Mental ill-health in the workplace – an increasing reality

I recently watched this insightful workplace perspective from CNN on mental ill-health and wanted to share. The perspective is sadly an increasing reality.

Why bother investing 25 minutes of your valuable time?

Well, 1 in 4 of us will be affected by mental ill-health; that’s 25 out of 100 of your employees, 100 out of 400 of your customers whatever your metric, it’s in your landscape.  It is a wide-ranging spectrum, indiscriminate and has a legacy of negativity and ‘burden’. As agents of social change, we all have a responsibility to destigmatise mental ill-health and create environments where mental well-being can thrive.

Creating a culture that engages in the dialogue and shares experiences is a step in the right direction; mindfulness, meditation and detaching from digital distractions are all gaining traction across organisations.

We encourage and empower you to be that agent of social change and mobilise that culture of mental well-being.

Neena Speding Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Thought leader – emotional intelligence, eight circles

___________________________________________________________________________At eight circles we offer narrative and neuroscience workshops to help develop key strategies across your organisation for your people.

Mental ill-heath – is it on your agenda?

At eight circles we are passionate about well-being beyond just what we do.

So, as part of my Masters in Neuroscience I was recently asked to reflect upon and answer this question;

Consideration of an era’s treatment of those with mental ill-health (MiH) tells us much about the society as it does about mental illness.
What do you imagine people 50 years from now will say about our contemporary care?

My answer:

2017 should not be viewed as a step change in our contemporary care of those with mental ill-health (MiH) but it should be recognised that it placed us at the cusp of a period of significant advancements.

It was clear that the lexicon of MiH and its impact on socio, economic and political factors was current in 2017. The global interconnectivity, expansive media platforms allowed for greater openness, sharing and debate, and whilst this came with a caveat of content accuracy, bias and management, technological innovation and advances were rapidly enabling transformations across the whole health sector. Acceptance of and stigma associated with MiH were still challenges given that the experiences of the host and migrant demographic (baby-boomers, generation X and millennials) differed and could be argued to come from different start points. The asylums and institutions of the past segregated their service users and it is suggested that their closures from the 1950’s onwards was done so without an effective or considered transition plan. This along with other factors created a legacy that ultimately began to be addressed in 2017 against a terrain of ‘crisis in the NHS’: cuts in social care funding, huge skills gap in mental health professionals and an offer that let down service users and providers alike.

2017 began building a foundation for the future but had not fully shifted its white coat of the past. The concept of community care as a sustainable offer had made progress but it was yet to be delivered and replicated to a consistent standard. Whereas professionals and stakeholders could articulate the need for a framework to deliver inclusive, diverse and accessible contemporary care, the tools and resources required were more elusive. Politicians, celebrities and people with connected influence may have been keen to highlight MiH as a critical priority; the reality was grounded in available budget. Resource constraint was a huge issue as in a climate of austerity choices had to be made. 2017 at the least embraced MiH as key to the health and well-being of a nation however its application was a ‘work in progress’. To draw upon a parallel from the education sector for the same time it would have been assessed as ‘Requires Improvement’.

Yes, my answer was detailed, it has to be for my degree, but my final paragraph sums it up for me and it got me thinking …

As family, friends, parents/carers and equally as employers and educators what would you say about our contemporary mental health care?

MiH affects us as individuals and as a populace both nationally and globally and the simple fact is it will affect 1 in 4 of us. (World Health Organisation, MIND).

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Get it on your agenda for discussion, it’s on ours!

Neena Speding Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Thought leader – emotional intelligence, eight circles

Slowing down

My biggest personal learning in the last year has been to slow down. I’ve noticed that when I’m stressed I speed up, start rushing around, usually without focus, planning goes out the window and I start reacting to circumstances and people in a way that I often regret. Conversely when I slow down, paradoxically I get more done – certainly more of the things that matter to me and as a result I’m more efficient and feel more in control. When I allow myself to stop, get in touch with my body, notice how I feel I find I can usually access some inner wisdom which otherwise gets trampled in the rush for action.

Here are my top 5 tools for slowing down

1. ABC – a way to calm yourself in a stressful situation: –

Awareness – notice you have been triggered by something, maybe you’re feeling nervous before an important meeting, presentation or conversation.

Breathe – take a deep long breath: breath in fully – filling the bottom third of your lungs, as you breath out allow your shoulders to relax down your back and feel your feet on the floor. Repeat twice more.

Choose – Notice how you feel now. Take a moment to consider a response that feels appropriate in your situation – choose this over the reaction.

2. Calm app

My current favourite meditation support. I’ve been using this since the beginning of the year, when I made a resolution to spend 10 minutes a day meditating in a bid to help me to slow down and get more present. As a result, I am definitely feeling more balanced, calmer and happier.

