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Brain Injury and Motivation with Andrea Kusec

Brain Injury and Motivation with Andrea Kusec

In August, we were very lucky to have Andrea Kusec from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University address the Headway Essex support groups on the subject of brain injury and motivation. The session was so interesting we asked Andrea if she could write an article on the subject:

Motivation, such an aggravation: Why can it be so tough?

After an acquired brain injury (ABI) such as traumatic brain injury, stroke, or brain tumours, low motivation is common. As many as two-thirds of people with an ABI report having low motivation, difficulties outlining how best to spend their time, how to get started on a task, and how to finish something important to them.

Many people have a hard time with motivation – especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people are finding it harder to feel productive. For people with an ABI there may be additional reasons why motivation is hard. Poor attention and memory can make it easy to become distracted, leading to tasks being half-finished or abandoned. The ability to finish a task can be affected by increased fatigue. Feeling down can prevent someone from having the energy to start a task, and feeling anxious that a task will go wrong can prevent someone from trying something new. The parts of the brain that are responsible for feeling rewarded after we complete a task are often impaired in ABI, which in turn affects motivation for future tasks.

How do People become Motivated?

One motivation theory, self-determination theory, states that motivation is formed of intrinsic (internal) or extrinsic (external) factors. Intrinsic motivation focuses on what drives someone to complete a task on their own, while extrinsic motivation focuses on how a person becomes motivated from sources other than the self.

All humans have a basic need for autonomy (feeling independent), competence (feeling skilled at what you do), and relatedness (connecting with other people). These three basic needs drive internal motivation. External motivation on the other hand can be affected by reward (such as pay for work), social support (such as encouragement from others), and environment (such as working in a space with sunlight).

This theory can help us make sense of why all of us feel a lack of motivation during COVID-19. We have less independence to do what we want, we are not yet skilled at coping with new health regulations and regularly reading difficult news, and it is easy to feel isolated due to necessary social distancing policies.

This can have a negative impact on motivation, which can get us stuck in our “comfort zone” and do only the bare minimum. This feels good in the short term, but in the long term, we can get too comfortable and don’t challenge ourselves. Your comfort zone will get you into thinking traps such as:

  • “I have the whole day to do this, so I’ll do it later”
  • “I’ll just watch that TV show instead, it’s more fun”
  • “I’m not good at this anyway, so it doesn’t matter”
  • “I feel bad now, so I’ll come back to this when I feel better”

These thinking traps can be especially hard to overcome after an ABI. Luckily, there are lots of ways we can motivate ourselves. Trying out different strategies is best to help figure out what works best.

Brain Injury and Motivation Tips – Deciding What to Do

You might find yourself thinking “I want to do something, but I don’t know what to do with my time.” This may be a more common thought if you have had major changes in your daily activities such as taking a leave of absence from your job.  Some ways to overcome this are:

  • Get listing – as Marie Kondo famously says, what sparks joy? Write a list of things you might enjoy. Having this list handy can help the lower cognitive effort of thinking on the spot.
  • Try something new – usually, new things are exciting because we haven’t experienced them personally yet or we have heard good things about them from others. When something is new we tend to have more energy to try it out.
  • “I’d like to phone a friend” – just like in Who wants to be a Millionaire, having someone you call is valuable. Is there someone you haven’t spoken to for a while that you’ve been meaning to catch up with? Even a brief call can be motivating.
  • Ask the Audience – after an ABI it can be hard to think on the spot, so asking others around you what they have been up to recently can help you get ideas.
  • Start Big, then scale back – after ABI it can be easy to state “big picture” goals like “I want to have a relationship” but it might be harder to outline what to do daily. Write down one activity that relates to the big picture – for example, if a relationship is a goal, try setting up a dating app.

Brain Injury and Motivation Tips – Getting Started

Another barrier with brain injury and motivation is having a hard time getting started.

