Margarita Toporkova, Global Communications Coordinator and Well-Being Specialist at Keywords Studios, offers some great advice on why your Mental Health and Wellbeing is important – and how to take care of yourself…

Wellbeing and Mental Health impact how we think, what we feel and the way we act as individuals and as women. It also affects how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is deeply influenced by our relationships with friends, family, and our environment at home and in the workplace.

Being a woman, I realise every day how important it is to promote taking care of ourselves and our overall wellbeing on our life journey. There are so many reasons why we do not prioritise looking after our Wellbeing and Mental Health as women – be it societal pressure, long history of oppression or just fear of being vulnerable in front of others. Yet, this is the most important thing we can do as women.

One of my favorite analogies is about the oxygen mask: If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ll have noticed that we are always instructed to put on our own mask first before getting to our children. The same principle applies when it comes to our wellbeing.

You NEED to take care of yourself first to be able to take care of others around you – be it your family, your friends, your colleagues, or your clients.

I am very lucky to oversee Mental Health & Wellbeing Initiatives at Keywords Studios as a part of my role, and believe I can really contribute to this very important cause that is also one of my biggest passions.

Being a part of the paradigm change, encouraging other women to speak openly about their struggles without fear of being judged and having support of a huge network of women in games? Yes, please!

As I am writing this, the narrative is materialising instead of just being a quiet inner voice that many women have in their heads: am I good enough to be where I am? Am I good enough? Am I enough?

Taking care of my Wellbeing and Mental Health holds a special place in my heart since I have struggled with it myself. This has led me to learn more about it, understand how it works and ultimately educate others so that everyone can start taking care of themselves a little better. Now, I recognise that these struggles have given me courage to speak openly about it and promote it. This is truly a privilege for which I am extremely grateful.

Every issue, every success, and every setback I went through in my career as a woman in games has guided me to help pave the road for future generations. It has helped me encourage more individuals and organisations to take real steps in building more inclusive cultures intertwined with normalising conversations about mental health and wellbeing.

I am proud to share that our Wellbeing and Mental Health Committee consists of individuals from across our global organization. However, the most powerful for me as a woman is to have support from two WiG Ambassadors – Trina Marshall, our Executive Sponsor, and Michele Pettersen, the Global Director of Internal Communications.

Bringing Awareness
When it comes to Mental Health and Wellbeing, especially for marginalised groups such as women, the first step is focusing on bringing awareness to these important topics. Certainly, everyone has their struggles, everyone has good and bad days and overwhelming feelings, but these are even more pronounced for individuals that represent these marginalised groups.

As I move forward in this space, I want to build more focus on awareness and education campaigns that will help us destigmatise taboo topics that follow women throughout their personal and professional lives, e.g., Menstruation, Post Natal Depression, cognitive and physical Perimenopausal and Menopausal Changes. One of my main objectives is to continue to learn and educate everyone along the way, so more women become more comfortable talking about these important challenges.

Normalising the conversation around Wellbeing and Mental Health, creating safe and brave spaces for women to share and have meaningful conversations with each other are essential activities when it comes to achieving this first step.

Fostering Kindness
We are only human. How many times have we heard that being said? How many times have we actually adhered to that statement fully? Sometimes just simply being kind and compassionate with ourselves and with women around us can tremendously help further promote the cause of Wellbeing and Mental Health. Regular check-ins, asking twice how people are feeling, supporting women around us by supporting ourselves are all quick ways of fostering that kindness and compassion.

One of my favourite grounding techniques is asking yourself a question out loud just like you would ask one of your friends or close ones: How are you feeling right now? Did you drink enough water? Did you sleep enough? Did you take a break? These questions will prompt an actual response in your brain, and you will be a little more aware of your emotional state so you can act accordingly and start implementing new strategies and routines of self-kindness and self-compassion going forward.

Implementing Routines
Breathing is a basis of wellbeing, and it shapes our overall experience of life itself. Building one small breathing routine can help change the way we go about our lives and conduct ourselves at work and at home.

Just a simple change in our regular breathing pattern can help relieve anxiety and reduce overwhelming feelings that all women experience daily. One of my favorite techniques is called 2:1 and is very easily performed no matter where you are at that moment.

  • Sitting or standing, begin by exhaling fully
  • Eyes open or gently closed, take two full inhales through the nose, followed by an extended exhale through the mouth, breathing all the air out
  • Complete two to three rounds

This technique helps calm your mind, oxygenate your body, and bring your nervous system into balance. You can share it with anyone and reap the benefits of this quick stress relief anywhere: be it in a team meeting, before an important call or after a difficult conversation.

Stress, anxiety, and other mental health struggles will always be a part of life, and we all sometimes feel like there isn’t enough time to take care of ourselves. The truth is that we all have a couple of minutes in our day to do some breathing techniques, share tokens of appreciation and kindness with each other and look inward to understand how we can better cope with what life throws at us every day.

It might not be a magical solution, but since I have started promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing activities, like giving live workshops, normalising the conversation around the cause and just simply being vulnerable myself, I can see our culture shifting slowly but surely.

And there is nothing that makes me feel more committed to the cause than receiving a Teams message that one of these activities and initiatives made a difference for someone.