The Battle for the Mind

I’m in a street fight with Depression and it fights dirty, using all the sneaky tricks it can. It knows they work – they’re tried and tested on millions of people daily. I’m going to need a strategy, a battle plan to defeat Depression or at least push it back from its control of my mind.

Here are some of Depression’s favourite tactics:

  1. Isolate – Depression loves you to be alone, to think you’re the only one in the world who’s suffering, so it persuades you to withdraw, cutting you off from your vital support network. Texts from friends and family remain unopened, calls unanswered, get-togethers cancelled. You find yourself gagged and silenced by shame.
  2. Ruminate – Depression wants you selfishly all to itself so you can spend hours upon hours reliving ‘mistakes’ you’ve made, swallowed up in negative thoughts that churn in your head, looking for solutions that are always out of reach and ungraspable.
  3. Deflate – Depression wants you to remain stuck, immobile, joyless. There’s no way it wants you to do anything that could possibly help you lift yourself out of the rut. Exercise? Meditate? Cook? No chance. ‘You’re too tired,’ Depression slyly tells you. It loves to disrupt and create chaos so any form of routine or structure is a big ‘no-no’. Depression hates order and ideally wants you up all night and in bed all day. It loves it when you’re tired – so much easier to keep a hold of your mind in its vice-like grip. It will disrupt your sleep and enter your dreams.
  4. Self-hate – Depression drips poison into your ear, fueling self-critical thoughts: “You’re weak,” it whispers, “You’re useless, you can’t do it, you can’t cope”. Drip, drip, drip constantly until you believe the incessant lies.

Well, f*** you, Depression! I’ve got a plan – a counter-attack – and these are just some of the weapons I will use to defeat you:

  1. Staying connected – I’ll not hide away as you want me to, I’m going to keep in touch with and family, join peer support groups, be open about you and my fight against you. I’ll not be silenced.
  2. Being mindful – I know how helpful it is to practice being in the present moment, catching my thoughts when they veer into the past or future and gently bringing them back to the present without judgment. I’ll even try sitting with difficult thoughts and accepting you and your sidekick Anxiety, rather than constantly trying to push you both away – you’ll really hate that as it’ll rob you of your destructive power.
  3. Re-introducing helpful, enjoyable activities – I’ll walk the dog, do some gardening, have a bath, watch a comedy, play with my daughter, go for that run – even if it’s only for five minutes. I’ll move again, sing again, laugh again. I’ll find joy and light to defy your Darkness.
  4. Practicing self-compassion – I’ll speak to myself with kindness and understanding, as I would to a good friend. I’ll not compare myself with others (either positively or negatively) knowing that ‘Comparison is the Thief of Joy’. This will in turn help me to be compassionate to others – the many others – who are also struggling in this uncertain world. Because we have strength in numbers and the more we shed light on you and your underhand tactics, the weaker you will become.

You want a fight, Depression? Well, bring it on!

Fabian Devlin is co-author of men’s mental health book Big Boys Don’t Cry? with Patrick Addis, which has 60 stories and over 200 tips on how to stay mentally healthy from men with lived experience of mental illness. Order a limited paperback copy by emailing (£10 + £2 postage). 10% of proceeds will go to mental health charities CALM and Sport in Mind.

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Not Sleeping on the Job: an Event Manager’s Top Tips for Resting

If I wanted a 9-5, Monday-Friday routine then I definitely picked the wrong career.

Working in events means that yes, some of my year is spent in the office working on budgets and schedules and other things that require much excitement with Excel, but a big part of my working life is spent on site, where 12-14 hour days are the norm, and 16-18 hour days are not uncommon. On those days, ‘sleep’ is something other people have.

I know it’s not healthy. It’s not something I’d recommend but it is par for the course in my industry, so over the past 15 years, I’ve had to find ways of looking after myself as best as I can for the times when I know sleep will be in short supply.

Here is what I’ve learnt:

