Man Up / Man Down

A podcast for middle aged men

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  • 1. Episode One - Intro to our podcast Man Up / Man Down

    David and Volker were introduced by a mutual colleague and really hit it off. Despite working on an unrelated project, they spent a lot of time discussing how much life had changed during the pandemic and how it had exacerbated and accelerated many of life’s challenges. David felt like he was going through, what he could only describe as, “a post-pandemic slump”. However, he had also noticed off-hand comments from friends and colleagues which suggested they were going through a similar experience.  Maybe not full-blown breakdowns but there just seemed an undercurrent of exhaustion and low-level depression. And the more David and Volker discussed this the more they realised that this was as much related to where they were in life, the dreaded “middle age”, as the impact of lockdown and the pandemic. The more David and Volker got sidetracked by these discussions, the more they felt that they should be recording these thoughts. Mainly because David has struggled with mental health issues for most of his life and Volker has spent most of his life practicing mindfulness and teaching business leaders tools for resilience and success. Tools that could help middle-aged men that were struggling with the pressures of post-pandemic life. All strung around experiences and challenges that they have both experienced, that most men of our age could relate to: Children that no longer see you as the best thing since sliced bread Adapting to working from home Juggling family and work commitments Taking better care of yourself (mentally and physically) Weight loss Exercise Alcohol Friendships Loneliness Happiness Success Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues Sleep/insomnia Finding time for your wife/partner Finding time for yourself Getting a puppy (Which always seems like a good idea on paper, particularly during lockdown). Sharing these interests and challenges, we decided to record an episode every week to cover topics we feel other middle-aged men could massively relate to but were perhaps afraid to discuss with their friends.  We try and stick to the science as much as possible but there’s also a lot of rambling and ranting with a healthy dose of humour (both German and British). To find out more about who David and Volker are, just check out our website  The reason we called it that is because we were told from an early age to ‘Man Up’, don’t show emotions, be the breadwinner and look after the family. Yet there are so many men that are down and don’t talk about it. That’s what we want to change! In this inaugural episode, we talk a lot about ourselves of course, introducing you to our journey and our personalities. We talk about hindsight and insights into our life and what could have happened if, and why we are the way we are. What drives us on? What used to drive us on back then, and how has it changed in middle age?  We are curious about what your journey has been so far, and how we might be able to help you. As said above, we can accommodate more topics, and will invite expert speakers later on in the podcast. Email us, let us know how we do to - or individually - volker@ or Why are we doing this? For one, it is to share our thoughts and experience because we know that so many people our age are also struggling with the same issues. By sharing our exeprinces and challenges we hope to help you to improve your life.  We want to create a community and platform for people to share their experience, learn from each other, and become their better self. We are sharing a lot of thoughts about what we learned so far, what it means to grow up with certain expectations, and how we have to unlearn things in life. How has your upbringing influenced your life so far? How can you shed some of those influences to get unstuck in life and move forward? We are rambling on, but it’s just so important for men to open up and talk about the issues they are facing. We all have the same challenges and need to cope with life. We cannot just give up, although the statistic says that most people who give up and sadly take their own life, are men at the age of 45-49 (23.8 out of 100,000 - statistics from England). When we talk about those topics and you ever feel distressed, please seek professional help.  We like to recommend Samaritans, but there are lots of organisations that can help you. And we must reiterate, you should seek professional help and there is nothing wrong with asking for help.

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  • 2. Mid Life Crisis - what does it actually mean?

