We are all too aware that the past 12 months have drastically reduced the number of exciting moments in our day-to-day lives. We’re not talking about that all-encompassing, jump-up-and-down excitement but the little moments of pleasure we used to carve out of our everyday routines – getting ready to spend a few days at the Royal Highland, Royal Welsh or Balmoral shows or just meeting up with friends for drinks in the pub.
When the pandemic arrived and the whole country went into lockdown, treating ourselves to those little moments of joy became a bit trickier. With the show season cancelled, bars closed and meeting up with friends out of the question, the mundanity of the day-to-day was left uninterrupted. Except, that is, for when the post arrives…
On Shetland, the northernmost part of Scotland, thanks to the unique work of local charity Mind Your Head (Yes. I know… what a great name!) the postman has been delivering little moments of joy to young and old alike in the form of a ‘Feel Good Bag’ since 2019.
The Shetland Islands’ 22,000 residents can nominate themselves or someone they know locally to receive the bag which contains a range of self-care goodies including books, candles, seeds and plant pots. The charity behind this simple but effective initiative was set up in 2005 to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma of mental health problems on the archipelago. Over the years, and thanks to generous donations and the fundraising efforts of Shetland residents, together with support from organisations like the National Lottery and Shetland Charitable Trust, Mind Your Head has grown and now offers a range of support services across the Shetland community.
Being a relatively small community has its benefits and challenges, especially when you are dealing with something as deeply personal as mental health.
Anouska Civico, service manager at Mind Your Head explains: “The coronavirus pandemic has certainly tested and provided more challenges for all of us. When we were still able to be in the office, we saw more people walking in off the street in great distress asking for help. Often, the person looking for support has been made aware of our services by word of mouth. The fact that we are a small close-knit community in Shetland means that people will share their good experiences with us with friends or family.”
Understandably, since the first Lockdown in March 2020, how support services are being delivered has changed as Anouska and the team have adapted to new ways of living and working. One noticeable change however, has been an increase in nominations for the ‘Feel Good Bags’ as people start to recognise the importance of self-care.
“We tend to feel guilty about self-care.” Anouska continues: “You always feel like there’s something more important but I think now, more than ever, people are stopping and allowing themselves permission to put themselves first.”
“We are all under so much pressure right now and it is too easy to get caught up in the mania that surrounds the current situation. Our ‘Feel Good Bags’ allow individuals to pay it forward and show kindness to others or indeed to themselves.”
During this time, Shetland’s community councils and Young Farmers Clubs have also stepped up to support the charity and ensure that, since the first lockdown in March 2020, not one nomination for an adult or children’s bag has been turned down.
Aimee Budge of Shetland Young Farmers and her family had submitted nominations in the past for the little bags of joy and recently, Shetland Young Farmers raised £1,120 in a Facebook auction for the charity in order for them to continue the initiative.
Aimee says: “Mind Your Head is a fantastic charity that supports every single person in Shetland. The Young Farmers wanted to raise money for the Feel Good Bags because we know how lockdown has affected everyone’s mental health and hopefully these little gifts will brighten someone’s day. During these hard times the gift of kindness is the best gift you can give.”
What this small charity in the Shetland Islands is doing may not sound revolutionary but, it actually is. Taking time to think of others and taking time for yourself could make the world of difference when it comes to your mental health and wellbeing. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we’ll have in our lives – so isn’t it time we started nurturing it?
If you want to learn more about the work Mind Your Head is doing in Shetland please visit www.mindyourhead.org.uk to learn more.