  • Get Moving – Literally when you do less, your body becomes less used to moving and physical fatigue can set in quickly. Try 5 minutes of exercise, whether tai chi or walking around your home to get your brain more alert.
  • Cut the Goal in Half – we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and motivation can decrease when we cannot complete them. If you want to walk for 2 hours, cut it down to 1 hour. We usually have more motivation for smaller goals.
  • Get Specific – write out the steps needed to complete something. For example, if you want to bake a cake, write out steps in order such as 1) get ingredients and tools together 2) look up a recipe 3) preheat the oven 4) read recipe instructions carefully 5) keep a timer for the oven.
  • The “Just 5 Minutes” Rule – The hardest part is step one – if there’s something that is very difficult to start, try out just 5 minutes of it – usually, once you get started, motivation carries forward.
  • Follow a Plan, not a Feeling – Keep a schedule and follow it as best as you can – your comfort zone will tell you a task can be done later, but following your schedule instead will give you a motivation boost.

Brain Injury and Motivation Tips – Finishing a Task

Finishing a task can be particularly challenging after ABI. Some strategies that may work are:

  • Imagining the positives of finishing up – picturing how you will feel and what benefits there are of completing a task can be a very effective motivator.
  • 25 minutes on task, 5-minute break – also known as a “Pomodoro” this is a way to break up a large task into manageable time chunks.
  • Keep a Routine –Try setting specific times for the same task (e.g., washing dishes every night at 7pm) – your brain will eventually maintain this as a regular habit.
  • Reflect & Ask – it’s okay to need help for bigger tasks, and if you find yourself struggling to finish something despite your best efforts you might need a hand – especially as doing too much can be fatiguing.
  • Motivation Loves Company – holding Zoom calls with a friend to get some writing done, inviting a friend for a walk, or sharing the shopping list with a family member can help keep you responsible.

How to help someone feel motivated

It can be difficult to understand what it’s like for a person with an ABI is going through, and low motivation can be interpreted as laziness. More often than not, it is changes due to the injury itself that are affecting motivation.

Although years of research show that external motivators can be powerful, the best method is to support the individual’s internal motivation.

  • Give Them Options – after an ABI, it is common to feel a loss of independence as many choices are made for the person. Give them the option of which task to start with or which task they find the most interesting or enjoyable.
  • Start small, then Challenge – Especially in the early stages of an ABI, tasks can feel overwhelming. Start by giving the individual “step one” of a task or a task that can be easily completed, then progressively give more challenging tasks.
  • Encouragement over Punishment – it can be frustrating for the person with an ABI if something goes wrong, and there may be safety concerns (such as forgetting to turn off the gas stove). Encouraging the person with the ABI to write down a strategy (for example, using timers) rather than reducing access can help increase independence and thus motivation.
  • Get Specific – specific guidance on what tasks are required is effective at facilitating motivation in ABI, especially for complicated tasks. Asking someone with an ABI to outline the steps needed to complete a task (such as steps to organise a Zoom call with relatives) can help the task become more achievable
  • Motivation Loves Company – Sharing the workload of a task (such as taking care of the garden) can help increase motivation – especially if it is the first time the person with an ABI is attempting a task. Likely, this will help increase motivation for attempting the task again on their own as they will have increased feelings of competence.

You Can Do It

Low motivation can be difficult to navigate, especially after an ABI, but ultimately if there’s one tip to take away it’s to tell yourself to “just do it” –  our comfort zone may take over and cause thinking traps, but if you can push yourself out of your comfort zone once, you can get out of it again. As the saying goes, the past cannot be changed, but the future is yet in your hands.

Andrea Kusec,

Graduate Student

MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge University

ABI Week 2020 - Chris James Blog Featured Image

ABI Week – A Campaign to Remember

Brain Injury Stole My Memories  

Action for Brain Injury Week, or ABI Week, is an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of brain injury and give a voice to those affected. During this week we are sharing information and exploring the subject of memory loss. Chris James is a supporter of Headway Essex who has also suffered a brain injury. Here Chris tells his story and explains how memory problems can affect relationships and daily life.

The Day I Broke My Brain

Sunday the 16th of September 2017, seemed like any other day to me I got up to work in my car valeting business. The plan was to go to the pub later with my mates in Braintree to watch the West Ham vs.Spurs game and have a couple of drinks.

