I’m so happy to have guest Aimee Browne here with us today! As assistants we are used to putting others’ needs first. Aimee started an inspiring new platform that was designed to help us think about our own wellbeing. Read on to learn more!
CH: Hi Aimee, I’m excited to have you here today! Could you please share your background?
AB: Thank you so much for having me! So great to have the opportunity to spread The Mindful Assistant message. Starting my career back in 2001 as an Office Junior, I have worked my way up the career ladder. I have worked in a number of industries but my true love is retail. After just over seven years at Next I’m currently a C-Suite Executive Assistant at The Works Stores. The Works floated on the stock market shortly after my start in the business so I really had to hit the ground running!
CH: I know you recently created a lovely new platform for assistants. Could you please tell us about it as well as your inspiration?
AB: I have indeed and the response has been amazing, which is telling in itself! I have experienced struggles with mental health over the last couple of years: a burnout, severe anxiety, panic attacks, and, more recently, depression. As assistants we remain cool, calm, and unflappable. When I first started to experience anxiety, I buried it deep and tried so hard to disguise it; I needed to be the smiling face of my executive/department/company. As assistants we are the ‘go to’ and have everything under control. I couldn’t possibly tell someone I was dying inside. I felt so weak and hopeless, why couldn’t I cope? In our roles, we are quite often the only assistant in the business and due to our privileged position can find ourselves becoming an island. I felt so alone, not feeling able to open up to anyone. I want The Mindful Assistant to give assistants a safe place, a community to speak openly about how they are feeling, and to give them the confidence to seek help. I also want to educate assistants about wellbeing and self-care so hopefully they never have to experience mental health struggles. We are taking care of our executives. We go home and take care of our children, our partners, our friends, our family. And we come last. I think it’s time to normalise the conversation. It’s time to start taking care of us - first!
CH: Your first post about “Who’s taking care of you?” really stood out to me. It made me think about how there’s been many times when I’ve put others’ needs above my own and my wellbeing suffered. Do you think this is a common problem in our profession? And do you have any advice to help assistants who struggle in this area?
AB: I can only gauge by the response I have had since I have started The Mindful Assistant and unfortunately, I think it is. As assistants we have traits that demand control, we strive for perfection, we work at a fast pace, our minds race ahead always trying to pre-empt the possible Plan B and C - these are to name just a few! All these things are second nature to us. How do we deal with things that are out of our control, a small mistake, when we can’t switch our overworking brains off when we go to bed at night, rushing around the house as fast as we do our office? It sounds exhausting, right? My advice is to, of course, follow my pages which have lots of helpful tips and posts to make you think differently about your current lifestyle. I have been overwhelmed by the mass of support and feeling of community from fellow assistants! Find some supportive, safe people in your workplace and home life that you can confide in. Look at what sparks joy for you and do more of it. Be kind to yourself. Really be kind to yourself; this is the most important foundation! Give yourself compliments, reflect on your achievements each day or week, and express gratitude. It starts with you! Be mindful, be present, and use your senses to enjoy every single day. No one can change overnight and you don’t want to give yourself another stick to beat yourself with. Just start; little steps will build over time, and you will find what works for you and what fits into your life.
CH: Those are very helpful tips - thank you, Aimee! Turning the focus on you, what activities do you like to do to help your own sense of wellbeing and self-care?
AB: I have built up a few but it has taken a lot of time to see what works for me. I meditate, not every day, but mainly when I am in my busiest weeks at work. I spend as much time outdoors as I can, walking, reading, and running. Preferably in pretty places of nature, really being mindful as I go. My followers and I practice gratitude on Instagram stories, saying which three things we are grateful for that day. As assistants we do a crazy amount of tasks in a week - building presentations, running events, contributing in meetings, etc. - so it’s really important we sit back and reflect on these achievements and give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back. Rushing in the mornings is a particular trigger of anxiety for me so I now wake 30 minutes earlier (no snooze button) just so I can slowly get ready. I also make sure I prep food that I know will make me feel good throughout the day. These are just for starters! There are lots of small, simple things that you can craft into your day.
CH: Mindfulness is a big theme of your page. What does mindfulness mean to you, especially being an assistant?
AB: Mindfulness to me is checking your speed limit and slowing things right down, really tuning into your senses. Mindfulness gives us an awareness of how we are feeling and an opportunity to assess our feelings and thoughts. How many of us can’t wait till Friday or until their next holiday? What about today?! We are speeding through life at the detriment of our health.
CH: I love how you are so positive about Mondays in your posts, although those are often the most hectic days for assistants. Do you have any tips on how to start the week off with such a great mindset?
AB: I agree, Mondays are madness, but I think we thrive on the madness!! What is the alternative? Monday comes around every week. If you go to the default negative Monday mindset, how is it ever going to be a good day? How miserable. Even if you are not feeling it inside, choose happiness, choose to want to make it a good day. I love my weekends but I also love my job. If you don’t, maybe it’s time for a change! I challenge you to write yourself a happy Monday note next to your bedside table next week and start the day the right way.
CH: I love your happy Monday note idea - I’m going to remember that one! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AB: I would encourage anyone that might be struggling or fearful of reaching out for help that only positives can come from it. It’s hard, I know, but this will pass. You can feel better and find an emotional state of freedom. I am living proof. You can still be an ambitious, inspiring assistant and have struggles with mental health; don’t let this hold you back.
CH: Thank you so much for being here today and for bringing light to such an important topic, Aimee!
AB: Thank you again for having me and helping me share the message.
Aimee Browne is an Executive Assistant at The Works Stores in Birmingham and also heads up the Charity Partnership with Cancer Research UK. She recently launched an online platform, The Mindful Assistant, to support and engage with other PAs, EAs, and office support professionals to promote wellbeing and self-care in the workplace and profession as a whole. #whostakingcareofyou
You can connect with Aimee on the following platforms: