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Wellness on remote work routine

Make wellness part of your remote-work routine

Make wellness part of your remote-work routine 1200 800 Team Mindsum

When you first started working remotely, you may have been excited by the opportunity for increased flexibility and the freedom to set your own schedule. You may have enjoyed not having to dress up for work, and you certainly haven’t missed the ordeal of commuting, especially when the weather is unpleasant.

But you’ve probably come to realise that remote work comes with its own challenges, not least of which is maintaining health and fitness. Some of the wellness concerns remote workers have identified include maintaining mental health in isolation, the risk of burnout, and decreased physical activity. These issues can take a greater toll on older members of the workforce, especially long term. In the following guide, Mindsum helps you consider some of the tactics you can easily incorporate into a wellness program for better spirits and greater productivity.

Self-care is paramount

Whether remote work has cut you off from regular social interactions or has you feeling trapped with family or housemates, counter negativity or stress by means of conscious acts of self-care. This could involve taking a break to dance along with your favourite upbeat tune, meditating or doing yoga for five minutes, or even something as simple as lighting a scented candle. Taking time for self-care will help both your mental well-being and overall efficiency.

Make your workspace ergonomic

Working from home can take a real toll on your well-being if you don’t have a workplace set up for maximum physical wellness. Plopping down on a bed or sofa with a laptop or slouching at a low desk can lead to spinal health issues. Your screen should be positioned at eye level or above to prevent neck strain. Investing in ergonomic chairs or devices can help with posture as well as comfort.

Make fitness part of your day

You will feel better physically and mentally if you get a workout in or punctuate your day with bursts of physical activity. While there are exercises you can do at your desk, it’s also important to walk away from work from time to time. Do some physical exercises to get your heart rate up while your mind takes a break from its routine tasks. If you are unable to do high-intensity workouts due to mobility or health concerns, try some gentle stretching, or take a calming walk outdoors, weather permitting.

Be mindful of your eating

Comfort snacking so easily becomes part of one’s at-home routine, and this can lead to nutritional problems and unhealthy weight gain. Unfortunately, if you are not feeling confident about your health and appearance, this can drive you to snack even more. Instead of feeling like you need to punish yourself for indulging, think about how you can treat your snack breaks as rewards. Don’t let yourself snack until you’ve met a goal. When you do, opt for healthy treats such as veggie chips, sunflower seeds, or whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese.

Tap into positivity by refreshing your home space

When you’re stuck in your house all day, you begin to realise just how greatly your environment affects your mindset. If your house is messy and cluttered, this can lead to anxiety. Stale air and bad lighting also take a toll on your mood and make it hard to practice mindfulness in your home. Update your home to optimise positivity. Declutter and organise, keep surfaces clean and dust-free, and make sure you have plenty of light and airflow. Using naturally scented cleaners can also help make your home a more positive environment.

Even if the idea of a wellness program initially sounds like more work, incorporating these practices into your day-to-day will make time pass by more quickly and your tasks feel less onerous. You will end up feeling better overall, too, which will make your free time more enjoyable.

About the author:

Cheryl Conklin is an aspiring writer. She is also a blogger, adventurer, traveler, and creator of Wellness Central. She uses wellnesscentral.info to share her thoughts on wellness along with the great resources she finds on her own wellness journey.

LGBTQIA community

Social issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community

Social issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community 1200 800 Sarah Royle

Mental health issues are especially common for those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Aside from accepting oneself, problems faced by individuals in this community such as coming out, bullying and discrimination may make mental health issues even more likely to occur.

Coming Out

Coming out is a scary thing to do for a lot of people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Whether it’s parents, friends, colleagues, whether you’ve come out to lots of people, or it is your first time revealing who you are to the world, it is a daunting thing to do. 

There are a few things surrounding coming out that could affect your mental health including:

Fear of rejection

It is completely normal to be worried about not being accepted or being rejected by people when ‘coming out’, even if you know the person will be perfectly fine with it. It’s a personal part of you, so if you aren’t ready, don’t feel pressured. If you are scared to come out to family members, try coming out to friends or someone you know will be supportive and loving, or even practice in the mirror!

Not ready to come out yet?