The last thing I can remember that day was feeling hungry, and saying I was going to get a pizza and walking out of the pub door. The next thing I know I was coming round in hospital with my wife by my side. I vaguely remember a nurse being there and talking to me but I didn’t really take it in.

I Could Not Remember How I Got My Brain Injury

It was not until several days had passed that I learned I had had a craniotomy surgery to access the brain underneath and remove a bleed on the brain. I didn’t know how the bleed happened but everyone assumed I had been assaulted.

The Start of My New Life

Over the next 3 months, I was in Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge. This was where my very long recovery journey began. The nurses, doctors, and physio all played a massive part to help me. This was the start of what I now know as my new life.

With this, all going on the burden was on my wife. She had to travel miles to see me, whilst dealing with finances and looking after our 2 children. Along with that, she had to hold down her job as a nurse working nights. I still don’t know how she did it. Luckily a lady from Headway visited my wife in the hospital giving her support and help.

Returning Home

After Addenbrookes, I spent some time at Fen House a brain injury rehabilitation centre. When the day came for me to return home, I was scared. I was going from this bubble out into the real world.

Getting home was nice but scared the hell out of me. Little did I know the hard work started there. The reality kicked in that my life was going to be very different. My outlook on life also changed.

I needed more rehabilitation support and after a long fight and help from Headway, I got a place in rehab at the Homerton University Hospital. I’ve enjoyed my time there and never missed a session. I learned how to cope with life and adapt to the changes in my now different life.

How Brain Injury Affected My Memory

Memory loss is common to head injury patients and stroke patients alike. For me, some of the memories were gone forever. Like when my wife and I went to someone’s a 10th wedding anniversary party. I asked my wife why we were there to which she answered: “We have been asked as we were at their wedding”. I had no recollection of this even when I was shown a picture of us there in the wedding album.

Even now every day is a challenge to remember things like hospital appointments and to take my tablets. I’ve listen to answer phone messages and then forget who phoned and why, so don’t return calls. I have gone out to a meeting and ended up in totally the wrong place. I didn’t even remember what should have been familiar roads on my journey home from the hospital.

To top it all, in the first year out of hospital I forgot our wedding anniversary, but I think I could be forgiven for that, just once!

Techniques to Help My Memory

I have learned techniques like setting reminders on my phone. I rely on my wife with all the hospital and medical stuff. She has to come with me as I can’t take a lot of information in and I forgot it very easily. And I have to ask her questions over and over again.

We have a house calendar in which everything goes on e.g. hospital appointments, golf, meeting friends for lunch. I write myself notes as well – I just have to remember to read them!

Giving Something Back

My journey is not over but I am on the road to recovery and adapting to my new life. I now want to do something to help Headway Essex. This is because they support people with Acquired Brain Injury in the area I live in.

This week I will be holding my 2nd golf day to raise money for them. Last year we raised £1000, with 16 friends. This year was going to be bigger and better but then Covid-19 happened. At one point we thought it would not go ahead but we have now arranged the event within COVID-secure guidelines.

The event will be in ABI Week on October 1st. there will be 28 players and we hope to raise over £3000 for Headway Essex.

A Sobering Thought

Just back to the 16th of September 2017; they uncovered CCTV footage that proves I was assaulted. Although I have seen the CCTV and I can see it’s me, I still have no memory of it. I received compensation but money will never replace my old life and it will never give me back the memories that I’ve lost.

The Impact of Memory Loss

In January 2020, Headway UK launched a survey into the effects of memory loss, to be completed by brain injury survivors. The survey was completed by 2,150 participants, providing a large sample to gain an accurate picture of the difficulties memory problems can cause. These findings highlight the vital importance of raising awareness of this often hidden effect of brain injury.

Please find the time to read the impact of memory loss on people with brain injury report to help raise awareness and care for those inflicted.

Prudential My Ride London Blog Featured Image

Join My Prudential RideLondon

We’re inviting you, your family, and friends, to get on your bike – or scooter, skateboard, trike, tandem, penny-farthing, or unicycle, and participate in Prudential RideLondon in order to raise funds for those living with an acquired brain injury and their families and carers across Essex.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our funding, however, we are still supporting our clients and their families and carers during this crisis, as, right now, and they need our support more than ever.

