What to do when your partner has depression but won’t get help

Living with a partner who has depression can be challenging and emotionally draining. It is essential to provide support and understanding during this difficult time. However, what happens when your partner refuses to seek help for their depression? This article aims to address this common concern and provide guidance on what to do when your partner has depression but won’t get help.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a common mental health condition characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities, and a general sense of hopelessness. It affects millions of individuals worldwide and can have a significant impact on relationships. By understanding depression, you can better support your partner through their journey.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression can manifest in various ways, and its symptoms may vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent sadness or irritability
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Causes of Depression

Depression is a complex condition with multiple contributing factors. Some common causes include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Hormonal changes
  • Chronic stress or trauma
  • Substance abuse
  • Certain medical conditions

Recognising the Signs in Your Partner

It is crucial to recognise the signs of depression in your partner, even if they are unwilling to acknowledge it themselves. By understanding these signs, you can offer support and encourage them to seek help.

Behavioural Changes

Keep an eye out for significant changes in your partner’s behaviour. This may include:

  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or passions
  • Increased reliance on substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Decreased productivity or motivation

Emotional Patterns

Depression often affects a person’s emotions. Be attentive to the following emotional patterns:

  • Prolonged sadness or moodiness
  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Expressing thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Communication Difficulties

Depression can impact communication, making it challenging for your partner to express their emotions. Look for these signs:

  • Difficulty articulating their feelings
  • Avoiding conversations about their mental well-being
  • Becoming defensive or dismissive when the topic is raised

Approaching Your Partner

Approaching your partner about their depression requires sensitivity, empathy, and patience. Here are some strategies to consider when having this conversation:

Creating a Safe Environment

Choose a comfortable and safe environment for your conversation. Ensure privacy and minimize distractions to create a space where your partner feels heard and supported.

Expressing Concern and Empathy

Start the conversation by expressing your genuine concern for their well-being. Use “I” statements to convey your feelings without placing blame. For example, say, “I have noticed that you seem down lately, and I’m worried about you.”

Listening Without Judgment

Allow your partner to express themselves openly without interrupting or passing judgment. Offer active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and providing verbal affirmations.

Educating Yourself

As a supportive partner, it is crucial to educate yourself about depression. By increasing your knowledge, you can better understand your partner’s experiences and provide informed support.

Learning About Depression

Take the time to research depression and its various aspects. Read reputable sources such as the National Institute of Mental Health or trusted medical websites like WebMD. This knowledge will enable you to have more meaningful conversations with your partner and offer accurate information.

Understanding Treatment Options

Familiarise yourself with the different treatment options available for depression. These may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative therapies. Having this knowledge will help you guide your partner towards appropriate resources.

Encouraging Professional Help

While supporting your partner, it is essential to encourage them to seek professional help for their depression. Professional assistance can provide the necessary tools and guidance to navigate this challenging period.

Explaining the Benefits of Therapy

Gently explain the potential benefits of therapy to your partner. Highlight that therapy offers a safe space to explore their emotions, gain coping strategies, and develop healthier thought patterns. Emphasise that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Assisting with Finding a Therapist

Offer to assist your partner in finding a therapist who specialises in depression. Research local therapists together, provide recommendations, and help schedule appointments. This proactive involvement can alleviate some of the stress and barriers your partner may face when seeking help.

Accompanying Your Partner to Appointments

Offer to accompany your partner to their therapy sessions if they feel comfortable. This act of support can provide reassurance and reduce any anxiety or fear they may have about the process. Attending sessions together can also help you better understand their therapeutic journey.

Supporting Self-Help Techniques

In addition to encouraging professional help, supporting your partner in adopting self-help techniques can be beneficial. These techniques can complement therapy and empower your partner to take an active role in their mental health.

Encouraging Physical Activity

Regular physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on mental well-being. Encourage your partner to engage in activities they enjoy, such as walking, jogging, dancing, or yoga. Physical exercise releases endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

Promoting Healthy Eating Habits

Nutrition plays a significant role in overall well-being, including mental health. Encourage your partner to consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoiding excessive consumption of processed foods and sugary snacks can help stabilise mood and energy levels.

Practicing Mindfulness and Relaxation

Introduce your partner to mindfulness and relaxation techniques. These practices can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Encourage activities such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, or engaging in hobbies that promote relaxation.

Providing Emotional Support

Emotional support is crucial when your partner is dealing with depression. Here are some ways you can provide the support they need:

Being Patient and Understanding

Depression can make even simple tasks feel overwhelming for your partner. Be patient with them and understand that their motivation and energy levels may fluctuate. Avoid judgment or criticism and instead offer understanding and empathy.

Offering Unconditional Love

Remind your partner that you love and care for them unconditionally. Let them know that you are there for them, no matter what. Small gestures of affection, such as hugs, holding hands, or leaving thoughtful notes, can go a long way in showing your support.

Celebrating Small Achievements

Depression can make it challenging for your partner to see their progress. Celebrate even the smallest achievements, such as getting out of bed, completing a task, or attending a therapy session. Recognizing their efforts can boost their self-esteem and provide motivation.

Building a Strong Support Network

Cultivating a strong support network is essential for both you and your partner. By involving trusted friends, family members, or seeking couples therapy, you can ensure that you have the necessary support to navigate this challenging situation.

Involving Trusted Friends and Family

Reach out to trusted friends and family members who can offer support to both you and your partner. Share your concerns with them and let them know how they can be of help. Having a support system can provide a sense of community and shared responsibility.

Seeking Couples Therapy

Consider couples therapy as a means to strengthen your relationship and address the challenges that depression poses. A trained therapist can facilitate open communication, provide guidance, and help you develop coping strategies as a couple.