It is okay if you are not ready to come out to anyone- it takes time! Feelings of shame and guilt surrounding your sexuality can also be difficult to deal with. If you are having trouble discovering your sexuality and it is causing you some distress, it might help to talk to someone- this could be a family member, a friend or even a stranger e.g. a trained peer support worker like me, who can listen to you and support you without judgement.

It can also get tedious feeling the need to come out to everyone you meet, I know I feel this way sometimes. Just know, you can choose who to come out to, and whether it is even necessary to come out at all. It is your choice, and don’t ever feel like you have to disclose any information about yourself to anyone you are not comfortable in doing so.

Bullying

Bullying in any form is wrong, and it is likely that if you are a young person part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you have experienced bullying. This can negatively affect your mental health.

In an educational setting

Bullying due to sexual orientation is discrimination, which is illegal in the UK. If you are being bullied in school, tell a trusted teacher or parent of the situation, and try your best to ignore the bully. In some cases, this is easier said than done, but it is always best to tell someone and not go through it alone, as you never know how someone might be able to help you.

School can be the prime setting for bullies, however, when you leave school and go to college or university, it is highly likely you will find peers with similar interests, and find that bullying is a thing of the past. It was at college that I found amazing and supportive friends that accepted me for who I am, and didn’t judge me because of the gender I am attracted to.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is arguably more serious than face-to-face bullying in the UK. If you are being cyberbullied through your personal mobile device, it may seem like there is no escape. Make sure you save any hateful messages and show someone- either a parent, a teacher at school or even the police. Try and block whoever is sending you these messages, and maybe take some time away from your device, or whichever platform these messages are coming from.

Discrimination

Discrimination is against the law in the UK, however, it still happens in various settings and can have a very negative impact on your mental health.

Fear

It can be really scary if you feel threatened by someone or you feel you have been discriminated against due to something you cannot control, something that is a part of you. It can make you feel like you don’t belong and can upset you and stop you from doing things.

If you think you have been discriminated against, don’t stay quiet! If an incident happens, make sure you tell someone, and try to document what has happened. If you are comfortable, you can also report a hate crime online through this website that will then be sent to your local police force: https://www.report-it.org.uk/.

I once had to do this when I was heckled by a grown man for giving my partner a kiss in public. It made me scared and not want to show any affection toward her, however, I soon realised, my sexuality is their issue, not mine. Ignore the person and don’t let their words get to you. Remember you are valid, and their hate can’t stop you from being who you are.

 

Click here to book free counselling sessions

Mindfulness in home

Mindfulness In The Home

Mindfulness In The Home 1200 800 Alisha Gibbons

When thinking of the term mindfulness many tend to picture sitting alone, still and quiet for long periods of time. While this type of meditation is a great way to become more mindful, it may not be suited to everyone and there are many other ways you can practice mindfulness and meditation during everyday activities. This is known as informal meditation and there are many ways you can practice this which involves the whole family including your children. 

The main thing to remember is that mindfulness is about bringing your mind into the present, the mind is focussed only on the current activity, the world around you and your feelings and thoughts.

In today’s society, we are constantly busy, checking our phones and moving from one place to another. We think about the future a lot, worrying about the days and weeks ahead or even thinking about the past and what we may have done differently. Additionally, for children, their minds are constantly wandering and their attention span is a lot shorter. While this is all normal and it is good to think about the future and reflect on the past, it is also very healthy to take time in your day to reconnect with your body and mind and feel present in the moment. 

There are many mindful activities that you can incorporate into home life for you and your children, anyone can have a go and they are all great and easy ways for you and your child to start being more mindful.

Yoga

As many of us know exercise has been proven to be good for both our mental and physical health but it is also a really good way to practice mindfulness. When you are exercising and practicing different movements you can not help but bring your mind to the present and focus. Any type of exercise is good for this but a particular exercise that is good for you to easily do in your home and with your children is Yoga. 

Yoga is good to practice mindfulness as each move is posed and gentle so you have to really focus on each part of the body in order to do it correctly. It also brings attention to your breathing which is key when being present, focussing on your breathing in and out and how your body changes can make you feel at one within yourself, your body and your mind. Yoga can be as simple as you like and there are lots of videos online aimed at beginners and even some specifically for children. 

