Uncategorized

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

Read more

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.

Read more

CONFESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM THE SELF-EMPLOYED

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!

Read more

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

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.

Read more

Supporters Sought for Second Newark Sleep Out

During Homelessness Awareness Week (5th – 11th October), Shawmind began inviting supporters to take part in the second annual Newark Sleep Out.

Launched by Newark and Sherwood District Council’s Housing Options team and sponsored by local estate agents Buttercross Estates, the Newark Sleep Out involves local people spending the night outside in the elements, to experience something of what it is like to be homeless.

For the first time the Newark Sleep Out, which is due to take place overnight on Friday 12th March 2021, will involve participant’s bedding down for the night in their own gardens, owing to predicted Covid19 restrictions.

To enable the event to go ahead, organisers will encourage sleepers to build their ‘bashes’ in their private, secure gardens and tune into a range of information about homelessness via Zoom on the night.

Daniel Otton, Managing Director at Buttercross Estates, the event sponsor, said: “As a letting agent, we see far too many cases of homelessness and I know it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We are sponsoring Newark Sleep Out 2021 to help raise funds for the local charities that support those affected by homelessness.

“The charities involved, now more than ever, need our support to continue the great work that they do and we would urge you get involved with the sleep out by signing up, or supporting those that have.

“I’m disappointed that we won’t be able to host a sleep out where people can come together for an evening of education and fundraising, but hopefully by taking this online and inviting people to join in from their own homes, we’ll be able to welcome many more people to take part.”

Analysis released in February 2020 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government revealed a total of 4,266 people were deemed to be sleeping rough in England on a single ‘typical’ night in autumn 2019.

The report also revealed that the overall number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by 55% in the last five years.

The charities due to benefit from the funds raised on the night include the Winter Night Shelter, Newark Women’s Refuge, Newark Emmaus Trust and mental health and wellbeing charity, Shawmind.

Su Hallam, Charity Manager at Shawmind, said: “Mental health can be both a cause as well as a consequence of homelessness. And I’m hopeful that by putting themselves in the same position, participants will gain a greater understanding and empathy for the homeless community of Newark and Sherwood.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the nighttime event can register his or her place on the Newark and Sherwood District Council website here: https://www.newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk/housing/sleepout/

More information, including how to collect donations, which will be split equally between the charities involved, will be issued to those who register in the next few weeks.

Read more

Progress vs. Perfection: The Healthy Way to Achieve Your Goals

The word perfect originates from 13th Century France meaning “consummate state or form, that degree of excellence which leaves nothing to be desired”.

Nothing to be desired…

We all strive for happiness and positivity in our lives; no matter how or what this manifests itself as. It is true, we ALL seek perfection of some kind.

Perfection is something I do not strive for, because in a world where everything is ‘perfect’… would we even exist? Would there be disparities in our identity and who we are? Would we all be the same if there was just one idea of what ‘perfect’ means?

For me, as a high-functioning autistic person; I see perfection as something VERY far out of my reach; not only because of my disability, but because of my mental health and how I see myself and position within the world.

This is because I see my life experiences as occasions and events that have helped to shape who I am, how others see me and how I adapt to an ever-changing world.

Progress is more important to me than perfection. Being able to set a goal and work towards it; but know that is challenging yet achievable at the same time.

Nothing is impossible, but when we seek perfection- we often find ourselves fixated on just those steps- and forgetting about what truly maters to us in our lives.

Positioning yourself in a world that is constantly evolving can be tough- especially as we are not JUST our name or our location, our gender identity, our career, our social ‘status’… we are SO much more. We are not just labels.

When you have mental health challenges it can be especially important to not dwell on perceived ‘imperfections’ as this can lower confidence and lead to negative behaviours and emotions. I know this is true as in the past I have sought so-called perfection and turned to self-destruction as a result.

I have learnt to accept the imperfections as parts of me that are progression points- things that make me human. The labels assigned to me are irrelevant and I try my best to focus on shaping my own identity.

To help me with this, I have found it useful to adopt a growth mindset. Where everybody is striving for perfection; I try to strive for progress instead.

To see those difficult times as moments I can move on from, shape, change mould and reform myself as someone who tries their best to face any challenge head on.

This does not necessarily mean having the confidence, but having the desire to see a change, to work towards goals but constantly reset those goals when you eventually reach them.

So, on World Mental Health Day, if you take anything from this short blog post… remember to:

  • Focus on what you are good at and do more of it
  • Find what you enjoy and do more of it
  • Perceived faults and imperfections DO NOT define you

Claud is a creative educator, theatre artist and mental health and disability advocate with a passion for inspiring others to reach their potential.

Read more

Eleven Ways to Overcome Stress Right Now

We are under unprecedented levels of stress as a society. Even before the C word we were experiencing a stress epidemic.

Stress is self-inflicted (sorry!) when you are trying to doing something that does not come to you naturally. You try and be someone else. You don’t believe in yourself and you think that you’re not enough. Or when you are measuring yourself against a set of goals, rather than by everything that you have already achieved.

We have been programmed to feel success or a failure, based on hitting targets, working too hard and whether we can do it without burning out. No wonder we are stressed!

Celebrate everything that you already are. Your challenges, your obstacles and every time you’ve got back up. Know that you are successful right now and you always will be.

Identifying Stress

I’m no techie but more when I look at my website stats, more people are looking for tips on reducing stress and the symptoms of stress.

There is relentless pressure on us to perform as a parent, an employee, colleague and friend.

We spend most of our time comparing ourselves to other people or trying to keep up with those who we think have got what we want.

The last few months have put a huge strain on our emotional and physical wellbeing, which, if it isn’t managed, can cause long term health problems and affect our mental health.

Here are my top tips for getting through tough times or just getting a sense of balance in your life at this crazy time.

Starting Your Day the Best Way

It’s one of the sure-fire ways to make sure you and your team have the best day. You wake up, set the intention of ‘this is one of the best days of my life!’  and ‘I am going to be positive all day long’. Watch your amazing day unfold.

Practise Mindful Listening

Whether it’s a team member or peer, give your full attention to the conversation and rid yourself of any distractions. Knowing what you should be doing and not missing out on vital information makes for a productive, stress free day.

Take Regular Mindful Breaks

Use every opportunity to bring yourself back to the present. Get up and grab a coffee, nip to the toilet, walk from meeting to meeting and take a proper lunch break.

Practise Kindness and Compassion

Avoid getting drawn into office gossip and tittle tattle. See each person without judgement and with their own story. Remind yourself that you are all looking for happiness, health and a stress-free life.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

We all like to multi-task and think we’re being more productive, but did you know you are 50% more likely to make mistakes and you will actually achieve less.

Catch Your Thoughts at Any Moment

If your thoughts are negative think of something positive. Think of what you are grateful for, how far you’ve come or about something you’re looking forward to. Making for a happy more positive day reduces stress and is contagious.

Practise Mindful Breathing

If you feel yourself getting stressed then take a few deep breaths and then notice your breathing for a few minutes. This will help bring you into the present and will help you feel calmer.

Talk Through the Issue with Someone You Know

A friend, family member, colleague or a helpline if you need to. Make use of an Employee Assistance Programme if you have one. Just sharing what’s happening can give you a different perspective and once you have shared, a problem often doesn’t seem so bad.

Make Sure That You are Building in Time

Spend some time doing the things that you enjoy doing. Exercise, hobbies, sport, crafts or getting involved on your community. Having ways to switch off, tune out or focus on something else are all ways of helping to manage your emotional resilience.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Switch off the laptop and phone and put them out of reach. Protect the time that you want to spend with family and friends and don’t let work and life overlap.

Prioritise Your Self-Care

Do whatever it takes to put yourself first. Book time off, say no to things you don’t want to do, make a homemade spa, enjoy a bar of chocolate, get away from it all. Looking after number one is not selfish, it’s essential.

Right now, you need you.

If you’ve enjoyed this resource, you will love 10 ways to overcome Imposter Syndrome.

Louise Hallam, Still Calm

After working in the corporate world for 25 years but feeling like I never really fitted in, I started my own business and finally started to feel as though I was doing the right thing.

After a chance meeting, in the past 18 months I have been working with a spiritual mentor, who has awakened my true potential and purpose. I have unlocked wisdom and healing modalities, which are in my DNA. This has resulted in a powerful combination of services to provide to those in the highest level of management who are struggling to get a sense of self, want to connect to their soul purpose and work with, rather than against, their energy and emotions.

My unique gifts and skills enable me to free people from the things that have held them back from living their true potential. Where they see limits, I only see limitless.

My little bit of genius is that I see things in people that other people can’t. It’s what I have experience in and it’s what I’m known for.

During lockdown I have also been channelling wisdom on conscious leadership, which is guiding principles for leading for humanity and people rather than profit.

Read more

Therapy Myths Busted

Let’s take a moment to consider Sigmund Freud, the so-called father of psychotherapy. A quick image scan on Google provides many images – most of which are similar; a stoic man, wearing a three-piece suit, with a pocket watch and a cigar.

Following a first counselling session with a client, I always ask the same question: Am I different to how you expected me to be? The answer – in most cases – is: Yes, I thought you’d be wearing a suit. Do people expect their counsellor to be more Sigmund, and is it a relief when they are not?

There are many other names that have influenced the world of psychotherapy, but Mr. Freud is the one who – more often than not – springs to mind. And for men particularly, if they are not expecting me to be a cigar smoking, suited therapist, they expected me to be a free-loving, sandal wearing hippy. None of which come close!

I can understand why people have skewed ideas as to what ‘therapy’ is. It is only recently, that people have begun to accept that mental health is a real thing and it’s okay to speak out about it.