Setting Boundaries and Taking Care of Yourself

Supporting a partner with depression can be emotionally taxing. It is essential to set boundaries and prioritize your own well-being to avoid burnout.

Establishing Clear Expectations

Communicate your needs and expectations clearly to your partner. Set boundaries regarding personal time, self-care activities, and emotional support. This ensures that you can take care of yourself while still being there for your partner.

Seeking Personal Therapy

Consider seeking therapy for yourself to process your emotions and gain additional support. A therapist can provide guidance on how to navigate the challenges you face and offer coping strategies tailored to your specific situation.

Engaging in Self-Care Activities

Make self-care a priority in your life. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you recharge. This can include hobbies, exercise, spending time with friends, or practicing relaxation techniques. Taking care of yourself allows you to show up as a supportive partner.

Understanding the Limitations

While it is essential to support your partner, it is crucial to recognise the limitations of your influence. Accept that you cannot force someone to seek help or change their behaviour. Each individual’s journey with depression is unique, and it is ultimately their decision to seek treatment.

Accepting Your Partner’s Choices

Respect your partner’s autonomy and accept their choices, even if they differ from what you believe is best. Offer support and encouragement, but ultimately, the decision to seek help lies with them. Trust that they are doing what feels right for them at this time.

Recognising Your Own Boundaries

It is essential to recognise your own boundaries and emotional well-being. If your partner’s refusal to seek help is taking a toll on your mental health or the relationship becomes toxic, it may be necessary to reassess the situation and seek professional guidance on how to proceed.


  1. What can I do if my partner refuses to acknowledge their depression?

If your partner refuses to acknowledge their depression, it can be challenging. Focus on providing support, expressing your concerns, and encouraging open communication. Consider involving a mental health professional who can help facilitate the conversation.

  1. Should I give ultimatums to make my partner seek help?

Giving ultimatums may strain the relationship and further isolate your partner. Instead, focus on compassionate communication and offering support. Ultimatums often lead to resistance and may not result in the desired outcome.

  1. How can I cope with my own emotional well-being while supporting my partner?

It is crucial to prioritise your own emotional well-being. Engage in self-care activities, seek support from trusted friends or therapists, and set boundaries to protect your mental health.

  1. Are there any alternative therapies that might help my partner with their depression?

While traditional therapies like medication and counselling are often recommended, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, and art therapy have shown promise in supporting individuals with depression. Encourage your partner to explore these options alongside professional help.

  1. Can depression ruin a relationship?

Depression can strain a relationship due to the challenges it presents. However, with understanding, support, and open communication, it is possible to navigate these difficulties and maintain a healthy relationship.

  1. Is it possible for my partner to overcome depression without professional help?

While professional help is highly recommended, some individuals may find relief from depression through self-help techniques, lifestyle changes, and the support of loved ones. However, it is important to emphasise that seeking professional help increases the chances of successful recovery.


Dealing with a partner who has depression and refuses to seek help can be overwhelming. However, by understanding depression, approaching your partner with empathy and compassion, and providing support through various means, you can make a positive impact. Remember to prioritise your own well-being, seek guidance when needed, and trust that each person’s journey is unique. With patience, understanding, and support, you and your partner can navigate this challenging time together.

Unlocking the Benefits of Carb Cycling

Improved Metabolic Flexibility, Enhanced Athletic Performance, and Better Weight Management

Carb cycling is a dietary strategy that involves alternating between high-carbohydrate and low-carbohydrate days. It is a popular method among athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts who are looking to optimize their body composition and performance. Carb cycling offers a variety of benefits, including improved metabolic flexibility, enhanced athletic performance, and better weight management.

Here are some of the benefits of carb cycling:

Improved Metabolic Flexibility

Carb cycling trains your body to use carbohydrates and fats as energy sources efficiently. By cycling between high and low carbohydrate intake, you can improve your body’s ability to switch between fuel sources based on your body’s needs. This can help enhance metabolic flexibility and improve insulin sensitivity, which can aid in weight loss and overall health.

Enhanced Athletic Performance

Consuming carbohydrates is vital for energy and performance during high-intensity activities. By consuming a higher amount of carbohydrates on your workout days, you can provide your body with the energy it needs to perform optimally. Additionally, cycling carbohydrates can help prevent fatigue, improve endurance, and aid in muscle recovery after intense exercise.

Better Weight Management

Carb cycling can be an effective strategy for weight management. By consuming fewer carbohydrates on certain days, you can create a calorie deficit, which can lead to weight loss. Additionally, cycling carbohydrates can help prevent metabolic adaptation, where the body adjusts to a calorie-restricted diet, leading to a plateau in weight loss.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Cycling carbohydrates can help improve insulin sensitivity, which is the body’s ability to use insulin effectively to regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin sensitivity is essential for maintaining stable blood sugar levels, preventing type 2 diabetes, and promoting overall health.

Sustainable Long-Term Approach

Carb cycling is a flexible and sustainable long-term approach to nutrition that can be easily customised to individual needs and preferences. It allows for more dietary flexibility, which can make it easier to adhere to a diet long-term.

In conclusion, carb cycling is a popular dietary strategy that offers numerous benefits, including improved metabolic flexibility, enhanced athletic performance, and better weight management. It is a flexible and sustainable approach to nutrition that can be easily customized to individual needs and preferences. If you are considering carb cycling, it is essential to work with a qualified healthcare professional or registered dietitian to develop a personalised plan that meets your individual needs and goals.

