Modern life burn-out is as ubiquitous as M&S but we have this idea that we have to be all in with therapy or medication to deal with it. And we’re not knocking either (we have been and sometimes still are there), but sometimes we just need access to what we see as mental health maintenance, safe spaces to talk it out and talk it over. That’s where the network of Frazzled Cafes come in. They fill that gap between sitting alone with something, with the struggle and the frankly frazzled feelings that infiltrate our lives and our days, and pouring resources like money and time into talking cures, to committing to sessions and schedules. We need both. In fact we need all the different things, the different kinds of spaces and initiatives that might meet us where we are and hold us for the time that we’re there in whatever way we need, without judgment and with compassion.
Frazzled Cafes were launched a couple of years ago by the comedian Ruby Wax, who has recently become known as the popular author of books that include How to be Human, in which she discusses with a monk, and a neuroscientist the fundamentals of how we function as people, and A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, an approachable and funny course in mindfulness. During the tour for her books, Wax had people again and again come up to her needing to talk and that was her lightbulb moment—that we all are running on empty and still finding our way through, and that we all need a way of expressing that feeling while connecting with others who are probably experiencing the same thing.
On why that word ‘Frazzled’, Wax explains: “A neurobiologist might say that someone is ‘stuck in a state of “frazzle”. They mean that, for this person, constant stress is overloading the nervous system, flooding it with cortisol and adrenaline; their attention is fixed on what’s worrying them and not the job in hand, which can lead to burn-out.”
The genius of the idea though is that Wax reached out to M&S, the widely beloved British High Street institution, to host these talk gatherings. And with that one call, you are in seriously stigma busting territory. If the venerable M&S is in that space of talking about our emotional and psychological lives, then surely that’s ok and allowed. Plus, who doesn’t want to spend time in an M&S after hours where the sessions are held?
Frazzled Cafes now take place in M&S locations across the UK, in their cafes and sometimes community rooms. Recently the idea was also tested at High Street Bakery Le Pain Quotidien. People are invited to RSVP beforehand and some weight is given to those who have attended before. Each session lasts 75-90 minutes and starts with a meditation to bring people into the room and ground their experience. The meetings are run according to the rules of therapeutic spaces, with a set of guidelines that promotes ideas of confidentiality, kindness and support.
If you interested in joining one of these meet-ups, sign-up for the newsletter which announces dates and venues and will link you to the RSVP for each cafe session. Just note that Frazzled Cafes are keen to point out that this is not designed to replace therapy but rather fills a need that most of us have just to be heard.
In our busy, often overwhelming lives, sometimes all we need is a safe space to talk. Frazzled Cafe is that space. And with that the issue of our mental wellbeing has now hit our high-street. Let’s keep it there.