Statistically 60% of men say they would discuss their mental health, but only with their partner; that is a great start but why is there a reticence to hold back on talking to a professional? Can you imagine breaking an arm and only telling your partner?

Let’s blast some the reasons why men particularly, don’t want to discuss their mental health:

1 – I’m too embarrassed I totally get this. If you have been brought up to think mental health isn’t a thing and men don’t suffer with emotional issues, then it will be embarrassing to consider help.

Let me tell you, I have seen some of the toughest, biggest, hardest men you could possibly meet, cry during their first counselling session.

When I am working with men who let their emotions go, all of them say afterwards how good it felt to be free of whatever they were holding in.

2 – I don’t wish to burden anyone. So how far do you go with that broken arm? Does it need to be hanging off before you’ll get it checked out?

Going to see a counsellor is as much of a burden as taking yourself to a walk-in clinic to have your arm put in plaster.

Whether you are referred to an NHS service, a charity specialising in a particular area of support, or choose a private practice, you’ll be seen by a counsellor who will listen.

You don’t burden a bus driver, a bank clerk, a fire fighter, a barber… you are not a burden; you just need the services of someone who is trained to facilitate your needs.

3 – There is a stigma regarding about talking about mental health.

There certainly was a stigma, particularly with older generations. In WWII, airmen who were exhausted, anxious and plagued with depressing thoughts were tagged with the label lacking in moral fibre.

Employers after the war refused to take on anyone with such ‘degrading’ credentials, so it’s easy to see why no one wanted to open up. And this fear and caution toward mental health has been passed down from generation to generation.

We have the Royals’ to thank for change – Princes William and Harry have been open about sharing their experiences both in conflict and at home.

Whilst this doesn’t help anyone who is concerned about how their friends and family may view them if they reach out for help, I offer this assurance: No one but you and your counsellor need know about your sessions or issues raised within, they will be private and confidential.

4 – I don’t want to admit a weakness. It’s okay to feel unsure about yourself. The contradiction in life is that people will view you differently to how you view yourself.

When a child looks up to an adult, they do so in awe. They don’t see the cracks, they see pioneers and influencers.

When an adult looks toward an adult, they more often than not see another person surviving in an uncertain world.

Doubt is an internal feeling; no one can see or touch it, yet it still impacts on how we present ourselves and operate in the environment we live and work in.

Counselling will help you to change your perspective – your frame of reference, so you no longer identify as weak, but as experienced with positive growth ahead.

5 – I’ve learnt to deal with it.

Brilliant, that shows resilience – and that’s a good thing. The mind can play funny games though; have you dealt with it, or are you in denial?

You may go for years thinking you have overcome something you felt very deeply about, only to find the door to that part of your mind has suddenly been unlocked again.

That’s no weakness, just a reaction in the here and now. Talking about it again will help you review your perspective, so you can accept it in a way which satisfies you.

Now we know what is holding people back, let’s focus on the perception of what counselling is – or isn’t. The word itself is far from clear; the term therapy and counselling are one of the same – a little like actor and performer.

In this case, the provision of professional assistance focussing on psychological issues.

Unlike what the dictionary may say, a counsellor does not give advice – nor has an agenda, or directional control of the relationship. Your counsellor will have every confidence in you to dig deep and share your fears and concerns, so that with positive support and reflective discussion you’ll find your light-bulb moment. This will help you realise new thoughts, ideas and actions.

Whilst this might sound passive, a counsellor will be focussing on what is being said – or not said, and concentrating on implied meanings and body language – subtle junctures allowing for deeper discussion.

Imagine your brain as a suitcase; your counsellor will help you take everything out and sort what isn’t needed, then work with you to neatly pack your clothes back so you have more space for more things.

A counselling session is completely, 100 percent, unequivocally confidential.

Do your homework to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with, so that during a session you can off-load with confidence – and be assured that whatever you say will remain in the room.

You’ll not know how comfortable you’ll be until you speak to a counsellor, so pick up the phone and have a chat before you commit.

Finding the confidence in you to overcome your own objections and make that call, will be the hardest part of your therapeutic journey. Once you’ve nailed that, give yourself some positive regard and move forward with an open mind.

Counselling is a deeply private notion. There is no need to tell the world – unless you want to of course. You’ll be able to release the negative issues in your life, whilst also concentrating on how to move yourself forward… it’s empowering stuff.

The world has changed – and attitudes change too. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see how people react when they notice a change in you.

And for a final note. You don’t have to worry about laying on a couch… you’ll sit on a chair, in a comfortable office with someone who just maybe, has been through a mental health issue themselves.

Duncan Ellison retrained to become a counsellor following over 25 years in the media, broadcast and live event industries. As a counsellor, he specialises in working with men and is keen to encourage and empower men to find their authentic self and better understand their mental health.

Read more

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 bigboysdontcrybook@gmail.com (£10 + £2 postage). 10% of proceeds will go to mental health charities CALM and Sport in Mind.

Read more

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.

Bliss!

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.

Read more