    This episode is all about identifying what the term midlife crisis actually means. What’s the actual age of a midlife crisis? Are we all destined to have one, regardless of what we have achieved in life? Is it just a natural part of human development or “growing up”? This is how Wikipedia, defines it: A midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, typically 45 to 65 years old. The phenomenon is described as a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person's growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly lack of accomplishments in life.  This may produce feelings of intense depression, remorse, and high levels of anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle or feel the wish to change past decisions and events.  Studies on midlife crises show that they are less common than popularly believed, according to Vaillant (2012) in his 75-year longitudinal study on adult development, he found midlife crises were rare experiences for people involved in the study. The term was coined by Elliott Jaques in 1965. Steven Barlett said that ‘if he carries on like this, he will certainly have a midlife crisis’, yet he is only 29. And, by most standards, incredibly successful.  So, what does that mean? Is a mid-life crisis career related or age-related. And with life expectancy steadily increasing, does that mean middle-age is being pushed back? Data shows that ⅓ of babies born will live to be 100. Check out your chances of making a century here. (Women are more likely to than men). Volker has been following the Modern Elder Academy for a while. It is the world's first wisdom school dedicated to midlife transitions. The Academy’s aim is to change the way society views ageing through its programs at its Baja campus, online, and its new location in Santa Fe, New Mexico (opens 2023). Is age just a number? We believe Chip Conley has been involved in this, and definitely a person to look up if you want to form an opinion. David suggested this HBR article. Is it about hindsight and lost opportunities? The sliding doors of making a decision that you might regret later. Is that when you start looking for a younger partner? Volker instead opted for the older model, getting himself a toy car, his pride, just before he turned 45. Others buy a boat, a motor bike, or non monetary start filling voids with new hobbies, the first marathon or a side hustle. Or in some cases have an affair… (Volker and David would like to point out they haven’t gone down that last route! Although David is happy to accept offers - JOKE!). Volker started his journey to get tattoos during lockdown. He isn’t the only one, there are articles about it, and people over 60 getting tattoos.  Is it because children need us less when they grow up? Or because we are settled more in our job or relationship, needing to invest less time. Or is it as aforementioned that we are looking for a purpose? And during Covid we had more time, and we thought about life. We looked for new things to do.  Covid can be seen as an accelerator to a midlife crisis or even a replacement. As David states, this description of a mid-life crisis could also relate to what many of us went through during lockdown: Neglect of  personal hygiene Dramatic changes in sleep patterns Weight loss or gain Change in mood: anxiety Withdraw from relationships and usual routines (which we didn’t have much choice in at the height of the pandemic).  For some, the crisis resulted in us paddling harder, finding new work, continuing with our routine, rather than giving in and slacking. Volker gives his view of lockdown, how he didn’t have time to watch Netflix because he couldn’t give up, he just put himself out there, working harder, keeping purpose and routines.  He also learned how to up-cycle woodwork. We see this with older people as well, the ones that have purpose, keep physically and mentally active, are the ones that seem to have a more fulfilled and usually longer life.  David admits he took an escapist approach - taking out a Disney+ subscription and rediscovering his love of reading fiction. He also got a new appreciation for the simple things in life, such as cuddling with his cat! Whilst we will talk more about alcohol in next week’s episode, we drank a lot more during lockdown. That also means that during a crisis, we go back and comfort ourselves with stimulus. It’s all about the excitement of building a new outdoor kitchen, learning how to BBQ meat properly, pizza ovens and all sorts of things.  Any kind of void needs to be filled, and it’s the same with the midlife crisis. We shouldn’t forget that midlife crises are also happening to women, but there is probably another podcast for that too :-) We are running out of time when we turn 40+, don’t we? As we discussed, planning holidays with the kids, and things we want to achieve, before the clock stops. We don’t know how long we have. Do we see it as the glass half full or half empty? What about how the world is changing? Will we be able to see the Seychelles? Do we want to? Another topic we touched on was suicide in men. Sadly suicide is highly common in men over 40. The office for National Statistics published data for England here: The male suicide rate for was 15.3 per 100,000* compared to the female suicide rate of 4.9 per 100,000*  Males aged 45-49 continue to have the highest suicide rate (23.8 per 100,000) There is regional variation in the suicide rates. The North East of England had the highest suicide rate (13.3. per 100,000) in 2020, which has been the case in five out of the last 10 preceding years and saw an increase of 15.7% compared to 2019. In this podcast by Steve Bartlett, the celebrity Roman Kemp talked about losing his best friend to suicide at the height of lockdown. He makes an interesting point that depression can spiral during times when men feel that they have little control over their lives. Sadly committing suicide is often perceived as an act of taking back that control. Mid career crisis is another phrase that has been gaining ground in recent years. As the Modern Elder Academy suggests, we can easily start a new career in our 40s. We still have 20 years or more left.  However, if we look at the ‘man as a breadwinner’, it’s often not that simple. Would you (and your family) be happy to change your career and take a pay cut, in anticipation of being happier? Or do you just carry on? Volker touches on his work he does in transition and career coaching, helping people in their mid-life to figure out where to put their focus.  Age shouldn’t be anything that stops you. Whether it is taking on running and doing a marathon or just doing regular 10Ks. What we are trying to say, we shouldn't see age as a limitation. “Being at an age where I don’t care what people think of me anymore” - is that mid life confidence? And do we do certain things because of our parents, or because of what we feel our duty was at the time? Is mid life crisis something that helps you to break free? What are your thoughts?Let us know in the comments or reach out to and suggest topics, people to interview and please let us know what you think.
