Practical Ways to Wellbeing

Activities for reducing stress and anxiety

Uncertainty can easily lead to spikes in our stress and anxiety. It is essential for us to keep our mental health at the top of our priority list in order to help preserve our physical health and make a new ‘normal’ routine.  Below are some ideas of things that can help us to keep our stress at a bearable level.

Exercise: There are endless offers of free online exercise sessions at the moment, including Instagram Live sessions with Barry’s Boot Camp and apps such as FIIT offering free sessions that can be done at home with no equipment. For the young people there are the already notorious, Joe Wicks YouTube PE lessons available. Getting out and about may feel like more of a privilege than ever right now so this could be the time to take the walks or runs you've been meaning to take for months. Perhaps try using the Couch to 5K app or train for a marathon if you’re keen to stay outdoors for as long as you can.

Keep a ‘normal’ work routine: Create a workspace at home that is comfortable and offers little in the way of distraction. Try, as much as possible, to keep regular work hours and tidy away work items at the end of the day so your home can be a relaxing space. This advice is for everyone, staff, students and parents.

Reading and Watching TV: This might be the best time to invest some time in your favourite box sets and those books you’ve been meaning to read. At stressful times light-hearted things are often the best, so consider lots of comedy and avoid the film ‘Contagion’ if you can.

Meditation: Now might be exactly the right time to try meditation for the first time or commit to doing it everyday. Headspace are offering free sessions called ‘weathering the storm’ to help us all through this difficult time. You may also like to consider apps such as Calm and Insight Timer and explore what suits you and your needs.

Healthy Planet, Healthy People

 

 

Our wellbeing hub is dedicated to providing information and tools to help us lead the healthiest life possible. We have made an effort to highlight the benefits of spending time outdoors and now this article will outline just some of the reasons why taking care of our planet is so important for our health.

 

We depend of biodiversity, the variety and combination of living things on earth, to keep us not just healthy but alive. All of the elements we depend on – fresh air, clean water, plant and animal life – they all come from the planet we live on but we need to keep the planet healthy in order to keep ourselves healthy.

 

Due to a number of factors, not least a growing global population, our planet is under tremendous strain and is finding it difficult to cope with our demands. During the Covid-19 lockdown period we saw how the planet quietly but efficiently healed itself in absence of the usual movement and interference of people. However, our planet, and the diversity of life it supports, is still very much under threat. Deforestation, pollution, climate change, global travel and other factors of modern life are damaging fragile ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. With increasing damage to ecosystems and the natural habitat we live in we are risking our own health.

 

Before and after lockdown:

New Delhi, India

oronavirus lockdown: The impact on environment and lessons to learn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venice, Italy

enice canals run clear, dolphins appear in Italy’s waterways amid coronavirus lockdown

 

 

 

It is a reality that many of the global health challenges that we face today, including infectious diseases, are directly linked to the health, or rather ill health, of our planet. As urban spaces become bigger and we begin to sprawl beyond the cities and urban zones that we have claimed as ours we gradually take over areas that belong to other living creatures. This sprawl does not only have a direct impact on the overtaken space but there is an inevitable domino effect on the connected chain of ecosystems. The spread of infectious disease is made easier by human behaviours such as deforestation, which are a result of the aforementioned sprawl. As forests are removed in favour of development only the strongest species can survive, in the case of mosquitos for example the strongest tend to be the most infectious and effective when it comes to transmission and so it is, as we encroach their space we are more susceptible to contracting such diseases.  

 

Limit or Less

 

As our world population continues to grow exponentially, the demand on and competition for invaluable resources such as water and fuel is ever increasing. The harsh truth is that there are limits to the amount of each resource that we can access at any one time, which means in order for us to live a healthy life on a planet that can provide for us, without devastating our physical environment, we need to consider reducing our demand on natural resources and expecting less. The more we can do this now the longer we stand to inhabit a healthy and balanced environment.  

