Signs of anxiety to look out for in the workplace


Anxiety is a normal response to worrying situations and everyone is likely to feel moments of anxiety in their lives. However, when feelings of anxiety persist it can be hard for someone to control their worries and live their lives as normal.

Knowing what signs of anxiety to look out for in the workplace can help you to a) support someone in their time of need and b) prevent the anxiety from deteriorating into other mental health conditions.

Mental health conditions overall can be hard to spot since they affect people’s thoughts and emotions – however there are a number of physical and behavioural signs that might signal someone you work with is struggling with anxiety.

Signs of anxiety in the workplace:

  • Taking unusual amounts of time off work
  • Increased pessimism and lack of enthusiasm
  • Seeking constant approval and reassurance from managers and/or peers
  • Struggling to meet deadlines
  • Overreacting to comments or situations
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Change in eating habits
  • Forgetfulness

What can you do if you think someone is struggling with anxiety

Mental Health First Aid

If your workplace has a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA), this is a great person to mention your concerns to. Mental Health First Aiders have been trained to spot the signs of common mental health conditions in those around them but if they don’t work closely with the person affected they might miss them.

The MHFA can then start a conversation with the person to understand why they’re struggling and what next steps need to be taken.

Mental Health First Aiders are not currently a legal requirement for businesses but they have significant benefits.

Want to become a Mental Health First Aider?



Start a conversation

If your workplace does not yet have a Mental Health First Aider, you can start a conversation with the person who is struggling yourself. Often, the stigma attached to mental health prevents those suffering from reaching out for help – so by initiating the conversation yourself you may encourage them to open up. If you have a story of your own that you’re comfortable sharing this can be a great way to further reduce the stigma and encourage them to talk.

However, not everyone will want to talk to you so be careful to push or put pressure on them to open up. Simply let them know you’re there if they want to talk.

Ensure they take breaks

Anxiety can make people dwell on the negative parts of their life or job which only triggers more anxiety. So a good way to combat this is to help people take breaks to remove themselves from the anxiety triggers and focus on the things they enjoy.

It can be hard to enforce breaks at work, especially if it’s busy so you might want to try encouraging people to spend more time on the things they enjoy rather than trying to get them to spend less time dwelling on the bad. E.g. if the person enjoys reading, you could set up a book club amongst your colleagues to encourage more time reading outside of work rather than simply telling the person to stop thinking about the negative parts of their day.

Go for walks together

The effect that a walk outdoors can have on a person is amazing. The physical activity of walking (or doing any exercise) releases chemicals in the body that reduce stress, anxiety and depression while being outdoors has a whole raft of similar benefits triggered by increased daylight and exposure to plants.

Going on these walks together also ensures that the person will take a break from their day to do it as you’re holding them accountable. You may even find that they open up to you about their mental health during these walks being out of the office environment and away from their triggers.

Encourage them to seek support

If someone you work with is struggling with anxiety, encourage them to seek support from a mental health professional or organisation like Shawmind. Getting the right advice as early as possible can prevent mental health issues from deteriorating into a life-threatening situation.

There are several mental health organisations that offer a variety of services depending on a person’s needs. At Shawmind we have a Whatsapp number that anyone can use to get support alongside a selection of support groups including our Breathe Café and ManCave.

Important: you are not responsible for making sure a person seeks mental health support. All you can do signpost appropriate services and then leave it up to the individual to take it further.

Everyone is likely to struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives. Let’s make sure your business is able to help your employees when they’re struggling. Want more advice about looking after mental health in your workplace? Book onto one of our mental health training sessions or get in touch.



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What does mental health first aid training cover?

This April is Stress Awareness Month. With 55% of sick days in 2019/20 being directly attributable to workplace-related stress, anxiety and depression*, we wanted to look at one of the best ways to provide workplace support: by having mental health first aiders in your organisation.

To become a mental health first aider (MHFA) you need to attend an accredited course, there are several to choose from.

But what do you cover in mental health first aid training?

Knowledge of Mental Health Challenges

The first step to being able to help those in your organisation with their mental health is to have a thorough knowledge of the various mental health challenges that people face. Understanding exactly what mental health issues employees are struggling with (e.g. stress, anxiety or depression) can help you to build trust and provide appropriate support.

What factors affect mental health

Understanding what factors affect a person’s mental health and wellbeing can not only help you anticipate when someone is likely to be struggling based on their environment, but it can also help you to take preventative measures to protect their mental wellbeing in the first place. If you knew that the workforce was about to become stressed because of certain factors like deadlines or personal commitments – wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to help them?

Identifying signs of mental health struggles

Not everyone will feel confident enough to come to you when they are struggling with their mental health so you must know what signs to look out for. By being on the lookout for these signs you can reach out to people who haven’t yet talked to you and implement tactics in the workplace to protect their mental health from deteriorating further.