  • 3. Let's talk about Alcohol and middle aged men

    This week’s episode is all about alcohol. Many of us focus on various aspects of our mental and physical health but gloss over our relationship with alcohol. Most of us like a drink, and sometimes we have a bit more than we should. And as we get older, we gain weight, and a lot is down to alcohol. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, almost the same as fat which has 9 calories per gram. And after a few drinks we then turn to snacks and junk food, we wouldn’t normally drink. And as we get older, our metabolism isn’t able to break calories down as quickly as they used to. That leads to us gaining weight.  Both David and Volker have both lost a significant amount of weight in the past by cutting out alcohol but accept how ingrained alcohol is in our social lives.  This is particularly true for men. Almost 59% of adult men report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days compared with 47% of adult women. Also, men are almost two times more likely to binge drink than women.  Approximately 22% of men report binge drinking and on average do so 5 times a month, consuming 8 drinks per binge, according to the CDC website. While the two of us don’t suffer from physical alcohol dependencies, we both still like a tipple. But we don’t always know when to stop either.  Volker admits that during his uni days there were times when he lost control or forgot what was going on. This is because alcohol inhibits the brain ability to construct memories. David and Volker are both very conscious in terms of how much they drink, and if you think you aren’t in control, please contact your GP or organisations that can help you with problem drinking. We believe alcohol is the only drug on the market where we get encouraged to take more of. No one ever says ‘come on, have another line of coke’ or ‘take another pill of x’, but people encourage you to ‘have one more drink’, or ‘don’t be a p*, have a drink’. We share a lot of stories around alcohol, and one of the reasons is that we grew up with it, and have been in environments where it was common to drink a lot. More than one should do. And we are not the only ones, it is very common, and unfortunately it leads to relationship problems, job problems and of course poor mental health. Regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in the brain that are vital for good mental health. So while we might feel relaxed after a drink, in the long run alcohol has an impact on mental health and can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, and make stress harder to deal with. Sadly, people who suffer from alcoholism are up to 120 times more likely to take their own life than those who are not dependent on alcohol. This ties in with the stats we shared previously around increased suicide rates within middle aged men. Unfortunately though, it is still a badge of honour to be ‘hanging’ or not being a ‘lightweight’ - even at our age. If recreational drugs were tools, “alcohol would be a sledgehammer”. Few cognitive functions or behaviours escape the impact of alcohol... alcohol can disrupt or completely block the ability to form memories for events that transpire while a person is intoxicated, a type of impairment known as a blackout.  What we also realise is that when we drink, we also eat more. The munchies after a few drinks, maybe even ordering a pizza or eating a kebab, contributing to weight gain. It also impacts how well we sleep.  According to The Sleep Foundation, high amounts of alcohol (defined as more than 2 drinks for males) decreases sleep quality by 39%. According to Cancer Research no amount of alcohol is safe, and can cause 7 different types of cancer - including breast, bowel and mouth cancer as well as cancer of the liver. Yet we are often recommended to have a little bit of alcohol. We regularly see news in the press that a glass of red wine is good for your heart. However, it’s easy to over do it. The recommended units per week in the UK are 14 units. That’s pretty much a bottle of Shiraz. Technically a binge is 4 drinks over a 2 hour period. If you think about a football match, that’s easily done.  We need to find a positive relationship with alcohol or relationship. There is no need to have a drink, and the fantasy that wine, similar to cigars, are a status symbol and a collectors item, is a marketing ploy. While we don’t want to tell you what to do, we encourage you to look at your relationships with drugs. And alcohol is a drug, as simple as that. Depending on your consumption, your liver can recover within 30 days, which we believe is a great incentive to do either ‘dry January’ or ‘sober in October’. Or both. Either way, reducing your alcohol consumption overall, and replacing it with maybe non alcoholic drinks or giving up completely, might be a good step. Or a very controlled way of drinking alcohol. The vicious cycle is that when we meet people in a social setting, you want to be part of the group and drink with them, given they drink. And if we don’t drink, we get people taking the mickey out of us - which is a societal problem of not accepting people to not drink. Therefore, as a society, we still need to learn to accept people not drinking, in order to have a more healthy relationship with alcohol. On the plus side, the availability of alcohol free drinks and beers are now on the rise, so it is easier to not drink “under the radar” in situations where others might pressure you to. Have you overcome a tricky relationship with alcohol and want to share your story? Who should we speak to in order to investigate this topic further? Please let us know on
  • 4. Fitness for real and weight loss

    Most of us, particularly in our age, have piled on some pounds over the years. Covid didn’t help, lockdowns and less exercise, binge eating and drinking (see episode 3), would have contributed to weight gain. Not to mention the binge eating at McDonalds or the cheeky kebab on the way home. A six pack is made in the kitchen, not in the gym. Volker lost 10kg a few years ago, partly through exercise but mainly through eating less calories than he took in and watching what he eats. He repeated this again recently and lost about 7kg. But the metabolism changes as you get older, and it is harder to lose weight. As we age, our metabolism slows and the rate at which we break down food decreases by 10% each decade after age 20. Metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) your body uses to maintain itself. Volker is now doing intermittent fasting, 16:8, which means to not eat for 16 hours from 9 pm until 1 pm and only eat during the hours of 1 and 9 pm. Essentially it means the body is eating its own fat as it is moving into ketosis.  David has done a press-up challenge, steps per day challenge and generally tries to keep fit, yet he still has a few kilos more than he wants to.  What seems to work best to lose weight at our age is to reduce your sugar intake, and if we look at episode 3 again, even if we think we don’t have a high sugar intake, beer and wine have a lot of sugar. And there are lots of hidden sugars in a variety of foods. MyFitnessPal is a great app we recommend to count your calories and make sure to track how much you eat.  The minimum amount of energy needed to carry out these basic processes while an organism is fasting and at rest is known as the basal metabolic rate, or BMR, which can be calculated using a variety of online calculators that take into account an individual’s height, weight, age, and sex.  BMR is often referred to as resting metabolic rate, or RMR. Total energy expenditure (TEE) is a combination of BMR, plus energy used for physical activities and energy used to digest food (known as dietary thermogenesis). For sedentary adults, BMR accounts for about 50% to 70% of total energy output, dietary thermogenesis for 10% to 15%, and physical activity for the remaining 20% to 30% Restaurants of a certain size now have to show how many calories a meal contains which should help people to evaluate how much food they should eat each day. Volker regularly orders kids portions to cut down his calorie intake.  We also touched on supplements. Volker regularly takes cod liver oil, electrolyte, focus pills to support your brain performance, vitamin B, C, D, blaseed oil and milk thistle. David swears on heights which seems good value for money combining the main supplements in one ‘magic pill’. The challenge with supplements is that once you are on the treadmill, you have a psychological contract with it that you don’t want to stop.  Oregano pills are recommended for an upset stomach. Disclaimer: do your research prior to taking any supplements, and we are not suggesting you should take any.  Discussing Huel, David doesn’t seem to be a fan, and Volker isn’t too keen on replacement meals either. Whilst they save time to eat, his experience with protein shakes is stomach upsetting. Adding every mineral and nutrition the body needs via a capsule or instant powder instead of real food just doesn’t sound right. In regards to fitness: Volker has done three marathons, and it seems common in mid life to decide to take on some challenges; David has done a few triathlons, marathons and ultra triathlete and is an active triathlete.  Starting with cycling into London to running with the pram as a stay at home dad. He has done a few marathons and ultramarathons. And one of the motivations to do one was to not have regrets when being older.  Yet, doing a marathon won’t guarantee you to lose weight. As personal trainers suggest, you only have to have a certain heart rate, for Volker around 122, that gets him into the fat burning zone.  Another point we discussed is for men to look like ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’, using and abusing steroids. There is an increase in steroid abuse: "It is suggested that the majority of AAS use in the UK is for cosmetic reasons, as opposed to enhancement of athletic performance.1, 2  The typical user would be considered by society as fairly ordinary (for example, a 19-year-old male who wishes to optimise his physique inspired by reality TV shows; or, a 45-year-old male who needs an outlet from pressures at home and work; or a 62-year-old male who aims to recreate the care-free experiences of his youth).  However, what most have in common is a desire for extreme masculinity and an increase in self-esteem.” This is another important factor to consider. Some people want to look ‘manly’ and think that we need to look ripped and muscular to look like a man. Personally, Volker thinks just not having a big beer gut is a good achievement. We have friends at our age who traded in for a ‘younger model’, with people getting a high motivation finding a younger woman which results in them losing weight quickly. So once we know why, it’s a question of how.  And whilst there are a lot of promises out there on how to lose weight quickly, the why is super important. Volker quit smoking a few years, from 60 to no cigarettes within a day, cold turkey, but the reason was there to live a healthier life, not dying of lung cancer. Those shock mechanisms definitely work. And let’s not forget, if you have a healthy sex life, you can burn more calories. Research has found that men burn an average of 101 calories during sex, or about 4.2 calories burned per minute. We could argue how many minutes that is… women burn an average of 69 calories during sex, or about 3.2 per minute. Have you lost weight or got super fit during your middle ages and want to share your story? Who should we speak to in order to investigate this topic further? Please let us know on
  • 5. Puppy Love - a man's best friend

    This episode might not sound obvious for a podcast, however, in our social circles dog ownership seems to have been a major trend. Both David and Volker have become dog owners over the last 18 months.  And we’re not alone. In 2010/11, 22% of UK households were dog owners, which remained stable until 2020/21, when it jumped to 33%. Similar levels of increase were seen in the dog population – since 2010 it's increased from 7.6m to 12.5m today. The share of households owning a pet in the UK remained relatively stable between 2011/12 and 2019/20, hovering around 45%; however, this changed significantly during the pandemic, which saw a rise to an unprecedented high of 59% in 2020/21. So what is it about “man’s best friend” (a phrase that was coined during a US court case)? A 2020 survey asked dog owners to state their reasons for owning a dog and all linked their ownership to either improving their happiness and/or providing companionship.  Happiness was the most common response, with 51% stating ‘because they make me happy’; 47% said their dogs provided ‘love/affection’ and 35% stated their dogs provided ‘companionship’. We recorded this episode during a hot spell in the UK, which has been causing sleep issues. David talks about how lack of sleep creates anxiety, and gets your head racing.  Yet, having a puppy, like a baby, you have to be there 24 hours and get up at night if they need to get out. But as David suggested, it’s a good reason to go out for a walk. Volker talks about his 5 am routine, and how it works for him to regularly get his run and exercise programme done, no matter how many beers he had in the evening. But back to the four legged friends… A puppy or dog provides not only companionship but also helps with your mental health. A dog, not like a cat, will always want to please you. Why do people get dogs or cats?  Research shows that: they are best friends, provide companionship, fight loneliness and improve mental health. However, as David pointed out, his mental health actually got worse for the first few months of dog ownership, which isn’t something that dog owners talk about. However, something David has struggled with is the increased interaction with humans! David loves a walk but often finds himself forced into conversations with other dog owners when he’s out for some peace and quiet. Here are a few more stats we discuss: On average, dog owners walk 22 more minutes per day compared to people without dogs. A Lintbells survey reported that UK dog owners walk an average of 21 miles a week. Dog owners are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than people without a dog. A 2021 study affirms that dog walking can have a positive impact on a human’s mental health. 93% of British dog owners wish they walked their dogs more often. The statistics speak for themselves -  if you want to get a dog, you need to consider the time you have to spend with it. Getting a puppy isn’t, for want of a better phrase, just a walk in the park. While a lot of pressure comes from the children to get a dog but they don’t support you as much as they say they would. Whether it is picking up poo or going for walks, we all know children quickly lose interest in the day to day care. After Volker’s building work was done, his garden never really recovered, so he got artificial grass to make it easier for the dog to do his business. If the dog has the runs, you can just hose down the lawn.  Unfortunately, money you spend on dogs is extortionate. And if you don’t train it properly, the dog will or can become the king of the house.  So it’s important to remember the advice Volker was given by a friend: Don’t ever forget that it’s a dog. Treat him like a dog, not a human being.  And as Volker pointed out, he loves having Arnie, his miniature sausage dog, at home. With long days in the office, having a reason to break up the day, get up, go for a walk and just having someone or something around reduces feelings of isolation and lonliness. And you can talk to dogs too! We had a rant about our cats, outlining the challenges of going to vets regularly and, whilst living based on a Buddhist philosophy, it comes down to costs and how you feel being ripped off by vets. Volker was unlucky with Arnie having had a puppy disease, making the insurance worthwhile from the outset.  Have you recently become a new dog owner? What has your experience been like? Has it been all you hoped? Or a bigger challenge than you anticipated.  Drop us an email to let us know!
