#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: staff daily blog

We’ll be publishing staff perspectives to this page every day this week  – so keep an eye out for our updates and tips on how we each manage our mental health. You can also find out what our alumni volunteers are doing for #mentalhealthawarenessweek by checking out our social media channels and reading a blog.

Friday 14th May

Melina, Digital Assistant 

It’s hard.

It’s a process. An on-going process.

Recognising that you matter and in order to bloom you must look after yourself, as you do for those closest to you.

One thing that I think is beautiful about the young generation is the newly formed acceptance of voicing internal struggles. Something that was once deemed as a weakness, is now recognised as a strength.  

Personally, my skill hasn’t always been with words but instead, I paint!

As a young lady, I often paint abstract pieces of the female body. I explore the female body, often intertwining her with connotations of nature and floral designs to embody an ever evolving and healing creature. 

Pushing my creative ability has allowed me to stay in-tune with my well-being. It provides me with an opportunity to channel my unresolved experiences into something amazing. After completing an art piece, I gauge more of an understanding of my well-being and identity. 

Although being creative has worked for me, perhaps it doesn’t work for you. Not to worry, the list is endless. I also practise numerous other forms of self-love. For example, journaling, practising manifestations, affirmations, meditation, yoga, working out and occasionally leaning on those closest to me when necessary.

Another suggestion that can truly work wonders is taking time away from your screen, being outside and surrounding yourself with nature. Going on long walks in parks, passing by colourful flowers and so many different trees continues to inspire me. The bright colours truly fill me with joy and bring me to a calm when feeling uneasy.  

My tip: it’s personal, find what works for you. Take that first step and begin something new – that you know will be good for you.

Thursday 13th May

Milly, Public Relations Officer

Map reading and navigation skills can help improve your inner GPS – at least that’s what I’ve found when I’m out on the hills looking for that next illusive footpath sign and instead finding an overly curious herd of cows in a cramped field.

At the very start of the first lockdown I made a determination to reconnect with nature and use the opportunity to reconnect with myself too. I’d always been ‘outdoorsy’, but work and life can get full on, and if you’re not careful, you can sway too far from your natural way of being – and that’s what happened to me. 

Lockdown provided me with the opportunity to reassess aspects of my life I’d been subconsciously ignoring – like the pure amount of screen time I was experiencing. I realised I was doing what a lot of people probably do: going from staring at a screen all day at work, to taking a lunch break where I check personal notifications – and yes, getting distracted by cat videos – to finishing work, making some dinner and then sitting in front of the telly. Before you know it, you’ve spent the whole day in near-vision – looking only at electronic objects no more than 50 centimetres from your face. 

I decided it had to change. 

Dramatically.

I started with a Bronze certificate with the National Navigation Award Scheme – I’d never learned to properly map read and never had the opportunity to do anything like the DofE awards when I was younger so it seemed the perfect place to start. I’ve found a wonderful community of like-minded people and next month I take on my Silver award, in fact, I’ve got the bug so much I’m also thinking about Mountain Leader awards in the future. 

You don’t have to be in a ‘mental health crisis’ to feel that sometimes life is just a little grey around the edges. For me, it’s very apt that the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘nature’ and that during this prolonged period of isolation and lockdown, it’s purported that the earth has had a chance to recover, and so, in many ways, I feel I have too.

My tip: check out your device’s built-in ‘digital wellbeing’ functions: you can set reminders to turn off social media when you reach a certain time-limit and set ‘do not disturb’ settings on apps when you need to focus or when you just need to switch off in the evening without the incessant beep of notifications.

Wednesday 12th May

Naomi, Alumni Programme Manager

Being in nature seems to have a unique ability to force me to focus on the now. 

I’m not someone who is very good at slowing down or doing nothing, I am pretty much always listening to a podcast, watching or reading something and rarely experience any quiet time. I’m also someone who is always thinking of a million things, mentally micro-organising my day, week, month or ruminating over the day’s events. 