Creating a Work-Life Balance: Strategies for Employers to Support Employee Wellbeing

Work-life balance is a critical issue for many employees, and it’s essential for employers to help create a supportive work environment that promotes this balance. A lack of work-life balance can lead to increased stress, burnout, and decreased productivity, so it’s important for employers to take steps to address this issue. Here are several ways employers can help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance:

Offer flexible working arrangements

Allowing employees to work from home or have flexible working hours can go a long way in helping them achieve work-life balance. By giving employees more control over their work schedule, they can better manage their time and responsibilities both in and outside of the workplace.

Encourage taking breaks

Encouraging employees to take breaks throughout the day, such as short walks or stretching exercises, can reduce stress and improve focus. Taking breaks can also help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance by giving them time to recharge and refocus.

Provide generous paid time off

Providing generous paid time off policies, including paid vacation time, sick leave, and personal days, can help employees manage their work and personal responsibilities. By having access to paid time off, employees are better able to take time off when they need it, reducing stress and improving work-life balance.

Implement wellness programs

Wellness programs, such as stress management workshops, healthy eating initiatives, and physical activity challenges, can help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. By promoting physical and mental health, employers can create a supportive work environment that allows employees to thrive both professionally and personally.

Support family needs

Providing support for employees with family responsibilities, such as flexible scheduling, on-site childcare, or backup care options, can help them achieve work-life balance. By offering these resources, employers can help employees manage their responsibilities both in and outside of the workplace.

Set clear boundaries

Setting clear expectations for work hours and discouraging working outside of regular business hours can prevent burnout and promote a healthy work-life balance. By establishing these boundaries, employers can help employees maintain a healthy balance between their work and personal lives.

In conclusion, employers play a critical role in helping employees achieve work-life balance. By implementing flexible working arrangements, encouraging breaks, providing generous paid time off, implementing wellness programs, supporting family needs, and setting clear boundaries, employers can create a supportive work environment that promotes employee wellbeing and productivity.

Supporting employees going through menopause

Why it is important to educate staff and managers on menopause.

We are an aging population and are working into our later years of life.  This is thanks to the increase in retirement age and the ability to remain fit and healthier longer with modern medicine.  Whilst we are grateful for the life longevity, I can’t say there has been the same welcome for the increase in retirement age. But what does this mean for the workforce?

Menopause comes to all females at some point in life.  It’s a naturally occurring event that some sail through easily with very few symptoms, while others battle and struggle through the transition. 

Why is it important to address menopause in the workplace?

  • Menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce.- Professor Jo Brewis, co-author of the Government Report on Menopause.
  • 8 out of 10 menopausal women are working.- Faculty of Occupational Medicine
  • 45% of women say their menopause symptoms have had a negative impact on their work.- British Menopause Society

How menopause can impact on work

Many women don’t feel comfortable talking about the menopause or their symptoms, especially to managers. It can make a huge difference to employees when they are made to feel as though what they are going through is normal and there is an open culture in support.  Many menopausal women find themselves considering another employer, in fact one in four consider it.  But if the culture, support and systems are in place, this can greatly be reduced.


Providing workshops and resources to staff that inform them about what happens in the female body during menopause and what symptoms are associated with this, makes a huge difference.  We all know about the hot flushes but there are actually 34 different symptoms known to be caused through perimenopause and menopause.  When women have a greater understanding of what is happening to them and how to manage their own symptoms, they can swiftly get back to living a more normal life. Also, younger colleagues will be better able to support their menopausal co-workers.

Talking culture

Regular informal ‘check ins’ are great for maintaining good employee relations and can provide an opportunity to find out how the staff member can be personally supported.  Managers do not need to be menopause experts, but simply show a caring and open attitude towards menopause and signpost them to further support as needed.

Setting up support groups for your employees to meet other employees currently going through this phase, can be massively helpful too.  It makes them feel normal and less alone and they can share experiences and useful tips on managing symptoms.

What organisations can do

Menopause in the workplace should be part of the health and safety concerns for managers and handled with care and sensitivity. 

The changes need to come from the top when it comes to ensuring support for employees.  It’s recommended that organisations have something in writing that managers can refer to when it comes to supporting staff.

Other things to consider are the control of workplace temperature and ventilation.  How can they be adapted to meet the needs of individuals. Can you provide fans or cooler spaces for staff rooms? Sleep disturbances can be issue so can managers consider shift changes or flexible working hours if workers have had little sleep and feel unsafe to work. Providing access to cold drinking water at all times is also very helpful to manage symptoms and considerations could be made with uniform fabrics and styles. 

Anything that managers can do to make menopausal employees feel more comfortable through their working hours, goes a long way to ensuring that they retain valued staff members, who have years of training and experience.

For more information on Empowerplan’s Menopause Workshops visit our Workshops page and request a brochure.

Reducing the risk of suicide – Managers guide

What ‘if anything’ can we do to help those in desperate need for support?

Employees and individuals face many challenges in life and some are impactful and overwhelming on occasions.  Sometimes past events, trauma or limiting beliefs can snowball into darkness and overwhelm without warning or being aware of the actual trigger. Managing their rollercoaster of emotions along with stresses and pressures of work and family life, or illness and responsibilities, can be exhausting. Employees wellbeing therefore needs careful monitoring and attention.  It’s best to have consistent measures in place to educate and your staff, and therefore reduce the risks to health physically and mentally.

What we know…

  • There are around 115 suicide deaths each week in the UK (ONS)
  • 75% of the UK deaths are male (ONS)
  • 700,000 suicidal deaths are reported each year worldwide. (WHO)
  • 1 in 5 people will have thoughts about suicide (NHS Digital)
  • 1 in 15 people attempt suicide (NHS Digital)

There are so many little fires that we tackle on a daily basis, just trying to keep our families happy, careers growing and struggling to find some time along the way to add in a little self-care.  It’s not surprising that many people feel as though they are a sinking ship.