The paid version of the app offers a fresh daily 10-minute guided meditation, which helps me to get grounded and present. Sometimes my crazy brain hardly stops thinking but usually I get in at least a few mindful breaths. The style and focus of the meditation changes each day and keeps me interested and it ends with an uplifting quote. The app tracks my progress – I just hit 150 days straight which makes me feel good and keen to keep it up, I’m amazed at how easy it’s been to stick to it.

The free version is still great and is full of a wide range of resources – try the 7 days of calm, a sleep story or one of a selection of short-guided meditations for different challenging situations. If you want some help slowing down or becoming more present, give this a go!

3. Free on-line yoga

I enjoy exercise and sometimes because of work or the weather I find that I don’t have time to fit it in. Here’s my favourite mini yoga practice which is perfect for those days when you want to do something but can’t for whatever reason.

15-minute flow yoga plus 2-minute relaxation

Just last week I used this video instead of going to a class when my schedule changed – it’s enough to make me feel stretched and includes a nice flow plus some abs work. Plus ‘hot’ Tim Senesi is a great teacher, it’s only 17 minutes long and even includes a short relaxation at the end.

Since discovering this I’ve had to change my story that ‘I can’t, there’s no time, poor me’… which always ends in me beating myself up and feeling bad. Instead I feel like a did something, took a few minutes to slow down and I always feel better than before.

4. Loving kindness meditation

Here is a short-guided loving kindness meditation. I share this with my clients to use when they’re beating themselves up for something and being nasty to themselves, in a way they’d never dream of behaving with a best friend. I know it’s not just me! If you can relate – try this and enjoy a few minutes to rebalance yourself whenever you’re in need of a refresh.

Loving Kindness Meditation

5. A book I recommend is The Four Agreements

You can buy it on Amazon

This approach is something I have been using for a little while and I am now starting to share it with my clients because I have found it so helpful. It’s four simple and yet powerful rules to live by:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

It’s prompted me to consider – What if everyone, including me, is just doing their best in the moment? The person that cuts me up when I’m driving; my partner when he snaps at me; the waiter who ignores me.

Coupled with the rule of not taking anything personally this consideration makes me less judgmental, more open to others humanity and less reactive to whatever happens during the day.

The impact it has is that I feel calmer and more resourceful. I notice that my day goes better, my relationships are smoother and I feel more connected. I waste less time getting carried away in negative stories and again I feel just well, a bit happier.

Is slowing down something you want to do?

If you try out any of these tools, I’d love to hear what you think of them.

And please share your own ways to slow down.

Carol Conway CPCC
Coach, eight circles


Nudges in our emotional intelligence

I’m sharing from what was an informative, reflective and invaluable day at the  EQ Summit in London.

Some of the ‘very best in the business’ were there, an inspiring and diverse line up of passionate advocates who value and impact the areas of emotional intelligence, mindfulness and creativity, across business, education and life.

For me the nudges from the day included;

Dr. Martyn Newman – kicking off the day with a reflection that the most valuable workers in this moment in history are relationship workers. Who could disagree? Relationship skills across the organisation, with all stakeholders and ultimately customers, will be a key competence that needs to be harnessed and honed.

Jeremy Darroch, CEO, Sky – shared amongst other insights “the singular move to empathy has been significant in our business”. A concerted and continuing application of emotional intelligence across all aspects of his business is a success story worthy of sharing and celebrating.

James Arnold –  shared a case study of Investec’s ‘refreshingly human’ emotional intelligence programme validating the need to be creative, take risks and be intuitive. He presented a bold, honest and ‘refreshing’ narrative. Not bad for a banker!

Sir Ken Robinson – on ‘talent’ and how ‘life is not linear’ took the quote of the day for me with;

“Do you find it intoxicating when you go into the gym or do you need to be intoxicated to go into the gym?”

He was intoxicating, he also shared an inspirational and uplifting video: Landfill Harmonica  which re-enforces the need to reframe discussions and challenge our thoughts and systems to seek greater things.

Daniel Goleman –  “if you don’t tune into yourself you won’t tune into others”. An eloquent reinforcement that the concept of emotional intelligence is grounded in self-awareness.

Baroness Susan Greenfield – working Neuroscientist extraordinaire – her energy and passion is second to none. Her revelation that “brain cells grow branches when stimulated, increasing their surface area and leading to more connections” meaning your neural pathways can be altered at any age.

Ruby Wax  – was articulate and animated as ever as she shared her neuroscience, stress and life dialogue. She was being Ruby!

Anyway, a good day for me and a call to action in a number of areas, not least doing my first tweets!!

So what I’m curious about is what are you doing about your emotional intelligence journey?

Neena Speding Chartered MCIPD, BSc (Hons) HRM, PGCE
Thought leader – emotional intelligence, eight circles



What happens when I unpack things!

fullsizerender-2Today I had a realisation and here’s how it came about.

At midday my new bathroom cabinet arrived yay – it’s exactly what I wanted!

Over the years I’ve noticed that I’m a visual person and if I have things stored away I can easily forget that they are there – out of sight out of mind! This led me to the decision to buy this specific glass cabinet, as I wanted to see all the stuff I had – stay with me my point is coming soon.

So, I got the duster and polish and began cleaning the new cabinet before I stocked it full of my beauty and skincare products (yes I know, I do love products – SpaceNK and Boots are both my friends lol). I gathered my three boxes of products and emptied some drawers and put it all on the floor.

Next, I spent an hour unpacking and oohing and ahhing over the products I hadn’t seen for a while. I arranged them in order of product type – yes I am the arranging geek – everything has to be just so otherwise it messes with my chi!

Pleased with the results I then went off to do some work for a few hours and every time I saw the cabinet sitting proud fully stocked I felt a huge sense of relief that I could see everything.

And then ping, my realisation – I really can’t see things if they are packed away in boxes and what if I’ve packed away the stuff in my mind too – all those things I’ve done, achieved, learnt and know. What if I’ve boxed them away as I’ve moved on to the next thing.

It sparked a thought…

What if I unpacked all the things in my mind, the things I’m capable of and laid them out on shelves in a glass cabinet? (so to speak)

What would be possible? would I see the resources I have? do I have too much of one thing and not enough of the other? if something were missing could I go out, get it and stock up?


 If you like it, feel free to share it!

Donate your emotion

Neena GraduationOn 19 January 2017
Graduating with First Class Honours from University of Leicester
My eldest son Arran, me and my husband Stuart

So Saturday 4 February 2017 was World Cancer Day but actually for many, Cancer Day is every day.

Six years ago, Cancer Day was everyday for a period of 18 months for my family and me. Whilst I am unable to recall the status of fundraising, new breakthroughs or latest trials at the time, I am able to tell you (even with my ‘chemo brain’) of the support and empathy I received on a daily basis. It was immeasurable and presented itself in very many forms: a short message, a knowing smile, a card through the post, a phone call, a visit, a lunch date, taking my children out for a day, treating my husband to respite, conversations reassuring my parents and sharing positivity and joy amidst a landscape of fear and uncertainty.

Once touched by cancer it can become omnipresent. Regulating yourself to accept and integrate cancer into your view of the future releases new opportunities, difficult though it is. My oncologist at the time, Justin Stebbing, discussed with me the importance of sharing my cancer journey openly with my children. I recall being horrified as my maternal instincts kicked in; my whole worldview was about shielding them rather than sharing with them.  Throughout my treatment I obviously benefitted from Justin’s knowledge and experience but also enormously through his Emotional Intelligence; empathy, motivation and how he engaged with me.

My family and friends made a difference through the smallest of gestures and investment of emotion. So rather than think of the enormity of cancer and struggle with how you alone can make a difference, take some time out to make a call, arrange a coffee/lunch/dinner, baby-sit, dog walk, drop off a magazine or just find time to listen – and not just with those that are suffering directly. One of the side effects of dealing with cancer is you become so focused on your personal journey that you become blind to the journey others are taking with you.

Whereas context and perspective may change you never forget cancer. My emotional resilience continues to develop and teaches me how to accept and integrate my experience going forward.

Just as cancer has no boundaries or limits apply these same parameters to your emotional contribution. Your emotional donation is invaluable and will always be remembered.

For this I am fortunate and very grateful.

Neena Speding






Celebrate the small stuff…


Today I was driving through the torrential rain on the motorway. Hardly able to see where I was going, I clutched the steering wheel as the spray from the lorries and large vehicles drown my little car. I finally came off at the junction nearest me where I breathed a very large sigh of relief and loosened my grip on the steering wheel a little.

From there I have a short 15 minute journey home through the countryside and here’s what I realised…we always celebrate the big stuff but what about the small stuff? Are we so busy focusing on the big things that the everyday things just pass us by?

Here’s the small stuff I decided to celebrate today:

  • That I woke up…
  • I could hear the rain falling on the roof of my home
  • I had hot water and heating
  • My postman is friendly and delivered my 2017 diary cover
  • I could walk to my car
  • I got tickets to the next Star Wars movie
  • I spoke to two friends
  • The autumn leaves were falling from the trees
  • I made it home through all the rain!

What small stuff did you celebrate today?



Shift the weight!


As you know we like to share and here’s the latest thing we’re doing.

Both Carol and I signed up for the Oprah and Deepak Chopra Shedding the Weight – 21 day meditation experience which is free.

What’s interesting is that they talk about weight and how it’s not just about physical weight, it’s also about losing some of the baggage we carry around with us in terms of our emotions and thoughts.

I was sceptical at first about doing the meditation – and yet somehow I feel a little clearer everyday and Carol is enjoying getting a fresh insight and perspective every morning.

I’ve created a lovely little routine around it where I start getting ready – listen to Oprah and Deepak introduce that days meditation and then relax and get comfortable once the meditation starts – which lasts about 10 minutes.

If you’re curious here’s the link, you have nothing to lose and maybe something will shift a little!

Have fun,

Neets & Carol