve got to elongate it by 15 minutes. You adapt to it because you’ve got the confidence and the knowledge to do it, but this comes over time, so then you can be adaptable to their needs.

Linda Sage
Whereas when you’re starting out, if you’re working with a team that really knows what they’re doing, then you gain this knowledge, and you gain the support as well. I think what a lot of people do, and I think probably in your industry, definitely in my industry, that there’s a lot of people doing a lot of things they shouldn’t be doing. They jump in too quickly, and it does do a lot of damage to other people. And like for you, if it’s one big day, we’ve talked about weddings, but also christenings or even funerals and things like this, as you say there’s one day. But when you work with other people and you develop your knowledge. You can make it happen for people.

James Pearson
That’s the biggest reward I guess? Well, one aspect of the wedding industry that’s always been sort of prevalent in our experience, I think the rest of the world has now experienced it too, is the sense of, traditionally let’s say, I don’t know, if you’re a photographer or videographer, you’re looking at something around ballpark 30 to 40 weddings a year. Those are the weekends that you have social interactivity, and the rest of the time you’re sat in your office, by yourself, staring at a screen, not talking to anybody. And it is just such an isolating place to be and I think a lot of people have now had that experience of being in that environment, and found it very, very uncomfortable.

Linda Sage
But again it comes back to your self care, whatever you do. It doesn’t matter what profession you’re in, you can be isolated in all of them. Even when you’re in a public one. But even if you’re dealing with the public, it’s still a shut the door because you’re a service, you’re not a person, they don’t care if you’ve got a headache, or if your Budgerigar died, you are there to provde a service for them. That’s all they’re interested in. So it’s really up to you to make sure that in your time, when you’re not your public persona, you are you. You make time for you, so you put it into your timetable making sure that you get your walks in, or if you’re into gym, obviously. I’m not much of a gym person. I have been walking or doing things like this, but doing things that are right for you, perhaps get in your meditation, reading, listening to music. So, being away and I know the screen is addictive, and I’ve certainly had days where I’ve been, you know, 16 or 17 hours sat in a chair, working on a screen. And I was using Zoom before we had COVID, and I really wish I’d taken out shares in Zoom. But Hindsight is all very, very good, but we’ve all done it, we’ve all got zoomed over the last months. So it is about then saying, right, what are the things that are priority, and what are not. Put the priorities in, but also you are a priority in your diary. One of the things I do with a lot of the work I do with people is Mex. So that’s Me X. If you put it in your diary, you’re more likely to achieve it, because it’s like having an appointment with somebody. And then when somebody goes to make an appointment with you, you’ve already got something in the diary. If you had another wedding, or if you had somebody else as a contractor to call at that time, you wouldn’t book somebody else in that time. So if you have your time booked in, you’re not going to double booked either, because you’ve got to put that value for yourself, as you would any other meeting. Without you being as good as you can be, you can’t be as good as you can be for anybody else.

James Pearson
Yes, this I think is the very kind of aspect of being overworked. An entrepreneur or someone who is running a small business has a tendency to feel that if they’re not being busy, they’re not being productive. But then the danger on the other side is the burnout and then not being as productive as you should be, or even as creative or enabled as you should be. Because you’ve just been crazy with the work.

Linda Sage
Yes, like you, I do a lot of writing. One of my last pieces was about presenteeism versus absenteeism, and there’s much more lost within presenteeism. Like you say, you get caught up on social media, you’re looking at other people’s posts, you compare. You’re sitting there, and all of a sudden two hours have gone. And then two hours that you haven’t had your productivity. The presenteeism is making sure that you are focusing on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and then when it’s time to not focus, do something else, and you’ve got your time back because when you are then back, you’re focusing. We all do it, it’s very easy to sit there and just sort of go off into lala land and, you know, think about what do we need to do for tea? Or, “Oh, I’ve got to make this phone call bit later on”. But if you’ve got your plan, if you’ve got your diary, writing it down, it frees you up, because when you’re trying to remember all these things, “Oh I mustn’t forget this”, or “I must remember to do this”. But if you’ve got it written down, it gives you permission to not think about it and you’re not going to forget it. It’s there, and then when you come back to it and you’ve done it, you have all these ticks at the end of the day, you know, I’ve got everything done. So then you feel really, really empowered as well.

James Pearson
I’m glad you said that because that is the exact process I use on a daily basis. So that’s awesome. I’ve just downloaded your free ebook which I’m very, very excited to read. I think I’m going to get some time over the weekend, and really dig into that. Is that a resource that you would recommend to other wedding suppliers?

Linda Sage
It’s a starter really, As we say, we all know we’ve been living in under a rock, in the last year, especially. If we don’t know about sleeping well, or hydration, eating well, moderate exercises and things like this. We all know it, but going back and doing something about it, is something else. Just getting these gentle reminders and getting back into it. There’s loads and loads of free resources as well on YouTube, so if you’re more into video. They’re probably not as good as your videos, but the content is.

James Pearson
It’s the content that matters. Absolutely.

Linda Sage
There’s lots there and there’s free calls, so if anybody needs or wants to have a chat then just pick up the phone as well, we can have a chat.

James Pearson
Amazing. Well, Linda, we are at the top of our little half an hour. It’s been mind blowing to talk to you I’m really fascinated by the depth of your knowledge and understanding, I think we could talk for hours. But as a gentle introduction that has been absolutely superb, so thank you so much for your time.

Linda Sage
Thank you James so much, I really enjoyed it. Yeah, and I can talk for Britain and time has gone so quickly. Thank you to all you lovely people that are with us and for the opportunity. Take care.

James Pearson
Thank you very much. Speak to you later. Thanks again.

Linda Sage
Bye.

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