The cost-of-living crisis is adding additional financial pressures to many households.  This in itself is scary, as those who are experiencing financial stress are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who are financially stable.

Spotting the signs

It will always be difficult to know if someone is having suicidal thoughts, as many intentionally hide these thoughts very well.  Suicidal feelings and thoughts are very complex and the reasons and behaviours of each person are unique to them. That said there are some common behaviours that you can look out for:

What they say:

  • Talk of dying or life ending
  • Speaking of feeling hopeless or without purpose
  • Mentioning how much of a burden they are to others

How they behave:

  • Changes to usual behaviour
  • Substance abuse (including alcohol)
  • Not sleeping
  • Getting personal affairs in order
  • Saying unusually heartfelt goodbyes
  • Social withdrawal

How can managers help?

With so many people struggling to maintain good mental health at the moment, it is so important that support is provided by employers, employees knowledge is developed and safe and caring cultures encouraged.

Active and positive steps for managers:

  • Reduce stigma about mental health by speaking openly and providing mental health education to ALL staff.
  • Provide access to appropriate support and preferably before crisis point hits. Encourage seeking early interventions.
  • Regularly check that you are effective in supporting staff and address changes needed.
  • Create a caring and compassionate culture. Provide a safe and confidential channel for them to reach out to and listen well. Support groups can also be created within larger establishments.

Supporting through CLASS

C = Connect    Make time to check in and connect with staff

L = Listen        Let them speak rather than you leading the conversation

A = Assess       Have they made plans? Encourage thoughts of what makes life good

S = Support     Reassure them you are there for them and they are NOT a burden

S = Signpost    Signpost them to professional services such as their GP, NHS 111 or Samaritans

Alzheimer’s and depression, and how I evolved

I am Andrew and I am one of the Directors here at EmpowerPlan. Please allow me to share my own personal story, which will give you a brief insight into why I am so very passionate about my job, and how it can help various employers & employees across the UK. 

A few years ago, a family member and someone who is very close to my heart was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As his condition developed over time, and the repercussions of the disease were clear to see, it dawned on me that my best friend and the man I worshipped from being a little boy would never be the same again.  

Memories are what make up a person.

If you stripped someone of their memories, then what are they but an empty shell? Empty inside but with the same exterior being presented to the outside world around them. This is what Alzheimer’s does to people. Each day, their internal memories, that once made them look at you the way they did, slowly shrinking and eventually disintegrating.  And there is not an awful lot you can do to stop it at the moment.

My Father… My Hero

My hero

He was the man I called every other day, if not every day. He was the man I turned to for advice, my first port of call if in a crisis. He was the man who made me love Sunderland football club; and although this can bring with it much heartache, it was this love of sport that bonded our relationship.

Who would I call now after a win, a draw, or predominantly a loss? Who could I play golf with and attack the large bushes searching for our miss placed shots? Who could I cry with? Who could I reach out to? Why was this happening? To him… of all people… HIM? What had he done to deserve this cruel torture? As each week went by, a new condition would set in. It was brutal, heart-breaking and I was completely and utterly devastated to watch it.  

The impact

To cut a long story short, my mental health deteriorated, and this illness was one of the trigger points for a large period of depression. I didn’t realise that I had a mental health illness at first. I honestly thought the phrase ‘mental health’ was for people in ‘cloud cuckoo’ land. This wasn’t me.  I wasn’t crazy.  These were all misconceptions I had back then. I just felt like I was extremely sad.   I remember the fake smiles at work, which were exhausting. I just wanted to lock myself away, curl up into a ball in the toilet cubicles or something similar and cry. I remember doing this very act and plucking up the nerve to re-join the office, only to be criticised for being late out of the lavatory. When I finally informed my line managers that I was struggling, they had no idea on how to resolve the issue or support me in what I was going through. It was uncomfortable for them when I mentioned it, just as it was uncomfortable for me and therefore found little strength and reassurance from them.  It wasn’t their fault I suppose, they had no experience of mental health issues. They told me I could take days off; however, I wasn’t in the position to afford time off unpaid.  My company did not pay sick pay, especially for mental health conditions.  

Help me

I did as I was advised to and sought help from my GP and was prescribed medication… but no avail. I started to drink more. A lot more.  It took the heartache away, and dulled my pain. Or at least momentarily I was under the illusion that is what was happening.  I had no interest in my work at all. It was evident in my altered motivation levels.  And they offered little help in supporting me through this glitch, in what had previously been a very loyal, and well-presented career path. I was on a downward spiral, and something needed to change. 

I found my shining light.

My rock bottom

My behaviour became very erratic and I relished in causing myself physical pain to take away the emotional hurt that clung to me inside; relentless and unwavering.  Just there deep within me, drawing me down further into darkness that just felt consuming and claustrophobic.  My world felt as though it had crumbled around me and I was alone.  I was at rock bottom, but I found some light thanks to my amazing and supportive wife.

Rapid Transformational Therapy

When I was at my lowest point, I knew that I had no choice but to seek professional help.  I couldn’t keep denying what was happening and hoping it would pass.  My loved ones had spent so long trying to get me to go to counselling of some sort.  But I really did not want to sit in a room and talk to a stranger about my dad, and how his illness triggered such darkness and pain.  I didn’t want that pain and I wanted to supress it, not talk about it every week.  We each have our own needs and preferences and, this was something I felt I couldn’t handle at that time. After much discussions and convincing,  I decided to experience first-hand the power of Rapid Transformational Therapy. My wife explained how I wouldn’t need as many sessions as general counselling and the release would be impactful and freeing.  And boy, was she right. Little did I know, that the depression I thought was caused by my fathers illness, was only triggered by it.  The root cause happened much earlier on in my life experiences.  I know now after all the research I have done since, that the root cause of mental health conditions happens before the age of 18 in 75% of cases.  But before my session, I had no idea what I clung onto from my past and how my own memories had shaped my beliefs and manifested into depression.

