“It’s OK to feel Rubbish During Global Pandemic”

With our survey during May, we started a Wider Conversation around mental health and wellbeing. Last week I shared some of the responses to our survey about people’s experiences of emotional distress, in their own words. This week I’d like to share some of the ways people said they have been coping and working on their mental health and resilience during this really challenging period: 

For myself, I have dug deeper into how I honestly feel day to day and said to myself I don’t have a choice other then to accept these emotions and there’s nothing I can do about that.

Listening to the Wider Conversation on Mental Health

As restrictions begin to ease, we’re all dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 3 months and speculating about what the future will look like. International research tells us that we’re likely to see an escalation of emotional and mental distress.

Already the Office of National Statistics tells us that just over half of adults (53.1%) said that coronavirus was affecting their wellbeing, and just under half (46.9%) reported high levels of anxiety. We know that many people have experienced problems intensified by the pandemic – social isolation, domestic abuse, relationship problems, financial problems, unemployment, balancing working from home with child care and unaddressed health issues among others.

With our survey during May, we started a Wider Conversation around mental health and wellbeing, and these are some of the responses to our survey which share a range of experiences of emotional distress, in people’s own words: 

The Power of Pets

by Sandy Walker

Just a couple of weeks ago I got a dog, a little Chihuahua crossed with something, maybe Jack Russell. It’s been years since I had a dog, a decade or more and already I am remembering the delight of having a little bundle of unconditional love in your life. The special bond of mutual affection that defines a healthy friendship. In 2016 I was part of a research team looking at the importance of pets in the management of mental health conditions (Brooks et al, 2016). We found that pets provided several roles many of which are particularly pertinent now in the situation we all find ourselves in.

Being Kind to Ourselves

by Maria Ganderton

As this is Mental Health Awareness week thought I would share a little story of my own and my purpose behind it. I believe the theme this year is being kind and it was being just that. that turned my life around 11 years ago.

To the outside world I was a pretty caring person, walked the extra mile and defended fairness with a passion. But when it came to me I was the biggest nastiest bully around, out to shut myself down and prove myself wrong , I couldn’t do it or right I was useless, again and again self abuse and torment.

Building a Mentally Healthy Community with Kindness

Kindness originates from the old English word ‘cynd’ – which means community. Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme chosen because of the pandemic experience we’re all going through is Kindness.

Kindness is about our common humanity, and is what has shone through in recent weeks. Donations of food and essentials, contributing much needed funds and resources, or volunteering time, skills and energy to support others. Whether you’re the giver or receiver of acts of kindness, evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health.

Taking Stock of our Mental Health

Smiley face yellow balls illustrating different emotions

Social isolation is usually seen as damaging to our mental health – we are all encouraged to connect with others, join local groups, find ways to meet and communicate with people. Now we are having to distance ourselves socially, to self isolate and keep away even from our nearest and dearest. Many are facing financial uncertainty, key workers are facing unprecedented pressures, families are struggling to cope. How are these different factors affecting our emotional health and mental wellbeing generally?

Connect and Create

In Merseyside an award winning programme for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression, Creative Alternatives, was developed as part of a ‘social prescribing’ initiative. The idea is that a GP or any other professional could refer someone for this alternative prescription – creative activity workshops instead of medication.

I love this idea, because all too often people don’t realise how important and beneficial creative activities can be for our mental health and wellbeing. And here’s the thing, you really don’t have to have artistic talents or skills to join in creative activities. There are so many choices – from guerrilla knitters to singing, from pottery to water colours, from jewelry making to decorating shoes. Being creative can involve planting, growing things, baking or building sandcastles – anything that enables us to have fun, be inventive and use our imagination.

Anxiety: Friend or Foe during Covid 19?

by Carolyn Barber

In 2015 some French researchers looked at how an anxious person may be better prepared to deal with a crisis than their more laid back counterparts.
“Anxious people process threats using regions of the brain responsible for action. Meanwhile, ‘low anxious’ people process them in sensory circuits, responsible for face recognition”.

There is certainly some anecdotal evidence that for some who experience severe anxiety, the public health crisis has eased their distress. It’s possible that the slowing down of the sheer busyness and pace of life, reduces daily stress factors.

In Search of Meaning …

This is a quote from a psychiatrist called Viktor Frankl who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. He makes the case that those who deal best with the most challenging and difficult life circumstances are those who can find meaning and a sense of control over their environment. What makes his argument incredibly powerful is that he’s describing his own experience as a concentration camp inmate during the Second World War.

And Breathe …

Daily breathing exercises has to be the number one priority for psychological resilience!
If you can practice breathing for just 5 minutes twice a day, morning and evening, this will reduce stress and anxiety, and help increase energy. Not immediately, but over a 2 to 3 week period, you will see a noticeable effect.

The great thing about breathing is that the exercises can be done anywhere – the main thing is that you’re focused just on the breathing.