Gardening

Spending time outside in the fresh air and surrounded by nature is another good way to feel present with and appreciate the world around us. A simple way to do this is by planting some flowers, seeds and herbs and tending to them daily. Children can help out with this too, and you can water, plant and look after them together. In this activity your mind is focused on what is best for the plants to help them grow, not worrying about the day or week ahead.

Additionally going for a walk around a garden centre and looking at all the different varieties and colours is another way you can practice mindfulness, as well as buying flowers and arranging them in a vase. You and your child can see what colours will work well together, tend to them and appreciate them in your home. To engage your child, ask them which is their favourite, how are the textures different and what differences they notice in the plants day to day.

Getting Creative

Art in general and getting creative is another great mindful activity, your mind is focussed on the picture or object you are creating and so it has less chance of wandering elsewhere. A good starting point is mindfulness colouring books, there are a wide variety of them from children to adults and also books targeted to specific interests such as film franchises, travel and cooking. There is something for everyone, and each picture is detailed and intricate allowing you to get lost in the colouring for hours. 

When doing creative activity try to really focus on the colours you are using and how they work together, any materials and textures you are working with and how they are contributing to your picture. Think about how it makes you feel and who you can show once you’re finished. The aim with creative mindfulness is always to not be too worried about the end result but on the experience of making it and being in the moment. 

Walking

Amazing for the mind and body and a great way to discover your local area. Walks are good for many reasons but when mindful walking the main focus is bringing your mind to the present, really focusing on the walk and what you see around you. A way to make this walk engaging for your child is to make it into a challenge, ask them to pick a particular item they want to look out for on the walk, this could be leaves, animals, flowers or even particular colours around them. This way their mind won’t wander as much as they will be focussed on looking around for their specific object.

Grateful Times

Set aside time each week for the family to get together and to talk about things that each of you are grateful for. This may be people in your life, items you own, things you have achieved, something that has helped you or things you have learnt. This is a simple but amazing way to appreciate the world around you and everything you already have. This is a healthy habit to get into for both you and your child to help you develop a more positive outlook.

Click here to book free counselling sessions

Myths about eating disorder

Myths About Eating Disorders

Myths About Eating Disorders 1200 800 Alisha Gibbons

An eating disorder is a mental health disorder characterised by an unhealthy relationship with food, individuals who suffer from one have developed behaviours and habits around food to help them feel in control and to cope with stressful situations. This need for control becomes an obsession and can significantly affect a person’s everyday life and make them very ill. 

There are a lot of misconceptions and lack of understanding in society as to what an eating disorder actually is, people tending to reduce the illness down to being all about food and body image. While this is one part, eating disorders are a complex disorder based upon emotions, mindset and control and they have physical effects that can be distressing and harmful to the individual.  

This is just one of the myths that people believe about eating disorders, and with eating disorders having the highest mortality rate for any mental health disorder, it is important that people know more facts and for the stigma around them to be reduced. This would hopefully make people realise if they have a problem with their eating, and therefore more likely to seek help.

Eating Disorders are not a serious illness

Eating Disorders are actually a very serious mental health illness as recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the reference that many healthcare professionals will use when diagnosing their patients. They can affect anyone at any time of life and they have the highest mortality rate among any other psychiatric disorder. When left untreated it is estimated that 20% of those suffering from an eating disorder will die. These horrifying statistics prove that all eating disorders are very serious, they can affect someone in a significant negative manner both mentally and physically and in many cases lead to death. 

Treating eating disorders seriously would be to educate more people about them, make treatment available more well known and make symptoms common knowledge so that people will be able to spot the disorder in themselves and their loved ones. It would also mean that healthcare professionals will get full, in-depth training on them and make sure to treat every patient who thinks they may have an eating disorder with respect and give them the help they need. 

Eating disorders are all about food

While eating disorders can be partly due to an obsession with food, weight and calories, it would be wrong to simplify these disorders down to just this. Eating disorders are a complex mix of biological, environmental and psychological factors and while on the outside seem to be about whether someone eats too much or too little, the behaviours they entail such as restricting food, binging and over exercising, usually are and attempt by the individual to regain some kind of control of their life. They may be feeling strong emotions, big life changes or insecurities and so use their eating behaviours as a way to regain control when everything else feels so out of their control. 