Why I joined my wife in creating EmpowerPlan

For me, the opportunity to launch EmpowerPlan was a no brainer. I know first-hand what it feels like to be struggling at work. The support we can give businesses across the UK and to employees can be life changing. If employees are happier, they’ll feel more focused and motivated and they’ll use their time at work more effectively, which means they’ll get more done without sacrificing quality.

I feel like I am truly where I belong and actually making a difference.

Nutrition to support and boost mental health

We fuel our bodies with the food we eat and are generally aware of the benefits of re-fuelling with food that is healthy and nutritious – but what about the brain? 

We are very conscious about the fact that the foods that we eat could have an impact on our physical appearance and also the health of our internal body.  But what about other important factors that create balance in our overall wellbeing such as energy levels, mood, thoughts, behaviours and our ability to concentrate.

Feeling good isn’t determined solely by our physical appearance, in fact for many of us, this is only very small factor.

Go with your “gut feeling”

Have you ever felt that sensation inside when making decisions or had butterflies in your stomach when getting nervous?  At these moments, you are getting signals from your ‘second brain’. The gut. Your digestive system contains a link with mood, health and the way you think.  This is what scientists call the enteric nervous system (ENS).  This system consists of 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract. Should you compromise your gut health, this can put pressure on your brain function and lead to mental health conditions. 

“The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results.” explains Jay Pashricha .M.D, director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Neuro-gastroenterology, whose research on the enteric nervous system has garnered international attention. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says.

What are good brain foods?

These are generally foods that contains nutrients such as:

  • B Vitamins
  • Omega-3
  • Selenium
  • Tryptophan
  • Resistant starch


Slow-release carbs are good for maintaining energy within the body and brain. “Healthy carbohydrates that are minimally processed, such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and legumes, have been found to positively contribute to heart, gut, and brain health,” says Katey Davidson, a registered dietitian and founder of Taste of Nutrition.

Nutrition in the workplace

Nutrition is one area that is often overlooked with corporate wellbeing as many organisations and programs tend to focus on physical activity and mental health initiatives like mindfulness, and yet good nutrition is equally as important for your overall wellbeing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) found that optimal nourishment can raise productivity levels by 20%. Healthy employees are happier, calmer, more engaged, sleep better and get sick less often. 

It’s a ‘no brainer’ really that employers provide healthy food options for their employees to benefit both the individual and the organisation.

How can you improve employee nutrition?

  • Review what you supply and offer either in vending machines, canteens or cafes, and look at how improvements can be made.  Could you begin to include onsite lunches or food deliveries for meetings and events or provide a weekly fruit bowl. Small cost with big benefits.
  • Make filtered water available to your employees and encourage them to drink more of it.
  • And finally, offer healthy eating information and education. 

If we begin to understand the importance of nutrition how value it as much as physical fitness, sleep and mental health, then the key pillars of wellbeing will be well on the way to being met, and employees will be content and productive.

EmpowerPlan Employee Assistance portal contains numerous methods for educating employees on a great number of wellbeing topics including nutrition.  There are diet plans and recipes to help encourage and support your employees with their overall wellbeing.

Burnout! What is it, and why has this condition become a huge problem for so many employers? 

People are more frequently reporting issues of overwhelming stress and burnout within the workplace. But what exactly do we mean by burnout and how can you determine if you or your staff are struggling with burnout? 

Life can be hectic, especially when you must juggle high workloads, deal with short staffing, and feel pressured by up-and-coming deadlines. We very often feel physically exhausted and worn out on these occasions of high pressure, but when you or your staff start to show signs of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion it can become more serious.  

Burnout is not stress! 

A certain amount of stress can be quite motivational and provide that little bit of pressure to perform to our best ability. We all need to feel pressure to ensure we complete tasks with an appropriate level of urgency. If you are feeling stressed your engagement increases and emotions are heightened.  

Burnout is completely the opposite… 

People who are suffering from burnout become disengaged from tasks, people, and their environment. Their emotions are blunted and will feeling overwhelmingly hopeless and helpless. They have zero motivation to keep going and feel there is simple no point in doing what they are doing.  

What symptoms to look out for? 


Do they seem to be disengaging with their work and colleagues? Is there a disconnect from the team and their surroundings?  


Chronic stress and burnout can lead to further issues both in terms of mental health and also physical health. This will lead to more frequent time off due to sickness. 


The feeling of hopelessness can lead to being more irritable along with heightened anger due to the isolation they are subjected to. 

An increase in accidents 

Concentration levels are diminished, and the inability to pay attention can lead to a greater number of accidents occurring. Exhaustion and issues with sleeping are also a contributing factor to more accidents. 


If left untreated and unacknowledged, burnout leads to more complex and serious mental health conditions such as depression. Symptoms of depression include: 

  • Concentration and memory issues 
  • Fatigue 
  • Feelings of guilt  
  • Pessimism and hopelessness 
  • Sleeping too much or too little 
  • Irritability 
  • Restlessness 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies 
  • Overeating, or appetite loss 
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away 
  • Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment 
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings 
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts 

No two people are the same and symptoms may vary so these are just a few pointers and bits of information to watch out for.  

What is the cause of burnout? 

