Community spirit can help to banish the blues - Sophie Mei Lan

In her latest column, Sophie Mei Lan reflects on how getting out and about can put our mental health back on track.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 10:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 10:02 am

Lockdown life has been lovely for my distant friend. It has been dismal for many businesses, but my distant friend – depression – has loved being the only thing allowed into so many homes.

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When depression has been my comfortable comrade in recent times I have been challenged by my increasingly busy diary, coaching digital skills in Leeds and online, attending the first Wakefield BID Awards, qualifying in mental health first aid and spending a few days at my new co-working office/content creators studio.

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Journalist and mum Sophie Mei Lan.

I have desperately missed real people and have also lost a lot of confidence in getting out of the house. But after a long day working from home last week I somehow had to get myself out of my work-from-home scruffs – let’s not lie, we have all been sporting the half-smart Zoom outfit – into a dress and in a taxi to the BID awards ceremony.

I went from mixing with zero humans to hundreds. I was warmly greeted by the team of business advocates and sat next to some fellow multi-media business owners, all of whom I had connected with online but had never met in person. The more we chatted the more we realised we had in common.

The many friendly people – as well as my plus-one wing-woman, a fellow wellbeing advocate I met through dance at the local church – helped to calm my own anxiety.

I looked up and was thrilled to see so many familiar faces, all adding to the warmth of the community hub of Wakefield Cathedral. As soon as I was served my starters from a local social enterprise cafe I actually couldn’t wait to go over and re-connect with former colleagues.

Even en route to the toilet I was reinvigorated by bumping into former editors and clients I’d worked with.

I’d gone from wanting to be invisible in black to wearing red as it’s a Chinese lucky colour. I took one small step and a huge leap back into reality, from thinking I’d be the first to leave the event to not wanting to go home. One small step, to 20,000 quick steps.

It was a wonderful reminder of how many humble businesses and leaders there are even in my local community, and more than ever people were sharing personal stories as well as their usual censored business news, which felt so refreshing as so many of us run enterprises because that’s our personal and professional passion to create some positive change.

While I have been fortunately busy in lockdown, working with clients such as regional and national media outlets online and running online communities and my own wellbeing blogs and vlogs, I hadn’t realised how much my in-person confidence had waned.

It also reminded me of all the shops, cafes, and people with whom I hope to become reacquainted.

This was the perfect boost to my confidence and came at the perfect time because that weekend was spent half with family and half with friends and colleagues who helped me to start to move my largely ‘from home’ business across the road from Wakefield Cathedral into The Ridings Shopping Centre.

My new office and multi-media hub comprises a community wellbeing room, a co-working space, and our very own content creators studio equipped with professional podcasting, vlogging, Instagramming, and tiktoking equipment, and embodies my core values of combining community, collaboratively connecting, and celebrating communication skills.

We can all experience challenges, but recently, while I have seen a real revival of businesses locally, I have realised however resilient we may be, we need community spirit in all aspects of our lives – and especially working in teams.

Visit mamamei.co.uk and sparkleupnorth.com to read more from Sophie’s personal diaries.

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