It’s also meant that thousands of events across the country have been cancelled, including Prudential RideLondon: the world’s greatest festival of cycling, which has raised more than £77 million for thousands of charities since it began in 2013.

While it can’t go ahead as planned this year, they are keeping the wheels moving and celebrating the festival weekend of 15 and 16 August with a virtual event: My Prudential RideLondon.

Its aim is to inspire and engage everyone, of all ages and abilities, to get on their bikes, scooters, skateboards, trikes, tandems, penny farthings, unicycles – in fact, any form of non-motorised wheeled transport! – to raise funds for people in need.

How to Get Involved

We’d love you to be a part of it for Headway Essex – just follow these four simple steps:

Register: visit myridelondon.co.uk and select your challenge. There are three cycling distances to choose from, or you can invent your own My FreeCycle wheeled challenge over 1km.

Fundraise: set up your fundraising page and let people know you’re supporting us so they can sponsor you.

Participate: set your wheels in motion and complete your challenge anywhere, at any time, over the weekend of 15th and 16th of August!

Nominate: encourage your family and friends to take part and help save the UK’s charities. Spread the word on social media too by using the hashtag #MyPRL when posting about the event.

You’ll find more information, ideas, and inspiration, as well as advice on staying safe and cycling responsibly on the road, at myridelondon.co.uk. If you have any questions at all regarding this event then please email our fundraising team at fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk.

We hope you’ll be part of the world’s biggest festival of cycling to support brain injury survivors during this critical time!

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We Interviewed the Incredible Wayne Chivers!

One of our supporters, Wayne Chivers, who received help from Headway Essex, decided to take on our Virtual Colour5K.

Wayne, who suffered a stroke in 2008, which left him paralysed down his left side of the body, has been walking from his greenhouse and back, every day for a month.

Not expecting to raise more than £200, Wayne has gained a huge following of supporters from all around the world and raised almost £7,000 and counting! We caught up with Wayne and his wife, Alison over Zoom to talk about his history with Headway Essex, his determination despite his injury, and why he loved taking part in the Virtual Colour5K so much.

‘I’m most grateful, thankful and determined by what I have’

Hello Wayne, could you please introduce yourself?

Wayne: I’m Wayne Chivers obviously and I’m Welsh, I don’t know if you know that. I was a teacher for 20 years at East Bergholt High School, the children and the people have been very good to me.

When did you become involved with Headway Essex?

Wayne: About three years ago, I was involved with them at the Headway Centre off Boxted Road. I had some physiotherapy work done and it’s been very, very good.

Alison: And we joined the group, the family group. We went up there for social evenings and to meet other people.

How did your brain injury occur?

Wayne: I was down the allotment, as you see I’m a very keen vegetable grower. I had a stroke, collapsed, and was paralysed all down my left-hand side. I was in the hospital for 3 months.

How did you feel at the time of your brain injury?

Wayne: Well I was very very frustrated, very very scared. But I remember looking around the beds at the other people and they all had brain damage and I thought I’m not in this alone.

Why did you decide to take part in the Virtual Colour5K?

Wayne: Well my daughter who is in Australia, promoted it. I’m stubborn and determined, and I’ve got to get to the greenhouse twice a day so I thought I’d make it worthwhile.

Did you ever imagine you would raise so much money?

Wayne: I anticipated about £200 but over £6,000 pounds! The comments have been tremendous because I’ve got loads of friends in Langham, loads of friends at the school and relatives, etc. I’m not in it for the money at all but the comments are most appreciated.

Do you want to say anything to your supporters?

Wayne: Yes, I’m most grateful, thankful, and determined by what I have. I must say thank you to everyone who has sponsored me.

Before the injury, you were quite an active person right?

Wayne: I’ve done the London Marathon four times and being Welsh, I’m very very good at rugby. A lot of my rugby friends from the past have given me some comments and sponsorship.

Are there any side effects to your brain injury?

