Over the last two (plus one) weeks, I have been on a self-improvement journey with a team of industry professionals led by Hospro, a hospitality-specific brain supplement. Although we haven’t met in person, only on multiple Zoom calls, we have definitely become our own little tribe over the course of this project.
With our industry now mostly closed for business during this global pandemic, it was amazing connecting with other industry members also wanting to improve and look after themselves in this time. We have focussed on three of the four main pillars of health – nutrition (Hospro), physical fitness (FIIT) and relaxation (Waking Up). The forth pillar is sleep and whilst we had no specific tool for that, my sleeping pattern has generally been good this whole time.
Having been put on furlough and keen to look after my mental health, I am proud of myself for joining this project. One year and three days ago I had a breakdown. Four weeks ago, I called my doctor asking to start a new course of anti-depressants. I had found myself struggling and in a very dark place, despite having recovered back in December. Looking back at all of that now, I never would have had the courage to join something like this if it wasn’t for my determination to not relapse and end up on medication for the rest of the year.
Relating to the four pillars of health, I had already started running at the start of lockdown whilst working from home and into furlough as well. I always knew the importance of physical exercise in releasing endorphins and improving mental wellbeing having, once upon a time, been a hockey player and cricket captain. Despite this, the last few years having come back to London had been tough, with me struggling to exercise (read: I can do it, I have time to do it, I just didn’t have the energy or drive to do it) and resenting my body for changing. However, I managed to surprise myself with running no matter how much I hated it or breathless I was, it was a fantastic feeling to get moving again. The amazing people on this project though have shown me no judgement, only support, when it came to doing group fitness classes or yoga on Zoom. All I can say is that I am definitely not as flexible as I thought I was after my first yoga session.
I should probably put a disclaimer here to say this project coincided with my volunteer manager job starting in which I was suddenly working every day and almost all day. This left little room for exercise, but we worked around it by doing 7am yoga and abs sessions from our second week. Unfortunately, I like sleep too much so I did not make many of those. I sleep well, get early nights but the physically getting out of bed part is still a work in progress. Meditation at 8am though was still manageable before getting ready and driving to my volunteer job.
Meditation was our relaxation pillar, using the Waking Up by Sam Harris app and introduction to meditation course. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to describe meditation but it is something I will be keeping as part of my life. It’s been a strange activity to understand personally at first, I am easily distracted with my own thoughts thought I am getting better and enjoying the focus and calm it brings to me before I start my day. Or even before I go to bed to clear my head, its been an amazing presence in my life, even when Sam Harris makes me cry.
The Hospro supplement itself is designed to improve areas of nutritional concern that impact mental health. Being a big advocate of mental health in our industry, it’s amazing to find a product designed specifically for our industry. Long hours, irregular shift patterns and poor diet are ingrained into our industry so to be able to control what we can and improve is vital. Whilst my diet itself has been wild over the two weeks with volunteering, I can see an improvement in my energy and reduction in stress levels.
The most important take away from this project isn’t a combination of exercise, meditation and nutrition, but has been the community we have built for ourselves. I mentioned briefly earlier of my breakdown, depression and anxiety and it is becoming easier for me to put myself out there and do something like this, however I am so lucky to have the people that I had on this project with me. There has never been any judgement and it’s been incredibly beneficial to have people to not only hold you accountable but to share the experience with by doing things as a group. As someone with few very close friends who does struggle socially, it’s been beautiful to have a support group around me.
We were only supposed to do this for two weeks but it’s apparent that we will be keeping our little tribe going. Our venues are still closed and who knows how long for but until then we will keep working with each other whilst working on ourselves.