I was a dad and married before reaching my 21st birthday.
For me and anyone who knew me back then, this was a big deal, as it was quite a dramatic shift from the direction my life was heading.
But the reality of being a husband and dad at a young age, whilst being untrained, unqualified and unemployed, soon became a heavy weight to carry.
What I now know, which I didn't know then, was that the huge changes in my life — despite them being good — had led to me experiencing an immense level of stress.
Some stress was internal. Some external.
The internal stress came from the value I place on family, loyalty and leadership. Which although good, were hampered by a crippling fear of failure and the negative effects of imposter phenomenon.
And some of my external stressors included things like work, study, bereavement, and of course, the daily challenges and demands that come with family life.
But unknown to me, the mental and emotional roller-coaster-of-a-ride I would experience over the next sixteen years or so, would help me to learn the importance of managing stress well.
I struggled under the weight of stress for years — and it almost killed me!
Looking back, from my teens through to early adulthood, I hated myself. The weight of shame and guilt was unbearable, but I didn’t have the self-awareness or courage to recognise or do anything about it.
I felt powerless!
Feeling lonely, ashamed and like my life had no meaning, I struggled to make sense of myself and the world around me. It was then I turned to self-destructive habits as a way of coping and escaping the pain I felt.
During those difficult years I found faith, which continues to play an active role in my life to this day. But I later found that faith alone wasn’t enough. I also needed the support and input of others — family, friends, mentors, counsellors, coaches.
As a young dad and husband I was desperate to find work so I could provide for my family. And after several visits to my local Job Centre, I was eventually given an interview which led to me getting a job as a civil servant.
And I loved it!
Each day I got to speak with people from all walks of life and help them find employment. After a few promotions I was headhunted to work within the recruitment sector, where I was again able to support clients with finding work.
It was great. I was wearing nice suits (I thought so!), networking with clients in the hustle and bustle of London's city centre, earning good money, and enjoying the perks of having all expenses paid.
But as is the case for many people, the novelty soon wore off! And to continue 'enjoying' the grind, I started to rely on additional help from some of my familiar so-called friends; drugs, alcohol and pornography.
Now, at the time it didn't seem to be a problem. In fact, within the context of my professional network, strip clubs, drugs and alcohol were the norm. And in some cases, they were celebrated!
However, the relationship I'd reestablished with my coping habits was no different to what I'd developed a few years earlier. I was using them to ignore stress and avoid difficult thoughts and emotions.
It wasn't good — and it almost killed me!
Big men don't cry! Well, that's what they'd have us believe...
The lifestyle didn't align with my values or beliefs, so I soon left the hustle and bustle of the city to start working with young people in my local community.
And it was fulfilling. I felt I was able to pay forward some of the support I'd received from others after being asked to leave home at 17-years old (a story for another day, perhaps!).
I then trained to become a counselling therapist before setting up a counselling service for the young people within a pupil referral unit in south London.
Some years later I was invited to work for my church, where I was responsible for leading and developing the pastoral care and programmes for young people aged 11-18 years.
I was fortunate to lead a great team of people who were passionate about investing their time, skills and energy into the next generation. We had some fun times!
But as the church grew, so too did my responsibilities. And with a growing family, I began to notice the alarming sense of disconnect which often accompanies stress.
It took about two years after first noticing this before deciding something needed to change. But it wasn't an easy decision to make. In fact it was one of the most stress filled periods of my life.
There were some tears, hours in therapy and plenty of helpful conversations with a coach, before arriving at a place where I felt able to decide on doing what I believed was best...
Slowing things down, prioritising my wellbeing and being more deliberate about how to manage stress.
“I finish each session energised.”
“Since I've started coaching sessions with Nic they've become invaluable. Things are so much clearer in my work life and also my personal goals. I finish each session energised and ready to keep moving forward.”
Jac, Owner & Founder, Skin Freaks
Your life won't change by accident, it's a choice...
It was in the summer of 2012 that my wife and I relocated our family of six from London, taking the ninety-nine mile trip along the M4 to Gloucestershire.
