May 13, 2020

Why Mental Wellness Matters

by Aalastair Sibley in News

In honour of #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, Red Havas’ Michelle Fredman, shares her personal journey to mental wellness.

It seems fitting to be commemorating mental health awareness month, as we prepare to enter our third month(!!) of lockdown here in the U.K. The past two months have proved to be, undoubtedly, the biggest test on our collective mental wellbeing.

Working from home and separated from our friends, family and colleagues, we’ve been forced to radically  adjust our lifestyles and reinvent new ways to stay mentally and physically healthy and active.

For some, this has come in the form of dusting off our running shoes for the first time since primary school or live-streaming Joe Wicks’ PE sessions in our living rooms. For others, it’s meant manically baking banana bread, memorising Tik-Tok dance routines or finally tackling that 1000-piece puzzle (you know… the one still sitting half-finished on your kitchen table).

I feel that here at Red Havas we’ve managed to stay (mostly) sane by tapping into the range of mental wellness options available through our network, as part of our Havas Equalise offering. To help destress and unwind, some have joined the #WellnessWednesday mediation sessions, Zoom yoga classes and sweat-inducing virtual HIIT training. There’s also been no shortage of courses and talks available through the Havas from Home platform: from stress management sessions to leadership seminars and even new recipes to try at home.

Personally, I’m no stranger to the mental health challenges that can arise during periods of isolation. Last year, ironically, I was forced to quarantine for a month in hospital, while undergoing a stem cell transplant to treat an unfortunate bout of blood cancer. While quarantined in hospital, I had to dig deep to find new ways to deal with my compromised mental health.

For me this came in the form of journaling every day, a helpful method of dealing with the storm of emotions brewing inside me. What did I learn? Finding creative, cathartic outlets to process your feelings, whether that’s reading, writing, drawing, dancing or baking, can do wonders in helping you to process your feelings.

During this pandemic, undoubtedly one of the most challenging obstacles we’ve all had to face is being separated from those we love. From Zoom pub quizzes to family Facetime sessions and Friday virtual work drinks, if anything, this period has highlighted just how important social connections are to our mental health and overall wellbeing. Reaching out to others, checking in with your friends or just having a coffee together on-screen; these small gestures can help alleviate feelings of loneliness.

One of the most poignant lessons I learnt while sick, and one I’m certainly re-learning now, is the importance of creating routine. That means waking up at a certain time every day, having your morning shower and eating a healthy breakfast. These seemingly small things can go a long way in providing structure and a sense of normality to our lives. Additionally, knowing when to log off from our screens, minimising our media consumption and getting outside every day, can all greatly impact our mental health.

My final advice is a reminder to not be too hard on yourself. We’re all trying to navigate through a sea of uncertainty right now and stay afloat. It’s okay to have an off day, as long as you promise to get up again tomorrow and try again.