How to support someone struggling with mental health

Once you’ve identified that someone in the workplace is struggling with their mental health, a large part of your role as a mental health first aider is to provide initial support and guidance. In mental health first aid training, you’ll learn how to best support individuals based on the mental health challenges they are struggling with. You will also learn about the mental health first aid action plan that you can follow for each individual who needs help with their mental health, and how to work with your colleagues to develop a workplace wellbeing plan.

Enhanced interpersonal skills

Being a mental health first aider in the workplace requires you to have strong interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening. This course will help you develop those skills so that your employees and/or colleagues feel comfortable talking to you about their mental health and so that you feel confident providing support.

Resources & support for individuals

As a mental health first aider, you are the first point for support and guidance. For complex or long term mental health conditions you will likely need to signpost individuals to professional resources and support services such as helplines, GPs or private therapies. During your mental health first aid training, you will be educated about the various resources that are out there and when they would be the most appropriate next step for those in your workplace. These may also be guided by your company’s wellbeing policies.

How to look after your own mental health in your MHFA role

The adage “you cannot look after anyone else if you’re not looking after yourself” rings true for mental health first aiders too. ‘Everyone has mental health’ is one of the first things you learn on the MHFA course. Just like physical health. As a mental health first aider you will be taking on the challenges that everyone else in your organisation is facing which can be emotionally draining and stressful on top of your regular work responsibilities. Our mental health first aid training will teach you how to manage your own mental health and wellbeing while carrying out your MHFA role.


Want to become a mental health first aider? Book onto our next training


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How mental health affects education

NHS research suggests that 1 in 6 UK school children struggle with mental health. Mental health challenges make it difficult for children to achieve high grades, form friendships and make positive choices that can impact the rest of their lives.

Traditionally, educators have focused on improving ‘academic excellence’ – which of course is still a primary objective for schools. However, given how much of their lives children spend in an education setting, shouldn’t the focus also be on improving their overall wellbeing?

Mental health & academic performance

Many children actually achieve low grades because their mental health challenges cause:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of optimism
  • Difficulty sleeping

All of which makes it hard to focus on school work and put in their best effort. So if you want to improve grades, you need to make sure each child’s mental health is taken care of.

That’s not to say that only low-performing children are struggling with mental health – many high performing students struggle with stress, anxiety and other challenges brought on by their high workloads. These children are at risk of burning out or turning to risky methods of release such as substance abuse or gang-crime.

Mental health & behaviour

Children who struggle with their mental health can be prone to irritability, emotional outbursts, aggressive behaviours or boredom that leads to disobedience and disruption. Children exhibiting these behavioural issues are often punished with detentions or suspensions to reduce the risk of disrupting other students.

Behavioural problems caused by mental health challenges make it difficult for children to form relationships with their classmates – especially when school leaders separate them from the rest of the children.

Friendships and connections with classmates can improve academic performance, understanding of the subject, teamwork skills and self-esteem. Ideally, schools should work on children’s mental health challenges that are leading to behavioural problems in the first place before removing the children from what can be a highly-beneficial classroom setting.

Mental health & school attendance

For many children, struggles with mental health cause them to skip school or call in with physical illnesses. The stress and anxiety caused by workload, peer groups and social pressures can be overwhelming for anyone – let alone a schoolchild.

Similarly, the stigma that still exists around mental health problems can lead to bullying (or the fear of it) in children that have identified and acknowledged their mental health challenges.

If children don’t feel mentally well enough to attend their lessons in the first place, how are they meant to get an education?

How can schools help with mental health?

Spot signs of mental health struggles

Teachers spend a lot of time with children during the week, during that time they should be on the lookout for signs of mental health problems. Some common signs of mental health challenges in children are:

  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of confidence
  • Reduced socialising
  • Big changes in weight
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Frequent absences
  • Complaints of physical pain like headaches and stomach-aches

Reduce mental health stigma

To encourage children to come forward when they are struggling and to reduce bullying that occurs when they do, schools need to reduce the stigma around mental health. We have many guides and activities that you can use for children of all ages to help them understand mental health and start conversations without fear of judgement.

Trigger Publishing also have a great selection of children’s books to teach them about mental health.

Mental health training for teachers

With teachers expected to be the mental health first responder in the classroom, school leaders should make sure they train teachers in the basics of mental health to be able to more easily spot the warning signs and provide appropriate support.

Shawmind is dedicating itself to training 151,000 teachers by 2025 in the basics of mental health support at no cost to the school. That means we aim to equip mental health first responders who will reach 2.5-million school children. If you’re a teacher or school leader interested in mental health training, get in touch with us.

We need the support of local communities and businesses to help fund this training. It costs just £5 per child to train a teacher in the basics of mental health support – imagine the difference you could make by donating or booking one of our mental health training courses.