  • 6. Neurodiversity and Middle Age

    This was a true revelation for Volker to listen to David and his challenges with adult autism, ADHD (attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder) and neurodiversity. There seems to be a “trend” of more people being diagnosed with ADHD and autism, and unfortunately the NHS is too overwhelmed to actually give everyone the attention they need. They list the top signs of adult ADHD on their website. There are superpowers we all know from the 1980ies movie Rainman, from sketching a building after only seeing it for seconds, to counting toothpicks on the floor (Rainman) - not everyone with autism can do that, and David doesn’t have any of those superpowers. David has been researching it for over 8 years, and he isn’t satisfied that he doesn't know everything about the subject yet which is a trait of people with adult autism. Neurodiversity is the umbrella term, with autism, ADHD or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) being forms of it. The main “symptoms” are either to have difficulties concentrating or hyperactivity and impulsiveness. The naughty schoolboy comes to mind. Looking at a list of signs of autism, Volker discovers that some of those are very common. So how do we differentiate between being autistic and being “normal” (whatever normal means). Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling Getting very anxious about social situations Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own Seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to Finding it hard to say how you feel Taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like "break a leg" Having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes Not understanding social "rules", such as not talking over people Avoiding eye contact Getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you Noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities Liking to plan things carefully before doing them David says that when the above causes disruption and real anxiety in your life is what differentiates neurodiversity from being “normal”. Or as one of the leading experts in autism puts it “The key question is: are autistic characteristics interfering with your ability to function?”. David describes in detail how he plans any social setting and how he gets the storytelling mind, asking ‘what if that happens or that’. There is a constant commentary that he finds difficult to turn off.  Or he hyperfocuses on one thing that distracts him from getting on with his day - for example, waiting to get an email about a confirmed work project can stop him from getting on with the work he already has! He further describes how tired he is and how exhausting this constant ‘nagging’ can be, he is comparing it to swimming with an anchor. This sometimes makes it difficult to deal with his children and family and friends sometimes. Anything unplanned, even pleasant surprises, can be difficult to cope with. He also describes a constant feeling of being on edge and finding it difficult to cope. Alcohol, which we spoke about, does help in social settings in order to get over the initial limitations of being social. But that can’t be the solution. David also suffers with depression, having anxiety about how good things are that he produced. This includes the podcast, and where he procrastinates in terms of reviewing the podcast and the shownotes.  Despite his challenges, he puts his life into perspective, making sure he stays positive and has goals to aspire to. Alistair Campell, who we would love to have on the podcast, sees depression as a scale from 0-10; “0” “I will kill myself” and 10 being “I am on the top of the world”. However he takes the view that he won’t ever allow himself to get to zero and is unlikely to ever reach a 10 (despite having orchestrated one of the biggest election wins in UK history). Diagnosis of autism has jumped by almost 800% in the last two decades. This article just shows how the awareness has increased while the median age has gone up. In short we are seeing more diagnosis of older people. David believes this is because if you were doing “ok” at school, you’d fly under the radar and weren’t showing behavioural causes for concern. However as there is growing awareness of symptoms, and diagnoses of high profile celebrities, more people are seeking answers. David mentions that he first began learning about autism when he studied psychology at college. He then noticed certain behaviours in family members that he felt were typical of autism. Which then led his partner to say “but that’s exactly how you react in those situations”... There is no cure or medication for ASD (although there is for ADHD, if you can afford private treatment or are patient enough to wait several years for diagnosis on the NHS).  However David has found a regular mindfulness practice helps when he has periods of overwhelm.   As always, please let us know what you think and reach out with any guests we should get on to deep dive into this topic? Have you been affected by ADHD, share your experience and get in touch!  