Unlike stress, which can be as a result of anything from family life, to work to situations, or events that are happening; burnout is predominantly work or school related for students. And this comes as a result of excessive and chronic stress within the workplace or college and of course work overload so too much work. Being unable to carry out all of the tasks within the time frame expected. Other factors that can also affect burnout are being put under excessive pressure, big changes within a company, not having any control over outcomes and situations within the workplace and feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities. 

So how can you help? 

The main thing that you can do is to remember that a happy healthy workforce will more often than not be a productive workforce. And want to make the changes needed for your staff.  

There are some simple measures that you can put in place… things such as: 

  • Encouraging more regular breaks,  
  • Regularly check in with your staff to ensure they are manging their workloads ok, and if not review together the measure you can put in place.  
  • Provide reassurance of your expectations so that they feel comfortable in their own limitations.  
  • Encourage better sleep and eating habits 
  • Provide flexible working hours or ways of working 
  • Engage in morale boosting activities and provide professional services such as an EAP platform such as the one provided by EmpowerPlan Ltd or counselling services. 

EmpowerPlan EAP services are designed to offer preventative measures and are very proactive in maintaining mental fitness rather than just reacting to a crisis as they develop within your employees. If you want to find out more about our EAP membership services wellbeing workshop’s please visit our website and book a demonstration call.  

Tap Into Your Innate Happiness!

How many times do we put off our happiness? How many times do we look back to happier times in our lives which are draped in nostalgia? We look forward to the weekend, to the next lunch date, the next holiday. We project our hopes and dreams on to some elusive future where everything will be perfect or we look back to our childhood, our wedding day, a time where we realised in hindsight, we once were happy. It may be that we try to find happiness in escapism through buying new clothes, going out for wonderful meals, enjoying a good bottle of wine and watching the latest movies. There is nothing wrong with these pursuits but are they really the most effective tools for lasting happiness? If we look deeper, it may be that we each need to carve out a life which we no longer feel we need to escape from.

Happiness is like a balloon drifting just in front or just behind us and we keep trying to grasp hold of the ribbon and bring it closer. We chase the balloon but are also mindful that is delicate and could pop at any time, our dreams of happiness vanishing into thin air. What if that balloon was held in our grasp all along, we just had not realised it?

The eight limbs of Yoga as described by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras provide a pathway towards peace and happiness. The second limb Niyamas consider how we deal with ourselves in the world around us. One of the Niyamas, Santosha or contentment teaches us that beneath the fluctuations of our everyday lives there exists an endless well of peace and harmony, we just need to know how to tap into it. Even more encouraging is that this contentment can be found amidst the challenges of our everyday lives, here in the now of this very moment!

This is liberating because it means the search is over! What we seek through external means lays within. Happiness is our natural state of being and the tools of Yoga can help us to uncover it.

We can stretch and feel better with each breath in our practice on the mat. We can let go of grasping for things and feel the contentment that comes from feeling we have enough. We can focus on the horizon as we walk and take in scent and sound in a moving meditation, the birdsong a gentle symphony to our connection with nature.

The eight limbs provide us with an arsenal of tools which allow the radiance of our lives to overflow from our hearts and give us the inner resolve to meet adversity with equanimity knowing that joy and pain are a part of life and that our natural state of happiness is not dependent on the shifting tide of emotions and experiences which make up our lives. It runs deeper. We run deeper.

We can choose to be happy now, amidst the bills, care of family and loved ones, whilst weeding the garden, whilst working through a ‘To-Do’ list, because this is the life lived now. Our birth right is happiness, comprised of moving moments of wonder if we take the leap inside and tap into our true nature.

By Emma Conally-Barklem

First published in Om Yoga & Lifestyle magazine August 2021

Grief through the matrix of yoga

Bereavement is a messy business. It chews us up, hollows us out and folds us in two. For me, the death of my mum and best friend continues to be the most painful experience of my life. Without the anchor of my Yoga practice, I’m not sure where I would be. Amidst great pain there exists great hope but this is not always apparent when you are in the throes of hurt, absence and regret.

The most prevalent narrative around grief in western society is that of the stages of grief. Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced her five stage grief model in her book On Death and Dying (1969). Her work was based on the study of terminally patients and their emotional response at the prospect of their own mortality. She identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages have come in for much criticism in recent years because of the false perception of their linear nature and chronology of the grieving process which many see as reductive. Kübler-Ross has stated since that these stages are non-linear and that people may not experience some if any of them. Still, however, this idea of grief which is able to be packaged neatly up into boxes is an enticing and persistent one.

The stages are familiar and I’m sure most people have experienced each emotion or process in relation to their grieving process at some point, they do not however allow for the immensity of emotional feeling which marks the grief experience which lays outside of language, an inarticulate knot of sorrow which evades any claim to rationality. It is here that yoga and grief intersect.

Yoga, like grief is non-linear and stands apart from the cage of language. If yoga students are asked how they feel after a yoga class they may say ‘calm’, ‘relaxed’, ‘chilled out’ but the stillness which emanates from them and the centred, mindful way they move belies a deeper feeling. Grievers similarly may say they feel ‘sad’, ‘angry’ but scratch the surface of these somewhat anodyne descriptions and a furled heart of pain which shifts shape and cannot be boxed into stages is evident.