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Teachers’ journey throughout the pandemic

What was going through your head when the first lockdown was announced? I know my first questions were ‘How long will we be in this lockdown for?’ and ‘When will I be able to see my friends again?’ But then I realized there would be some people out there that had a lot worse things to worry about, ‘Will I lose my job?’, ‘Will I be able to pay my rent this month?’, so really, I didn’t have it bad at all. But after hearing about all the children being taken out of the classroom and thrown into online learning, my thinking changed: 

‘What did our teachers have to go through?’ ‘What was is like to be a teacher during the pandemic?’ ‘How did teachers manage their wellbeing during all of this?’


When the first lockdown was announced

I personally heard people say negative things about teachers when the first lockdown was announced, but I think those people may have been too quick to judge. We forget sometimes that teachers are human beings just like you and me. Teachers have fears, stresses, anxiety; and they have other family members to take care of too, just like everyone else. They also don’t work the standard 9-5 that people assume they do. They start early in the morning, finish sometimes late into the evening, and even then, they take their worries and stresses about their pupils home with them. For many, teaching is a calling and not just a job.

I spoke with head teacher Kelly MacKay who, in January, was dealing with flooding in her local area, on top of her duties as head teacher of a primary school. Then, shortly after the flooding chaos, she was hit with the lockdown announcement. As head teacher, the first thing Kelly had to do was prepare the staff and parents for the pandemic. Remote learning had to be put in place, parents had to be notified of the changes that would be taking place, at the same time Kelly still had to conduct her normal head teacher duties. 60% of primary school parents across the UK later reported that they were struggling with the remote learning, so getting this system working as smoothly as possible added to the stress and pressure that Kelly, like so many other head teachers, was placed under. Not only that, but also wellbeing training had to be put in place so that the teachers could still do their job effectively and stay well mentally and emotionally. Kelly’s school managed to provide their students with remote learning within one week of the announcement. Amazing!

Switching to remote learning

After speaking with author, part-time lecturer and former head teacher David Gumbrell, I have realized that one positive thing that came from the pandemic for teachers is that the relationships between themselves and other teachers became so much stronger. There was the realization that the connectedness between staff members was what made remote learning work. They had to be resilient and work together as a team to be able to do their jobs successfully.

I think I can speak for most people when I say we all have some sort of routine we each follow day in day out. Having a routine gives us feelings of safety and security. When teachers had to go from face-to-face learning to remote learning, a whole new routine had to be created for themselves and for their students. David came up with a strategy to break up his lectures while still providing work for his students. This was so important because the students were getting the education they needed as well as having breaks in between to support their wellbeing and carry on interactively with their class. Throughout the pandemic it is so important to create strategies and routines. One strategy David kindly shared with me was simple: self-compassion. He informed other teachers that they had to take care of themselves first to be able to help and teach their students successfully. Self-compassion is composed of three parts: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. These three parts mean that you are understanding and kind to yourself, you realize you aren’t the only one that feels pain and then overcoming your pain and suffering through mindfulness. Self-compassion is all about loving yourself through the pain and suffering you are feeling.

Preparation strategy

Many people have some sort of mental health related issue at some point in their lives, and teachers are no exception. So imagine how the pandemic has affected the number of those teachers who might have already been suffering with anxiety and stress for example, before the pandemic. The government provided funding for teachers to help their student’s mental health but, how are teachers supposed to provide their students with help when they themselves are struggling? We need to help our teachers with their wellbeing so that they can help their students – our next generation! It has been proven that children mirror the behaviours of their role models and those they spend a vast majority of their time with; we need our teachers to be happy and mentally & emotionally healthy so that children can mirror their positivity.

Adam Parkes, who specializes in teacher wellbeing kindly shared with me one of his strategies for helping teachers during the pandemic. He told the teachers that he works with to ‘visualize the worst-case scenario’. This may sound counter-intuitive, but everything else that then happens instead will seem like a bonus! And ‘Prepare to test positive for COVID-19.’ By following this advice, teachers could then plan and prepare to work remotely and would already have everything in place to carry on, should COVID strike.


Support our teachers

Steve Waters, a former teacher who is now working with schools to create strategies for teacher wellbeing, says that in a recent poll of head teachers in the UK, a staggering 47% said that they were planning to leave their jobs after the pandemic. We were already in need of teachers and the pandemic has now compounded the problem. It has really caused teachers to view their jobs in a completely different light. According to Steve, the way that schools and their results are being inspected during the pandemic really needs to be re-considered as it is driving our teachers to leave their jobs which will then have a massive negative impact on the education of our next generation.

As Adam Parkes said, ‘Don’t let our teachers feel like they are pawns in a game.’ Don’t forget that teachers are just human beings like you and me, they are going through the exact same stresses caused by the pandemic, that you and I may share, on top of giving your children and everyone else’s children the education they need and deserve.