This is why when recovering from an eating disorder people telling the individual to eat more, eat less, or change their portions will not actually help them. Treating an eating disorder requires a combination of nutritional assistance, professional psychiatric help and talking therapies such as CBT to be successful. Even when the food related behaviours seem to have stopped the mental effects of the disorder may still be prevalent in the individual. Professional help and a strong support system is the best way to aid recovery.

Eating disorders are a choice

Nobody chooses to have an eating disorder, just like nobody chooses to have any kind of mental health disorder.. Eating disorders are a complex medical and mental illness, causing individuals distress, mental stress and physical harm which no one would choose to suffer from.

Genetics, environmental and social factors all contribute to the development of an eating disorder, including trauma, low self esteem, abuse, personal relationships and past experiences. Anyone can develop these illnesses, at any time and they can not simply choose to have one or to not have one.

While the development of an eating disorder is not a choice, like many mental health disorders the individual needs to choose recovery, to choose to give up their eating disorder habits and to stop their illness having control over their lives.  

You have to be underweight to have an eating disorder

Often when people think of an individual with an eating disorder they think of someone who is of very low weight. However this is not the case, significant weight loss is typical of someone who is suffering from one particular type of eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, many people suffering from an eating disorder (eg. Bulimia Nervosa or Binge Eating) stay a ‘normal’, ‘healthy’ weight.

There are many types of eating disorders, and each one will affect the individual in different ways physically. While anorexia nervosa is characterised by a significantly low weight, this does not mean that every other eating disorder is too. This misconception is dangerous as it may mean people are mis-diagnosed or have a delayed diagnosis as they are deemed ‘not thin enough’ to have an eating disorder. 

Anyone, no matter what shape, size or weight can suffer from an eating disorder.

Furthermore, another reason that eating disorders are not all about weight is due to the fact that even when the individual does need to restore their weight, this is only one aspect of their treatment. When the individual gets back to a healthy weight this does not mean they have recovered from their eating disorder. The mental symptoms and behaviors also need to be addressed and treated if recovery is to be possible. 

Eating disorders only affect young women

Eating disorders do not discriminate, anyone can develop an eating disorder no matter your gender, age, ethnicity, weight, social class or background. While the most common people to develop eating disorders are young women this does not mean that men cannot suffer. In fact, the number of men developing an eating disorder is increasing, and now around 25% of sufferers are men. 

This myth that men cannot get eating disorders is dangerous as this could affect their diagnosis. Doctors may misdiagnose them even though they have typical eating disorder symptoms, or they may not seek help in the first place due to this stigma. 

More information, media and facts that eating disorders can affect anyone no matter their gender needs to be normalised so that stereotypes are broken down and more people are diagnosed accurately. 

You can’t recover from an eating disorder

With the correct help and support, a recovery from an eating disorder is possible. This support can be found from a variety of professionals, such as dietitians, counselling and doctors, but also from family and friends. It is important to remember that eating disorders are not all about weight, and even if someone does need to gain weight this does not mean they are recovered, the mental symptoms and feelings of an eating disorder need to also be targeted, as eating disorders are a mental disorder with physical side effects. 

Due to the complexity of the different eating disorders, recovery can take months or even years, and relapses may happen where the individual gives in to their eating disorder behaviours once more. However, with the correct diagnosis and treatment, many people do recover. 

If you are struggling with issues around your eating and food related behaviours talk to someone about it, whether that is a loved one or a medical professional.

Click here to book free counselling sessions

Exam stress

Exam stress

Exam stress 1100 733 Alisha Gibbons

Being a student as exam season approaches can be a very stressful time. Exams are associated with the pressure to do well, hours of revision and worries about the future. It is normal to feel a bit more stressed and anxious than usual at this time and while this can actually help to keep you motivated and productive, it can easily get out of hand, and start to have a significant effect on your mental health and wellbeing. 

