18/06/2020 - Services
Arbour Landscape Solutions Director Richard Bickler is no stranger to the stresses and strains of landscaping life. In this articles he reveals his tactics for optimising physical and mental health whilst working long and often unsociable hours.
For the most part, Landscaping is a great life. Working out of doors, using your skills to fashion beautiful gardens from soil, timber, rocks and cement and knowing that you are making a big difference to your clients’ lives. There’s no industry like it and I wouldn’t swap my career for the world.
However, like most things, the landscape life does have its pitfalls. Working in the business and on the business at the same time can be gruelling. We’ve all had difficult clients, lost work to the cheap imitation landscapers, and perhaps fallen out with colleagues at times. Then there are the late payers, the tardy deliveries, the plants that die for no reason – I could go on but I’m sure you don’t need me to.
Balancing home, work, clients, suppliers, colleagues, mental health, bills, physical health and energy levels can be tricky at times but as middle age approaches, I like to feel that I have a bit of experience behind me. I’ve developed a few good habits (and a few bad ones) to help maintain my physical and mental health. This is what works well for me
There’s an ancient saying that goes something like “the sharper you keep the blade, the quicker it wears out”. And it’s true.
Mrs Lambert, my marketing lady has been explaining the physiology of stress to me. It seems that while we are busy rushing around, coping with kids, colleagues, suppliers, bank managers etc, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones. Adrenaline to make the muscles move and cortisol to keep the brain functioning. Those hormones effectively are the equivalent of the throttle on a car – the harder you press on it, the more wear the engine gets.
The way to flush those stress hormones out of your system is to remove yourself from the stress. Adrenaline is not too difficult. Mrs L tells me it has a half-life of a couple of minutes. (Within 2 minutes of it being released, half of the adrenaline leaves the bloodstream) Cortisol however has a half-life of up to 2 hours. Which is why it can take a long time to switch off after a grotty day.
If your system is swamped with stress hormones it can take a very long time to clear them – particularly if you are adding to them all day long. In the long term they can damage you – they affect the way your heart works, the way you digest your food and the way you lay down fat.
Every day starts with a dawn walk - it's a great way to wake up the body and the brain
Walking is apparently one of the best ways to dissipate stress hormones. Which is why my early morning walk is one of life’s little essentials. Before I start work, I haul on my shorts and walking boots (trust me it really is a good look) and head out with the dogs. At 5am, I’m guaranteed almost no disturbances other than the sound of birds singing.
Hands-on landscaping left me with a painful back problem. I need to keep the muscles around my spine in tip top condition so that they a) hold me up and b) don’t go into spasm.
I thoroughly recommend finding a good personal trainer and fitting in regular sessions. My PT spots potential problems before they cause pain and shows me how to correct my posture, keep my core strong and – well – OK avoid middle aged spread.
When I’m not with the PT, daily stretching and strength training is an essential part of my routine. It means getting up a bit earlier every day, but it’s so worth it.
If I didn’t have people to help me I think my head would explode. I like to think I’m good at sourcing products, offering technical advice and looking after my customers. I’m able to do bookkeeping, VAT returns, add website content and keep up to date with admin, but there are only so many hours in a day.
My team are my saviours. Gaby, Roman, Angela, Debs, Stuart and Jason are all heroes in my world. While I do the business bits that I love, I know that whatever I ask of these folks will be done – and done well.
The other heroes are of course the suppliers and couriers who ensure that ALS customers receive quality products on time.
When it comes to delegating tasks – feel free to delegate your product research and materials sourcing to Arbour Landscape Solutions. The website allows you to browse, enquire, get prices, request samples and place orders at any time of day or night. No waiting for offices hours to – the website is always open and it offers a really comprehensive range of landscape materials.
Sometimes it can feel as though you are a work machine. Always there for other people to use. That’s really damaging to your mental health and it’s vital that you just stop and remember what you joined this industry for. Was it to chase payment? Organise sickness cover for employees? Nag suppliers for a delivery? I suspect not.
I suspect that most people join the landscape industry to use their creative skills and to make an honest living to support their families.
I probably don’t spend enough time with my family, but when I do, I make sure it’s quality time. All the tech gets switched off and we make the simplest things into an occasion. During lockdown we’ve had to be a bit more imaginative, but that’s been great! Breakfast in the garden, dress up for dinner, daft challenges and fun. The one thing that I never want to do is look back and realise that I missed too many moments because of work.
Spending quality time with some of my APL family
It’s great to see other people succeed. So I love to help them celebrate. Little things – liking and commenting on social media posts so that more people get to see pictures, take very little time but can really help a business to reach new customers. (Typically the more people that react to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin posts, the more news feeds they will appear in)
Happiness is contagious – acknowledging a job well done and thanking everyone involved makes them smile – and when they smile, I smile.
On a more serious note, health issues really can make a big impact on anyone’s life. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try to eat well, exercise and balance work and family. These things come at you out of the blue, for no good reason and they’re nasty. Really nasty. Believe me, I’ve been there, I know.
The most difficult things to do when you are suffering with mental health problems is to acknowledge that you are struggling and to ask for help. You think it’s just a bad mood or that things will get better when a particular site is finished or the baby’s teeth come through.
My number one piece of advice is that if you don’t feel happy, energetic or positive or confident – for goodness sake get help. Pick up the phone, call me at any time of the day and night and have a good rant. If I can give you any practical help or advice I will but most importantly, I’m neutral, I’ve survived most of the problems a landscaper can encounter and I’m here to support you. That’s what Arbour Landscape Solutions is all about.
How to work smarter not harder in the landscape industry