This year Christmas will feel very different for everyone. While many will be welcoming the eased rules for the five day Christmas period, others will be anxious about what this will mean for further spread of the virus and subsequent tightening of lockdowns in January. Everyone has their own individual circumstances to consider and everyone’s comfort levels and risk appetite will be different. Crucial for us is to be mindful of the impact of the restrictions are having on your mental health and how the plethora of mixed messages in the media can affect our wellbeing.
Christmas for many is a time for celebration and families but this always comes with extra stress in the form of pressure to socialise, temptation to overindulge and financial strain. On the flip side, Christmas can be a time of increased isolation for many, for example the elderly or someone who has recently been bereaved. This year, all of these factors have been exacerbated and the focus has shifted for many. It is hugely important to stay within our comfort zones and not to apply pressure to ourselves, or others, to do anything they are not comfortable with.
It is an important time to revisit a tool that we can all benefit from. We base many of our therapeutic services around the South London Maudsley NHS Trust’s “Six Ways to Wellbeing”. The aim of this initiative is to improve moods, reduce the risk of depression and strengthen relationships through easy steps that we can all take in our everyday lives. As a reminder, the six ways are: Be Active, Keep Learning, Give, Connect, Take Notice and Care (for more information see: www.wheelofwellbeing.org). Self-care has to be a priority, now more than ever, and these simple actions can be adapted to what suits you as an individual and can help introduce small punctuations into your day that can keep your wellbeing at the forefront.
1. Connect – There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world. It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and protecting our mental health and resilience. Connections have taken on a new meaning this year and through new mediums. Christmas will look very different for many but try to keep those connections going in a way that feels comfortable.
2. Be active – we are all aware that regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being. But it doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good – slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise. With a winter of restrictions ahead of us, getting outside in nature has never been more important.
3. Take notice – Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness. Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities. Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations. This is also crucial in being able to recognise when our mental health is taking a dip and being able to bring in protective factors and ask for support.
4. Learn – Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression. This could be as simple as reading a book on a new subject, watching a documentary or taking an online course, all things we can do in our own homes.
5. Give – Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing.
6. Care for the Planet – look after your community and the world. Make small changes to your life that will reduce your energy use, recycle more, leave the car at home, use low energy light bulbs, small steps to a greener life can make a difference.
Human connection is vital for our health and wellbeing and lack of social contact and isolation often have an adverse effect on mental health and physical wellbeing. This has undoubtedly been a hugely challenging year for everyone and we want to ensure you that support is available if you need it. West Kent Mind are here to help and we also have a comprehensive list of support resources available at www.westkentmind.org.uk.
Stay safe this festive season and be kind to yourself.
For more information on our services, please visit:
• firstname.lastname@example.org (for enquiries about courses for
individuals or organisations)
• email@example.com (for general enquiries or support)
Upcoming Events & Training
All of our courses are provided at subsidised rates and any profits go directly to support our work in the community. Our training includes a range of certified MHFA England courses and interactive workshops.
• Monday 18th January – MHFA Adult online (2 day equivalent course)
• Tuesday 26th January – Understanding Stress & Anxiety (online)
• Thursday 28th January – Understanding Depression (online)
• Monday, 1st February – Youth MHFA online (2 day equivalent course)
• Thursday 4th February – Mental Health: Let’s Talk
• Thursday 11th February – Understanding Stress & Anxiety (online)
• Thursday 18th February – Understanding Depression (online)
• Monday 22nd February – MHFA online (2 day equivalent course)
• Thursday 25th February – Half Day Mental Health Aware (online)
For further details on any of our courses, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.