Yoga is a holistic 8 limb path into self-realisation and healing. Rather than pushing emotions such as anger, frustration and sadness away, we learn to sit with the feeling, allow and observe without running away. Yoga practice is a natural fit with the grieving process as it is always a moving away from self-judgment and shame towards self-acceptance. Grieving in a grief-illiterate society is isolating and lonely. Unhelpful platitudes to ‘stay strong’, ‘move on’, ‘time heals’ can make the griever feel as though they are failing, that there is a time limit to grief when in fact the grief becomes a part of that person. Tears and emotional outbursts are seen as a sign of weakness when in fact such emotions are healthy indicators of the love the person had for the deceased and the necessary pain that loss means to the griever. The process is non-linear and best taken day by day. Like yoga, the present moment is all there is and we can live that moment fully without expectation and judgement.  We feel the samsaric cycle of birth and death in the birth of the inhale and the death of the exhale. Each breath a metonym for our brief precious time here on this plane of existence. We practice ancient ways to breathe which honour our hearts and cultivate peace whilst seeking out the resistance and aches in our bodies by either shaking them up or letting them rest and be. We practice ‘Wood chopper’ breath to release anger and anguish, feel the comfort of belly breathing to dispel anxiety and tension, we sit and follow the repetition of our thoughts and guide the mind gently back to the breath.

We read the poetic truth of The Upanishads which describe death and the circle of life. We study The Yoga Sutras which describe tersely our suffering caused by our fear of death and the loss of others. In this we feel ourselves to be part of a continuum in the ocean of humanity, our DNA and genes invisible traces of the lost loved one threading through our everyday existence. Some days we question, bargain, rage, despair, other days we laugh, relax, or our mind is just there. We learn to take these shifting sands of emotion in equal measure, a place beyond recrimination.

Here, we enter a vast space of all that is and all that is felt. We move beyond the efficacy and limitations of language to a place of pure awareness where the very fabric of existence compels us to feel the truth that all that was will always be.

 Grief is the flipside to love, and the love which connects all sentient beings, is yoga.

Author: Emma Conally-Barklem

Previous Publications: A Little Insight (online magazine)

Talking to children about war

The fear response, anxiety, and sheer panic has been triggered in many of us right now due to the war in Ukraine. Unfortunately, this is going to be a trying time for children, adolescents, and teenagers alike, as they try to decipher what is happening in the world right now and how this impacts us.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukriane, the word war most likely not commonly heard by (younger) children and for the older ones, it may have been in a different sense such as playing video games or playing in the playground. I have outlined some ideas of how to approach the sensitive subject with children.

Check how you are feeling first

Before starting the conversation with your children be mindful of your feelings of the war, children will take emotional cues from adults, you will be your children’s safe places, which means your child will need you to have your emotions under control so you can help them to process theirs. You don’t need to know the answers, just provide the space for them to talk about their worries. Talking about a problem together can help to navigate their feelings so they can better understand what is happening. Whilst discussing the war and any worries be careful not to over share your fears with your child. Be ever mindful of your emotions and your body language. Remain calm and focused.

While adults try to understand the overwhelming news, children will be hearing reports of what is occurring and feel confused and frightened. It’s happened in my house; the news was on constantly and naturally I wanted to protect my daughter and so I would turn it off. If it was my decision, it wouldn’t have been on whilst she was up. But I realised she will need to have the space to talk about it or for me to explain a little of what is going on. She is 6 and hasn’t covered wars and aside from playground games and nerf battles she may find it all confusing. I found it confusing and overwhelming, what could I do?

It’s only natural to want to protect children from frightening things, but as parents and caregivers we need to be able to talk about war and the unpleasantness that we know is in the world with them. For example, when I gave my daughter the space to ask questions, I was surprised that she expected to see tanks coming down our street, to bundle all her worldly possessions in a carrier bag; as she has seen on the news and she didn’t know what to take. From this interaction, I realise now I maybe should have been more prepared- what did she need to know? What do I need to explain to her? What are the facts? But also gave me insight that she was after comfort and reassurance- she wanted to know are we safe? And she wanted the facts, I didn’t need to go into great detail. It is from this interaction that gave me the awareness and understanding of what children may need from parents at this time. Children will always look to their parents/ caregivers for the sense of safety and security, and even more so in times of crisis.

I showed her on the map where Russia is and where Ukraine is and how far away, we are and how we are protected by the sea. Explaining that the war is far away and we are safe, we don’t need to prepare for anything- we can continue as normal.

Be open, give them the space to explore how they feel

It is important to find out what they know and how it is making them feel, don’t discuss it before bed time but find a time when you can bring it up naturally, allow the time, try not to rush the conversation. Maybe at tea time when your child is more likely to feel comfortable. It is better to have the conversation and find out that they don’t know what is happening or maybe aren’t bothered by what is happening rather than having a child who is silently worrying about the war. Children might find it helpful to draw, or make a story of how they are feeling. If your child does ask at bedtime, try to answer their concerns but aim to finish with something positive such reading a loved story or singing favourite songs to help them to sleep well. When possible, create positive distractions; playing games or doing outdoor activities. 

Remember you won’t be able to answer every question- that is ok. You may need to find the answer or con find the answers together- if your child is older.

Control the news

It maybe worth checking how your child can access news, as a society we are always connected to the internet, our phones notify us of world events constantly, it could be the same for your child. Be mindful of how exposed your child is to the news while there are upsetting images and worrying reports. It is important to check their devices and monitor what they see and hear- checking their devices is also a good way to reassure your child and ensure they are receiving accurate information. They may be talking about it at school, in the playground or hear us discussing it, they will need a chance to understand it as we do. It maybe you decide not to have the news on around young children. With older children you may use it as an opportunity to discuss what news sources they trust. Help to separate between the facts, rumours, possibilities and of course fake news.

Reassure, reassure, reassure

Younger children may see and hear upsetting reports from the war but not be able to distinguish between what they see on the screen and their own reality- they may think the war is here and believe themselves to be in danger. For older children, they may be monitoring the news and fear how events can escalate and what it means for them.