Wayne: Well I know what I want to say but I get frustrated a lot because I can’t say it, it’s all “ickaly pickaly!” But I’m determined, determined is what you’ve got to be.

Any comments about Headway Essex?

Wayne: They are fantastic, I keep saying they are fantastic but the enthusiasm and support is really really good!

Do you get frustrated at all?

Wayne: I’m frustrated that I can’t do the gardening anymore down the allotment but Alison does that and I try my best to help her.

Alison, what was it like for you when Wayne got his injury?

Alison: I was very scared. I’ve never heard of a stroke before and the hospital called and said he had an accident at the allotment so I was expecting a fork through his foot but they kept phoning back saying you must come now. And then gradually one by one the children arrived and we were all really shocked that somebody so fit as Wayne could have such a devastating accident. We decided to only look forward and work with Wayne to help him make a good recovery.

How did Headway Essex help you and your family?

Alison: The family group introduced me to other people who have a brain injury, some who had just fallen down the stairs, and others who had something terrible happen to them, which shocked me. It was nice to meet other people in a similar situation, the psychologist who helped us was really very effective, helped us through a difficult patch. Basically, they’re there for the support and kindness, and not worried about putting themselves out to help you.

Did you ever imagine Wayne would raise so much money?

Alison: My objective in this was to make him take more exercise and I knew that if I said you must walk more, he would have just said no. So I organised with the kids for them to encourage him and Rachel got it all set up and we were bracing ourselves for him to be cross about having been entered into it but he’s really loved it, absolutely enjoys the challenge, is delighted to read again and again, all the comments that people have written about him and written to him. And yeah, he is going to carry on walking, I think he’ll do at least 10k by the end of the summer.

It’s good for his health and really good for his self-esteem. He’s got a purpose in the morning, he’s got to get up and get going. Thank you everybody for their donation, I can’t believe people’s generosity and kindness.

Want to Help People Like Wayne?

If you have been inspired by Wayne Chivers’s story you can still donate to his fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wayne-chivers or why not do your own Virtual Colour5K visit our website to find out more www.headwayessex.org.uk/headway-events/virtual-colour5k/.

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Virtual Colour5K 2020!

At the start of the year, Headway Essex Staff and volunteers were planning to spend last Saturday getting covered in coloured paint at our eighth annual Colour5K event.

Unfortunately, when Covid-19 struck, we realised that the event would have to be cancelled. From the offset, we were determined that we couldn’t let the pandemic stop us from bringing our Headway Essex community together with some colour, something we’re somewhat famous for in Colchester. So the team put their heads together and our Virtual Colour5K event was proudly launched on the 1st June 2020.

Headway Essex’s First Virtual Inclusive Event

The Virtual Colour5K is our most inclusive event so far, as anyone, regardless of their age, ability, or fitness level can take part. Walk, run, skip or dance, using wheelchairs, frames, or use any aids you need to make it to 5 kilometres, we don’t mind at all. The only rules are that you have to dress up in your MOST colourful attire, the more flamboyant the better, and complete the challenge by the end of July.

One Month Down, One More to Go

We are over the moon at how this event has been received by our community. Many people have already completed their challenge, and have a lovely medal and certificate to show for it, and many more are planning or working towards their Virtual Colour5K goal.

Providing a Positive Focus

One amazing supporter, Danielle Crane, enjoyed our Colour5K event a few years ago, crossing the finish line, with her young sons cheering her on from the sidelines. At that time, they were too little to join their mum in the event, but 2020 was going to be the year that they could finally do so. When our event was cancelled, Danielle’s six-year-old son, Scott, was devastated, however, he soon cheered up when he realised he could still complete his 5K at home!

Danielle was very thankful for the Virtual Colour5K challenge as “It was helpful for Scott to have a challenge to work on, especially something physically active, as he can often spend a lot of time inside because of the lockdown. It was also nice for all of us to have something positive to focus on and a way of helping others during such a difficult time.”

The Crane Family’s Virtual Colour5K Experience

Scott ran approximately 300 lengths of his garden and went on long walks over the course of two weeks to complete the challenge, his three-year-old brother, Murray, frequently kept him company. Danielle loved watching her boys together, “they turned it into a game by doing lots of different types of runs/walks, often pretending to be robots or doing slow motion runs. It was lovely seeing how proud Scott was whenever he’d managed to run another 1k”.

Get Involved

Danielle couldn’t emphasis enough that others should get involved, commenting “the fact that the event can be completed flexibly made it much easier for my young kids to join in. We all put on rainbow face paint and the boys enjoyed wearing their rainbow socks. Scott is so proud that he has raised £190.94 for an amazing cause such as Headway Essex and can’t wait to show off his medal”.

If you want to also take part in the Virtual Colour5K then please head to our Virtual Colour5K Event Page.

South & West Hub 1st Anniversary Blog Featured Image

South & West Essex Brain Injury Hub’s 1st Anniversary!

One year ago in June 2019 we started on a very exciting journey; to expand our services for Adults with Acquired Brain Injury and their families living in South Essex, with the launch of our Day Service activity sessions. As the newly appointed Service Manager it was both an exciting and equally nervous time.

Located in Benfleet, the South & West Essex Brain Injury Hub brought together activity sessions alongside the support we provide in the community, supporting our objectives to help adults with acquired brain injury to become more confident, independent and to regain lost skills.

This dream could not have become a reality without the help of the National Lottery Community Fund and an amazing team of staff and volunteers who believed in the vision and made it happen.

So, where has the last year gone… I cannot believe that our Brain Injury Hub is one-year-old!

Thank You to our Client’s, Their Families & Our Volunteers

I am so proud of what we have achieved and I wanted to mark the occasion by thanking all our lovely clients, their family members and of course our wonderful volunteers and staff for all their support over the last 12 months.

We had some big plans to mark our Year anniversary but sadly due to the pandemic these have been put on hold. However, we still aim to celebrate so watch this space for further announcements.

Adapting Our Service

Over the last three months we have diversified our service due to the coronavirus pandemic. We are now busy providing virtual activity sessions and support meetings over Zoom which have proved to be a huge success. In fact, this is something that we wish to continue with even when we are allowed to resume service. We can see that by having a virtual Hub alongside our day sessions, we are able to reach out to a bigger audience, allowing individuals who have not previously accessed our Day Services, to do so.

And we are still supporting all our clients in the community with regular welfare calls to make sure they are coping, they have the support they need and their health and well-being is maintained.

Looking to the Future

So, what does the next year have in store for us? One thing I am sure of is that we will develop our Virtual Hub alongside our Day service, why stop something when it has proved to be so successful?


Gemma Baines,

South and West Hub Manager.

Life After Lockdown Blog Featured Image

Life After Lockdown with Acquired Brain Injury

Life After Lockdown with Acquired Brain Injury

As the UK begins to relax lockdown restrictions, I find myself thinking about our clients and others who live with an acquired brain injury, and how they will cope in this new socially distanced world.

The restrictions brought about to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has changed everyone’s life and for someone living with acquired brain injury and their family or carers, this compounds the difficulties they are already living with and the adjustments they have already had to make to their lives.

All Brain Injuries Are Different

The experience of everyone with a brain injury is different; and for some it is very much a hidden disability.

For many, with the right support and rehabilitation they will get back to living a fairly normal life but could still experience deficits in their cognitive function affecting areas such as; learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, and attention. For others, their brain injury may affect their social skills and may reduce their inhibitions, make them more impulsive and unable to assess risks.

COVID-19 Restrictions Can Be Difficult to Follow

They may not understand the need for social distancing, remember to wash their hands, wear face coverings or know why they can’t just hug someone they know. There is a risk impulsively could mean they approach or even try to hug a stranger in the street and find themselves in a difficult situation, being shouted at or worse.

Hopes for a More Tolerant and Inclusive Community

At Headway Essex we will do everything we can to help our clients and their families adjust to this new way of living, through our regular welfare calls and on-line support groups and activity sessions.

My hopes are that over the last 10 weeks of lockdown that as a nation our values have shifted.

