Mental health isn’t just for lockdown, let’s see how far we can g(r)o(w)
As we slowly emerge from lockdown in the UK, it’s a good opportunity to step back and reflect on the things that helped us get through the isolation and Zoom fatigue, and the impact this experience has had on our mental health. One of the keys is connecting with nature – the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) this year.
With the pandemic preventing us from seeing friends and family, or venturing too far into nature, it appears that we brought nature to us. Lockdown turned purchasing houseplants into a big trend. A survey of 1,000 people found that plants came out on top as the most popular lockdown purchase in the UK amongst both men and women of all ages, with one in five saying they bought a new plant since lockdown began. Plants appeared to fill the void of our social lives. They are a symbol of growth, new life and proof that even when the world feels at a standstill, it keeps on turning and life does go on.
The Mental Health Foundation found that more than six in ten UK adults say being in nature has led them to experience positive emotions such as calm, wonder and joy. At Emperor, our ‘We look after the whole you’ pledge – our commitment to encourage a healthy lifestyle – came into its own. We created a wellbeing calendar and encouraged people to take to the great outdoors. One of our challenges was dubbed ‘March of the Penguins’. Collectively we walked a total of 70 million steps! All the way to Antarctica… and back. We also introduced ‘Walk and Talk’ meetings and Spring and Autumn watch photo competitions. All with the aim of encouraging people to take a break from screens, catch up with colleagues over the phone and share some beautiful pictures of nature whilst getting some fresh air
It goes without saying that lockdown was an incredibly challenging, isolating experience. But as life starts to open up again, it's good to consider how we've grown during the past 12 months. There's been some incredibly positive things to come out of it - people have reconnected with their local communities, and in our industry, we’ve noticed a greater focus on sustainability efforts. Senior leaders are communicating in a more empathetic way, while companies are now offering more flexible working to their employees, and we're talking more about our mental health now than ever before.
We’ve seen just how uncertain life can be, but adapting to change brings about growth.To help us delve a bit deeper into this, Emperor has invited founder of Sanctus, James Routledge, to share his own mental health story and his journey of growth with us this MHAW to inspire more conversations and normalise discussions around mental health. We have also provided our line managers with tools and a discussion guide around stress so they can chat with their line reports about how they’ve managed stress over the past year, and what they’ve learnt. We hope these activities not only promote open and honest conversations around mental health at Emperor, but also inspire us to reflect on our own personal journeys and our own growth over the past year.
It's been a tough old year. But it’s time now to begin to clear the 'brain fog’ that's haunted us during lockdown, and get back out into the world at our own pace. Looking after our mental health is not just for lockdown – we need to keep the conversations going. And if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from lockdown, it’s that humans are much like houseplants – we all need water, sunlight, and some TLC to grow.