It all started with banana bread – Mental Health At Work
20/11/2020

It all started with banana bread

Sabrina Bramble

Freelance writer, Mental Health at Work

As England’s lockdown continues, guest writer Sabrina Bramble shares her experiences of coping with the challenges it brings, and offers advice and encouragement to those of us finding it difficult.

After the fourth Zoom meeting, answering a ton of e-mails, and getting sucked into mindless scrolling on my phone, screen fatigue was definitely setting in. So I decided to switch up my routine and make the social media go to cake of the past few months, banana bread. Now, baking usually relaxes me, but soon after it was made and I realised I had no one to share it with, this loaf somehow presented itself as a bit of a wake-up call.

To think that the humble banana – part of a monoculture, susceptible to disease, farmer exploitation and desperate for more biodiversity – was photographed caked in dough more than 45,000 times on Instagram in April this year is not a surprise. The warm, sumptuous-looking cake was bandied around not only to keep up with yet another social media trend, but makes us aware that baking through all the Covid rules and confusion was far too comforting.

It would be ridiculous to blame banana bread for all of the wrong doings in the world, but it is one of those comfort foods that come emotionally charged with a peppy occasion attached, like a birthday, a wedding or sparkly Christmas carol in the background. It’s also a frustrating reminder that some things can’t be sliced and shared through a screen; and even though it’s been an important time to take stock and reflect, our need to connect and see us through a second lockdown couldn’t be stronger.

We saw plastic hugging shields being made to hug loved ones

When fathers are not being permitted to accompany pregnant partners to antenatal appointments, and when families are advised not to have any physical contact with vulnerable grandparents it’s understandably difficult. So, we saw plastic hugging shields being made to hug loved ones, virtual meditation and fun exercise sessions set up to help relieve loneliness, depression and stress. A dad in Texas even went as far as to dance outside the hospital where his son was receiving treatment for cancer to help keep his spirits up!

To see this kind of resilience on a global scale, using creative steps to address wellbeing during Covid, has been incredibly heart-warming. Stories like the above help energise us all, to embrace the new normal with both anti-bacterial hands and charge forward regardless.

A man teaches his daughter to wash her hands thoroughly

But with 650,000 jobs lost between March-June 2020 alone in Britain, redundancy threatening to further squeeze the economy into a shock of irrepressible change, with debt, and visitor restrictions at our care homes and prisons adding to the insurmountable pressure we all under, there has never been a better time to take care of one another than this one. Now that most of us are living and working from home Coronavirus: Coping with the challenges of working from home We've put together some ideas to help you if you're homeworking as the pandemic continues. It includes tips on supporting vulnerable colleagues and managing anxiety. View toolkit, we may be finding ourselves with fewer colleagues, taking little or no breaks. Some may be slogging through to the early hours of the morning​Sleep and mental health PDF 2 0This one-page PDF fact sheet from Unilever highlights some of the reasons why poor mental health and sleep deprivation are linked, and offers techniques for improving the amount and quality of your sleep.Free By: Unilever View resource not knowing when to stop, scared of losing work and not being able to pay the rent.

But despite the realities this pandemic has pushed to the surface, it must be said that there are winning support groups out there, and a number of relatable podcasts helping to address positive mental health. There are passionate people fighting for the rights of others, unchallenged systems being woke as well as funny, Bake Off bakes being burnt – and without the light relief of the latter, without those hysterically funny Youtube videos, light reads, silly WhatsApp chats and indeed the word ‘unprecedented’ becoming even more unprecedented, this cold winter would be much more of a challenge. We all need a ray of sunshine to brighten up our day through the hardest of times, and I believe a little escapism and a lot of laughter goes a long way to keeping up the spirit of a nation.

Even the internet has its limits

The internet has been great for this sort of distraction. It has become the obvious saviour to most of our business and social needs, primarily proving that there’s no need to leave the house ever again if Netflix and Amazon have their way – even if this online wave has been criticised for its addictive nature. There can be no denying that the net has enabled us to connect across the world with colleagues and students before anyone can change out of their pyjama bottoms; it’s introduced useful platforms helping us to diversify current incomes affected by the virus; and it’s assisted with struggling work queries. But – and I hate to be the bearer of bad news – even the internet has its limits.

The stark truth is that not everyone has a home or a family, not everyone has friends, or owns a computer or a phone, not everyone is coping with domestic abuse or toeing the poverty line, not everyone is entitled to the same financial governmental claims, and to date not every ethnic groups death rate has been as high as that of the BME community during this pandemic. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone’s socio-economic background is part of some homogenised utopia, but it isn’t – the fact is, we are all living with this crisis differently, which is why even the smallest acknowledgments made to those in vulnerable positions can make a huge difference to people’s lives.

Friends stay in touch during the pandemic

So, to those of you who feel alone, you’re not. Please raise your hand and ask for help if need be. Mental health services are being stretched at this time, but with a little patience help is at hand. If Covid anxieties​Helping your employees through COVID-19 PDF 2 0This PDF factsheet from Business in the Community explains the different types of wellbeing and the impact that the COVID-19 crisis might be having on them.Free By: Business in the Community View resource have you struggling with the day to day grind, I’ve found a daily schedule helps to maintain focus, intermittently stepping away from the screen to exercise, read or call a friend. Switching up your day with things you wholeheartedly enjoy will bring a genuine smile to your face. Remember: whatever takes care of that inner glow deep inside, gravitate to doing more of the same. Rest assured, we’ll be back out there celebrating and breaking bread before you know it.