Instead of the usual ‘busy, busy, busy’ lifestyle, we take time to slow down, and really acknowledge what and who is around us and recognise those who may be in more need of support and understanding.

We need to ensure that the amazing spirit we saw when the Government asked for 250,000 volunteers and three times that number came forward remains – and we treat people who behave differently with kindness and compassion.


Stella Kerins

Head of Brain Injury Care Services, Headway Essex

Virtual Colour5K Launch Blog Featured Image

Virtual Colour5K Launch

The Virtual Colour5K

This year we were due to hold our eighth annual Colour5K at the Ardleigh Showground on Saturday 27 June 2020. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we could not hold the event.

Recognising how much support there is for this popular and fun event and knowing we still need to raise vital funds, we set out to find a way we could bring all the fun of the event to people remotely. So was born the first ever Virtual Colour5K which will be even more inclusive and as much fun as it has ever been.

An Amazing New, Inclusive Event for All

The event welcomes all ages and abilities. There are no minimum or maximum age requirements and it does not matter what level of fitness that you have.

All participants need to do is walk, push, run, skip or dance 5 kilometres, wearing the brightest and most fun items of clothing from their wardrobe.

People can complete the event over several days or weeks, or do it all in one day, using mobility aids, where needed.

The challenge can be completed around the home, in the garden, or outside as part of a daily exercise routine. How you choose to complete it is entirely up to you.


A Message from Headway Service Users

Tara, who took part in the 2019 Colour5K said:

“It was great to see people from all walks of life come together to raise money for their chosen charity. People were dressed for the occasion in tutu’s and T-shirt’s, every lap we completed we got covered in a different colour. Everyone had a fun tiring day. I hope people will show their support for Headway Essex by signing up for the new Virtual Colour5K, this year”

Matt, who has taken part in 3 Colour5K’s said:

“My balance is not very good and I use a walking aid to walk outside. I have entered the colour run three times now. I use my walking aid and my carer guides me round. Last time I only completed one circuit as it was so hot. It is great because you can go at your own pace and complete however many circuits that you can. Everyone in the run encouraged me so much by clapping and cheering me as they went past. I felt really good that I was able to it.  Of course this year the colour run has been cancelled but we can all challenge ourselves to do the Virtual Colour5K at home. I hope to be at the starting post again next year but this year I hope to do the Virtual Colour5K.”

Taking Part is Easy

Anybody interested in taking part can sign up via the Virtual Colour 5K event page on the Headway Essex website anytime between now and the end of July. There’s only one rule and that’s to dress up in your MOST colourful attire, the more flamboyant the better, and complete the 5K challenge by the end of July.

Help Raise Money to Transform the Lives of Adults with Acquired Brain Injury

Like many other charities, we have lost income from cancelled events as a result of the coronavirus restrictions. Money raised from the Virtual Colour 5K will go towards providing rehabilitation and support for brain injury survivors and their families and carers in Essex.

The event is free to enter, but for those who can afford to, the charity would appreciate an optional donation of £5 to take part. There is also an option to set-up a fundraising page and anyone raising £25, or over, as part of their fundraising efforts, will receive a stunning Colour5k medal with our thanks!

So what are you waiting for? Sign-up, dig out your funky leggings, jazzy T-shirt and colourful headband from the bottom of your drawers and get moving for Headway Essex!


Our thanks to our sponsor, Attwells Solicitors and race supporter, Inspire Races.


Supporting You At All Times Blog Featured Image

Headway Essex Supporting You At All Times

Coronavirus has made life feel very different for everyone, but at Headway Essex we want to make sure that we can continue to support you throughout these very different and challenging times.

Virtual Activity Sessions

If you are an existing client who attended the Headway Centre in Colchester or Activity Sessions in our South Essex Hub, before lockdown, you will have been invited to attend virtual activity session, which include:

Fitness Groups, Managing Fatigue, Social Groups, Understanding Brain Injury, Quizzes, Carers Groups, education and Cognitive Rehabilitation.

These sessions are underpinned by regular calls from your support worker to check your general health and wellbeing and help keep you on track to achieve your recovery goals.

