What have you learned about your mental health during the pandemic?
Ahead of World Mental Health Day on Sunday, 10th October, we wanted to share some of our employee’s experiences. The more we talk openly and honestly about mental health, hopefully we can play our part in helping to reduce the stigma around the topic. Whilst we are now transitioning back to somewhat more ‘normal’ lives, with lockdown restrictions easing in most countries we’re based in, for some this is just the start of unravelling the unusual experience of the pandemic.
To find out more, we asked our employees:
- What have you learned about your mental health during the pandemic?
- What would be your top tip to someone struggling with their mental health?
- How does Hotwire support your mental health?
We hope by sharing our stories we can help you and your teams to do the same. So let’s kick off!
What have you learned about your mental health during the pandemic?
Heather Kernahan, CEO, US: “I learned to give myself permission to experience a range of emotions and to be ok feeling it all – the good and the bad. Before the pandemic, it was easier to be busy and ignore aspects of my mental health but being in one place for so long gave me space to seek out help and resources to understand my mental and physical health. As we emerge from the pandemic I want to hold onto what I have learned and incorporate it into how I live my life going forward.”
Lottie West, Associate Director, UK: “As someone who gets energy from being around other people, I found the isolation of lockdown tough, and it really made me realise how much I value the human contact and connection I had previously taken for granted. It sounds like a cliché but coming out of lockdown has definitely made me value and appreciate connection all the more – whether with friends, family, colleagues, or meeting new people. As a keen runner, lockdown also reinforced to me how closely linked physical and mental health are. I couldn’t have got through lockdown without getting out into the fresh air every day and getting some exercise and much needed endorphins – running is like free therapy and I would recommend it to everyone.”
Elinor Goodhead, Associate Programme Executive, UK: “I used to think I ‘wasn’t a people person’. Whilst I’m definitely an introvert – meaning I find lots of time with other people draining and enjoy time alone to think, reflect, and recharge – this does not mean I do not need social connection! Early on in the pandemic, I moved cities and jobs – leaving me adrift from my usual support networks. I turned inward, and spend too much time reflecting on negative thoughts and experiences, which damaged my mental health.
As a result, I learned the value of going for a walk outside every day and talking openly with people I trusted at home and work who could help me.”
Beatrice Agostinacchio, MD, Italy: “During the pandemic I discovered I am far more grounded that I thought. The pandemic disrupted everything; suddenly you were alone, locked down in your home, no chances to see your friends, family, the ones you love, colleagues, clients. The world was upside down and the need was to restore a balance to manage this upside down world. I discovered the power of working, that was the only real link to reality we had at that time. I discovered that I need to move a lot – even if I always thought I am not an active person, I discovered I need external stimulation – it was good to stay home and cook but it was better to be out. I discovered the power of time – for good or bad. And for the first time in my life I discovered what not being free means.”
Carlos Hawkins, Marketing Campaign Manager, US: “During the pandemic, I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned about my mental health is that it should always come first. We tend to lose ourselves in the everyday hustle and bustle of life — work, hobbies, going out with friends, etc. — but when the world came to a halt and we were suddenly tasked with confronting our lives, devoid of a lot of the distractions we’re used to, it became apparent that mental health is something that sometimes becomes buried beneath the busyness. How can I sit and think about my mental health when I’ve got a full work schedule, a brunch with friends, and a dinner outing to think about instead? Take away two of those three things and all of a sudden it becomes apparent that there is something I haven’t been paying much attention to all this time— myself and my mental wellbeing.
The time that I spent in my apartment on the weekends, time during which I previously would’ve been out and about, became time that I would sit and think about various things that not only stressed me out, but things I’d never really thought about dealing with in the past. It was during these times that I concluded that my mental health wasn’t as sound as I thought it was. The usual “I’m doing fine’s” that were the go-to response for any and all “how are you’s?” that came my way slowly devolved to “I’m getting by” and eventually ended up being “eh, I’ve been better.” I was finally confronting my mental health for what it really was, and I think this was the best thing that could have happened to me. Who knows how long I would’ve gone on burying how I really felt beneath the distractions?
It’s great to say that what I learned about myself and my mental health during the start of the pandemic has helped me to not only build a better relationship with it, but also come out on the other end being stronger and more aware of my mental health.”
What would be your top tip to someone struggling with their mental health?
Beatrice Agostinacchio, MD, Italy: “Find out the kind of person you are, what makes you feel calm and not stressed and do it. Whether it is meditation or working out, painting or cooking, cleaning the house or watching films. Whatever that when you’re doing it makes you feel alive. Another great insight: maintain good habits and routine – wake up early, dress yourself, make up, etc.”