 

Climate change is something we are growing more accustomed to hearing about. The growing public profile of climate change is great news as it is important for us to be educated and informed with regard to this topic; however, on the flipside we are also becoming desensitised and immune to hearing about the shattering reality of climate change. As individuals we need to consider the small changes we can make right now and the larger changes we can commit to over time in order to protect the world we live in and therefore our own health.

 

Taken from: https://www.schoolofhealth.com/be-better/health-surveys/healthy-planet-healthy-people/

 

 

Protecting the Planet

We have seen amazing work done by people like David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg around education and action for planet preservation; however, we cannot rely solely on the work of other people. There is no doubt that a need for policy change and action to be taken at a national level is required but until this becomes a firm reality we can start planning our own change, keeping it local and achievable or even branching out with more ambitious projects. The school of health have compiled a list of actions people in the UK would be willing to take in order to help protect the environment. Take a look at the list below and see if you are in a position to commit to any of these or if you can come up with any other ideas.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Time Outdoors

Spending time in green space is hugely beneficial to both our mental and physical wellbeing. This doesn’t mean we need to be immersed in remote countryside; we can bring nature into our daily lives in a whole host of different ways. Some examples include: doing things like growing herbs or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals can have lots of positive effects.

Effects of Time Outdoors

  • Mood can be lifted
  • Feelings of stress or anger can be reduced
  • Improvements to energy levels and confidence
  • Helps with feelings of connectedness

Research shows that spending time in nature can help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. This may be, in part, due to the combination regular physical activity (such as walking, even if it’s not rigorous exercise) and social contact with being outside in nature or amongst other people.

Being outside in natural light can also be helpful in reducing the effects of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year or indeed those of us who spend vast amounts of time indoors.

Ideas for Time Outdoors

  • Grow or pick food: if you have a vast garden, a balcony or a window ledge you can grow your own flowers and herbs. Having your hands immersed in the earth can be calming and connects us with nature. As it’s wild garlic season it might also be an idea to source some of this if you’re out for a walk or simply bring home some wildflowers for decoration.
  • Care for animals: it might be interesting to add a bird feeder or even a hedgehog house to your outside space, if that’s a possibility, and bring nature even closer to home. Otherwise you could try to spot as many different varieties of birds and other wildlife while out and about or if you don’t have your own pet, consider offering to walk a neighbour’s dog if they’re not able to at the moment.
  • Help the Environment: It might be enjoyable to combine your time outdoors with an act of kindness to the planet but picking litter on your walk or plant seeds/plants that help the environment, such as lavender to attract bees.

 

Some Interesting Reads

How much time is needed in nature to see a difference: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/brain-waves/201906/how-much-time-in-nature-is-needed-see-benefits

Children and time in nature: https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/

Six Ways to Find Balance and Stay Connected

This article is worth your time if you're feeling a little drained by the new pace of life and expectation that work can still be done at home because of the wonder of IT and also if you're feeling the pressure to attend every Zoom chat or House Party quiz your group of friends can possibly schedule. 

https://www.mindful.org/zoom-exhaustion-is-real-here-are-six-ways-to-find-balance-and-stay-connected/

Social Connectedness

The concept of social connectedness emphasises the importance of positive relationships. 

Often when social research is carried out people are asked what really matters to them and what tends to come to the fore is the value placed on relationships and connections to wider communities. The reasons for this tend to vary but the effects are broadly the same, as social animals we crave the feeling of belonging and being a part of something beyond ourselves. Even the most introverted of us will seek a sense of belonging, even if it’s to a much smaller community.

People value relationships because they bring them comfort, provide love, allow them a space to confide or feel part of a group. Other more practical reasons include, achieving goals, such as finding a job, or learning new skills. We may rank relationships in a hierarchy of need or importance but the reality each has a value.

During this time of social isolation we have shown our need to connect through the creative methods we have used to stay in touch. Using Zoom for teaching, meetings and socialising, including online quizzes is just a small example of this. Checking in with vulnerable neighbours and friends has been a priority for many as we are reminded of what loneliness can feel like and the relief that can come with time outdoors seeing and hearing other people going about their business.

Tips for Social Connection

1. Focus on the positive! Continue to cultivate the relationships and social activities that you enjoy best, even if these need to look a little different during this unusual time. Being around people who make you feel good is invaluable and hugely beneficial to our general wellbeing.

