Find Space to Breathe
by Carolyn Barber
It was a striking feature of the survey we conducted during May, that many people focused on 'acceptance' and ways to stay in the present moment, to help manage the rollercoaster of emotions, anxieties and overwhelming stress they were experiencing during the Covid 19 health crisis.
With the lifting of lockdown restrictions, different pressures are emerging around decisions on socialising, working, going out in the community, school attendance. The stress and anxiety can feel intense, with many fears about health and an uncertain future. For those still shielding or caring for others, there's an even greater sense of isolation.
Within our Summer Online programme during July and August, we've included two 30 minute live sessions a week for mindfulness practice. Breathing, noticing and concentration, are all different skills which are developed as part of simple mindful meditation exercises. Many people believe that breathing is something we do involuntarily, but by learning more about how we breathe we can begin to use it to help manage stress. In the short term breathing can help us access our 'relaxation response' so as to calm down more quickly. In the longer term we can use breathing to build our emotional resilience.
In mindful meditation practice, the breath is used as a focus of concentration and attention, which acts as an antidote to restlessness and anxiety. There are a wealth of mindfulness exercises which you can adapt to your own circumstances.
The aim of mindfulness practice is to increase awareness, wisdom and choice about how you want to live your life. The difficulties of life remain to challenge us all, but we can choose how we want to respond.
Whether you're experienced in mindfulness practice, or just want to find out more, join us for our mindfulness sessions starting next week.
Click here to find out more
The Mental Health Foundation is proud to have joined forces with WWF UK to bring you this free resource 'Thriving With Nature'.
It is packed with inspiration and information that will help you connect with nature throughout the year. It features ways nature can help us, how we in turn can help nature, plus seasonal sensory activities to maximise the benefits we get from the nature on our doorstep – whatever the weather.
Since we created the new guide, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of people across the globe. Recent months have shown a growing appreciation for nature among the public, and it’s now more important than ever for everyone to be able to enjoy the remarkable mental health benefits of connecting with nature.
As part of our long-term study of Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic we found that six in ten UK adults (62 per cent) who had felt stress because of COVID-19 said going for a walk had helped them to cope – making it the most popular activity of all those listed in the survey. Meanwhile, almost half of UK adults surveyed (47 per cent) who had felt stress because of COVID-19 said that being able to visit green spaces had helped them to cope.
The guidebook aims to raise awareness and open conversations about mental health and our relationship with nature, recognising, as our study has shown, the increasingly important role that nature plays in supporting positive mental wellbeing.
We are delighted to have been awarded just over £33k from the National Lottery for Covid19 support for the next six months. With this money we will take on a wellbeing counsellor, develop CBT groups, develop our online 'Hope' cafe and eventually a face to face cafe when we are able to do so. We will also be able to restart 'Hope' workshop in a new location. - this will be exciting times for Creative Options and our members
Over the last few years, we've run some great church quiz nights, and raised thousands of pounds for charities in the process. This year's quiz is moving online (for obvious reasons!). It's on Friday 26th June at 8pm.
Anyone with zoom can join in. You can be part of a team (of up to 6 people), or we can allocate you to a team. Do you know someone who's not on zoom who would like to join in? Why not phone them up, put them on speaker phone, and they'll be able to join in, too!
You can register by clicking here. As part of the registration process you can indicate which team (if any) you want to be part of. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
We'll be raising funds for Southampton's Basics Bank (knowing that many more people are needing their help at the moment) and for Creative Options (a local mental health charity - again, the need is vastly increased at the moment).
Get inviting your friends!
Please note: children under 18 joining in will remain the responsibility of their parents, who should be in the house whilst it's on.
Creative Options Wednesday 17th June 2020 Quiz Questions
1. It is Barry Manilow’s 77th birthday today. What was the name of the showgirl he sang about in the song Copacabana?
2. Which US state is nicknamed the ‘Aloha State’?
3. Tomorrow is International Sushi Day. What is the name of the hot, green paste that is served alongside sushi?
4. Identify the two famous faces mixed together in the following image (½ point for each correct answer):
5. It is 76 years since Iceland became independent from which European country?
6. What is the largest chain of chemist shops in the world?
7. The actor Jodie Whittaker is 38 today. She is the first female to portray which science fiction character?
8. The following logo represents which company?
9. On this day in 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York harbour. In which country was the statue initially constructed?
10. What is the name of the pub in Emmerdale? Is it (a) The Woolpack, (b) The Gamekeeper or (c) The Happy Shepherd?
11. Where is London’s most famous dog’s home?
12. Name the following cartoon friends (½ point for each correct answer):
13. It is Venus William’s birthday today. Is she older or younger than her sister Serena?
14. Which part of the body has a crown and a root?
15. Name the following country from its outline:
Creative Options Wednesday 17th June 2020 Quiz Answers
4. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
7. The Doctor/Dr Who
8. The National Lottery
10. The Woolpack
12. Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo
13. Older. She celebrates her 40th birthday today. Serena is 38.
The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on all of us and our mental health. Below, we share Antonio and Anna's experiences of managing their mental health during lockdown.
As lockdown begins to ease, we know that coronavirus will continue to impact our mental health, and we're looking for your stories about what this means for you. If you're interested in sharing your story as a blog or a vlog, find out more below.
With face-to-face conversations off the cards in recent months, Time to Change Champions and supporters have been finding creative new ways to take the conversation about mental health online. From virtual coffee mornings to Zoom poetry jams, we've been blown away by the inventive ways in which you've kept the conversation going.
Living with schizophrenia during lockdown
"I used to isolate myself and take myself away from society. It might have been easier to go back to that because of lockdown."
Antonio shares his experience of living with schizophrenia during lockdown.
Recovery in lockdown
“I’d already spent so many years imprisoned in my house in self-isolation."
During Mental Health Awareness Week, Time to Change Champion Anna spoke to HuffPost about her experience of being in recovery for agrophobia during lockdown.
How are you adapting to lockdown easing?
As lockdown begins to lift, we’re looking for your stories about adjusting to life after lockdown.
If you have experience of or are currently experiencing a mental health problem, we'd love to hear how you're adapting and how stigma or misunderstanding might be affecting you. You might want to write about:
• anxiety around socialising with people again
• using public transport while living with a mental health problem
• challenging expectations around returning to work or school
If you’re interested in blogging or vlogging for us, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your blog proposal online.
Managing feelings about lockdown easing
As lockdown eases, you may experience conflicting feelings. Our charity partner Mind have published new information exploring what you might be feeling and advice on how to manage these feelings.
Creative Options wishes to explain changes from the 1st June, and that will take place from 13th June:
From 13th June, you will be able to:
From 15th June:
The recent changes to the COVID rules from the government website are:
You still cannot:
You should continue to stay alert and limit your contact with others. Staying at home is the easiest way to do this.
If you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, stay at home.
It is now a criminal offence to:
You can meet in a group of up to six people, including you and any carers, but it remains essential to practise strict social distancing.
You can exercise or play sports in groups of up to six people from other households, but should only do so where it is possible to maintain a 2-metre gap from those you do not live with
You can spend time in gardens and other private outdoor spaces such as yards or roof terraces in a group of up to six people from different households – as long as you maintain social distancing at all times with people outside your household.
You can visit a clinically vulnerable person inside if you are providing care or assistance to them, following the advice set out here. You should not do so if you have coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
If someone is defined as clinically extremely vulnerable and asked to shield, you should follow the guidance for a shielded person as this is different from the broader clinically vulnerable group.
You can travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance, as long as you can return the same night and do not put others at risk because of services you may need in the time you are away. You should continue to avoid using public transport and should cycle, walk or drive wherever possible.
You should not travel with someone from outside your household unless you can practise social distancing - for example, by cycling.
You should avoid using public transport if you can. You should cycle, walk or drive wherever possible. Consider all other forms of transport before using public transport. If you need to use public transport, users should follow the safer travel guidance for passengers.
Day trips to outdoor open space are permitted as long as you can return the same night.
You are not permitted to stay overnight away from the place where you are living for a holiday or a similar purpose. This includes staying overnight in a second home. If your work requires you to stay away from home, you can do but should continue to practise social distancing.
The guidance on the number of people attending funerals has not changed.
It is not possible to pray in a church, mosque, synagogue, temple or other places of worship. We will continue to review when it might be safe to ease restrictions on places of worship, including for private prayer. Apart from for individual prayer usage
Listening to the Wider Conversation on Mental Health
by Carolyn Barber
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:
I’ve felt intense confusion on trying to social distance in public and judging if people are angry at me.
My 8 year old has really struggled. Nightmares are frequent. We were all unwell with a virus and he was terrified that we were all going to die. Some days are full of his angry tantrums or sobbing. It's been incredibly difficult to support him to process everything. Heartbreaking.
I’m ok indoors but the thought of going outside makes me extremely anxious and angry and stressed. I also cry for no reason.
Yes I have become aware in others emotional and psychological distress. My neighbour can’t see her grand and great grand kids. My friend is isolated from her daughter. When people don’t stay away from others, I can see the anxiety. My friend is disabled and trying to decorate and sort out her house. She can’t have anyone to help her. So she gets overwhelmed and despondent. Her daughter is having a lot of mental and physical problems and due to travel restrictions she can’t see her. People have told me they are frightened. I think the ones who watch the news constantly are getting very stressed.
Anxiety, increased fear of death of self and family. Fear over elderly father who lives nearly 200 miles away. Crying a lot more, hard to stop self crying. Irritability and boredom, lack of motivation.
My friend who is a NHS worker was very distressed at the beginning worry about family contracting the virus. My Dad who lives alone in small bedsit has been struggling, suddenly unable to do the things he used to, large parts of the days with no company.
I have felt sad and scared that the 'normal' way of life may never be the same again - this is what we are told on the news most days. I liked my old life.
All this calls for a community response around mental health and wellbeing, on a similar scale to the army of volunteers, businesses and organisations mobilised to provide practical support to those shielding or in self isolation, and the most vulnerable in our communities. There are local and national sources of support (see our Resources link below). Above all though we need to build a greater acceptance and understanding in the wider community around how to help and support others in emotional distress.
Huge thanks to all those who participated in our anonymous survey. Your words are powerful and will help others to understand they are not alone. Your ideas and reflections will help to shape how community support can be developed over the coming weeks and months.
Each week we share a range of strategies and resources to help you build mental and emotional resilience during the Covid19 crisis.
This is just as important as our physical strength if we were planning to run a marathon! And just like our physical health, taking care of our mental health is about establishing good habits as part of our regular routine.
We've been hard at work updating the Resources section of the Good Mental Health Coop website - these are resources you can use to build your mental and emotional resilience during these testing times. The Resources are divided under 4 themes - Meet, Relax, Learn, Create - please take some time to browse and check them out.
You can also find information about local support and services available if you're feeling emotionally or psychologically distressed.
Click here for Resources for Resilience
The Power of Pets
by Sandy Walker
Just the other week 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.
Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care published guidance about how the NHS test and trace service will work. The service may contact you if you have tested positive for coronavirus. Or you have been in contact with someone else who has symptoms. They are contacting people by text, email or phone.
We have heard concerns from several supporters about how this will work – for example, how you will be able to tell if it is a genuine call, and what they will ask you. We have put together some guidance outlining answers to these questions, and what adjustments you can ask for if you live with a mental illness.