Abi Hanson

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022…Let’s get Connected! – Abi Hanson

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 - hand extended to sitting person illustration

Abi Hanson

Mind Matters Initiative Officer

How did you stay connected with others over the pandemic period?

The pandemic was difficult, not only because it was the pandemic, but because I found myself out of work and living in a new city. My partner was working from home, and I would spend my days running and sending off endless job applications. I felt futile and alone. It was difficult!

Keeping connected with others was hugely important. We had lots of Zoom quizzes with friends, and I just made sure I phoned people regularly and got out of the flat when I could. Listening to podcasts and reading books also helped me feel less alone. Even if it wasn’t direct connection, hearing people’s stories, both fiction and nonfiction, and finding common ground within that helped me to feel more connected.

Is a sense of community important to you?

Yes. It makes you feel less alone and makes you feel valued for who you are. Even if it’s something really small and simple. I think the classic notion of community can easily become overwhelming to some people as becoming a part of something new can feel like another commitment (I’m envisioning a bustling village hall type situation…which can be great for some people, but it’s not for everyone!)

But even something like going to the same sports centre regularly can be nice. Somewhere where you can bond over a common interest. It’s just knowing you can see a familiar smiling face when you need one. Having a friendly little chat can really help get you out of your own headspace.

When has community helped you?

As you can probably tell, I’ve always loved exercise. Having that outlet has always helped me. I’ve always been a part of my community sports centre both growing up in Kent, and now, living in Basingstoke.

Sports centres are always full of different people who are all there to have fun and there’s never any pressure. It’s comforting, familiar and friendly. That in itself is really grounding.

What’s your favourite conversation starter?

You can’t beat classic British weather…failing that…it depends on the situation! How are you? Where are you from? What do you do? (Before moving swiftly onto the very important topic of ‘do you like dogs?’)

We know connection with others is important, but what’s your favourite way to wind down and reconnect with yourself?

Getting out in nature. You can’t beat a long walk on the beach or in the woods. I also love baking cakes and loaves of bread!

With many communities now building online, can you recommend a podcast, book or show that has made you feel closer to others?

I love Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast. She interviews all sorts of people about their lives and various struggles they’ve learnt to overcome. There’s always something relatable. It’s the perfect mix of thought provoking and fun! It’s a good reminder that at the end of the day we’re all only human and we’re all just trying to figure everything out.


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