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A Bit Of Hope, Just What The Doctor Ordered | Mental Health Month

A Bit Of Hope, Just What The Doctor Ordered | Mental Health Month

October is mental health month, and that means it’s time to check in, not just with your mates, but with yourself. And whilst we don’t need a specific time to ask each other if we’re coping with everything, there’s so much value in keeping awareness of just how important it is.

And it would seem that this year’s mental health month is particularly timely, given that vaccination rates are rising, and Australia is opening up.

I’m sorry to talk about the lockdown again, but we’ve had 3 months of uncertainty, during which time we’ve had to pivot, and adjust, and pray in the hopes that when it’s all over, our heads will still be above the water. The way we’ve operated for our entire career has been altered, our routine has changed. It’s been a gruelling slog, and I’m proud of every one of you for the sheer resilience shown.

Really, I am.

This past week it’s been amazing to see everybody being able to open their doors, and welcome people again. It’s the most basic of what our industry does; sharing our space with people, and extending our hospitality.

Our Instagram feeds have been ones of celebration. From the smallest cafes, to the finest dining Australia has to offer, they’ve painted a picture of an industry that’s truly united, which is such a brilliant thing to behold in a world that shows so much division, so much of the time. There’s a unified feeling of joy, and relief that the worst days are behind us.

But these feelings of joy are oddly familiar, aren’t they?

We’ve been here before. Maybe not to the levels we’re at now, but I remember exiting a lockdown, and opening the doors again. I remember watching the case numbers fall, and life seeming normal again. Hell, I even remember putting my masks away in my sock drawer, wondering if I’d ever get another chance to use them.

There’s an underlying feeling that this might be too soon, isn’t there? The feeling that this is another in a long line of false dawns. That one day the news will come that everything wasn’t as peachy as we thought, and the call will come to close again. And it could be tomorrow, or next week, or next month, even next year. But it’s coming, so we can’t let our guard down, not yet.

Again, you’re not alone in this.

Our fingers have been burned before, so it’s natural to lack a little trust in the process. But living on edge like this is getting tired, isn’t it?

I’ve found that it’s best to focus on what we can control, rather than worry about what we can’t.

And that’s something that can help us all. If we all tune in to what we can do for ourselves this month, we can paint a brighter picture.

Think about what makes you happy, at the most basic level, what you can do to put a smile on your face, even for just a second? For me, it could be hugging my son, or listening to a favourite song, or reading a favourite poem (I know I might come across hard-shelled, but I can assure you, my filling is downy soft, almost runny). They’re the things that bring me those little moments that can break through, and they’re some of my most guarded.

So take the time to think about what your moments could be, and give in to them. One bright thought in a million dark ones is better than none, after all.

And think about the world around you, and realise that everybody’s got their own struggles. This is a particular stumbling block for me, as I tend to exist in a world that revolves around me (at least in my head), and I’m constantly needing to remind myself that other people will be going through some things, so take a beat and try not to put any more negativity into the world, it’s just wasted time.

Think about what you can do to improve your world. It could be holding a door open for somebody, or paying attention when another person’s telling you something, even just a smile to another human being. It all helps create a nicer place to be in. And sure, sometimes other people can seem grumpy, and a bit mean, so why not just let them? I’ve been that guy before, scowling at strangers as I pass them on the street, but maybe I needed to get a little scowling done, to get it out of my system? I can tell you though, if somebody held a door for me, I’d notice that crack of kindness, one hundred percent, and that might be enough to start back on the path to a more positive mindset.

Get past the stigma

And look, I know it’s really cliché to acknowledge that mental health has a certain stigma attached, and that there’s no shame in suffering from some issues or seeking help, but it’s true. Mental health has been painted with a poisoned brush because it’s not something you can physically see once it starts to creep in.

But your brain controls literally everything about how you perceive your existence. If there’s something not going right up there, it’s important to try and fix it, regardless of how some people might see you for trying to better yourself.

And maybe it’s racing thoughts, or feelings of hopelessness, or even some mistrust in the future, but take some time, and take some deep breaths, and acknowledge those feelings. Let them know they’re not in control (even if, for a moment, they are). If you feel comfortable, talk to someone. You’d be surprised how many of your friends are going through some stuff of their own right now.

There’s strength in all of us, and it comes in every shape and size. For some it’s tackling the struggle head-on, letting it know who’s boss. For others, it’s more calm, and reasoned. And for some it can be simply riding it out until it passes, that light at the end of the tunnel pulling them through each day. All of these take strength, and I know I’ve been every one of them at some point. And if you can see these strengths in anybody you know, stick to them like glue, they’re the best of us.

So, with the uncertainty of another lockdown exited, my advice would be to focus on what’s within your control, and if you need to talk to somebody, do it, and we can all pull in the same direction with you.

Now, let’s all get back to what we do best; making amazing food & drinks, and facilitating good times for all. Because as long as the doors remain open, there’s hope. And I think we can all agree, that after the 18 months we’ve just had, a little bit of hope could be just what the doctor ordered.

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