Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Opening up about our mental health.


In the games industry alone, data from charity Safe in Our World shows that those who work within the video games industry are often more likely to live with a mental health condition. In fact, in one recent census in the UK, it was reported that 31% of those asked revealed that they live with anxiety, depression or both (the national average is 17%).

Clearly there is a lot more work to do, but over the last few years we’ve experienced a sea change in attitudes towards mental health. It’s been inspiring seeing people use their platforms to unite and commit to positive change, helping us eliminate the stigma on having these conversations.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, the theme is ‘nature’ and this sparked lots of open discussions at our studio which we wanted to share with you!

  • Does connecting with nature help boost mood?
  • What do you do if you suffer from social anxiety and face barriers to connecting with nature?
  • What impact have the Covid-19 lockdowns had on our relationship with nature?

Here are the key takeaways from the team:

Elle Dudley, Senior UI Artist

As a person with social anxiety, my biggest piece of advice is to do things at your own pace and don’t set yourself goals that are going to be hard to achieve! Be kind to yourself 😊

In terms of bringing nature into my home, I am not a plant person – but I love natural light and find it to be the difference between a slow start to the morning and a great day. When I get up, I throw my curtains back and flood the flat with light as it’s such a huge mood booster – and although we don’t have the luxury of a balcony, I find just taking a long look out the window at the sky is a nice way to start my day too, no matter the weather. 

I acknowledge all the benefits some people get from connecting with nature, but it isn’t always that easy. For example, having a small flat with so little space and no garden – makes having room to exercise difficult! I could go to a local park, but the idea of being outside alone in an open space makes me anxious and I can’t find the motivation.

I don’t get a lot of comfort simply ‘going for a walk’ but if I have a planned destination and reason to go, like a trip to the corner shop or heading a bit further to my favourite cake shop, taking a familiar route makes me more comfortable and having a goal in mind helps motivate me – and gets me outside for a bit!

With lockdown taking away my main reason to get outside each morning, I’m finding I have to reintroduce myself back into everyday life bit by bit. I find I’m anxious about a lot more things these days that I didn’t think about much before, so I try and reduce those one by one to make it easier e.g. not taking my phone with me if I’m just going somewhere local.

Over time I’m sure my confidence will come back and if you are like me then, we got this! Every bit of progress stacks up and it does get easier 😊

Lindsay Gurr, Lead QA Tester

I live in central London, so nature can be hard to find, but I’ve been going on long weekend walks and have found some real hidden green spaces in the heart of London whenever I feel like climbing the walls in Lockdown. Getting some fresh(ish) air and seeing some natural colours have really helped. I’m originally from the countryside, so I’m not really a city girl. All this concrete is unnerving, and I miss being able to see the sky properly. Being inside for a year really gets to you, even if you don’t really realise it. It’s important to go somewhere wide and open and just let yourself breathe for a minute.

I’ve tried bringing nature into my work space at home to an extent! I kind of stole a peace lily? Well, I adopted an office plant and then changed jobs… So Crowley is mine now and he’s doing very well! Except he’s refusing to flower again, the drama queen.

The biggest piece of advice I think is important for everyone to know is: Don’t believe social media. Your hobby doesn’t have to become a side hustle. If you want to knit, paint, sew, draw, craft, you shouldn’t feel pressured to make an Etsy. Find something that you enjoy, and don’t fall into the trap of trying to get TikTok famous through it. Let your hobby be just for you

Linday’s pet plant, Crowley with a new big leaf coming through!

Gareth Mills, Senior Producer

When you least feel like exercising, that’s when you need to force yourself to do it as the mental health benefit is huge. Going for a run in the park or green area gives you that fresh air and space away from the confines of brick and mortar. If it rains, don’t let that put you off! It’s surprisingly refreshing! I’ve made a conscious effort to bring nature into my work environment at home. My whole office is a ‘forest room’ with giant pebble pillows, wall covered in leaves, log scatter cushions, green walls and radiator! Having a little doggo sharing the space with me is as close to nature without going outside as you can get, haha.