2. Keep your social network close. Maintain a group of friends, family members and/or neighbours whom you can talk to on a fairly regular basis. We need people that create conversation beyond small talk, like exchanging ideas, thoughts, concerns and practical matters, and who will also help or encourage us to do the same. The size of our social group doesn’t matter as much as the level of mutual caring involved.

3. Look for opportunities to help others stay connected. Supporting people is proven to boost our cognitive health. This might be extending a phone call to a lonely neighbour or family friend  or doing some shopping for them.

4. Seek new connections. If you find yourself feeling lonely, make a change by creating a new connection with someone or by seeking different opportunities to engage with other people. We are never too old to make meaningful connections and if we’re finding that we’re too busy to do that perhaps we need to spend time assessing our priorities.

5. If you are already pretty active socially, shake it up by diversifying your activities. Think about joining a new group or starting a group that doesn’t yet exist in your community, you might find that you come across more like minded people are create an entirely new network.

6. If you’re finding it hard to connect, just take baby steps towards connecting with others. There is power in sharing a smile a day with someone – even if it’s a random stranger or shop assistant.

Social Connection Task

This task is a simple one but can make a huge difference. Choose a person in your life and make a plan to speak to them. Begin by asking the question ‘how are you’? Often we avoid answering this question with the truth and instead provide a platitude of ‘Oh, fine’ or ‘Good thanks’ and immediately return the question as a way of moving the conversation on. This time enquire with genuine interest and spend time listening to the answer and offering quiet support without waiting with anticipation to ‘get on with’ the rest of the conversation. This simple question can make a person feel valued and connected and really helps with building meaningful relationships.

 

SLEEP

Welcome to day two of Mental Health Awareness Week. The focus of today is better sleep and what follows are useful guidelines on how to improve sleep. The easy bit is reading through this information and recognising that these tips may indeed be beneficial, the difficult bit is putting them into practice. A move towards better sleep takes commitment but the reward is invaluable.

Tips for a Good Night's Sleep

1.    Stick to a sleep scheduleHave the same bedtime and wake up time everyday, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. If you don’t stick to it one evening try to start again the next evening and get your routine going again. If on the weekend you want to stay in bed to read that’s OK but try to wake up at your usual time.

2.    Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual: A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime can help us shift into our sleep state of mind. This is best carried out away from bright lights and shouldn’t be anything that needs lots of energy or may create anxiety.

3.    If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon: A short 20-minute nap might be all you need in the day to give you the boost of energy you’re looking for. But it’s important to avoid naps after 2pm as this can cause confusion to your sleep patterns and end up creating difficulties when you try to sleep later.

4.    Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity at all. Exercise is valuable at any time of the day but even better if you can get out earlier in the day to use of some energy, replace your stocks and absorb some natural daylight.

5.    Make your room the best sleep space: The best conditions for sleep are a cool room, somewhere quiet and free of agitating noises and a place that is as dark as possible. Check your room for noises or other distractions and see if there are simple changes you can make to help aid your sleep. Black out blinds or curtains are best but an eye mask might work just as well.

6.    Tech free room: Try to keep the room you sleep in as free from tech as possible. Consider investing in an alarm clock instead of using your phone and leave the laptop (particularly if it is for work related stuff) in another room.

7.    Manage your Circadian Rhythm: Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check. In the evening try where possible to use soft lighting or no artificial lighting at all.

8.    Avoid eating and drinking too close to your bedtime: Eating before bed can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep and drinking can cause us to wake in the night needing to use the toiler.

9.    Wind down: Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading or listening to a relaxing podcast or soundtrack.

10.  If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired: You want to avoid associating your bed with a place that induces anxiety because you can’t sleep. If you’re struggling to sleep and finding yourself getting frustrated take a break from trying, go somewhere else and return to your bed when you begin to feel tired.

If physical discomfort is interrupting your sleep you might want to try Physiotherapy, Yoga, gentle stretching or perhaps consider changing your usual sleep position: