Professional Pest Controller Magazine Issue 105

09 November 2021

Triggered! Mental health resilience for pest professionals


Everyone has bad days. But when these bad days add up to a cycle of destructive feelings and behaviours, it’s time to pause and reassess.

PPC asked Karen Mason and Lewis Smales from Essentially Human for some tips on recognising early warning signs and some practical tips for maintaining a happy and healthy work-life for pest professionals.

Mental resilience for pest professionals PPC magazine feature article

Have you noticed how certain people, events, or situations ‘set you off’ – they ‘trigger’ you in some way?

The first you’re aware that you’ve been triggered is when a flood of negative feelings fill your body. Maybe anger leads you to utter expletives in traffic as yet another driver cuts you up, you feel your blood pressure rising as your heart pounds faster.

Your day goes downhill from here.

A sense of overwhelming exasperation washes over you as the phone rings. Your ‘difficult’ client at the end of the phone is pushing all your buttons as they react angrily to advice you’ve shared.

This job feels thankless at times, lonely too… much of your week is spent working alone. Most of the time you like it this way; no one breathing down your neck, telling you what to do, you are self-reliant. Yet there are times you’d like to feel appreciated and supported by your clients and colleagues.

Long days on the road, a relentless workload and tough targets to meet – all conspire to leave you exhausted by the time you get home. You have little left for yourself or your family.

Low motivation means a diet of ready meals and fast food. You’ve no time for exercise, which impacts your physical health. To top it off, there’s an undercurrent of conflict within the family, as you’re not much fun to be around these days.

It’s a slippery slope, and not sustainable.

Time to pause

Left unaddressed, this relentless cycle takes its toll, and your physical and mental wellbeing start to suffer.

As energy and motivation wane, your inner critic starts to doubt your ability. It questions if you’ll meet your targets and notes you don’t provide a quality service like you used to.

There’s simply never enough time.

Your confidence takes another knock.

Your ability to make light of tricky situations with clients diminishes. Every conversation feels like a difficult one. It’s stressful dealing with people who just don’t understand.

You start to wonder what it’s all for. It’s groundhog day and feels like nothing ever changes for the better.

Every conversation feels like a difficult one. It’s stressful dealing with people who just don’t understand.

We often hear people comparing the number of emails they have waiting for them after a few days away from work. Or how many meetings are crammed in their diary, with no space to think in between.

We think this is normal; that we should be able to cope. After all, everyone else manages their workloads and meets targets, right? Or so we perceive.

We armour up and build a tough outer image for ourselves. One that demonstrates that we’re coping, and showing no signs of weakness.

The last thing we want is to damage our ‘be strong’ reputation. And so it continues, as we keep accepting more of the same.

We live in a world that rewards busyness as a sign of success. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

The busier we become, the more we lose sight of who we really are and what we truly need for our success. We lose sight of the fact that we’re human, not machines, and wonder why the world is in chaos around us.

Let’s take a moment and pause. Breathe. Take your foot off the gas. Take yourself off autopilot and create space to think.

Recognising negative thoughts and behaviours

So much of our behaviour comes from our conditioning and societal norms, that we never question ourselves.

We form habits and beliefs without question, based on what we see others doing. We subconsciously tell ourselves ‘that’s what you have to do to get on in the world’.

Most of our behaviours, attitudes and actions are routine habits and out of our awareness; they are in our subconscious blind spots.

We don’t intentionally set out to have a bad day, but this too becomes habitual.

The Johari Window is a model that can help you to reflect

The Johari Window, shown above, is a model that can help you to reflect so that you start to become more aware of yourself.

The top left box refers to our Public Self – this is the part of our identity known to us and known to others. For example, this will include the kind of things you’d highlight on a CV or in an interview.

You know your strengths and skills, the things you enjoy doing. There’s a good chance others will know this about you too.

The lower left box is the Private Garden – this is the part of our identity known to us and unknown to others. For example, actions we’ve taken, or not taken, that we’re not particularly proud of. Hobbies and interests we perceive may not fit with other people’s expectations of us.

The top right box refers to Blind Spots - this is the part of our identity unknown to us and known to others. For example, others may hear us making calls and are aware that we sound stressed by the tone of our voice. We may not see this for ourselves.

Finally, the lower right box refers to The Unknown - this is the part of our identity unknown to us and unknown to others. Much of our personality resides here, out of our awareness.

This is where a huge opportunity for growth lies. When we make time for ourselves to go within, we start to appreciate what really makes us tick.

The programmes, memories and beliefs from our past inform much of what we do today. If we never pause to explore what lies beneath the surface of our reactions, our future becomes a repeat of our past.

Fresh thoughts

If you’re curious and would like to explore some simple things you can do to gain fresh insight, here are some ideas:

Pause and make time for yourself at least once every day, away from the demands of work and other people.

Use this quiet time to tune into your feelings and allow them to surface.

Be curious, they are signals from your body about your health. Does your energy feel negative or positive?

Simply notice, without any judgment.

Try to pay attention to patterns within your day. Which activities bring joy? Which activities bring dread?

Think about what you want for your future. Define what success means for you.

Read, watch or listen to inspirational content.

Now you get to decide and choose your next actions:

  • What do you need to stop doing?
  • What will you start doing?
  • What will you continue?
  • Journal or meditate on your discoveries.

Our human journey can be a challenging one, especially if we’ve lost sight of who we really are.

When we appreciate what it means to be human, we value our emotions and feelings as indicators of our health and wellbeing.

If we don’t feel good, it’s our responsibility to look inward and bring about the change needed to restore balance.

We need to gain access to our subconscious mind and understand what drives our thoughts, feelings and actions.

Becoming aware of who we are is essential for us to find balance and become confident and resilient within. 

Want to delve a little deeper?

If you’re curious and want to dig a little deeper within we’d love to help.

We’re Karen and Lewis co-founders of Essentially Human. We support leaders to create work experiences that feel human.

We know that when people are respected for being human, rather than thought of as machines, they bring their best selves to work.

You can find how we support people on their journey on our website:

Join us on Thursday 9 December from 15:00-16:30 for a free, live webinar when we’ll explore how our triggers are valuable signals, not to be ignored.

Book your place

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