As often as you can offer reassurance that they are safe and free from danger.

It’s important for our children to know they can approach us to talk to, even if their question catches you by surprise- you will know what is troubling your child. It is important not to dismiss their concerns. Always acknowledge your child’s concerns and feelings, tell them what they feel is a natural response. They will need reassurance, but also it is important to find out what they have heard and what is causing the worry. The key is trying to understand it from their point of view and this change in viewpoint, you are more likely to provide comfort, understanding and reassurance. Show your child you are listening- give them your full attention and let them know they can talk to you whenever they need to.

Keep it age appropriate

It is important to keep it age appropriate; all children have a right to know what is happening in the world but our role as parents and caregivers is to do this in safe environment so that they don’t become more distressed. Therefore, it is important to watch their reactions and consider their level of fear.  

Careful not to discriminate

As we explain the war we need to be careful if what words we use, so that we aren’t causing prejudice or discrimination towards people or countries. Avoid using words such as evil and bad people. Try to focus on compassion and empathy for the families that have been forced to flee their homes. Children will copy what we say, we want to reduce discrimination and bullying. Even though the war is in a distant country, it can still generate discriminate behaviour and language; check your child isn’t experiencing or contributing to bullying, encourage them to tell you or an adult they trust if they have been called names or bullied at school- everyone deserves to feel safe in school and in society. Encourage kindness and support of each other.

Look for the helpers

Remind your child there are people working to help solve the conflict- some you will see; some you won’t be able to see and these people are working very hard to stop the conflict. It maybe helpful to focus on the helpers. It is important with this level of violence children know there are people helping other people, there are others that are showing compassion, kindness, courage, gentleness. Look at the people queuing to give blood, look at the emergency services, look at the people calling for peace. Look for the positive stories. It maybe your child wants to raise money or take part in some positive action for people on Ukraine. Often the sense of doing something, no matter how small can provide great comfort.

Regular check ins

When you’re coming to the end of the discussion, try to assess their level of worry- check their body language, their breathing, ensure they aren’t in distress. Remind them that you’re there to listen and support them with their worries and that you care. As the conflict continues, ensure you check in with your child to see how they are feeling, if they have any new questions or anything they want to discuss with you. Monitor their behaviour- anxious worries could been shown as physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches or changes to sleeping routines. As the war continues, younger children may show different reactions and the signs of distress may not be as obvious as older children. Signs to look out for in younger children are increased clinginess, older children may display intense grief or anger. All which are normal if they last a short time, if it is for a prolonged period of time, your child may require specialised support.

Breathing exercise

To help reduce stress in your children, it could be beneficial to do some belly breathing exercises together:

Place your hands on your tummy, take 5 deep breaths, 5 seconds breathing in and 7 seconds breathing out; in through your nose and out through your mouth.

When inhaling explain you are softly bowing your tummy up like a balloon and exhaling, the air is slowly leaving the balloon.

Yoga in the Age of Covid-19 and Lockdown

The global pandemic has changed life as we know it and how we conduct our everyday lives. As such it has had profound effects on peoples’ quality of life and mental health.

 Our lives can be divided into the time before Covid-19 and the time after Covid-19. The time before seems like a technicolour dream of freedom and possibility. An existence where we would hug, share food, sing in crowds and come together in ways which now would seem careless at best, dangerous at worst.

L.P Hartley’s classic novel. ‘The Go-Between’ begins with the infamous line, ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’(Hartley, 1953, p.5 ) The seeming distance of the recent past stands in stark reality to the new present which is framed in a new lexicon of shielding, aerosol transmission, home schooling, self- isolation, support bubbles, R numbers and social distancing. Our minds and our bodies are having to adapt to this new reality day by day as we collectively grieve for the past and yearn for a brighter future. So, how can Yoga help with this process?

Yoga is a philosophy for life with an 8 limb road map which details how we relate to the world around us and how we relate to ourselves. As the world and our choices have narrowed, Yoga points to the strength (sthiram) and comfort (sukham) which can come from our inner resources if we only know where to look.

 The one thing we can all relate to and a point for connection is the breath, we all breath. As we manage working from home, trying to supervise home schooling or running the gauntlet of supermarket shopping, how often are we aware of how we are breathing? We know when we feel anxious or worried or excited our breath becomes shallow. We know if we feel miserable or lacking in motivation or relaxed we sigh and take longer exhales.

The 4th limb of Yoga is breath control or pranayama. A simple resource we all have is our breath. We can’t control the pandemic, other people or the weather but we can control how we react and one way of gaining a mindful awareness of our reactions is by harnessing the healing power of the breath. Simply by observing the breath coming in and the breath moving out we can begin to feel the quality of our breath and our thoughts. This concentration is the 6th limb of yoga (dharana) and is a precursor to the 7th limb of meditation (dhyana).

 When we focus on our breath and our shifting thoughts we can begin to see patterns emerge. With self-knowledge comes agency, an ability to change the quality of breath to bring more ease to the mind. Yoga has a range of pranayama practices which can be helpful but the starting off point is the simple awareness of breath coming in, breath coming out. When breath awareness is coupled with movement, the 3rd limb of asana or posture, to release tension and stress then a body-mind-breath connection is established in a state of Yoga. Life is often overwhelming but the simple process of settling into the felt sensations of the body and linking this to the breath is a way to process the past, meet the challenges of the present and to make peace with the uncertainty of the future.

Author: Emma Conally-Barklem, EmmaLiveYoga December 2020, All rights reserved.


The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley, 1953, Penguin Classics, London