EP148: Frances Ferguson - How To Take Care Of Your Mental Health

Mental health.

Many entrepreneurs don’t pay much attention to it because they’re too busy trying to succeed, but if not taken care of, it can be a big problem.As humans, we sometimes struggle with personal issues that get in the way of our happiness.

When that time arrives, do you know what to do?

Today’s guest will provide some great tips to help you.

Frances Ferguson is a registered clinical counsellor from Campbell River, British Columbia who has 20 years of experience working with men and women of all ages, couples, children, and teens.

During this interview, you'll discover..

  • The importance of saying no and setting limits on how much time to work

  • The benefits of working smart

  • How to bring balance to ourselves

To learn more about Frances, visit here.

For her Facebook page, click this link.

To visit her website, go here.


Michael Palmer: 01:16 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a terrific one. Our guest is a registered clinical counselor from Campbell River, British Columbia. For those of you don't know right there on the west coast of Canada. She has 20 years of experience working with men and women of all ages, couples, children's and teens. Frances Ferguson. Welcome to the show. 

Frances Ferguson: 01:40 Thanks very much, Michael. Really glad to be here with you. 

MP: 01:43 Yes, and I am just excited about this episode because businesses, a our listeners or our bookkeepers building their businesses and any business has human beings in it, and when you have human beings, there's often challenges that come along with being a human being. So I, I'm, I'm excited about having this topic addressed on the podcast. 

FF: 02:06 That's great. There's multiple challenges just being human. 

MP: 02:10 You got it. You got it. So now before we get into some of that, I'd love to hear your story, your journey leading up to where you are now. 

FF: 02:21 Okay. I'll try and be brief. I've had a, a journey over a number of areas. I graduated high school many, many years ago, quite young to have no idea what I wanted to do. And, uh, I ended up just taking as general course, which taught me how to, what they call keyboarding now and some basic office skills work for a law firm for a number of years. And then I got married and, uh, my husband and I started a business. Uh, we started in audiovisual production business from scratch in Winnipeg and talk about learning on the fly. Talk about working hard. We worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and learned a lot about work and family conflict. Uh, in that, um, I decided, well, W we, uh, decided to separate and uh, I decided I wanted to go back to university. So I been taking some night courses and did that and eventually left the business, went to university full time. 

FF: 03:15 I eventually got my Master's degree. And interestingly, a thesis that I did for my master's was balancing work and family conflict in entrepreneurial women. So I, uh, was in contact with book 200 women across, uh, Manitoba who were running their own businesses. So have some direct experience in all of that. When I was doing my master's, what I thought I'd be doing is stress management and working with the business community. And little did I know I'd be working with a psychologist whose expertise was trauma. So I ended up working not with a trauma, uh, kids and a lot of kids that were in care, uh, subject to an abuse and neglect. Certainly, I never thought I'd be talking to teenage boys about sexual abuse, but that's, uh, it's kind of a far cry from business stress, but there you go. So I've been in the practice now for always in private practice for just over 20 years. 

FF: 04:10 Um, did a lot of work with kids. And, uh, when I moved to the coach student 2003, I, uh, expanded my training and, uh, area of expertise in working with couples. So it's Kinda come full circle. Uh, I don't do any work with children now, but, uh, I really understand the needs of kids. And, uh, so working a lot with couples and probably 40% of my practice couples and, uh, the rest probably equally divided between men and women. It's really nice to see a lot more men seeking outcomes sling these station, uh, and really loving working with them as well. So that's kind of a snapshot. 

MP: 04:46 It's a, it's an interesting journey and I mean we, we set out to have a conversation about the impact on relationships around you working in a business as a small business owner and hear your journey. So perfect. Your, your, your journey, uh, you have experience of where you, you experienced the, the sometimes difficult stress that a business will put on your relationships. 

FF: 05:14 Sure. Have both that being married to somebody, uh, and being in the same business together, which, you know, has its own particular set of challenges. And of course, my, uh, my husband now, uh, I, this is a different kind of business, but it's still a business in private practice. So they're working, having a relationship with somebody who doesn't have their own business and, and uh, sort of, uh, the, the challenges associated with that. And learning how to respect each other's, uh, differences and, uh, my current husband. And it really helps to keep you balanced and not, not letting me work all the time. 

MP: 05:50 Yes. And a diverse, a diverse experience working with both children, right through to capitals and then individually both men and women. So you've, you've seen it, I'm sure you've seen a lot, you've heard a lot given that our listener is likely in business for themselves or thinking about going into business for themselves. Well, you know, if you were sitting down with someone like that and you were, you were hoping to make sure that they were armed with everything possible to ensure that their relationships thrive or become, you know, protected from some of these challenges. What would you, where would you start with what is important for somebody to be thinking about? 

FF: 06:33 That's a good question. Of course, I'm laughing to myself because there's so many things where you know, what is the most important? I think ultimately it comes down to setting priorities. How much do I want to work? And trying to get some kind of a balance between how much time and energy I put in a work and how much time and energy I put into my relationship. The challenge is with relationship-wise, our partner doesn't come with a manual. Marriage, doesn't come with a manual and it has its own set of challenges and we often don't know what it takes to make for success for relationship. And of course when we were shorting at business, we often don't know what it takes to make it cause successful business, but people will often put a lot of hours and time and money into their business and if we're not careful, the business can be like a mistress and we can start to be attending, giving a lot more attention to the business than to the relationship. 

FF: 07:30 So that's something that I would challenge people to really look at rates right off from the business from the beginning. Of course, when we start a business, we usually start it for, you know, whatever reasons. It's usually because we want to have some control over our destiny. We want to be able to decide our own hours, be in charge of our little life, et Cetera, et cetera. And so we put a lot of energy into, into doing it. And then, of course, we create a monster that needs to be fed. And so then we continue on that, on that monkey wheel. So we have to learn how to say no to set some limits on how much we're going to work and working smart. And I know that you have all kinds of other speakers talking about how to work smart 

MP: 08:19 Yeah, it's an interesting, I think foundational conversation here because I can relate. I am in business for myself as well. I have a young family, my wife, she, she often sees the amount of work and time that I'm putting into the business and, and she is not in business for herself. And so it can sometimes feel like I'm on a bit of an island because it is, even though there's so many business owners out there, so many entrepreneurs out there, we are definitely not the majority. And so, uh, and I don't, and I that there can be sometimes misunderstanding between those that have jobs and, and you know, there's certain things that happened in the job and there's certain things that happen as a small business owner and it can cause a bit of a disconnect. 

FF: 09:12 It sure can. And a lot of that is I think about understanding, uh, you know, if you, if somebody works nine to five and then they, you know, shut the door of their office and they go home, it's a very different world from somebody who's, uh, who has their own business, who has timelines and deadlines and, uh, you know, we don't get vacation pay and we don't get sick days paid, et Cetera, et cetera. So I think that being able to dialogue about the differences and about why we're working when we are or how we're working when we are, and be able to hear that from their side too. You know, what is it like, what does it like for them? I think one of the traps for us in a small business too is uh, because we don't have all these benefits that you do if you're employed, you know, 10 different kinds of benefits, but things like unemployment insurance and it's six days and holidays on that, there's always a certain risk that we're taking in business that any of the businesses is a one week we might not get business or it may fall off or whatever. 

FF: 10:14 There's always that and I think that's one of the things that we have to learn to get over is that fear a, a lot of us I think take on more work than probably we reasonably should because we're afraid if we say no to it, that are, we cut our work week down to 40 or 50 hours that somehow we're not going to be successful at it. And I think that's a trap. And if we learn that, yeah, it's happening, it's going, we're going to, we're good at what we do, that's going to keep it going, then it'll allows us, I think to be able to relax a little bit more and enjoy the business. And, um, then be able to enjoy our family time to, does that make sense? 

MP: 10:57 It totally makes sense. And I think like you said, when we start off, we're starting off for these certain benefits, be in control of our destiny, have a freedom flexibility, have a way to provide for our family. And if, if the point that the big piece for many is their family, right? And if we're not paying attention, we can end up with the, you know, not having the most important piece of that equation, which is our family. And I think, I think that is also something that for our listeners is to be, like you said, that mistress end of a business, that business can become this all encompassing focus. We stopped paying attention and we don't maybe see the warning signs of where it's causing stress or anxiety for our partners in that relationship. And if there's no communication or, or things that are being done to, to alleviate that and to a new, you know, new level of communication, it can just all of a sudden be gone be we a in, in great trouble. 

MP: 12:01 And so when you were, when you were talking about this, I was thinking to myself, you know, many people, you counsel people and I think, you know, you've heard of business coaches and you hear people talking about coaches, but counseling is an important piece of your, any stage of life, whether in your business you need somebody, you need some outlet, something to be, uh, discussing your challenges and, and actually identifying and going, wait a second, man, I might paying attention to all the things that are gonna end up getting me what I want in my life because of if we're not, if we think we are and we're just going about it, hitting the grind wheel, we could wake up one day and not be very happy. 

FF: 12:46 Absolutely. Right. It's sort of like waking up and living consciously rather than just carrying on. A lot of us, like you say, we start businesses for a variety of reasons and we continue them and run them the way we do for certain reasons, many of which are unconscious. Uh, we may have beliefs, for example, unconscious beliefs about our value and that I am not maybe a fear of failure. I may be a fear of success. Could be that, uh, hard work is a value, but sometimes it gets a skew because we have no appreciation for the value of play. There's various parts of us that are self-critical or self judging or okay. All kinds of parts of us that kind of get in the way of being successful. And, uh, it's so valuable for us to spend some time to get to know ourselves a little bit better and a little bit deeper. 

FF: 13:42 And the same thing with our relationship. If I'm avoiding a conflict with my partner for example, or if I turn to my business because it's easier than dealing with the conflict of at hand with my partner or with my kids, there's going to be a big Christ to be paid for that. And I need to be able to look at, hmm, what is it that I'm avoiding and, and what's underneath of that. Uh, understanding that conflict is just the difference between needs. And once we begin to learn that and how to manage that, and what's my reluctance, then I able to learn some skills to manage things significantly differently. 

MP: 14:24 Yes. And this, this really speaks to not doing it alone, not trying to do it all alone. And I think in in the world the way many have been raised, it would think like, Gee, there's something wrong with me if I can't figure this out. And so I think what would be interesting is to, to talk a little bit about, you know, there may be many listeners who've never experienced what counseling is like. And so I, I'd love for you to share what the journey might be like for somebody who's seeking counseling. It could be marriage counseling, it could be counseling around. I'm sure you've counseled people around just about everything that humans encounter in their life. What's that journey look like? 

FF: 15:09 That's a good question. Um, first of all, couples counseling is quite different for them individually. So let me start with individual. What I usually have is brief phone conversation with somebody just because most people, if they haven't seen a counselor before, don't know what to expect. So we'll have it be a brief phone chat and then we have an initial session where it's an hour and we talk about first of all about uh, how I see things and basically that everybody has problems and it's really helpful to talk to somebody outside of our circle and uh, talk about how I worked a little bit. Then I, the first session is getting, getting to know each other. So we'll get some history from people and just get to get a sense of who their family is, what the family constellation is. And it helps me to understand some of their beliefs and the values and the contexts and also their supports, their strengths. 

FF: 15:59 And then usually we'll talk about what brings them, what prompted them to make the call to come in, what would they like to see differently in their life to make things those will be the easier. So with that, we set some goals and then a plan to work on those goals. And it's as varied as each individual a. For some people, it simply wanting to learn to manage their time a little better. For other people may be depression or there may be anxiety that's been diagnosed or they're struggling with and they want to do some work with that. For many people there's an underlying history of trauma and a, we need to work through that. So it is so variable with compost, the process is quite a bit different because what we're focusing on is what is the relationship between, what is the dance between the partners in the couple? 

FF: 16:50 So again, we'll start off by getting some history, history of a relationship, what drew them to each other and what are the, some of the strengths are the things they really like about each other. Um, what are some of the things that, uh, you know, they maybe used to think were kind of cute but aren't so cute anymore. We'll talk about the stages of relationship and what to expect at various stages of relationship and where do they think they are along that continuum. And again, then what are, what is it that they're hoping, uh, out of counseling? Some people come because they have a strong commitment to their relationship and they want to learn how to make it better. Some people are ambivalent. Um, and or sometimes one person's got her hand on the doorknob to leave sometimes with there's been, um, a significant event, like an affair or some other kind of betrayal that's created in a point of crisis for the, for the couple. 

FF: 17:45 And they need to work through that. So we identify things and then we sort out a plan together about how we do it. With couples counseling, there's a lot of, um, there's a lot of education because a lot of people haven't had the opportunity to learn what makes for miss successful marriages. And so we'll talk about that. And fortunately there's lots of resources out there that that can help as well. If a couple is already strong, a lot of times giving them simply a bit of direction, okay, well here, experiment with this, try this, here's something that we know from the research is really helpful. Try this and see how it, what's the impact in your relationship? Uh, the important little thing, for example, if Hellos and goodbyes, greeting your partner when you see them as spending a little bit of time each day to connect at the end of the day, spending a half-hour a week in a weekly housecleaning just to kind of check-in and, and talk about things. 

FF: 18:43 There's a few really concrete things where people can turn things around really quickly. Learning of course, how to manage conflicts and what is my conflict style and what do I need to learn about myself in conflict and what are some really, again, really practical skills for managing conflict differently. So those are, uh, tend to be some of the topics that are in couples. It's not like there's a formalized program that I put people through. It's fairy collaborative effort depending on what the specific needs of each, each couple are in the particular struggles. Basically what we're doing is wanting to teach them how to talk to each other and make it emotionally safe for them to talk to each other about actually anything. So for each partner to be able to say, this is what it's like to be me and this is what it's like to be me married to you. 

FF: 19:35 And sort of digging that deeply more deeply into what is the meaning of things so that we're not, a lot of people just live their life on the shellfish, but it's really taking it down a lot deeper where the significant Susan, where the real connection is and the real satisfaction in a, in a deep relationship. So it can be, it can be work, but it's also for most people exceedingly meaningful work for many people slip best investment they've ever made in themselves and in their relationships. Because as I say, a lot of people don't have, uh, mentors. A lot of people didn't have very good models growing up of what a marriage looks like or what a family looks like. And uh, so a lot of a lot of us are just learning and rather than muddling through, if we get some skills, especially early on, it makes life a lot easier. Of course, there's couples where there's a lot of barb wire that's tangled up and we need to kind of do an untangle a lot of barb wire before we can get back to connection. But, uh, I, I'm always, uh, exceedingly hopeful for couples. If people are willing to do the work, uh, they can make changes. 

MP: 20:49 It's so refreshing to hear all of that. And really an invitation, I think for every single person really, whether they're in whatever challenge they might be in, in their life. But if we think about what gets us where we are, there's history and you mentioned trauma and an often people don't even know that they're, they've experienced trauma because we have, it's like, we'll traumas this and it's not that, uh, it can be anything in our life, but it's a pathway and an opening and an invitation to if there's something that's not working in life, there are many avenues to take take, to go through and to have, uh, uh, a better outcome, a more, uh, light experience in life and, and to work through these things. And like you said, one of the most valuable investments you can make into your relationship, your business, your, your life in general is to go in and seek this kind of help. And I'd be interested to know if you see any similarities between the relationship and a marriage and perhaps a relationship in a, in a, with a business. Uh, and as well, when you talk about relationships, partnerships are, there's probably many listeners that have, that are in business partnerships with other people, which is kind of like, uh, a marriage in a way, uh, cause there's a big commitment that you've made to each other. Uh, but you're not bound by marriage. 

FF: 22:20 Absolutely. Also minutely. I think the biggest investments that I can make is to work on myself. Whether or not my partner chooses to work on themselves, my business partner, my relationship partner is up to them. And hopefully they would, and then that would be even better. But if I learn within myself, for example, how to say no when I mean no rather than say yes automatically. If I learn how to express myself clearly in a way that is easily understood by other people. If I learn how to regulate emotion, how to look after my own feelings and express them accordingly rather, especially in a when things get tough or things get hot or under stress. If I can learn to express myself, if I can, if I resolve some of my underlying issues and Lord knows we all have them, then I'm able to show up with greater presence and greater compassion, greater capacity with other people, whether those people be my partner, my kids, my business partner, my clients, uh, my friends, everybody in life I'm able to, to show up. 

FF: 23:41 And that's the biggest gift I think we can give ourselves and that we can give to people around us. Ultimately, we all have the resources internally and we all have the capacity for compassion, curiosity. We're all capable, competent, caring human beings. And then we all have things that happen to us in our lives that have closed various parts of the stem or you know, we reach for various things to Kinda look after ourselves when we're feeling hurt or upset consciously or not. And the more that we can understand ourselves and kind of come back to who we really are, this compassionate, caring person, then we show up in the world differently. And when I show up differently, people respond differently around.

MP: 24:38 So true. And this applies, you know, just hearing that it's anything in one's business, one's life. An example I was having a conversation with a bookkeeper, business owner and they were talking about pricing and his revelation was that pricing is so intertwined with his own self worth what he charges and how each, how he works with his clients is him. He's bringing his life into that which can be very stressful. It can be and can go the wrong way. Uh, if you don't have a strong view there in context around your own self-worth. And so this is something that could be, could be addressed with counseling. 