The symptoms of stress include both mental and physical effects such as headaches, lack of concentration, dizziness, stomach issues, feeling constantly worried, irritability, difficulty sleeping, change in eating habits and feeling overwhelmed.

When we are stressed the brain releases much higher levels of the hormone cortisol, this makes our ability to think rationally harder and we may not be able to concentrate for long periods of time. This is why it is so important to try and stay as calm as you can during the next few months and for each exam, this blog post will give you some important things to remember and some useful tips on how to keep your stress levels at a minimum. 

Keep Perspective

While exams are important, remember that they are not the only measure of your success. The results you get in your exams do not define your skills, nor who you are as a person. Some people are naturally good in high pressure situations such as exams while others struggle. These people may have skills in other areas of education, such as presentations and coursework, so there are many ways you can boost your grade, not just in exams.  

Furthermore, your exam results do not define you as a person. You could be good at a sport, someone who cheers up those around them, an optimistic person, a good friend, a good cook or many other things that make up your personality! You are much more than a grade on a piece of paper and the future is full of opportunities suited to you.  

Get Organised

Being organised with your workload and revision topics is integral to reducing your stress levels in exam season. It will make the work ahead feel less overwhelming, help you see your strengths and make your time revising much more productive.

Prioritise your tasks according to what exam is first, which subjects you are good at and which ones you need a bit more time on. This will allow you to allocate sufficient time to each exam according to your skills, knowledge and time frame.  

You can then make yourself a visual exam time table for each week/day leading up to the exams, with detailed times of revision, topics to focus on and important dates. Make sure you also remember to schedule yourself in those all important study breaks!

Be Realistic

While it would be brilliant if you get all your revision done in as little time as possible, you need to be realistic about what work you can get done in the time you have to do it. Do not set yourself too much to do at once as all that will do it make you feel more overwhelmed and stressed. 

Instead, look at your revision time table and plan and accordingly write a simple to-do list that meets your targets for that day. Make sure this list is not too long or too short so that you are getting enough revision done but not too much to make yourself feel worse. It will feel good to tick off your tasks throughout that day and improve your mood and productivity as you do it. 

Exercise

Exercise not only improves our physical health but our mental health as well and is something you could easily fit into one of your revision breaks! Go for a walk by yourself or with a friend, attend a gym class or do a home workout, these are all things that anyone can do at any time of day. Exercise increases your productivity so it is amazing during exam season, it will also improve your mood and give you the energy to keep revising and stay motivated throughout the day!

Eat healthy

Similar to exercising, eating well also makes us feel good, boosts our mood and gives us that all important energy to keep going. Some foods have even been found to reduce stress levels (vegetables, nuts), normalise our blood pressure (coconut), improve your memory (walnuts), boost your immune system (berries, bananas), and reduce any feelings of anxiety (oatmeal). 

Incorporating these types of foods into our daily diet, especially during exam season, will give us the help we need to keep going and get through the next few months.

Avoid Social Media

Social media is not always good for us and our mental health, especially around exam season. It can make us less productive as we spend more time procrastinating and scrolling down our newsfeed than doing the work we need to, and it can also have negative effects on ourselves. You may start to compare yourself to others whether that be related to how much revision you are doing or things such as body image or lifestyle, this is not a healthy mindset to be in, so it is a good idea to limit your social media use at this time. 

To help cut down on social media you could start to track your use, giving yourself targets and goals to try and reduce the time you spend on apps everyday, and another way is to simply put your phone in another room or turn it off this will stop any temptations allowing yourself to learn without distractions. 

Support

Surround yourself with supportive people, and if you are struggling reach out to them. This does not show weakness, it is actually the opposite. Admitting you need help takes a lot of strength and it is ok to do so during exams. A friend, family member or tutor could give you that important bit of motivation and support to keep going. Remember that you are not alone at this time and there are people you can talk to. 

Believe in yourself

Remember how far you have come and everything you have achieved up to this point. Be proud of what you have done and know that you are capable of achieving whatever you want to achieve with these exams. As long as you come out of this time knowing you have done your best, that will give you all the satisfaction you need. 

Do not let anything put your mental health and wellbeing at risk, if you need help with stress during exam season get in touch with our Peer Support team and we will give you all the information and advice you need. 

