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Lady in a blue shirt in green space by the beach

Green space, nature and GU6

Mental Health Awareness Week quite rightly highlights #Nature as one of the most important therapies. Being in green spaces is vital for our mental health, and many of us have noticed this even more over the past year during the pandemic.

I’m a Cornish girl, so being dragged along a rain-sodden beach on a Sunday with the dog was something that was the norm for me; my much older sisters often grabbing the opportunity to throw me in the sea (for fun!) and get me into trouble!

But my connection with nature became very strong at an early age.

When my father died very suddenly aged 55, I was 12 years old and the way of grieving that felt right for me at the time was endless walking with my dog, Holly, in the local woodland. So, finding a comfort in nature has always been my default setting.

As I’ve got older, I have realised how significantly important open spaces like forests and being around trees is to me, as well as time at the coast which we are so fortunate to be awash with here in Dorset and also in my spiritual home of Cornwall. I have my favourite spots which call me when the chips are down; a favourite bench on a clifftop near Porthtowan overlooking the wild Cornish north coast and Poldark landscape, or the New Forest or Wareham Forest where I can’t help but pick a tree to give a good hug. I don’t have a problem with being called a tree hugger!

In my adult years, experiencing the stress of the workplace, a divorce, juggling family with running my own business and leading a team has brought its bumpy road moments. Everyone has their own version of their journey with similar struggles. We are human, we have ups and downs. It’s normal life.

Business Leader’s wellbeing

This year I have felt it important to do something specific for the business leader, the employer, the boss. There is rightly a lot of information, support and signposting for our teams and work forces. Of course, this needs to continue and grow and become much more heightened in importance in the workplace. However, I believed we had a need for a 360 degree approach and take some time to ask the boss how they are feeling too. If they aren’t in good shape, their teams may find their own stress even worse as a result.

As bosses, our reputation sometimes becomes more important than taking care of ourselves and asking for help when it’s needed. We often have to put our ‘game face’ on in front of our staff as no one wants to work for someone who is a bit broken! Our customers need to think we are ‘on it’ 24/7 and never have any off moments. It’s expected that the business leader wakes up with their big pants on and a spring in their step every morning. They are considered immune to sleepless nights, worry, fear and anxiety that leading a business can bring. And when others’ livelihoods are on your shoulders, well, that responsibility can sometimes, for all sorts of reasons, become a bit too much to carry.

The GU6 initiative

As a result, Dorset Chamber has supported me in creating an initiative called ‘Got Your 6’ (GU6 for short). It was created to highlight the important of business leader resilience and a route for our business community to ask for confidential and non-judgemental help. GU6 has been developed with partners such as Dorset Mind, Ouch Training and Livewell Dorset.

Through sponsored Mental Health First Aid training, and attracting other volunteers with this amazing qualification already under their belts, we now have 15 ‘GU6 Champions’. These volunteers from a huge spectrum of sectors and backgrounds with experiences of their own are listed here. Their LinkedIn profiles are accessible to anyone to direct message them for a call for help, whether that’s for a simple chat with someone in a position of leadership who can empathise, for advice on specific emotive subjects such as redundancy or financial worries, or for a more serious call for help. They are there to listen, provide support, and signpost to organisations and other resources as a next step. The key thing is to demonstrate its better to share challenges and work through them than face them alone and suffer the potential consequences.

The feedback to Got Your 6 has been fantastic so far. New volunteer champions are coming forward all the time, and law firm Lester Aldridge has identified it as such as important initiative that they have come on board as sponsor to support its evolution.

Our Champions are receiving calls from those who feel they need us, which is both upsetting, but also reassuring that this is definitely a much-needed initiative.

Support available

If you lead a team, run a business, and feel overwhelmed, burntout, and at times feel incapable to see a clear path ahead then remember GU6 is here to help. This is alongside the other potential routes of support available, including of course Dorset Mind. It’s whatever works for you but doing nothing should not be an option.

‘Got Your 6’ is another term for ‘having your back’ and comes from WW2 fighter pilots when in flight formation, making sure the pilot in the ‘6’o clock’ position had the back of the plane in front. We all feel a bit like fighter pilots after the year we have had, so the name seemed to fit nicely.

Check out @GU6Dorset #GU6Dorset and the Dorset Chamber link here for resources and more information.

And this week (any week) go hug a tree! You’ll be surprised how good nature feels…..

Stay well,

Liz x

Special thanks to…

We’d like to say a huge thanks to Liz Willingham, MD of Liz Lean PR and Past President and NED Dorset Chamber of Commerce.

If you’d like to find out more about the Chamber’s GU6 initiative, follow this link.

The GAP Project in Dorchester 

If you want to get out in nature, but need support, we run an ecotherapy allotment called The GAP Project. It focuses on helping people build self-esteem and confidence. Our facilitators will encourage you to notice what you see at the allotment: nature, the skyline, flowers and creatures. Getting active through gardening will also help improve your improving mental wellbeing. Visit our Facebook page: The GAP Project with Dorset Mind to find out how to access our sessions. 

Expert Training 

We offer a range of support from our mental health specialists on issues such as managing anxiety, stress and burnoutMental Health First Aid. And importantly, how to have a Courageous Conversation about mental health in the workplace. Our courses are for businesses and individuals. Find out more via the links! 


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