Having grown up in south London, it was different from anything I'd ever known — trus'! But it didn't take long to get accustomed to the pace and the 'lush' greenery.
I made every effort to keep stress to a minimum, but missed the joy found in playing a role in seeing lives impacted. So once I finished my coaching training I set up my private practice.
Setting up my practice was a big step, as it'd been a personal goal since I qualified as a therapist in 2005. It was also a huge task, as I was building it whilst working two, sometimes three, other jobs.
I also decided to pursue another long-term goal, which saw me graduate with a 1st Class Honours degree in 2019. For my efforts, I also received The Most Outstanding Student of the Year Award.
It's an achievement I'm proud of as I left school with zilch. And because studying whilst working and building my practice was frickin' stressful!
All that to say, having decided to make changes in my life, one of the keys to my progress has been learning to recognise and manage stress in healthy ways.
Oh, and investing time and money into building a support team that helps me face and make sense of the emotionally tough stuff, make good decisions, and avoid my own BS.
And you know what? Though I'm 100% a work in progress, it's been making all the difference!
Yes, I struggled with stress, but you don't have to!
Looking back, I now see where a lot of my stress had come from leaning into the expectations of others in an effort to gain their affirmation and win their approval. I also see where this was a no-win situation.
Maybe you can relate? And maybe like me, you can see where unmanaged stress could do untold damage to your health, relationships, business, career, and other important areas of your life. Perhaps you too can see where stress could kill you...
But through my experiences of stress and burnout, I was able to get clarity. I was forced to take an honest look at my life, ask some big questions and make a good few decisions.
And it was at the point of making the first decision when everything started to move in a healthier direction. And, it's the same now. When I make a decision, things seem to happen!
But it wasn't just a decision to change that made the difference, it was getting clearer on what I really did or didn't want my life to look like. In other words, I began to imagine a different future.
It was a future in which I felt more connected to my loved ones, had more energy to do work that mattered, and more confidence in my ability to make choices that aligned with my values.
And once I'd imagined what I believed would be a better future, there was no turning back. It was obvious to me that life was going to look different.
These are the kinds of shifts I can help you with. So if what I've shared about my journey connects, then book a complimentary consultation to see if we'd be a good fit.
Still want to know why I'm the right professional for you?
As I'll have the privilege of knowing about some of your goals, fears and struggles, I think it's only fair to have shared a little bit about my story. But if you want to know about the more formal stuff, go ahead, knock yourself out...
The formal (and boring) stuff
For over two decades I've supported others to improve mindset, wellbeing and performance, so they can regain control of life and have more impact.
Alongside my continued professional development (CPD), I've also achieved the following:
- Most Outstanding Student of the Year Award (Gloucestershire University)
- BSc (Hons) Applied Social Sciences (First)
- ILM Level 5 Certificate in Leadership & Management
- BTEC Level 3 Award in Education & Training
- Diploma in Personal Performance Coaching
- MBACP Registered Counsellor (095486)
- Diploma in Person-Centred Therapy Counselling
- Certificate in Counselling
- Nonviolent Communication (Foundation Certificate)
- Mental Health Crisis Awareness
- Postvention: Assisting Those Bereaved by Suicide (PABBS)
- Applied Suicide Intervention Training (ASIST)
- Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
I've had opportunities to work with individuals, couples and groups from various backgrounds. It's this experience that'll influence my work with you.
Things that make my heart happy
Besides the obvious joy of time with family, friends and the intimate conversations I get to have with insightful thinkers inside the pages of good books, where shall I start?
Let's go with salted caramel Häagen-Dazs and popcorn.
Yep, I love both and eat them while watching dramas, reading books, and if it were possible, I'd eat them while at the gym.
Seriously, I would!
I also enjoy being creative. Things like graphic design, photography, and on occasion, a musical instrument.
And when I'm not injured or watching home renovation shows, crime dramas or listening to music, you'll find me rolling on the mats training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with guys half my age.
And yes, it hurts!