Click here to book free counselling sessions

Children and anxiety

Children and Anxiety

Children and Anxiety 1100 780 Alisha Gibbons

Anxiety is defined by a feeling of uneasiness and worry and these feelings can be related to many different things according to different people. While it is normal to feel worried about some situations such as an interview, meeting new people, or doing a presentation, when these feelings of worry and anxiety do not go away, last for a long period of time, or start to interfere with everyday life, it may be that you are suffering from a form of anxiety. 

Anxiety affects around 5% of the population, and while a lot of the time this disorder is associated with adults, it is important to understand that children can also suffer from many forms of anxiety. Symptoms of the disorder may present slightly differently in children than they do in adults, however, this does not make their illness any less serious, and if their condition is affecting the child’s everyday life then their parent may need to seek professional treatment for them in order to avoid problems in later life. 

Furthermore, identifying anxiety in children may be difficult as depending on the child’s age they may not have developed their language skills enough to discuss how they are feeling with parents and other adults. Therefore it is necessary to educate yourself on the key signs and symptoms of child anxiety so that we will be able to recognise it within your own children and get treatment in a timely manner. 

What makes children anxious?

What makes children anxious will be different to what makes adults anxious, and similarly, children of different ages will feel anxious about different things. As mentioned previously it is normal to feel worry and anxiety in certain situations, and this is the same for childhood years. When children are around 6 months it is very common for them to develop separation anxiety, and are unsettled when they are away from their parents. Additionally, later in life when the child starts to attend school, their anxiety may be more focused on specific phobias the child has such as the dark, animals, water, heights and storms. These feelings and phobias usually gradually go away on their own as the child ages. These are normal feelings of anxiety that children go through as they are developing. 

Things that may cause anxiety-based feelings that are not things that most children go through may be as a result of their individual life experiences. Stressful events such as constantly moving house or school, seeing their parents argue a lot, death of a family member or a friend, being a victim of bullying or neglect is likely to affect children in a negative way. This may result in the child developing feelings of anxiety that grows into a diagnosable anxiety disorder. 

It has also been found that some children are simply more susceptible to anxiety from birth, due to genetics or their personality type. Anxiety disorders are complex and can be caused by a range of factors even in children. On one hand, some forms of anxiety may be part of growing up and developing, while what a child experiences in their life can also be a factor in the development of an anxiety disorder.  

When does anxiety become a problem?

Like with adults, anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to affect their everyday life and activities. If this is stopping the child from their daily routines such as seeing friends and attending school then this may be a cause for concern. A child experiencing anxiety can be very difficult for them as they do not know how to express these strong feelings and emotions or how to discuss them fully, as a result, it can severely affect their mental wellbeing. It can lower their self-esteem and confidence and the child may become withdrawn, avoiding any people or situations that make them feel even the slightest bit anxious. This affects the child’s social skills, friendships, experiences growing up, and even their education. 

In young children anxiety may include symptoms such as them being more irritable and restless, being clingy to parents, crying more often, having sleeping problems and experiencing bad dreams or nightmares. 

In children who are a bit older signs of anxiety to look out for include a loss of confidence, eating problems (too much or too little), trouble sleeping, lack of concentration, expressing anger more often, having negative thoughts, avoiding people including friends and family and not wanting to attend school. 

Ways you can help your child

Firstly as a parent or carer, the most important thing you can do to help your child who is showing signs of an anxiety disorder is to talk to them. Ask them open questions about what worries they may have, and how they make them feel. You need to reassure them that they are safe, that their feelings are valid and that you understand and will support them however they need. 

If the child is a bit older they may also be able to discuss their anxiety in detail,  including any physical symptoms they may have such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, what they think may be the cause of their anxiety and what support they need from you. 

Whichever way the child talks about their anxiety make sure to fully listen to them and really try to understand where the source of their anxiety is coming from.

In addition to this, there are things you can do as a parent or carer that once you know more about the anxious feelings your child is having you can implement into their life. If the child is a bit older you could also come up with these solutions together. These are things you can do to either help the child once they start to feel anxious to calm down again, or what you can do to try and prevent these anxious feelings from occurring in the first place. 

