After what has been a long and challenging year for most, in and out of various lockdowns- and rules on what we can and cannot do changing as frequently as we change our clothes, many of us have come to realise how important our mental health is, and just how easily it can be affected. Personally, I’ve found myself feeling angry and frustrated, mostly at not being able to see friends and family. Over the last year I’ve cried more than I ever have in my life, and having a physical shoulder of a friend to cry on has created its own strains on my emotions. Our mental health impacts so many aspects of our lives, including our workplaces, relationships and self-esteem. With Mental Health Awareness Week taking place last week, I’ve had time to reflect on what the past year has taught us about our mental health, and how we can support ourselves and those around us.

Speaking out has been a key take-away for me this year. Last March, my final year of university came to an abrupt end with the onset of Lockdown 1.0. The dream summer working abroad in America, having a beautiful graduation with my peers and moving out of my parents place all crumbled before my eyes. Feeling a mixture of anger and numbness that I’d never felt before, I kept this inside, pushing it down as much as possible before it began to affect day-to-day life. I eventually found the courage to speak to my GP, who put me in touch with Talking Therapies. Once I had reached out for help, I felt so much better. My continued efforts with Talking Therapies began to pay off, opening up to those around me and discovering I was not alone in struggling with my mental health.

Nature was the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and it’s understandable why. During the long months of lockdown, along with millions of others, I turned to nature as a way to cope with the mundanity of lockdown life. From sitting in the garden soaking in the sun, to escaping on walks and visiting parks and nature reserves I had never previously had time for. The pandemic gave me the opportunity to explore the green spaces around me. Ensuring I continue to make time to spend outside in one way or another is something I am keen to carry through to the next (hopefully less eventful) year.

Bringing nature inside has also had a huge impact on my mental wellbeing. Having never been green fingered- or someone who has felt at one with nature, I was extremely skeptical when I was gifted an orchid as a  housewarming present -unsure if I would be able to keep it alive. Six months later and my orchid is still going strong and is now accompanied by another orchid, a snake plant, a monkey mask monstera and a variety of succulents, and the windowsill now resembles nothing so much as a greenhouse. Plants have been proven to reduce stress, and to boost concentration and memory, all vital aspects for good mental health. Here at Makara Health, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week we were gifted seeds and a plant pot for our desk spaces- and I’m looking forward to watching my seedlings grow, making my desk become a little greener.

I hope that this Mental Health Awareness Week has made you reflect on the last year, the lessons you’ve learnt about your own mental wellbeing, and the resilience we’ve all gained from the ups and downs of the pandemic.

To learn more about Talking Therapies please visit https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/talking-therapies-and-counselling/nhs-talking-therapies/