Lottie West, Associate Director, UK: “First and foremost, speak to someone and don’t be afraid to share it. You would be surprised how many people are experiencing similar challenges. This has been an incredibly tough year for everyone in many different ways, and the more we talk and share with each other, the more we can break down some of the perceived stigma around mental health. Hotwire has a number of mental health first aiders who can listen and offer support and advice on resources to help if you are facing mental health challenges, so that’s a great place to start. And, obviously I would say this, but go for a run if you can!”
Heather Kernahan, CEO, US: “When possible, talk about your struggles with people you trust so that you know you are not alone. There is help available and the bravest thing is asking for help.”
Elinor Goodhead, Associate Programme Executive, London: “Talking to someone can be a real turning point for getting some much needed perspective on your situation and also other help from medical professionals. But I know from experience this can be a really difficult step. So my top tip would be to write it down. Whatever thoughts and feelings you are having, pick up pen and paper or write a note on your phone, just to let it out. This can be both cathartic and also helps you start to see any themes or triggers which may appear regularly. It can also help you prepare what to say when you are ready to talk to someone.”
Carlos Hawkins, Marketing Campaign Manager, US: “My top tip to someone struggling with their mental health would have to be the prioritization of yourself. While this is easier said than done, the benefits of taking personal time to not only figure out what it is that may be causing you stress, anxiety, etc., but also actively trying to do things that help you to cope in healthy ways is an amazing thing. Not all of us can pull away from our everyday lives and stressors as easily as others may be able to, but I think even in the smallest of instances — ones that may even seem insignificant— this can have a bigger impact on our mental health than we think. This could look different for everyone, as we all have different lives, different stressors, and different ways to cope, but when it all boils down, it looks the same; putting yourself and your mental wellbeing before something else. While there can be a negative stigma behind being “selfish,” it goes without saying that sometimes we all need to take time and be selfish… say no to plans so you can stay in and catch up on that show you’re watching (Squid Game perhaps), block out time in the day so you can get out of the house and talk a walk. As mentioned, these cases will look different for each person, but it all starts with the realization that putting yourself first sometimes is what you need to do to get yourself back on track.”
How does Hotwire support your mental health?
Lottie West, Associate Director, UK: “We are incredibly lucky to work in a business which takes wellbeing so seriously, and which has such an open and supportive culture. Thoughtful working is a great way to support your mental health – to do our best work, it’s really important that we can achieve balance and equilibrium in our personal lives – so consider how Thoughtful Working can help you be your best self in and out of work. For me (unsurprisingly), I often work thoughtfully around my running – particularly in the winter when the mornings and evenings are darker. Finding space in my day to go for a run helps me work with renewed focus and energy – so look at what in your life helps you to feel balanced and energised, and look at how Thoughtful Working might help you achieve this.”
Elinor Goodhead, Associate Programme Executive, UK: “Hotwire has done lots to support me with my mental health – I needed some time off at the start of the year and this was completely supported by my line manager and HR. Once I was ready to return to work, I kept expecting someone to set me a deadline of when I had to be back to full capacity. That never happened – it all went at my own pace. My colleagues reached out with lots of lovely messages of support to welcome me back, and I felt no judgement for needing to take sick leave.
Now I am back to working full time, and in a busy role as PR life is, I make sure to plan my week thoughtfully. Hotwire offers thoughtful working, encouraging us to work where and when best suits you and your teams to do your best work. For me, that balance is 2 days in the office and 3 days at home, with flexible working hours to ensure I get fresh air and regular exercise in my schedule. Similarly, as part of my return to work I continued with weekly therapy sessions during working hours – no questions asked. If I find myself getting anxious or overwhelmed, I can always use the Headspace app to listen to a quick meditation to help me calm down my emotion mind.”
Heather Kernahan, CEO, US: “By talking about mental health in our business, Hotwire has helped me make it part of the entire wellness aspect of my life. By hosting meditation twice a week, offering tools such as the Headspace app, and expert guest speakers, we’re able to normalize this important topic.”
Beatrice Agostinacchio, MD, Italy: “Hotwire supported mental health in many different ways. First and foremost, I would say the Hotwire team has always aimed to listen to people, to their needs and start from there. Moreover, during the pandemic I never feel detached from my colleagues and I felt connected with others thanks to Zoom and Slack.”
Carlos Hawkins, Marketing Campaign Manager, US: “Hotwire supports our mental health in so many different ways. It’s amazing to see programs in place like Thoughtful Working, Wellness Wednesdays, meditation sessions, and an entire Wellness Committee devoted to the ongoing sharing of mental health tips and initiatives.”