All it takes is a box of Milk Tray…

Mental-Health-1
Mental Health Champions: Ruth Murphy, Catkin Shelley, Emma Cannings, and Fliss Berridge.

Serpie Mental Health Champion Fliss Berridge highlights the importance of being kind to yourself and others during lockdown and beyond.

There was a ring at my door bell. [puzzled face]. I’ve not ordered anything, OBVIOUSLY no one’s calling round… [puzzled face].

It’s the postman. It must be my contact lenses or something that doesn’t fit in my mailbox that I forget about. I start walking down my 6 flights of stairs (no lift, poor postman), to meet Alan half way.

Sure enough, he hands over my contact lenses but also something else not packaged up. I’m a bit confused, he mumbles something about he hopes I don’t mind…. a box of Milk Tray! How sweet (literally)! Why on earth would I mind a being given chocolate?!

Let me explain: It was just after Easter and I’d given my postman, Alan, an Easter card and tip (I was going to buy him an Easter egg but was scared I’d eat it myself).

I’d taken to leaving cards, chocolate and tips for the postman and the communal corridor cleaner at Christmas and so on because I thought that those sorts of workers may not get thanked often and, especially cleaners, they’re mostly low paid.

And now, of course, appreciation for key workers like these people, those in the NHS and supermarkets and more, has come into the limelight, for good reason. I wanted to do more than just clap on a Thursday night; I wanted to do something tangible, even if small, for people that have helped keep my little life running during a crisis that’s knocked the planet sideways. And for the moment cards, chocolate and tips is what I can do.

So there I was, half way down my stairs, with Alan having gone and spent his tip on me – how thoughtful and generous, how lucky I am, but also how frustrating! I was trying to show Alan appreciation, and treat him. If all he was going to do was then use his tip to buy chocolates for me, what was the point?! It’s weird feeling simultaneously exasperated and grateful – imagine it now, go on…. funny, hey?!

But that was an instant. Then I realised something else, that something bigger, more meaningful and lasting than a small note of recognition from one to another was happening. We were creating an echo chamber of appreciation, with surprise, glee and gratitude reverberating outwards; we were experiencing human connection despite social distancing, and compassion despite stress, anxiety, fear and fatigue.

The virus that has enveloped the globe has demonstrated that many of us have empathy by the bucket load, and that has led to benevolence across communities being played out in many different ways. My postman didn’t defeat the point of me giving him a tip, he doubled its effect; between us we increased the goodwill and understanding that went rippling through the universe by 100% that day, a growth stat that would be the envy of every business in the land right now (except maybe Zoom). And with what objective and preparation and planning? None. What an impact.

So what’s the point of this story? To share some positive news, to say that maybe sometimes a different outcome than what you imagined could be just as helpful or even better and to be open to that; who knows what a tiny act of kindness could go on to inspire, and if nothing, it’s still wonderful. That box of Milk Tray seemed to hold the whole world’s care at that moment, and I was so touched I decided to write about it.

It has never been more important to take care of how we are feeling than right now and be mindful of on what we choose to let our thoughts dwell. Check in on people, be patient with yourself, stay as connected as you can and know that Zoom will only go so far in achieving this, so sometimes you need a break from that too. Remember that looking after your own mental health and wellbeing helps you be the most useful to those around you, if and when they need you.

Running is good for us, activity and nature are good for us, and so is talking and sharing with people. Serpentine running club has mental health champions that are available to listen to anyone who might want a chat, whether you’re having a high, a low or something in between. Get in touch at wellbeing@serpentine.org if you want to share your good, bad or ugly stories.

If you would like to join us and be a mental health champion, drop us a line too at the same address.

Look after yourself, and those around you. Being kind rocks for your mental health.

Fliss Berridge has been a Serpie t-shirt wearing Serpie for eleven years. (Pre-lockdown), Fliss could be found selling aforementioned Serpie t-shirts in the kit room, and will do again. Fliss has been a Mental Health Champion and chocolate connoisseur for several years.