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Two feet on the floor: managing mental health in hospitality

To mark World Mental Health Awareness Day, Spencer Graydon, chief executive of Imago Venues, shares how he manages his mental health amidst the pressures of management within the hospitality industry. 

My story

Two feet on the floor, this is what I tell myself to do most mornings. Sometimes I don’t have to, sometimes I can’t. However, most days start with the realisation that getting out of bed is the most important thing I can do.

I have been in management positions since the age of 19 and I still have imposter syndrome. Over the years I have had many syndromes all in the brave attempt (or not so brave) to really hide what happens in my head, which dependant on the day, week, or month can be anything from hilarious to downright scary - and it’s exhausting.

I'm a bit of a people pleaser - and it’s exhausting. Furthermore, I never stop. I definitely don’t sleep. I am always on the go, working, seeing friends, organising a social event, attending a social event - and it’s exhausting.

When I’m not filling every second with stuff, I think. Sometimes, it’s more than thinking and I worry - and it's exhausting. It continues. You see, I experience anxiety and depression, and it can be exhausting.

One feeds the other; I know this now. It took me forty-six years to get there following medication, counselling, psychiatry, and a stay at The Priory.

Now I can manage it, I choose to manage it, and I do manage it because I got help. I know how to look after myself. I recognise the signs that tell me I may be starting to feel unwell and, most importantly, I do something, even if it’s tiny. If I do something, it’s a lot less exhausting.

My advice

The now is what I can control; the now is what I can enjoy; the now is where I am and who I have around me. It sounds simple: deal with what you can, when you can, the best you can. I have to remember I have a narrower window of tolerance than most people.

We all get the same ups and downs thrown at us every day, the biggest difference is that many more people can cope with what life throws at them. For those of us - and I know I’m not the only one - who experience anxiety and depression, sometimes we just don’t have the capacity and that’s when some things go wrong.

I always try to practice 'S.H.E.D'. It’s simple but it works:

Sleep: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and don’t scroll on the phone before you close your eyes.

Hydrate: Drink lots of water - I aim to drink three litres a day.

Exercise: Just a 30-minute walk each day can make all the difference.

Diet:  Chips, burgers, sugar and alcohol do not make for a mood-free week. 

I also know that I must have somebody to talk to. Some people have lots, others just one. However many people you have, make sure there is someone. Don’t wait like I did for forty-six years until you start talking. When I do talk to someone, I must not deflect, just start to talk. It doesn’t even matter what it’s about, it’s just knowing that someone is there for you.

Before I close off from these ramblings, which I hope have given you either a small insight or made you realise that it’s not just you, I would like to ask everyone reading this to take away the following:

When you say to someone, “how are you?” be prepared to listen to their answer. You just might be the right person at the right time. If you do ask someone how they are, don’t always let them off with a one-word answer or a list of what they have to do that day. Ask the question again, “come on, how are things?”. Sometimes it can be hard to explain how you feel. Try not to fall into using positive cliches.

I titled this piece 'two feet on the floor' because it is still what I have to do each day. Historically, at my lowest or most anxious, I simply could not get out of bed. I lay there hoping I would become less anxious, whilst all the time achieving exactly the opposite. I made a deal with my doctor that I would ignore everything else that might be going on and, instead, get up and try.

Trying means putting my feet on the floor and standing up. I had to try this morning. I’ll try tomorrow and I’ll keep on trying.