Resilience, self-compassion, connectedness, kindness, flexibility, active listening and expecting the unexpected. These are all things teachers have had to learn and apply to their everyday life whilst still coping with the already-present stresses of the teaching. We need to support our teachers now more than ever!

Shawmind aims to train 151,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support over the next 5 years – you can help us achieve this goal!



Article written for Shawmind by Angelica Shaw

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The importance of looking after your wellbeing when you work from home

When the UK went into a national lockdown in March of this year, it’s probably fair to say none of us expected the impact would last as long as it has. Now in our second lockdown, we’ve returned to a familiar routine of staying at home and only leaving for essential reasons. As part of this, many of us have returned to our desks at home – if we even returned to the office in the first place.

Although there are numerous reasons we should be taking additional care of our mental wellbeing during this uncertain time, this article will focus on people working from home and the unique set of challenges that brings.

Of course, working from home has been positive. We’ve had more time to spend with our friends and family where possible, or time to prioritise health and exercise. Many of us have also been able to save the money we’d typically be spending on the daily commute.

Indeed, these are key reasons why 44% of workers plan to ask for permanent flexible working arrangements after coronavirus restrictions are fully lifted. The research, from Direct Line, also confirms that the pandemic is making employers think differently about their response to flexible working requests and their office space needs. That could be great news for any employees wanting to make the switch to home working.

But as you might have experienced during either of the lockdowns, there are some drawbacks too. It can be hard to find a balance between work and your home life, for example. It may be tempting to check your emails outside usual hours, or extend the working day. It’s easy to see how work can creep into the time you’re supposed to be spending relaxing or unwinding from the day. This is when it can affect your wellbeing.

And it is something which happened during the lockdown, with ONS data from April 2020 showing that 30.3% of employees at home worked more hours than usual.

With more people than ever potentially working from home, here are some of the ways you can look after your wellbeing:

Create a clear divide

If possible, have a designated space for working. Ideally this would be a room where you can shut the door – to keep out distractions while you’re working and to shut work away at the end of the day. But not everyone has the space to give up an entire room. Instead, you might have dedicated space in a quieter room of the house – somewhere you can tidy your laptop away at the end of the day.

The important thing is a clear divide between when you start your working day and when you finish it. Of course, some days you might do additional hours and this might have been something you did in the office too. But when it becomes a habit, it can affect your wellbeing. You need to be able to switch off in the evenings and have time to yourself.

Use a schedule 

If you need to be strict with yourself, create a schedule for the day. And be detailed – include times for showering and getting ready, as well as when you have a lunch break (away from your desk). Not only does this allow you to schedule in key tasks and meetings, but it ensures you don’t forget about essential day-to-day things you’d do without thinking if you were commuting to the office.

Bad habits are common for home workers, so you’re not alone if you’ve been staying in your pyjamas all day or skipping lunch. But pay attention to these habits and start to do something about them. A schedule is a great way of making you do things daily, turning those bad habits into good ones.

Take regular breaks 

How often do you take breaks when you work from home? In the office, natural opportunities for a small break from your screen occur quite often. Making hot drinks, someone coming over to your desk, bumping into someone else in the corridor or having a catch up after a meeting. Having your colleagues around might also encourage you to have a proper lunch break.

But at home – especially if you’re working alone – you have to create these opportunities to have a break yourself. It’s important for your productivity and to avoid burnout. You must allow yourself to have a break and you shouldn’t feel guilty for it.

Continue exercising and socialising where possible 

Although it’s tricky to predict what will and won’t be allowed at the moment, it is important to keep up exercise and socialising while you’re working from home. Exercise is as important for the mind as it is the body. Typical working from home positions are desk jobs, meaning you’re sedentary for most of the day. Getting up and moving – whether it’s a walk, run, online workout or yoga – is crucial. Some people even ‘walk’ to work by doing a lap around the block before they sit down at their desk.

As for socialising, people have been very creative in how they keep in touch with friends. If you can’t meet up in person yet, do plan some time to catch up with friends on the phone or online. Depending on who you live with, working from home can be quite isolating. You need to create opportunities to talk and socialise with other people.

How do you look after your wellbeing when working from home? Share your suggestions with us.



Article written for Shawmind by Mark Gray
Mark Gray is a freelance graphic artist and content writer from Berkshire, UK. He enjoys travelling, attending tech conferences, surfing, and gaming. He is also a newbie in the small business world but has big dreams in store for him.


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Relationships and Mindfulness in Quarantine

The current times are often described as unprecedented. Most of us have been presented with new experiences and challenges to overcome. It continues to be a time where our limits are tested. Not only does being in lockdown or quarantine challenge us personally, it can also challenge our relationships.

Mindfulness is something often recommended to help people re-engage with the present moment. While everyone has the potential to practice mindfulness, it is something you need to learn to do and keep doing to improve. It can bring awareness and caring into everything we do – so in these troubling times it can not only help us personally, but also in our relationships with others.

Being in a relationship in quarantine

You could have gone into lockdown with your partner, or ended up spending the time apart. Both situations may have their own challenges. If you’re apart, it’s hard to have the same quality time together. Video calls are a lifeline, but they are no substitute for real human contact. Although you miss your partner, you may find it difficult to fully communicate and connect with them.

But if you’re together, spending more time in the same space than ever before, you may end up arguing over little things. It isn’t surprising that difficulties arise as people figure out how to live and work together, perhaps without having the same hobbies and social interactions they would otherwise have outside the home.


How mindfulness could help your relationship  

Relationship problems are always common, and being in quarantine together makes these problems even more likely to occur. The stress and anxiety of dealing with the COVID-19 situation can take its toll on anyone’s mood, and this can easily create a tense atmosphere.

Mood swings already occur alongside mental health problems, and hormone imbalances such as low testosterone can also contribute to this. The stress of COVID-19 is likely to bring these symptoms to the surface, and make them even more intense.

You need a way to communicate and try to understand each other, including why the same disagreements keep happening. It’s not about “who’s right and who’s wrong”. It’s about understanding behaviour patterns, and influencing them for the better.

Whether these problems are new to your relationship or you feel at your wit’s end, mindfulness could help – especially during these challenging times – for the following reasons:

  • It helps us to be more attentive. With a focus on being in the present, mindfulness helps tackle the problem of being distracted – by phones, emails and so on. You learn to redirect attention to the current moment. That can really help partners listen to one another and feel more connected.
  • It can reduce your negative emotional reactivity. According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness for eight to ten weeks can change the brain’s regulation areas. It reduces the part which can send the brain into ‘fight or flight’ mode and inevitably cause problems.
  • It enhances self-awareness. When we spend more time in the present, we can learn about ourselves and observe our thoughts. It can help us identify earlier if we’re tempted to act out in unhealthy ways and then restrain this impulsive behavior.


Tips for mindfulness

The great thing about mindfulness is anyone can do it. It doesn’t require any special skills, or knowledge. Anyone can become a master!

You can do it while you’re eating, when you’re on a walk, or even just sitting still. To start practicing mindful meditation, sit quietly and focus on your breath. Begin to notice your thoughts, any feelings in your body and the things you can hear around you.

The idea is to focus back to the present if you notice your mind starts to wander elsewhere.

However you decide to start being mindful, the following principles apply:

  • Pay attention to how you feel – both physically and mentally
  • Accept those feelings, without judgement
  • Choose to return to the present when your mind wanders

Remember to always be kind to yourself. It’s natural for your mind to wander or distractions to take your attention away. You just have to learn to accept, observe and return. If you and your partner dedicate time each week to practicing mindfulness, you could start to see the rewards in the time you spend together as you become more aware, understanding and empathetic.

Mark Gray is a freelance graphic artist and content writer from Berkshire, UK. He enjoys travelling, attending tech conferences, surfing, and gaming. He is also a newbie in the small business world but has big dreams in store for him.


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Men’s Mental Health: be innovative in the way you adapt to the change in your circumstances

Men really don’t ask for directions, and most also don’t speak about the mental wellbeing challenges that they go through. Either we feel we don’t want to burden our partner, or we feel it’s weakness, or perhaps even just write it off to ‘tiredness’ or ‘normal stress’ that will pass… This is really unhealthy.

The pandemic has pushed a lot of us into new territory as we have had to come to terms with back-to-back online meetings, rapid-response emails, stuck hours on end in our ‘online prison’ as we’ve adapted to working from home and the time-saving tools provided by the lack of a commute. This was all good and well in March, when we first went into lockdown and we aimed to beat the virus in short order…

Then the reality set in: the virus is not going away any time soon, we are not going to be able to do the things we did in February; see the people we saw, see our relatives, travel and explore like we once did… Downward the mental health spiral.

It doesn’t need to be this way, as I was reminded the other day when speaking with a good friend of mine with a terminal illness, and reminded again last night during our ManCave session: we need to reframe our thinking about our current environment, about the situation we find ourselves in.

Here are some tools to do this:

Mindfulness, calming your noisy thoughts by learning to be present in the moment, to focus on the place and time you are at this very moment in time, is a very good way to learn to control negative thoughts.

Gratefulness: my terminally-ill friend told me about how grateful he is to have spent so much time with his kids and his wife, how lucky he feels for having had a career where he could have fun and travel the world – a very different perspective to being negative and bitter about his illness.

And finally, adapt your behaviour to these new circumstances and environment. Purposefully, mindfully, gratefully, let go of toxic things in your life – including toxic people. Work on those bad habits. Focus on what you can do to release the things that are holding you back or dragging you down.  Read more. Walk more. Talk more…and if you need to talk, we’re here to listen.

Peter Wingrove is the CEO of Shawmind

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From Broken to Balanced

How to Break Bad Habits Before They Break You

Many bestselling self-help books are about creating healthy habits. You may have read several of them such as ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People’, ‘Atomic Habits, ‘Tiny Habits’, ‘The Power of Habit’ or ‘Make Your Bed’.

Some also address how to break old unwanted habits. The combination of this freedom plus installing new desirable and sustainable behaviours is nirvana.

Over 40 per cent of our daily actions are habitual. Think of them as repeat responses (that have worked for us in some way in the past) that are automatically fired by our brains as a shortcut to success.

Sadly, your subconscious mind isn’t very subtle. Each day you are alive it regards that its job is done. That’s because we are wired via the primitive part of our brain, to simply survive to ensure that our species continues.

Now, with extended lifespans we want lives that are more nuanced. Lives that include being happy and fulfilled and the ability to feel good about ourselves and our choices.

So, when a ‘bad’ or undesired habit keeps cropping up we not only can find it hard to break but also suffer from feelings of failure that we can’t stop it.

It is like we are living our own personal Groundhog Day with recurring habits that can keep us in pain or hold us back. Culturally, we are then led to believe that if only we had more willpower then we would be able to change.

If ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ were true then all New Year’s resolutions would come true and everyone who went on a diet and has shown that they have the will to lose weight would do so. Permanently.

Sadly, experience has probably taught you that intention means nothing and these well-intentioned actions can be thwarted and you end up feeling worse than before. So, know this; it is NOT because you lack willpower or are weak willed.

Speaking consciously, it highlights the need to develop a proper mindset, framework and systems to create the actions and habits to enable you to succeed. Plus, a really compelling reason WHY.

According to neuroscientist Jud Brewer M.D., Ph.D., the secret to creating a habit that you can stick with is to become ‘enchanted’ with it.

He says that when we try new things we are, for a while, really enchanted with them. So, remembering how this feels and focusing on the “Bigger Better Offer (BBO)” of what that new habit will bring you (in other words the ‘why’ of doing it) is key.

While we regard people with good habits and successful lives as being highly self-controlled, research in this area indicates what they are really good at is understanding how situations influence our actions.

They create the right environment for desirable repeated actions. In addition, they eliminate friction and the temptation to fall back into an old familiar old pattern of behaviour.

In other words, they set themselves up for success. Rather like someone wanting to ‘Stay Sober for October’, they replace the habit of a glass of wine each evening with something else.

This could be a substitute for the wine that keeps the ritual of pouring it out.  So, they select their favourite wine glass, put some olives in a dish and then pour a chilled glass of Kombucha instead.

Success can also be achieved by distracting yourself at the key ‘trigger’ time. Subscribing to an online Pilates class at 7pm followed by watching a movie at 8pm for example will get you through the ‘temptation time’ when it was easy to reach for that habitual drink.

But are conscious actions enough? Wearing my therapist hat here, it is true that ‘will’ or willpower does reside at your subconscious level.

The prefrontal cortex creates and regulates logic, reason, willpower, voice, decision making and good judgment in the brain. It can regulate emotional responses because it adapts to solve problems (caused by the emotional responses of the subconscious).

This is why people talk about rewiring your brain.  Neural pathways (through the RAS or Reticular Activating System) are reinforced via repeated emotional responses that lead to actions, and those actions are founded on a few key factors.

Firstly, a trigger or a cue. This can be a conscious behaviour such as getting home and changing into your sweat pants and feeling the need to relax each evening.

Secondly there is a routine. And we can get into new ones quickly. Think of walking into a shop now and how you look for the hand sanitizer then apply some almost automatically.

Thirdly there is a reward.

The good news is that once you recognise the pattern that is no longer working for you, it can be broken. After all, if it is a really destructive behaviour you don’t want it to break you.

The frustration of vowing to change a behaviour (even if the behaviour isn’t physically unhealthy) and then failing repeatedly to do so can affect adversely your emotional wellbeing and self-esteem. The counter is to take control and here, to help you at any time, is a handy new HABIT:

H: Have the right environment to foster success

A: Avoid triggers or use diversionary tactics at times they appear

B: BBO – What is your Bigger Better Offer or reason WHY?

I:  Install new routines

T: Treat yourself as a reward for creating and maintaining a new habit

Rosalyn Palmer is a Transformational Coach and Therapist, author, columnist and broadcaster. She is Newark based and has an international teletherapy private practice as an Advanced Rapid Transformational Therapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and award-winning coach.

Rosalyn is the wellbeing expert on Radio Newark show Girls Around Town and for The Newark Advertiser. She features regularly on podcasts and in many publications for her easy to understand mental health advice.

As author of the award-winning self-help book: ‘Reset! A Blueprint for a Better Life’ she shares many of her own former challenges as a stressed-out MD of a leading London PR agency and then offers practical advice for readers to create more balanced lives.  Rosalyn is now also a co-author of Amazon No.1 bestselling self-help books ‘Ignite Your Life for Women’, ‘Ignite Your Female Leadership’ and ‘Ignite for Female Changemakers’.

A member of the National Council of Psychotherapists; General Hypnotherapy Register & Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council.

Formerly the MD/Founder of Award-winning PR agency RPPR, Head of Marketing for an International charity and Head of Insight for a T&D company, and with an enviable CV from leading London agencies in the 80s and 90s, Rosalyn has grown from many challenging life experiences. This colours and tempers her writing, broadcasting and speaking.

Rosalyn Palmer CC.Hyp. MPMH. ARRT.

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We are told to ‘switch off’ and ‘relax’ as business owners, but that’s easier said than done. Add in the backdrop of COVID-19 to the cocktail of commercial uncertainty, lockdown, personal mental health woes and a wider narrative of recession, it is not surprising we are in such a delicate mental position with a never-ending anxiety hangover.

Most business books I have read focus on the soulless faculties of an organisation; finance, operations, recruitment, supply chain management, HR etc, but very rarely do they focus on the critical element which drives businesses; the erratic, emotional, living and breathing souls that cannot be quantified on a spreadsheet – the people and their leaders. The entrepreneurs and risk-takers.

Behind every leader, is a person. Behind every person, a challenge. Personal problems. Sleepless nights and the inability to relax.

Are you reading this and relating right now?

If so, let me share something: I consider myself a high-functioning sufferer of anxiety and depression. My ‘A-type’ personality worked its proverbials off and rewarded me with a good old burn out. I had anxiety and CBT. I then had depression so had tablets. Then different tablets. Then psychotherapy. Hopefully closing in on some clarity and management techniques there; a story for another time.

Why am I telling you this? I’m hoping you can use this, maybe relate to it in your own way, and use the following as a framework, like I have, to manage your own mental health and ultimately improve your business thinking.

1. Think about what success means to you
What does it look like? It means something different to everyone. Getting by is a monumental achievement for some, and rightly so. Others always want more, and that drives them. It totally depends. Just remember this: do not compare yourself to your aspirational self, let alone others. You may have limitations and that is absolutely fine. Just play the best hand with the cards dealt.

2. There are no rules – really!
You set up a business. You lead your team. It is on you. The challenge and responsibility also gives you the freedom to shape your days. If you are on your own (or an aptly named solopreneur), then you can start late and work late. Take a Wednesday off but work Saturday. You are not working at a Henry Ford factory. Work how best suits your productivity and wellbeing. Regularly remind yourself why you set up in the first place and be true to that.

3. Relaxing does not necessarily mean doing nothing
So important to delineate this difference. I don’t do well being sedentary. Switching off is important (from day-to-day) but going from 60 to 0 I personally do not find easy. Idle minds are indeed the devil’s workshop. Sure, use the odd Saturday morning to do work if it is going to combat the Monday morning workload or stress, but don’t get pulled into reopening the laptop to ‘take care of the things bothering you’ (and I have to constantly remind myself of this). Make a commitment to read that book, take that walk, meet that friend for a coffee. It is relaxation at its finest.

4. Does your business reflect your mental health
The biggest driver of anxiety and depression can be a lack of alignment in values, or (more starkly for business leaders) when all the blood, sweat and tears does not translate to an output you necessarily wished for. You have to enjoy the output and it is important to get that cash for survival, particularly in these trying times, but input is also important. Especially if you are a former burnout like me, you HAVE to start enjoying the process, regardless of the outcome.

5. Give yourself time off
Every Tesla needs a recharge now and then. Even if 2020 does not afford you position to fly to a terrace and a poolside somewhere, make time in the local park, back garden or even lying on your bed/sofa to take time to empty your mind.

Whether it be meditation or podcasts, think of anything but the proposals you need to send next week. Books are a great way to slow the brain down, and fictional books are underrated for business people. They are a great way to increase your vocabulary and galvanizing your storytelling skills for your business! They also help you sleep. Sleep is a whole other topic, but get plenty of it!

6. Other coping mechanisms
Sadly, not all proactive hacks cut it, you just sometimes have to be able to react in the moment. Coping mechanisms and stress-busting techniques are essential, and the team at Shawmind have crafted a useful Mental Health at work guide which is worth the read.

Furthermore, in my Medium series Mental Health Pt2 goes into the self-employed hack of all hacks, thinking about journaling, and celebrating the small successes as well as filling up the future facing calendar.

7. Finally, sometimes it’s just luck
Good or Bad. The sooner you accept this the better. Some businesses will get acquired for doing little. Some will work tirelessly with the best product and sadly not see the other side of this pandemic.

There is a tragic asymmetry in the world that no business plan can fortify you against. This saddens me of course, and to counter this I have been reading a lot of stoicism; I often think of this quote by Epictetus, one of the leading stoic philosophers and lived very much a life of slavery, offered probably the most important advice for mental health the last 2000 years has offered:

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.”

Just remember this, no business plan in the world can fortify you against all headwinds, but with accepting that you do your best, make time to switch off, align your brand with values, and accept that rest is out of your control, you can sleep a little better at night and improve and maintain your mental health at the sharp end of business.

Simon Akers is a Shawmind Mental Health champion who has contributed here and on other mental health Magazines such as TinMan Online, MiHND and The Book of Man. He is the founder of Archmon, his marketing consultancy (his Monday-Saturday job) and also starred up The Busyness, a podcast on mental health which covers many of the themes in this article. Check it out!

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Join Us For a Chat this Autumn

Here at Shawmind we have lots of exciting events happening both in person and online between now and the end of 2020.

Here, our Project Coordinator, Hannah gives you the lowdown of what’s what, when, where, and how you can get involved!

Mindful Meander

Mindful Meander is a walking group based in Newark-on-Trent.

During lockdown, we received a number of calls for support from people feeling overwhelmingly isolated and lonely.

As restrictions eased, we launched a group that meets up for a wander round the local area, having friendly conversations and a bit of a laugh!

It’s great for meeting new people, finding support, and discussing any worries or concerns you have as the world begins to return to some form of normality.

All walks adhere to social distancing guidelines. Full details of what to bring with you can be found here.

When and where is it?

Groups meet up regularly during the week in Newark. Children and social dogs are welcome too!* (*at your own risk. We ask that pet owners take full responsibility for their animals whilst on the walk and Shawmind will not take any liability for injury caused to others or your pet during the course of the walk).

Sign me up!

If you want to come along to our Mindful Meander, please check out the next available date and register here.


ManCave is a monthly meet-up where men can come along and meet other guys who have or have previously experienced mental ill health.

It’s a great place to meet new people, open up about what’s going on in your mind and find help and support.

We also have a great guest speaker each month, who will talk openly about their struggles and how they’ve managed and overcome them. These guest speakers are often happy to answer any of your questions and have a chat to.

ManCave is usually held at The Turquoise Teapot in Newark, however, owing to COVID19 we have moved it online via Zoom, which means you can join in wherever you are in the world.

ManCave runs on the middle Wednesday of the month. Click here to register your free place.

Breathe Café

Our Breathe Cafés are hubs where people can come along and have a chilled-out coffee and a chat.

Our team are on hand to discuss any issues you may be having with your mental health, and signpost you to appropriate guidance and support.

The Breathe Café’s are also a great way to meet other people who understand your feelings, and provide a relaxed, social environment. We also offer the “breakout room” facility too, so if you want to discuss something with one of our volunteers in confidence, let them know and you can zoom into the virtual meeting room.

When and where is it?

Pre-COVID19, our cafes ran locally in and around Newark, however, since then we have moved them online via Zoom, which means that you can now access support wherever you are in the country, from the comfort of your own home.

Sign me up!

Join the conversation, find support and meet new people at our Breathe Café, click here to register.

World Suicide Prevention Day

On Thursday 10th September 2020, we hosted FREE online Suicide Awareness Training for all, which was hosted on Zoom and Facebook LIVE.

Lasting just an hour, the session was short yet extremely informative and provided lots of information on how to spot signs of distress, and how to approach people who may be considering suicide.

Click here to view the session via our YouTube channel.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

From Thursday 10th September 2020, Shawmind invited people to take part in its month-long activity to encourage gentle exercise, raise funds and increase awareness around suicide, mental health and wellbeing.

The campaign, Walk a Mile in My Shoes, aimed to get people thinking -and most importantly- talking to one another about mental health and emotional wellbeing while they walked a mile between World Suicide Prevention Day (10th September) and World Mental Health Day on 9th October.

People simply headed out for a walk, on their own or with family or friends (whilst maintaining current social distancing guidelines) logged their walk on an app, such as Strava, and uploaded a photo to social media page, tagging three friends to then do the same.

Search the hashtag #WalkAMileInMyShoes to see their posts!

Although this campaign finished officially on the 9th October, there’s no reason why you can’t still take part. Simply follow the instructions above and get walking!

TIP: You can also use our Mindful Meander group to get your mile in, whilst having a natter and a laugh at the same time!

The campaign has raised just shy of £3,000 to date.

World Mental Health Day

This World Mental Health Day (9th October), Shawmind hosted a Teacher Wellbeing Panel discussion with individuals with a teaching background, looking to raise awareness for the need for more mental health training and support in schools for teachers.

Teachers are at the forefront of children and young people’s mental health and it is vital that they receive suitable training that enables them to provide the appropriate support for their students.

During the panel, we discussed the need for this training, areas for concern, and gave people the opportunity to ask questions around mental health within schools.

You can view the panel discussion now on our YouTube channel.

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