I always enjoy observing animals in my local park, looking at how the sunlight creates patterns in the trees and listening to bird song. It’s meant a lot, amongst multiple lockdowns and over a year of mostly working from home, to have green spaces close by.

Spending time in my local park has also helped me feel part of the community and less isolated during a time when it’s been harder to have meaningful connections with others. Recently, the fire brigade was called to rescue an endangered bird that was caught on some fishing wire in the pond near where I live. The spectacle provided a rare opportunity for strangers to stop and pause and talk to each other and these small interactions made such a difference to my wellbeing on that day.

My top tip: I’d encourage everyone to take a look at #ConnectWithNature on social media to see ideas of how others are experiencing nature this Mental Health Awareness Week, and set themselves the challenge of trying something new themselves.

Tuesday 11th May

Edina, Alumni Programme Manager

Much of modern life doesn’t allow for us to connect with nature on a regular basis. Like many, I struggle with feelings of anxiety and questioning my self-worth, so lockdown forced me to take a pause and think about the things that are important to me. 

Throughout lockdown I have incorporated a few new habits into my life. I’m fortunate to have a stunning dock near where I live that I make a point to walk by most days. I now know when the swans are due to have their cygnets and get to chart the beginning of summertime by the sun setting over the dock. 

I don’t want to be the person who chimes in saying that going for a walk will cure any mental health issue you happen to be experiencing – but I do love a good long walk by the river or in an open green space – something at a premium in the city. Walking for me gives me time to think, to observe nature, and most of all to escape the day-to-day. Some days I don’t want to go out but I always feel a bit better when I have been out. 

Like my colleague Joy (you can read her experience below), and now so many students across the world I was homeschooled for a while. One of the most enjoyable parts of my day was to go out with my mum and have a walk. Like many students over the last year, homeschooling was not a choice for our family but a necessity that came with a lot of stress that I could pick up on as a child. It was often lonely and I grew up fast during that time, so can relate to what a lot of students have gone through over the last year. The best thing we did was get outside, have plenty of walks that allowed me to socialise with other children and not grow up too much during that time. During times of stress I now do a similar thing and get outside to alleviate the pressure. 

My top tip: The more you get outside the easier it becomes. I have an hour scheduled in my day for walking and make sure I do it-even in the rain!

Monday 10th May

By Joy, Programme Director

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, Future First staff are prioritising wellbeing by connecting with nature!

As a Time to Change champion, myself and my fellow champions are always committed to promoting wellbeing activity for the wider team, which this week includes a yoga session, art class and a daily walk from which we will share our photos of local nature!

We’ll also be publishing staff perspectives to this page every day this week  – so keep an eye out for our updates and tips on how we each manage our mental health.

Nature has always played an important role in my life – I was homeschooled until the age of 10 and as part of my education my mum would take me on ‘biology field trips’ (nature walks) almost every day, teaching me about the local environment. She has continued to inspire me to connect with nature throughout my life, and two of her books reflect on the life and spirituality that you can find in nature: “This is the code for approaching a flower next to the road. Stop, draw it towards you gently, slowly breathe it in, let it settle in your soul, kiss its petals, whisper ‘thank you,’ then move on.”

During the winter lockdown I had to fully isolate for a period of 3-4 weeks, and strongly felt the impact of not being able to leave the house for even a short walk. Since restrictions have lifted I’ve made sure to prioritise getting out in nature as often as possible – I have especially enjoyed a long walk by myself as it gives me some much needed thinking space, removed from the distractions of home/work life! 

My tip: end your shower with cold water, starting with 30 seconds and building up – it will be hard at first, but you’ll get used to it and it will give you the energy to get out of the house, move your body, and make the most of the day! It’s proven to increase endorphins and improve metabolism, circulation, and the immune system.

Useful links

Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health issue.
Young Minds provides information, advice and training for young people, parents, carers and professionals.
Student Minds is a mental health charity that works with students, service users, professionals and academics to develop new and innovative ways to improve the mental health of students.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a helpline for young males aged 16 to 35 years, suffering from depression and low self-esteem.
Nightline is a student listening service which is open at night and run by students for students.