Retail & Mental Health

Working in retail this time last year, really affected my mental health. Having now experienced this year not working in a retail environment after 5-6 years of doing so, has made me realise how deeply it affected me. But you can get through this. Here’s how.

If you’re working in retail right now, you’ll be doing the Black Friday slog and the run up to Christmas. It’s peak time, you’ll be working more hours to keep the store running and obeying the inpatient demands of the general public. You’ll get the lovely regulars with a mix of extremely inpatient customers- but all in all, the magic of Christmas can be beautiful…yet for some, very hard to enjoy. 

Image by Suzanne Wright Photographer

Customer service is rewarding, and building those relationships can be some of the best parts to the retail world. Every job comes with its trials and tribulations, but when you work in retail- you don’t really have the option to take time off during the busiest part of the year, or the option to not smile and have a bad day. So when your mental health is suffering, what options do you have?

I loved where I used to work and I still love them. I have learned that my mental health deteriorated in the slope to Christmas, and even though the end of the year is always the most magical, it is also one of the most stressful and in my experience, the hardest to get through. I remember one specific night two years ago, leaving from a late night, and literally running and crying all the way home because I just wanted to curl up and have a day off.  It was raining, I was tired after getting a 2 hour commute home and I ran the last part home. RAN. Then I woke up at 5am the next day to do it all over again.


So What Can You Do?

Share your concerns with your Manager. Let one of your superiors know how you feel, whether that’s your supervisor, floor manager or whoever. Tell a colleague, but remember you need the right support from your employer. They’ll be able to see what they can do for you. Also remember, they are human! They are working in retail at the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Stick together and ask questions like, “Hey, I wondered if you had time at all this morning or later in the day for a quick chat?”, “I’d love to run something by you in private, if you have time today?”. Even if they can give you a quick 10 minutes in the back when it’s becoming too much- as long as they are aware…you’re in safer hands. Don’t struggle in silence.

If you need a mental health day…take one. To do a good job, be productive and also be a wonderful part of the team- you need to take care of yourself. Being at work and knowing you’re not feeling your best, isn’t helping yourself or any of your colleagues…that’s both physically or mentally. Try not to feel guilty (I’m with you on trying/failing at that!). Your best self is a cared for self. Take the time you need.

Christmas is a mush. Give your mental health some structure. You may be working long as heck hours, different shift patterns and days can pass in a stressful blur. Making a note of how you feel can be really important in trying to track what you’re going through mentally. Assign colours to different moods (blue- ok day, yellow-happy/smooth day, black- terrible day etc) and see if you can spot some patterns. The Mental Health Foundation have some great tools on how to support mental health at work. 

Know your rights. This is so important. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly by your employer, know that you have a right to challenge discrimination. Time To Change set this out clearly and can signpost you to the correct services, especially when it comes to legal stuff and action to take. Unsure of what the Equality Act covers? You can check out the types of discrimination here on Mind’s website.


It’s hard to keep happy during the Christmas period, just know you are not alone in feeling that way. Please check out Keep Real’s list of careline that are available.

My Dream: The ‘Keep Real’ Store

So, as some of you lovely people may know- I run my own small business I set up last year called ‘Keep Real‘. Providing goods and illustration to all who seek a positive place. At the tail end of 2014, I had the delight of being interviewed by an independent magazine website called ‘Sheffield Unchained’ where they stated very accurately, ‘Kimberley decided to combine interests in design, illustration and mental health with the launch of what she terms a ‘positive illustration and goods movement’, which is less about selling objects and more about promoting meaning and positive messages.’

I couldn’t havIMG_20140405_141826e put it better myself. I want to create a store that people can just hang out at and shop. No rushing in, no rushing out if you don’t want to. You wanna sit and talk to your friends about your day? Do it. You wanna buy a present for a relative, and hang out on the sofas reading a book? Do it.

There aren’t enough places when you’re shopping, to make you feel like you’re welcome to stay as long as it pleases you. ‘If you’re going to stay, you have to buy something’. I don’t want that bullshit for you. Shopping is hard enough, then when you want to rest you feel you have to go to a coffee shop just DSCN0014to sit down and take a time out. So you have to pay extortionate amounts for your Americano, which you didn’t really want in the first place. If you’re gonna hang at Keep Real, just throw your loose change into a jar- where it contributes to raising money to Mental Health Charities. Just don’t abuse the freedom (I’m flattered that you wanna stay from 9am til 5pm but really? really?!)

I have so many ideas with Keep Real, creating a positive environment for all you individuals out there. They’ll be sofas, throws and chairs around, where they’ll be loads of books that you can just pick up and read. Artwork on the walls for sale, clothes, accessories, bags, prints and homeware.

Shopping is hard enough, then when you want to rest you feel you have to go to a coffee shop just to sit down and take a time out. So you have to pay extortionate amounts for your Americano, which you didn’t really want in the first place.

Who knows what the future holds for it, but after I graduate- that’s where I will make my dreams come true (ultimate corny thing to say, right?). ‘Staying True’ and ‘Keeping Real’ are the traditional sayings that prove a foundation for what I really want to create. It will happen, I just can’t wait to see where it takes me and who follows the journey with me.