MD, Helen Barkley shares her thoughts on Mental Health Awareness at Don’t Panic and how the team are supported wherever they find themselves in the world.

This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, and we at Don’t Panic feel it provides an all-important and much-needed time to reflect on the challenges and struggles that many people face when it comes to their mental health.

As a Managing Director and a working mum, I’ve experienced first-hand the impact that mental health issues can have on our personal and professional lives and felt it important to acknowledge and encourage others not only to prioritise their mental health and well-being but also to share their experiences too.

Mental health issues do not discriminate and can affect absolutely anyone and everyone at any stage in their lives. As someone responsible for leading a team and driving a business to success, I too am not immune to the stresses and pressures that come with the job. The nature of the work we do at Don’t Panic has high stakes and we must be incredibly quick-witted and provide solutions extremely quickly… it is the nature of the beast.

A high-pressure role in a fast-paced industry mixed with the added responsibility of balancing professional with personal can be extremely challenging. Often being present feels impossible and it seems you can never be in one place for long enough. This is especially true when we are constantly travelling to destinations to deliver stunning events. On the outside, it looks glamorous, but the reality is you are running on broken sleep, poor diet, and logging on when you have a spare moment whilst still checking in on the family you have left behind.

With all these pressures, the one thing that I feel is undervalued in these circumstances is communication. Communicating with your team and family when these pressures take hold can be hugely helpful. Unfortunately, I know people still feel shame in admitting they are struggling or feel they are a burden for asking for help, but this simply is not the case.

For me personally, sharing that I have a child with additional needs has been extremely empowering not only have I found a network of people who are experiencing the same challenges as me, but I have received so much understanding from colleagues who empathise and simply want to support. The feeling of isolation has certainly lifted.

Through my personal challenges, self-care just hasn’t been enough and sometimes professional help is necessary to navigate through the complexities of mental health. There is no shame in seeking help I know choosing this path to preserve my own mental health has certainly made me a better person, better wife, better mummy and a better leader.

I know I and many of the team at Don’t Panic do not prioritise themselves. We do not protect our time the way we would an important meeting or an engagement that we simply must be at. My plea to them and others on Mental Health Awareness Week is that you take this as a reminder to make yourself aware of the times when you put your own needs at the bottom of your to-do list. Find your activity or the thing that brings you peace, make time to surround yourself with the things that make you happy and protect this time like you would any other engagement or commitment.

Ironically our sales manager and I have flown into Mental Health Awareness Week on a very tiring night flight, but we have made a conscious effort to take little moments to recharge when we can…for a change!

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