Retail Wellbeing Festival
Staff from more than 50 retailers in fashion and other industries participated in the UK’s first wellbeing festival during Mental Health Awareness Week in London. It was thought-provoking and inspiring to hear people talking so openly about their personal stories, and ways of navigating their own challenges.
“As the first event of its kind for retail workers, we want Together Fest to represent everything that the Retail Trust has always stood for; both by inspiring and equipping people with the right tools to improve their wellbeing, and by instilling a real sense of belonging and pride in working for the retail industry.” Chris Brook-Carter, Chief Executive of Retail Trust
The festival, organised by industry charity Retail Trust, was a celebration of life with many activities and live entertainment going on, from cookery demos to sound baths. People could write down a pledge and hang it on a tree, or colour a drawing mural, and participate in a guided breathing workshop or yoga session.
Together Fest 2022 featured many talks on different topics around mental health, such as coping with anxiety, dealing with money worries and improving sleep quality, to name but a few. A celebrity who wishes to remain anonymous opened the festival with a moving account of his struggles off camera.
“I had panic attacks and was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. It was terrible and I did nothing to help myself. I found out that alcohol really killed anxiety, so I drank a lot, but you just end up with a hangover and the anxiety knocks on your door again even harder.” Anonymous
He suggested healthier ways of dealing with mental health that anyone can do, from exercising to cold therapy. This was recommended on a podcast by someone whose wife had committed suicide leaving him to raise their children on his own.
He coped with it by swimming in the lake, which was freezing cold. This festival speaker tried it in the shower for a few minutes each time and felt the benefits slowly but surely. He also mentioned the importance of being content, referring to a quote from the film Meet Joe Black, by Anthony Hopkins’ character, William Parrish:
“I'm going to break precedent and tell you my one candle wish: that you would have a life as lucky as mine, where you can wake up one morning and say, "I don't want anything more." Sixty-five years. Don't they go by in a blink?”
He also alerted against social media, saying that if you spend two hours on it a day for a year, it makes up the whole month of February. According to Statista, daily social media usage has been steadily increasing worldwide since 2014. Another celebrity at Together Fest 2022 was Nicola Roberts, who talked about the importance of reaching out and setting boundaries. Her therapist compared it to a garden fence:
“Imagine you have a fence around you, and you keep the gate closed. Every now and then, when you think someone is safe enough to come in, you open the gate. They come in and leave you feeling calm and happy with the summer on the other side. If not, you don’t open your emotional barrier.”
She found this advice really helpful and advises people to try meditation, describing it as the best method to calm the mind. There were many other speakers sharing useful tools to navigate mental health, from Laura Blake, a Soho Radio presenter and campaigner for Nail Transphobia to mental health activist Antonio Ferreira, and Roman Kemp, a broadcast presenter and breakfast show host. It was such an amazing day!
Andrea Woodside explores the ways in which retail colleagues should be supported. Ensuring we are creating an industry that cares for the mental and physical health of all is now more important than ever. Learn about the work that The Retail Trust do, and take away key practical lessons to implement across your organisation.