When discussing with my husband Steve – http://www.leadershipintheraw.org – the fact that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I offered to write an article for Steve’s Wellbeing post on my own mental health and how I manage it.

Over the last year Steve, like many others, has been spending all his time working from home which has included many hours on Teams meeting with colleagues. This has meant that many “other halves” like me have been making regular guest appearances in the background – although this has mainly been a supporting role providing copious amounts of tea and cake! Whilst I have tried to make my presence as unobtrusive as possible, I have been caught out many times with people spotting me sliding in with cups and plates and I must say I have detected a slight tinge of envy from some quarters that Steve is being spoilt – sorry! However, now that I am a “face” rather than just “Joyce” I thought that you may be curious as to how I keep it all going as many of you have read our posts on the “Being Bettina’s mum/dad series, and the fact that I also have our eldest daughter, Jennifer, working from home full time and Bettina and her carer popping in and out. As our home is normally my “office” during the day, having to share the premises with other tenants can be tricky, but I think I have found a good way forward and it is a system, or tool, that I have used for years.

However, I do feel that some background, or point of reference, is important before I explain what I mean. My mental health, and consistent good nature, normally elicits two responses from others. I am either a) faking my ability to cope with all that comes my way, or b) I clearly do not fully understand what is going on. Neither is the case. To begin with, I come from a large northern family (four sisters and five brothers) where coping mechanisms, problem solving and taking care of yourself are the order of the day. Whilst older siblings would look after the younger ones, you still needed to be guarded about any weakness or chinks in your armour that would give you away. Having spats with siblings, even over trivial issues, trains you to find solutions to situations rather than all-out war – negotiators rather than aggressors – absorbing emotional intelligence and psychological tactics along the way. These tools have shaped who I am as a person and are the essence of my mental health. When you are taught from infanthood that you are not the centre of the universe you develop an enviable self sufficiency and (hopefully) a good sense of humour and the ability to see through a situation to the other side.

This is not to say, however, that I do not suffer from the same worries, anxieties or feelings as anyone else; it just means that I am able to cope better than most as I adopt a “Landlord and Tenant” attitude to any issues. First, I see my brain as the “Landlord”. My brain is the property and I have rooms to let. I am looking for good tenants, or at least tenants who will become good tenants with a little training, I am not looking for time-wasters, bad debtors, squatters or property vandals. I want tenants who are going to add value to the property and give me a good return on my investment. Second, the “Tenants” are my emotions. This lot are tricky to say the least! As their Landlord, it’s in my best interest to ensure I get the best tenants I can, not the anti-social ones who would prefer to live rent-free, cause chaos with the neighbours, devalue the property and rack up debt. Additionally, I do not want tenants who are going to invite their friends to live in my property without permission, or sub let empty rooms.

The theory sounds good, so how does this work in reality you ask? Let’s imagine that we have a very eager tenant who wants to move in. Their name is “anxiety”. Anxiety has a long record and well known reputation for being a bad tenant, but is persistent (sometimes relentless) and is looking for somewhere to live on a long-term let, hopefully leading to permanent residence. Now, you recognise that you should be polite to Anxiety – we don’t want to live in a cruel world do we? – listen to their problems in finding somewhere decent to live, acknowledge that they may have had a personality clash with their previous landlord but there the sympathy has to end. Anxiety is an imposter and an identity thief and eviction may take some time! By all means, remain on good terms with Anxiety just don’t let them live with you for free. Anxiety will rob you of your peace of mind and your ability to cope with your other tenants, so acknowledge
their existence politely, wish them well and send them on their way.

Anxiety also likes to get one of their friends to move in if they can. This one is called “Night time terror”. Night time terror, or NTT as I call them, is a party animal with no respect for your sleep or the sleep needs of other tenants. NTT likes to appear at your door at the very moment when you want to sleep. NTT is looking for somewhere to crash and rings the doorbell constantly until you answer it. The minute you open the door, NTT will insist on turning on all the lights and will make as much noise as possible so you do not sleep, and nor will the other tenants. NTT has no emotional intelligence therefore no amount of pleas will get them to be quiet, nor will NTT understand that you have work the next day. NTT is persistent and belligerent, so turn off the lights, keep the property in darkness and do not let NTT in under any circumstances.

Of course, there are some tenants we want to encourage to move in and stay as long as possible. A really good tenant is “sense of perspective”. SOP is a great steady, responsible and calm tenant who will ensure all bills are paid on time. SOP will not allow Anxiety and NTT to move in permanently, nor wreck the property or invite their other anti-social friends to move in. SOP likes to get a good night’s sleep and recognises the importance of keeping on an even keel at all times. SOP is great friends with “Mind and Body” – who is actually very trendy and is always spouting on about the link between healthy mind/healthy body and, whilst technically not an emotion (and therefore a tenant) SOP does not see any harm is letting MAB use the spare room from time to time!

So how is this all going to work for you? These are my five top tips:

  1. Assert your right to be the Landlord of your brain. You are in charge, you have legal rights, you do not have to let the tenants run riot and wreck your property.
  2. Learn to recognise your emotions by name and hence their right to live in your property.
    Do not be afraid of evicting unwanted tenants. You are not being cruel, you are being realistic.
    If you need external help from another Landlord or mediation services (mental health support) do not be hesitant – go and get it! This is your property!
  3. Understand that bad tenants do not always go away permanently. Sometimes they reinvent themselves and call themselves something different. Be prepared for this eventuality and know that it is not your fault if they try moving in again.
  4. Accept that no matter how hard you try, some tenants will not go away just like that. This is when you call on your “good” tenants to come to your aid and see if, together, you can get an eviction. SOP is always willing to help but very often keeps a low profile so you may have to search in the locality a little harder to find them, but they will be there.
  5. Never ever apologise to anyone if you are, or become, the best Landlord in the area. If you are a great Landlord it will put you in the position of being able to help other, and possibly less able, Landlords who may be under attack from rampaging tenants.

Over the years I have been told I am: optimistic, good natured, mature, humourous, full of beans, calm, strong and many other things – I have, of course, been called some uncomplimentary things too but let’s not dwell on those! – but the truth of the matter is that I am
just one kick-ass Landlord! My tenants come and go but I am always in charge of who crosses the threshold.

As always with my posts, I add the disclaimer that I am not a qualified therapist, psychologist or medical practitioner of any kind, but my wellbeing speaks for itself!