For Mental Health Awareness week, we sat down with Lucie Cave, the Chief Content Officer from Bauer Media and founder of mental health campaign ‘Where’s Your Head At?’. We asked Lucie some questions about how she looks after her mental health, and took some valuable insights and tips from her experience.
As a business woman, how do you manage stressful situations at work?
Navigating deadlines and maintaining the energy of your staff can be a juggle. Over the years I’ve had many roles - from managing a team on a multi-platform entertainment magazine brand like heat - negotiating cover shoots with tricky celebs and the occasional politician (like back when I persuaded the then PM David Cameron to admit he knew the words to Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ … he refused to wear fluffy pink slippers though) to being Chief Content Officer for Bauer Media - pitching for creative business, leading campaigns on Women’s safety and mental health and developing new revenue streams and content ideas for our 105 brands. But by far one of the best pieces of advice I ever had was the saying that “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. Sounds obvious, but is actually a metaphor for making sure we take care of ourselves. Prioritising self-care, perceiving it as a necessity rather than as an indulgence. Just like going to the gym, keeping fit and maintaining physical fitness is a consistent process that needs long-term commitment, so is managing stress and your mental health. That’s because self-care is about self-preservation, not selfishness. Here are some of the things I try to do:
Get outside and empty your ‘stress bucket’
Walking or running has helped me clear my head so many times. Whether that’s with my dog (one of the bonuses of having to let him out for a poo means it forces you to get some fresh air) or going for a run and listening to the Nike Guided Runs (Coach Bennet is amazing and gently asks you to think about how you’re going to approach your day and ‘empty your stress bucket’). The best ways to combat cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline (the anxiety chemical) is to create endorphins which physical exercise brings.
Reduce meetings (take some on the move!) and take your lunch break
Every Friday I look at my diary for the week ahead and say no to the meetings that aren’t imperative and reduce others to shorter times and offer a ‘phone chat’ rather than a video call. This means I can go for a walk and talk and encourage my team mate to do the same which can lead to a far more productive and more enjoyable conversation. I also try and block out any empty spaces so they don’t get filled up by diary ninjas - Cortana on Microsoft Outlook gives you the chance to do this and it really helps free up space to do actual work!
Remember sleep is your best friend
I’ve got two kids under five so I have learnt to appreciate sleep sooo much more than the days when I chose to survive on three hours a night because I was out partying. Me and my husband now treat ourselves to what we call ‘reverse lie ins’ which means sometimes going to bed when the kids do at 7.30/8pm in order to get our hours in (as they’re awake, demanding Peppa Pig by 5.30am!).Sleep is when the brain ‘cleans’ itself, ensuring your neurotransmitters are working efficiently. Lack of sleep is therefore what can cause cloudy thinking and that inability to make decisions and retain information. And all of this will not only affect your mood but impair your ability to perform your best at work.
Stick to A Finish Time
Plan advance when you will finish work each day and have an activity which ‘draws a line’ at that point (eg: for me it’s playing with the kids, taking the dog for a walk, calling a mate for a chat, pouring a glass of wine!). After you have drawn that line, be really disciplined about not checking emails (put your phone in a drawer if you have to).
What has brought you moments of joy in lockdown?
I have to admit the start of both lockdowns felt like I was not just spinning plates but throwing and smashing most of them at the wall. Trying to look after the kids and also do my job to the same level as before was pretty impossible and I felt I was doing everything badly (Trolls World Tour became the kid’s babysitter for about three weeks). I would start the day with such great intentions (often getting up early to get stuff done before the kids woke) but by 6pm I was apologising to my five year old Ridley because I’d lost my temper with him in the middle of home-schooling (to be fair I had found him under the table doodling all over it) and I was reaching for the wine a bit too often.
Once I told myself that this was about doing what I could and not trying to do it all I felt much better and got into a nice routine – making sure we all got outside for some fresh air and setting proper breaks between work/ schooling. For my sins I also decided to do a mini MBA in lockdown, but because I planned the time in when I was going to study I felt like I had it under control and knew when I needed to get my head down. Learning also got my brain doing something new which felt really good .