Gareth’s forest room office, with pet doggo keeping company.

You may feel silly or embarrassed doing it, but when you’re out for a walk just find a nice patch of grass to lay on or run your fingers through some flowers or branches as you walk passed. Or better yet, literally place your hands on a tree and close your eyes, visualising your energy going through your hands, into the tree, down through its roots and connect with the energy of the natural world. Lots of mental health advice talks around ‘living in the now’ or ‘being mindful’. Having these interactions, no matter how brief, disconnects you from all the worries of the past and future and for that brief moment you are just being. It’s wonderful.

Tara Saunders, Co-Studio Head

I have found that when I get out for a walk in the countryside I feel better, but if my mental health is low I struggle to motivate myself to get out. That can be a difficult cycle to break. I have found that taking nature/landscape photography helps motivate me a lot, plus having a good audiobook or podcast to listen to. Taking photographs actually makes me look at the world around me, looking at the details of the patterns, shapes and colours on the routes that I walk. It’s been interesting to see the same trees and fields change over the seasons where I live. I often post these pictures to Instagram as a record… not for the likes or anyone else but for me to look back on.

I’m about to print a load of photos I’ve taken to put them up on the walls of my home office. I think if anyone is struggling with their mental wellbeing or just feeling a bit meh I’d encourage them to get up and go for a walk, and maybe use photography as a tool to motivate or focus you. It’s low impact and often you see interesting things that you just don’t see when you’re rushing from A to B. 

Some of the photos Tara has taken over the last year, printed and framed!

Colin Harvey, Senior Writer

Where I live in South London we’re really lucky to have several lovely parks. I try and go jogging in them a few times in the week – particularly while in lockdown this has really helped my mental health. At lunchtime my partner and myself often go for a quick walk too. We’re also lucky to have a garden. A lot of my work and leisure time is spent in front of screens of one kind or another, so it’s really good to get out and experience the real world.

I also find it really helps creatively to walk through a more rural environment surrounded by flora and fauna – it helps me think laterally about problems.

Simon Hermitage, Design Director

I tend to use running as a way of addressing issues which have been plaguing my thoughts. I started running for fitness, but pretty soon it turned out to be my best time to think things through. I was trying to distract myself anyway from the pain in my legs – I might as well think about something else. A team problem I wanted to solve, a mechanic in the game to come up with, a situation in my life I wanted to address, or an opportunity I wanted to prepare for… I picked one thing to focus on during the run and tried to explore that as I went.

It’s particularly good for things I would normally find frustrating or get angry about. It’s difficult to remain angry whilst running! You don’t have the energy, so I find myself being more pragmatic about things than I would if I were just sitting at my desk.

Simon with his son Eddie, and floofy pet rabbit.

There are of course the obvious benefits of getting outside, fresh air, endorphins etc, but truly the best thing I get from it is the level of satisfaction you get when you have forced yourself to overcome some mental barrier. The runs where I completed a 5km despite not really feeling up to it after 2km are the ones of which I feel most proud.

The big issue I have is that sometimes my home situation or even injury restricts my ability to get out for runs, and I don’t really have an alternate strategy to help me cope. I try meditation and breathing exercises, but that kind of thing can be difficult in a busy household.

Maksim Mitrofanov, Senior Tools Programmer

I did a course on the Science of Happiness a while back, and one of the things explored was the feeling of awe and how it contributes to one’s well-being. Here’s an article that sums it up nicely, along with a video from one of the course authors.

The topic resonated with me on a fundamental level, as I occasionally experience sudden urges to go reenergise somewhere green and away from crowds. I’ve also been known to sit for hours at the top of the cliffs on the Isle of Wight, simply taking in the wide open view of the English Channel without thinking about anything in particular. I can recommend this. 😊 Also, the Japanese concept of forest bathing comes to mind – a truly excellent way to get away from the hustle and bustle of it all for a bit.

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