Looking back I must have been crazy. Already working 70 hours a week servicing 87 of the world’s biggest media clients. Every day was a grind of media metrics and client demands. It starting getting too much but hey, it was my job right? As the son of a yoga teacher, I had a few secret weapons up my sleeve but as the stress grew, the ability to fight off the dark thoughts got harder. I started noticing that a beer on the weekend turned to a glass of wine in the evenings. Before long it became a vicious cycle. Ending the day feeling burnt out, alcohol was a crutch that helped me forget, and in those precious last couple of hours in the day, I felt fairly relaxed, only to wake with a crippling feeling of anxiety that I had to do it all again.
I’d had enough.
I woke one Monday and literally put the covers back over my head. Turned off the phone and froze. What I didn’t know then, was that I was the early victim of burn out. My nervous system had had enough! It was a beating of dorsal vagal arousal (Don’t worry we will come back to this!)
I struggled to breathe and was shocked that things had come to this. I thought I could deal with anything. As a kid, I left home at an early age. In fact, by the time I was 16, I was homeless, had no formal education and was living between friends sofas and the streets. I decided that this wasn’t my path. I found work in a cafe, a second job in the cinema and saved up enough money to sit my base levels GCSE’s. From there I worked my way up to eventually receiving a Bachelor of Science in Audio and Sonic design from University which I paid for myself. During my last year of University, I also built a successful start-up. So if I could pull that off, why was I broken by some simple media reports and client requests?
Everyone has a limit. We live in a society that tells you to work harder, to go longer, to beat the competition by working yourself into the ground. Well, the reality is. That’s bullshit. Getting rest on your clock is the best possible thing you can do for yourself. It’s basic. Everything needs balance. There are two sides to our nervous system, the fight and flight (sympathetic) and the rest and digest (parasympathetic). The problem is, we are so connected to the digital realm that we have become disconnected. The alert reserve of our fight and flight response is being triggered constantly. That text message, that email, the partner you’ve pissed off accidentally or simply the barrage of Taxi horns from outside the window. It’s relentless and the balance is driven out of phase.
So. Here I was feeling the worst I had ever felt. Feeling like everything was hopeless and reaching for that drink to bring that short term (fake) balance back. Just like the moment I realised I couldn't continue leaving on the streets, I realised I had to do something about my current situation. This is it. I simply stopped caring.
Yes, it sounds bad but I literally said F’it. I would no longer put myself through this. I was taking some time for me and I didn’t care who thought otherwise. I had generated millions of dollars for my clients over the years through steadfast commitment and if they couldn’t give me some time, then that was their problem and not mine.
After a couple of days in bed. I started to feel a little better. Not caring about anything was so liberating. I started to hum. To sing. To actually laugh. I knew I was in the hole but I felt okay with that. Hmmm. Why do I feel this sudden sense of happiness and freedom? The pressure had gone. I had started to activate my vagus nerve again. The foot control over our nervous system that helps bring the balance to the activation of each side, the hand that holds the Yin to our Yang. The pending feeling of doom had lifted and there it was. Invest in your rest. Switch off. Look after you. Everything else will fall into place if you feel okay. I decided there and then to turn the next phase of my life into a quest of rest. To change the concept that taking a moment for yourself is lazy.
I started to research techniques to override the nervous system. Just like a muscle, it’s possible to train the parasympathetic side of our body and like a muscle, it grows stronger. This lead me to Breathwork. The lessons my mother had taught me as a child came back to me. Now, how do I make this easier to digest. To take the things I loved and create a totally new experience.
Of course a few weeks later I had to go back to work but I felt better able to handle the stress. I stopped the evening beers and got to working on this new idea.
Now at this stage. I appreciate the title is a little contradictory. But this is what I did, I created my third start-up whilst working a full-time job. The 6 am starts became 4 am starts but I was convinced that if I could manage my downtime (Breathwork sessions throughout the day and Power-Downs in the afternoon) I could pull this off. With my co-founder focused on Tech, we dived into the deep end of hardware.
Two years later we have shipped 5000+ Powermasks into the market which is no mean feat. Developing hardware products from scratch and shipping them into commerce and retail channels is insanely difficult. The moment you put a product on a shelf you are judged, just like the world’s biggest brands. Even if there are only 3 of you.
The Powermask is the space in which time is yours. A moment to switch off from the world and invest in you. Your mental gym. We are incredibly proud of this and have some exciting versions in the pipeline.
We are also on the verge of launching the V2 version of Breathonics, our training programme delivered through the Breathonics app. The PT for your soul and the training that can help you achieve anything. We will be heavily focusing on biometrics around heartrate and have some amazingly cool content in the pipeline.
We’ve partnered with some fantastic experts over the last two years and we are excited about what’s to come. We have received so many emails from people who were suffering from stress or anxiety and in extreme cases, were on the edge. Switching off and practising breathwork has helped them deal with life and for that, we are humbled and re-energised to reach 100m people in the next five years.
Stress is an epidemic, it’s a battle that’s much larger than we ever imagined. Clearly the whole world can’t care less, but if you can invest in your rest, if you can help turn the tide of this notion that switching off for 20 minutes during the day is ‘lazy’ the world would be a much better place. Far less of us would end up under the covers, frozen by sympathetic fear.
Work hard. But rest much harder…