Mental Health Awareness Week 2020


May 21, 2020
Samantha Harris

At the start of 2020, none of us could have predicted we’d find ourselves in this situation right now: going on distanced walks, attending Saturday night ‘virtual wine tastings’ from our living room and queuing up outside supermarkets praying this will finally be the week we get hold of some self-raising flour. The last few months have certainly tested us all in many ways, posing new challenges that we’ve never in our right minds imagined we’d ever face.

But, as the phrase goes, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and despite some really tough hours, days, weeks, we’re all ploughing through – and at moments, wondering where the months have even gone. From downloading Zoom and making meetings and social arrangements virtual, to picking up old hobbies like cooking and painting, we’ve learnt to adapt – both in our work and personal lives – making the most of the situation.

During Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, we wanted to share some of our teams’ COVID-19 stories. Challenges we’ve faced, emotions we’ve dealt with and mechanisms we’ve implemented to make 2020 successful – just in a different way from what we had expected.

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“I was ready to start my new life. I was just about to move out of my family home and exchange on my first flat. I had just got a new job at Wagada and would no longer be commuting into London. I was excited to finally have time to go to the gym in the evenings with my friends. COVID-19 couldn’t have come at a better time…

It’s safe to say, the current situation threw many life plans up in the air and at first, I really struggled with the fear of the unknown. Would I still be able to move? Would I still be able to start my job? It was scary. It took some thinking time, but taking a step back from the situation and realising none of this was a personal attack on me, and all I could do was take everything day by day, really helped to ease that. I put the flat move on pause, started my new job virtually and organised daily Zoom garden workouts with friends to keep me sane. I accepted what today looked like and started to think about what the situation was doing ‘for me’, not what it was doing ‘to me’.

 Every week I have the odd day where I don’t really feel 100%, but in general, I’ve surprised myself at how I’ve eased into this new way of life. I’ve also accepted that it’s ok to have an off day and not to beat myself up about it. I challenged myself to find 3-5 things each day that made me smile, no matter how small. And you know what, I’ve managed it throughout.”

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“Hearing about the beginnings of a global pandemic isn’t exactly the news you’d choose to receive on the same day you find out your wife is pregnant with your first child. Going through the heightened emotions associated with such a big life step. Coming to the realisation that your family won’t be able to see you throughout the 9 month journey. Being told you’ll have to sit in the waiting room as your wife goes in for her first scan alone… It’s certainly been a month of ups and downs. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt throughout this time, it’s to ‘accept and adapt’ and to appreciate our health more than anything else.  

And we have. 

We’ve stopped living in the fast lane, trying to fit in every activity possible to a week and instead, taken time to cook, workout and properly relax together. We know there will be difficulties ahead – whilst restrictions may begin to lift for the country, we’ll be isolating for the remaining terms. For us, it’s all been a matter of shifting perspective, channelling our energy to do good where we can and finding that new drive.”

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“When your house is both your living space and your work zone, it’s really hard to switch off at the end of the day. I’ve found myself working hours I know I shouldn’t, because there isn’t that act of ‘leaving the office’ for the day. I’ve really had to force myself to draw a line between work and play, but I’m still trying to perfect it.

Moving back home with my parents has given me the social contact and outdoor space I wouldn’t have had if I was living alone in London. That’s really helped to keep me feeling positive. We go on daily country dog walks, I use my Peloton to do spin classes in the evening and have been reading and using Headspace to switch off and relax. I miss seeing my friends, but those activities keep me grounded and happy on a daily basis. Long term, it’s been hard knowing I probably won’t get to go abroad on holiday this year. Getting to travel has always been a really important part of keeping me feeling fulfilled and motivated. But I have to say, despite not seeing everyone in the office each day, our Wagada family has helped me to keep positive throughout this time. We’re lucky to be a part of something so special and supportive.”

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“Any business owner will tell you that they’ve had sleepless nights over this situation. Questions running around their head in the early hours of the day about client retention, staffing, revenue. It’s safe to say I lost multiple weeks to those thoughts – and found myself enjoying the hot tub with a glass of wine a little more than usual in an effort to relax, de-stress and keep calm. But as weeks have gone by, I’ve settled into it and the world has seemed less mad. Sometimes I even forget things aren’t normal.

If anything, the changes have allowed me to spend more quality time with my children, going for evening bike rides as a family, cooking and doing arty activities together. Having my husband home all day means I can work in the day and have evenings off to relax and take time for myself. It’s also been great to see the community spirit. We’d never socialised with our neighbours before, but now we have a WhatsApp group where we communicate, people are leaving presents on each other’s doorsteps and we even had an impromptu ‘street party’ for VE day where everyone chatted from their respective driveways. There have been a lot of stressful moments during COVID, but it’s certainly been the little things that have kept me smiling and feeling grateful for all the love and support I do have around me.”

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“Life had begun to feel a little bit like a constant rush. Lockdown made me realise that. I’m enjoying having the time to lie in a little later, read a book or do a puzzle and go for long dog walks with my family. I’d almost forgotten to appreciate the small joys of life. Of course there have been difficult times. When my husband started to go into work again once a week, I was really nervous about him getting ill. I miss socialising, the freedom to visit friends or browse the supermarket for tonight’s dinner. Being constantly aware of distance and seeing people in masks, I can’t help but wonder what life will be like if we’re still in a COVID world come winter. 

Understanding that all I can do is live for today and do little things which make me smile has been vital to finding my rhythm. I don’t watch the news as much and almost detach myself from what’s going on to just concentrate on daily tasks. It’s been lovely to see my daughters working on projects together and forming an even stronger relationship and bond. We’ve been creative with what we do – walking through different towns to feel like we’re still having day trips, joining virtual wine tastings to replicate social plans, keeping my annual leave to have downtime for myself. I’m looking forward to getting back to normal, but I’m doing what I can to make the most of what 2020 is right now.” 

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“Being put on furlough leaves you with a lot of time to think. Think about what is happening in the world right now, think about when things might go back to normal, think about whether you’ll have a job to go back to at the end of it. Everything felt completely up in the air, like my life had been put on pause and all I could do was wait for it to start up again at some point… TBC. 

Feeling myself getting more and more frustrated at the situation, I’ve known I had to keep myself distracted in some way. I started making videos and planning weekly team quizzes to spend time with the work crew and bring smiles to everyone’s’ faces. I did professional courses and qualifications and started painting to keep busy. But as time went on, it got easier and easier to lose a sense of routine and I found myself getting comfortable with doing nothing. It only made me fearful of how I would be able to cope when I did eventually get back to work. 

 Doing things like leaving big WhatsApp groups and instead, taking the time to video call individual friends that I wanted to speak to was really helpful. I unfollowed certain people and hashtags on social which were making me sad about what I wasn’t motivated enough to be doing. I organised virtual coffee dates with friends to get me up at a sensible time and eased into the day. I started doing more things which I had always wanted to do that brought me fulfilment, like satellite gazing, cooking and knitting. 

The past few months have been tough and I’ve certainly had some pretty low moments. I have found some comfort in knowing there are thousands of others going through similar. It’s all a process and I don’t have to feel bad about having a good old cry on occasion. It’s about accepting it for what it is and looking for the small positives in each day, hoping that in time, we’ll all be able to get back to our regular normal.”

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Whether you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, the helplines and support groups outlined on the NHS website can offer expert advice.