  • You can’t ‘store up’ or ‘catch up on’ sleep. Sleeping for 12 hours the night before or the night after you sleep only for four hours does not average out and give you the same benefit as two lots of eight hours’ sleep. In fact, it will often make you feel worse. I try and get as many nights of ‘normal’ sleep as I can before I go to site (‘normal’ for me is around seven hours), and I try to resist sleeping in when I get home again. It might seem counter-intuitive, but actually, if I’m away for 4 days, and then spend another 4 days sleeping for longer, all I’m doing is doubling the period of time that my sleep is out of its normal routine.
  • Another factor of being on site is sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings. This can sometimes be luxury hotels (happy days), sometimes a Premier Inn or Travel Lodge (fine – at least you know what you’re getting) but more often than not, for me it’s a tour bus. Trust me, you haven’t known insomnia until you’ve slept in close proximity to a bunch of smelly, snoring men. Ear plugs are essential.
  • Eat and drink well. It’s all too easy to survive on junk and sugar when you’re running around – a can of fizzy juice here, a chocolate bar there. Before you know it, you’ve turned into a walking carb, your blood sugar levels are all over the place and you feel like a heap of crap. Drink water until you think you could sink the Titanic. Try and go for protein where you can (you’ll often find me with a bag of almonds stashed in a pocket somewhere). Avoid overdoing it on the alcohol at the end of the day – however tempting it is, even one glass will make it harder to get up the next day.
  • Be kind to your body. My team (and my clients!) are pretty used to walking into a production office and finding me bent over into a forward fold to get the blood flowing or loitering on a step whilst I stretch out achy calf muscles. Taking those few minutes during the day can improve how you feel when you wake up the next day, ready to do it all again.
  • Recognise that even when you know sleep isn’t plentiful, you can and should still grab moments of rest where you can. I’ve been known to take unnecessary bathroom trips so I can go and sit down in peace and quiet for five minutes. I still always have my phone with me so I can be reached if needed, but just having a few minutes where I’ve stopped can make all the difference.
  • Learn what helps you wake up, whether first thing in the morning or at another point in the day when you feel yourself flagging. For me, my morning routine will always involve eye drops to stop tired, stinging eyes and a Berocca dropped into my first bottle of water of the day.
  • Lastly, sleep deprivation can make it hard to make decisions, to rationalise and to think clearly. If you’re working in an already pressurised environment, don’t give yourself extra pressure by forcing yourself to make decisions quicker than you have to.

My final tip is to wash your bedding and re-make your bed before you go away because nothing, and I mean nothing, will feel better than the feeling of getting into fresh sheets on your own bed when you finally make it home after a crazy few days.


Thanks to our guest blog writer, Harriet for sharing her story and top tips with us. We hope it equips you to deal with a lack of sleep more effectively.

Having trouble sleeping? Why not read through the Sleep Foundation website for tips and advice?

Is something worrying you and leading to a lack of sleep? Come and talk things through with us, we’re here to listen. Check out our Breathe – In It Together page on Facebook to find out when our next sessions are running, or get in touch with us via our contact page.

Need to speak to someone urgently? Call the Samaritans on 116123.

If you are worried about how your lack of sleep is affecting your mental health, book an appointment with your GP.

Harriet Grace has worked in events all her working life and has been running Accept Management since 2012. Major clients include the Grand National and Epsom Derby and she has additionally worked across events including the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, British Summer Time at Hyde Park and many more.

When she’s not working, you’ll find her walking her boxer dog, Tia, playing netball or chilling out with a box set.

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Shawmind Supports Teacher Wellbeing

Preparations are under way as we plan to host a specialist wellbeing panel as part of a week-long festival led by Teachers Come First.

On Friday 9th October,  just ahead of World Mental Health Day (10th October), we will welcome a collective of education and wellbeing specialists from across the country to an online panel discussion, which will be chaired by the charity’s CEO Peter Wingrove.

Kelly Forrest Mackay, Head Teacher and pioneer of the new mental health curriculum in Wales; Elizabeth Williams, Chair of Mindfulness Wales; Victoria English, Shawmind Mental Health training partner; and Adam Parkes, Shawmind Champion, former Head Teacher and CEO of Parkes Education, will sit on the panel and answer questions put to them by participants.

Topics to be discussed will include: Having the courage to change the status quo; Mindfulness as a strategy for teacher wellbeing; Lessons learned from working with schools to implement wellbeing culture; Finding the time for self-care; and Teacher mental health training.

There will also be opportunities for attendees who register to participate to ask the panel questions.

Teachers, Head Teachers and teaching support staff have been invited to attend the free session which will last for an hour after school from 4pm on Friday 9th October.

Peter Wingrove, CEO of Shawmind, said: “Our successful 2017 Headucation campaign ultimately resulted in children’s mental health education becoming mandatory in schools from this year, but teacher mental health appears to have been neglected. We are working hard to address this through a series of initiatives including teacher basic mental health training.

According to a recent poll conducted by the National Governance Association (NGA), more than 51 per cent of staff governors believe their schools are not “effectively addressing” workload and wellbeing issues.

Panel speaker, Adam Parkes, CEO of Parkes Education, said: “We cannot successfully invest in student mental health, without accepting the need to improve staff wellbeing first. We cannot expect to deliver a successful wellbeing curriculum, if the teachers charged with doing it are, themselves, struggling with their mental health.

Teachers or teaching support staff who are interested in taking part in the panel discussion or asking a question can join the Zoom meeting here:

Anyone who is unable to take part in the discussion live will be able to watch a recording on the charity’s YouTube channel:

The Teacher’s Wellbeing Panel is the first event in a week of activities, which will also involve short videos from some of the panel plus other special guests from the wellbeing sector. The videos will be hosted on the Shawmind YouTube channel.

The week culminates in the online Teachers Come First #tcfc20 Conference delivered by Teachers Come First and Positively Empowered Kids.

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