  • 7. Matthew Knight - Mental Health, Freelancing and Leapers

    Our first guest, Matthew Knight, joined us on this episode to talk about his journey as a freelancer, his mental health challenges and the Leapers network, which he created. Leapers is a community for freelancers to support each other and Volker has been a member for many years. The support is for anything from mental health to tax questions, IR35 and technology. A community that understands the challenges all freelancers have, they ‘just get it’. It’s sometimes a bit like a virtual water cooler where you can meet and discuss almost anything. With the pandemic, at least in Volker’s mind, the community grew closer together, and the peer support got even stronger.  One topic we discussed was about coworking space and the new way of working. Freelancers are often working from home and don’t have the community of the office. Hence finding like minded people to work together can be a huge benefit to your mental health or might just get you out to bounce ideas off someone. Volker enjoys the daily chats and being able to support with advice but also gaining advice from other like minded people. His most enjoyable interactions are the ones on days when no one else is working, like a Sunday morning. There is always someone who offers you a virtual cuppa. Leapers was founded prior to the pandemic, when flexible working and working from home became commonplace. Matthew is a thought leader, challenging the traditional models of working and presenting our work to companies. The Leapers community (hosted on a slack channel), now has many thousands members. This allows members to openly share their vulnerability and be open about the common challenges they face - whether that's needing emotional support, a pep talk or the opportunity to vent about clients not paying on time. In short, it’s a safe place. Matthew had two reasons to focus on mental health support. The first was that there were no support groups for freelancers, and there was a hussle culture around entrepreneurship, about working 80 hours a week. The second reason was that he had been struggling with mental health himself. Research shows two thirds of freelancers don’t know where to find support when struggling with bad mental health. To be honest, we believe even ‘companies’ don’t have the right support yet, and we would argue Leapers offers a better, free of charge, support for freelancers than many companies do for their employees. Now imagine how things were like 5 or even 10 years ago.  Deloitte’s report on mental health at work highlights the impact mental health has on work, including stats for ROI and money lost to businesses. We cover that in a later episode in greater detail. Isn’t it sad that only when we put a money value on something that corporations pay attention to it. Is that how life should be? Isn’t that one of the reasons why so many people quit their jobs and go freelance? One of the challenges of freelancing is that you never really get any downtime. You constantly worry about taking time off, as you need to earn money, or you look for your next project. There are a few habits you need to unlearn when coming out of full time employment.  Matthew used the example of comparing a freelancer to a laptop: If you don’t recharge your laptop overnight, don’t upgrade the software and look after the machine, you aren’t able to work the next day. There are no sick days, or if there are, they aren’t paid. And with freelancers looking after themselves better, looking after their mental health in particular, you could argue they are more self-aware and more resilient.  We also touch on whether older, middle aged, freelancers should seek paid employment again for security and support. On average self-employed people are about 10-15% happier (net-happiness), e.g. the wins are all yours and the failures are all yours too. Correlation and causation is a tricky one when we look at self-employed and mental health; there are a lot of people going into self-employment because of mental health issues.  As you get older, particularly as a man, it gets harder. Men have more issues with being open and vulnerable, and isolation increases. Their sense of identity can dwindle a little bit, and their support network might decrease too. Suicide rates for men at a certain age are higher than for any other age group. One reason we started the podcast, to openly talk about the vulnerability of men and how we can counteract it by building a support network. Matthew believes that the way we are working in the future will be more fluid, e.g. we fluidly go from self-employed to employed to part time. As work becomes more flexible Mtthew believes the focus will not be on the employment status but on the work we can deliver, coming back to us all being treated as humans rather than merely “workers”. You can find Matthew on Linkedin or on Think Play Make you find his latest projects and articles he wrote. As a freelancer or self-employed, feel free to join Leapers.