FF: 25:27 Absolutely. I can look at what you know, what is, what is my value? A lot of people, for whatever reason I have been for a variety of reasons, have been shamed a hundred different ways. And so we don't know our value. And then when it comes to, especially in business, we have to know what to charge. A lot of people undervalue themselves, not that money is the whole be all and end all, but it's, it is, it is the value. I got this loud and clear. I for a while was doing quite a lot of work for employee assistance plans. Maybe there are people here that work for them and I shouldn't maybe be rate them too much, but they were asking counselors who were providing services to discount the fees as much as 50% and I did that for a little while until I realized that the person sitting opposite me in my office was making three times what I was and I had just counted my feet by 40% and I'm going, what's wrong with this picture? 

MP: 26:28 Mm. 

FF: 26:29 And that was the day I decided I won't do that anymore. Learning to value ourselves and not to the point where we're charging excessively, but that at least we're charging reasonable rates for the work that we're providing. And as we do that, sometimes people are afraid that the work won't come, but in fact, my experience has been as a, when I value myself both, you know, certainly on the financial side that that worth, but also when I value myself as a, as a human being and as I work through whatever it might've been that got in the way of I value myself, my business has actually improved significantly. And so as my bottom line, so again, it's this investment in myself and it, and it comes down to what is it that I value and then I can live, I'm going to be happiest when I'm living in accordance to my values, regardless of how much money I'm making. 

FF: 27:26 But if I can really have some sense of what my values are and what my beliefs are, I often will say to people to, when am I at my best? What's it look like when I met my best? A lot of us have never asked ourselves that question. But once we do, it's kind of becomes accomplish that. What is it going to take? How can I be at my best more? I know I'm not at my best friend working 80 hours a week. I know that I'm not at my best when I'm saying to my family, oh, later, later. Um, but I'm at my best when I'm showing up for myself, but I have time to play in the garden. I love gardening show when I have, when I am not overbooked with clients so that I can spend some time on a beautiful sunny day liquid leash today that I can go and actually enjoy. What is it then I bring that joy back into my work when I work in. So it's another example of how we can bring some of that loop balance back by setting our priorities, knowing who we are, listening to our bodies, listening to our being to say, what do I, what do we need to do today in order to really, uh, be valuing myself and valuing the other people around me. 

MP: 28:50 Beautifully said. I invite everyone listening to the new listener to invest in yourself, whatever that looks like for you. It is. This is, this has been a great conversation about living your best life. Living here. You know, you, you are the only one running the ship. And so if you're not being cared for, you're not being taken care of. You're, it will be there. There won't be much that can be done. But if you, if you stop, take care of yourself, so much can be available and you can have what you want out of your life. And I really, Fran wanna thank you for coming on the show and sharing a bit of this. This has been very refreshing just to be thinking about and, and, and having this conversation and, and opening this up for other people in the world that may not have thought of counseling or, or, or getting some mentorship or something that helps them identify these challenges in their life and create a pathway to, to move through it. So I want to thank you. You've got so much experience, you've invested so much in your life into doing this work. And thank you so much for sharing it with us. 

FF: 30:02 You're very, very welcome. Michael is so a real privilege to be able to share and I really um, really encouraged people to take the step, make the investment in themselves and counseling doesn't have to be scary. It can actually be a lot of fun. 

MP: 30:17 I love that. Now if someone wanted to learn more about you, Fran, what would be the best way to do that? 

FF: 30:23 Nope. Simplest would be to check my website, which is a tr www.talktofran.com from there. And if anybody is looking for a counselor, I work only from my home but I'm happy to make referrals from people. There are some counselors who do work online, so wherever people are in happy to help them get connected if they don't know how to do that themselves. 

MP: 30:47 Thank you so much. And we will have that link in the show notes as well. And a fan we'd love to have you come back sometime to talk about this topic again. I think it's highly critical, not only for the people who are listening, but as well the people in their lives, whether it be their clients, their, their children, their, their partners, uh, helping them navigate through life. 

FF: 31:10 Sounds good. Thanks, Michael. 

MP: 31:12 Beautiful. Thank you. And with that, we wrap another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's wonderful guest and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com until next time, goodbye. And one reminder, if you found this episode valuable, please let us know about it. Wherever you listen to your podcast, please leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you. 

MP: 31:38 Take care.