If you don’t want to join a virtual group, you can try a Headway Essex seated fitness class with personal trainer Matt Brinkley in your own time. You can follow Matt’s class on You Tube using this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZkW4KPyHqk&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR16Dr9YqrFYV6_ogGOh4Z6p1xOHtpZltO_YPUEosM7UpsBoc7dR9Gcrlzw

Welfare Calls

We understand that our Virtual Groups may not right for all of our clients, so we want to reassure you that we are here for everyone and will tailor our support to your needs. We will schedule regular calls to check your general health and wellbeing and put in place support to help you cope in the lockdown situation.

You can also call us on 01206 845945 or e-mail abisupport@headwayessex.org.uk when you need help.

New Referrals

Our virtual doors are still open to all adults and their families in Essex, living with and acquired brain injury.

Stella Kerins, Head of Brain Injury Care Services at Headway Essex said: “We have had to change the way we do things but we are determined to be here for our clients and their families and we are still responding to new referrals”.

If you have had a brain injury or are caring for someone with a brain injury, and you need help, you can contact Headway Essex  by e-mailing abisupport@headwayessex.org.uk or by calling 01206 845945.

For more information on making a referral click here

Hats Off To You All Blog Featured Image

Hats off to you all

Hats Off to You All

Over the weekend I was reflecting on the annual UK wide ‘Hats off for Headway Campaign’. I started thinking about different hats that our team members wear professionally when working with clients – who all have an acquired brain injury.

These hats range from:

  • Listening ear
  • Advocate
  • Brain Injury expert
  • Confidante
  • Educator
  • Supporter
  • Safety net
  • Motivator
  • Rehabilitator
  • Straight-talker
  • Welfare advisor


The team deal with so many challenging situations on a daily basis, and I hope the following provides some insight into this.

Answering a Cry for Help

Starting from our first contact which is often answering a cry for help where we will be listening, reassuring and advising the person on the phone. This leads to a more detailed assessment, which is carried out by an experienced member of the team who explores the needs of the individual and those they live with and how we can best meet those needs.

Understanding and Addressing Needs

A keyworker is then appointed based on the individual’s needs, goals and long-term ambitions. The keyworker will work with the client to come up with a ‘care plan’ and together they will complete an ‘Outcome Star’ where they agree and set goals for over the coming weeks and months. Often family members are included during the goal setting exercise, as they can support the person at home in between their contact with Headway Essex.

Understanding Brain Injury

Brain injury is the hidden disability, walking down the street, going into a shop even meeting up with someone you haven’t seen for a long-time is challenging for some. The keyworker needs to understand the person they were before the injury and how the individual has been affected by their particular brain injury. People affected by acquired brain injury and those around them don’t always immediately realize how brain injury affects day-to-day information processing and the effect this has on normal responses and reactions – it changes someone’s personality.

Straight Talking and Supportive

The team at Headway are often the sounding board for much of this distressing change, they then need to work with the individual and family, being direct and honest about the impact that this has had on their life and find ways to help them to manage and adjust to it.

Feedback Makes it all Worthwhile

Getting feedback from clients makes wearing all of these hats worthwhile.

Today, a client said: “I would just like to say how Headway have helped me after my brain aneurysm, with weekly phone call from the girls. I’m now in touch with others who have had similar problems, I really appreciate your time and reassurance, so many thanks.”

Keeping Close to Our Clients During Lockdown

Since lockdown we have been working differently with our clients using telephone welfare calls and virtual activity sessions as the mainstay of our services.

One of our Hub Managers, Gemma, recently explained to me how this new way of working has somehow made the relationship with clients feel much closer! She also explained that over the last two months we have learnt more about our clients and their family members than ever before.

Headway Essex are here to support our clients through some very emotional times by offering support with goals and ambitions, helping them gain access to supplies, and by being that listening ear.

It’s food for thought for all of us – because whatever hat we are wearing, we know that our support is important to them and us, now more than ever.

Join us for Hats at Home for Headway Essex

You can help ensure our support is always there for adults with acquired brain injury and their families by joining us on Friday 15th May for Hats at Home for Headway. More detail can be found on our website here.

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