Without sounding cliche, my kids are my constant joy – being at home has meant I get to see all the funny things they do and say on a daily basis. Ridley told my husband Ben he was ‘allergic to his words’ the other day (Ben told him to turn the TV off and that was his genius comeback!) and Piper, 2, is just a brilliant little bundle of amazingness acting out scenes from Moana and dressing herself in a million different outfits all at once. The fun they have given me has inspired me to start writing a kids book which I’ve been reading to them to test whether they like it – kids are the most honest critics!
Can you tell us a bit about ‘Where’s your head at’ and the inspiration behind it?
I launched Bauer’s ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign three years ago with mental health campaigner Natasha Devon MBE – having realised that across our brands disparate audiences there was a uniting factor and that was worries about mental health – specifically in the workplace.
In May 2018 we teamed up with Mental Health First Aid England to launch a petition to make mental health first aid a legal requirement in the workplace, asking our audiences across our magazine and radio brands to get involved and sign. To amplify the message, we roped in a few of our celebrity friends including Jamie Laing and Peter Andre to spread the word and, as it currently stands, we now have over 214,000 supporters. Fast forward to today, we are now a step closer in realising our goal of compulsory mental health first-aid in every workplace. Dean Russell MP – our newest official WYHA Ambassador – introduced a new Parliamentary Ten-Minute Rule Bill last month, calling to make mental health first-aid part of first-aid training requirements in workplaces as well as in wider society. As there were no objections to Dean’s presentation, the Bill has gone through to second reading and we are eagerly waiting to see what the outcome will be.
Whilst influencing the law is a sure-fire way to drive change, it is unfortunately slightly out of our hands. So we have continued to keep the conversation alive with several campaigns and projects ourselves over the years, including uniting all of our publishing and radio brands for a huge social media blackout. With each posting an 'out of office' between 1-2pm on World Mental Health Day 2019 to remind people that whilst social media is great, it’s also important to remember to connect with others in real life. Last year, a month into lockdown, we also launched a social media campaign where our brands asked listeners and readers to take selfies of themselves and open up on how they’re feeling. Most recently, to mark World Mental Health Day 2020, we teamed up with mental health charity Chasing the Stigma to launch #PledgeKindness, a campaign to encourage people to pledge to do something kind for someone else by ‘pinning’ an act of kindness to an interactive digital map posted locally and across the country.
We’re really proud of the work we’ve achieved through WYHA but know that change takes time. With over 1.8 million workers reporting a mental health related absence in 2020 – almost 6% of the UK workforce – we must continue to champion mental health both at work and at home. At Bauer Media we have gone from having seven trained mental health first aiders to over 60 employees trained as mental health first aiders and we have been inundated with requests for more training which is just amazing. We also provide all our people free access to an Employee Assistance Programme, a service provided by third party organisation Health Assured to offer confidential counselling and advice on a wide range of work and personal issues, 24/7/365.
Are there any particular books you have found helpful?
What advice would you give to someone feeling anxious about issues of climate change and the state of the world?
Firstly I would say don’t beat yourself up about these feelings. Frankly, if you don’t feel anxious right now it’s because you aren’t paying attention. Feeling stressed or anxious about the prospect of climate change is normal response to our unusual and unprecedented circumstances. But then I think it’s important to try and curb the impact it’s having on us both emotionally and physically. Fear about the climate in particular has been called ‘eco anxiety’ which is normal but there are ways to manage it.
Try and do your bit and live to your ‘values’
If you’re worried about the planet then it will help to do things you know are in your control to play your part like eating less meat and dairy, driving less and stop buying and disposing of so much stuff.
Give your home (and life) a health check
Reducing your home energy use helps people take a bit of ownership of their consumption. I would also recommend signing up to Mygreenpod.com as it has some amazing ways of saving energy, buying better and living better.
Find like-minded people
You can’t solve climate change on your own so joining a group of some kind might help you feel you’re doing something and also connect you to people who feel the same. There are loads of activist groups or discussion groups like a climate cafe. Also getting involved in community environment projects may help your mental health while also being good for the planet.