World Mental Health Day Interview: Julian Hall, Calm People

World Mental Health Day 2018 is just around the corner, here at Be Empowered we have been busy talking to a whole host of inspirational people with varied backgrounds about mental health and what it means to them. 

To kick off our interview series we spoke to Julian Hall of Calm People about emotional resilience, anger management and wellbeing top tips.


Tell us a little bit about yourself / career history / what you do now.


I am Julian hall, founder of Calm People. I spent 21 years working at a fairly high level in retail financial services before completely retraining in anger management which in turn led to be founding and developing Calm People into an Emotional Resilience business working in organisations of all sizes.



What inspired you to go in to the line of work you are in?


It started off as curiosity and then drew me in as I realised that this level of personal development was as applicable to me as anyone. We all get challenges to our emotional health. How we recognise those and process them is the important part. It is as important as our physical health.


Tell us something you appreciate about yourself!


I love that I am stubborn. I think of myself as  stubborn optimist.  I don’t give up easily especially if I believe in something. That said I am aware that I can overplay that sometimes. Strengths are great if used wisely.


What does the term ‘mental health’ mean to you?


It is anything to do with our thoughts and feelings and how they impact us and the others around us. I think our mental health impacts others more than our physical health does because it is often unseen.


What are your views on mental health vs physical health?


They are both as important to me and they are interlinked. I am well aware of how my physical health and my physical strength and vitality affects my mental health. They are linked to my self esteem. That is why as well as keeping an eye on my mental health I exercise regularly and take care to get the right amount of sleep that I need.



60% of staff absence from work is due to stress, anxiety and depression – does this statistic surprise you? Why do you think this is the case?


No it does not surprise me. In my experience a lot of physical health sign offs are really hiding mental ill health because we still have stigma in this area. Stigma is linked to shame and we are not good at dealing with shame in our culture. The problem is circular, when we are ashamed of some part of ourselves we don’t talk about it. Not talking about it raises the stigma and that in turn becomes shame and for many there is a spiral that can be difficult to deal with. The very act of not talking about our mental health reinforces it’s dangerous place in our society at the moment. The more we can talk about it the less power it has.


What would you advise someone who is struggling to manage their stress at work?


Talk to someone. Anyone. Start with someone you deem really safe such as a close friend or doctor and move on to trusted colleagues and the boss. If people don’t know they can’t help. They can’t even let you down if they don’t know, yet we choose to leave people in the dark and suffer in silence and thus increase our victim status.


What do you think is the biggest misconception about stress in the workplace?


That you can just ‘man up’ and get on with it. You can do that for a while but in the end it will catch up with you. The challenge is it catches up with us in ways that we don’t recognise as connected. So the mini breakdown and the time off work we have in 3 years time we may not recognise as part of the stress we have been suppressing and not dealing with now….it’s a slow and toxic burn.


What does the term ‘recovery’ mean to you?


I associate that with addiction i.e. you are never not an alcoholic but always on your guard to make sure you do not return to old ways. For many there is an addiction to stress. Many are not even aware of that but for many of us who have suffered stress issues we are constantly aware of it and making sure we do not go down that road again…I  think it is a healthier place to be because I now take care of my well-being rather than squandering it.


How do you support your own mental health day to day? Any top tips for wellbeing?


I try to make sure I get enough sleep. Sleep is huge in our ability to deal with every day challenges. I also journal about my feelings regularly and it helps me clear my mind and, of course, sleep better. I teach a wide variety of tools and techniques and use all of them on myself.



In relation to your own mental health what is your biggest life lesson so far?


My ability to admit my own vulnerability to myself is my greatest strength. Trying to be strong when I don’t feel it is false economy and in the end the real weakness. It is nothing to do with masculinity. I love acting like a lad, competing, being childish and laddish. It’s fun and part of my bonding with my friends. I also take care of myself physically and mentally.


When you hear ‘It’s ok not to be ok’ what does this make you think?


Exactly that. It is ok….let’s be clear though, it is not fun not being OK….but the sooner I admit to not being Ok the sooner I can put strategies in place and start to lessen the burden of not being OK. If I had a broken leg you would understand why a I am not ok…..That Monty Python and the Holy Grail sketch with the Black Knight who kept getting limbs cut off and still he said he would take anyone on…that’s the trick some of us try with our mental health….it is ludicrous. (If you fancy a giggle click here to see the full sketch!)



What do you think we can be doing in our workplaces to support mental health more?


Really getting others to talk about it more, and going further than just talking but help people to take responsibility for their emotional health. Just like physical health there is a deal to be done with employers. It is the employers responsibility to provide a safe workplace but is is our responsibility to take care of ourselves so that we can attend work.


At Be Empowered, we use a variety of wellbeing strategies and one of them is ‘daily affirmations’, what would your affirmation be?


Wow this is deeply personal stuff…seriously I realised I have put myself under immense stress and pressure in my life simply trying to prove I am good enough. As a result I have achieved great things. I can’t help but look back and see I could have achieved those things with less pain and pressure. My affirmation is that “I am enough”.


We thank Julian for his inspiring words and hope you are inspired too!


Where can you find Calm People?