  • Help them to recognise the onset of their anxious feelings, how they can manage these and to ask an adult for help in this instance.  

  • Stick to a daily routine as much as possible, the child will know what to expect throughout the day and will help them to feel prepared and reassured. 

  • If the child is struggling to understand their anxiety, find a suitable film, television show, or book in which a character is experiencing a similar thing. They will relate to the character and this may open a conversation where the child can discuss their feelings in a clearer manner.

  • Breathing activities are always very successful when calming down from anxious feelings, deep breaths in and out for a number of seconds can calm the child down and help their anxious feelings reduce. 

  • Make a worry box. The child can write down any worries they have throughout the day no matter how big or small. Then at the end of the day go through the box with them and talk about/solve their worry. 

When to get professional help?

While there are techniques and things you can do as a parent or carer to help your child cope with their anxiety, if the child still gets anxious regularly and these feelings are starting to affect their everyday life significantly you may want to seek professional help. 

The treatments offered to children will depend on two factors, their age and their type of anxiety. Talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are the most common way to treat childhood anxiety. The aim of CBT is to change the way the child thinks about their anxiety and in turn how they behave when they feel anxious. It finds the cause of the anxiety and will equip the child with methods they can use if they start to feel anxious in their daily life. The result being that the child can cope with the feelings themselves and their anxiety is manageable, no longer affecting their everyday life and activities in a significant manner. 

If you have any questions about childhood anxiety and would like to speak to a professional for information and advice, visit our ‘Ask The Expert’ page on our website, and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Click here to get free advice from our experts

Sensory Activities And Autism

Sensory Activities And Autism

Sensory Activities And Autism 1334 971 Alisha Gibbons

Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a broad term and affects people in many different ways. It is characterised by difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication. Around 1 in 100 children in the UK are diagnosed with Autism, and there are many more children whose autism goes undiagnosed. While autism does have many shared characteristics, it will affect different children in different ways, they may have varying levels of communication and understanding as well as in their social skills and routines. 

Children on the autism spectrum may also have difficulties in daily activities due to their understanding of the world around them. They may be over or under stimulated by different activities, making everyday tasks overwhelming. 

To help these children, parents, carers or teachers can help them to engage with sensory activities and play, this will help to adapt the way these children’s brains react to touch, sight, sound, taste and smell. Allowing them to explore their senses through play will be fun and engaging for the child and at the same time help their ability to learn, improve concentration levels and in their communication with peers. 

Sensory activities are usually very calming, which makes them particularly good for children with autism. Many are easy to make and can be adapted to incorporate your child’s interests at the time, for example, if your child is interested in the ocean then add a sea life theme with blue and green colours and fish characters. Your child will then be learning about something they are interested in while also developing their sensory skills. This blog post will give you some ideas of activities you can do at home which will benefit your child’s senses, especially if they are on the autism spectrum.

Sensory bottle

A sensory bottle is easy to make and can be very personal to your child by using different colours, objects and its overall decoration. First, clean out any bottle you have and remove the label from the outside. Then fill the bottle up with a combination of water and oil, the oil helps to slow down the objects in the bottle so your child can manipulate their movement and see the objects clearly. At this point, you can add colour, glitter and small objects such as buttons, counters and small figures. This is the part which is personal to your child as you can make it their favourite colour and fit in with their interests. Then simply seal the lid tight with glue and you’ve got yourself a sensory bottle! This activity is easily transportable and is a simple was to help your child focus and stay engaged for hours. 

Find It Bottle

Similar to a sensory bottle but a ‘find it bottle’ can be made into a fun game for your child. Get a bottle and fill it with uncooked rice and a range of different objects. For example, these could be marbles, small figures, small cars, letters or numbers. Your child will have fun finding the different objects and discovering new ones. This activity is particularly good when travelling or when you need them to concentrate for long periods of time.

Rainstorm 

All you need to make a home rainstorm effect is two plastic cups, toothpicks, cotton wool balls, glue, rice, glitter and blue food colouring. Firstly, add the blue colouring to the rice to make it the colour of water, then fill your two cups with cotton balls and toothpicks before pouring your rice on top. Add some glitter and then glue the two cups together at their brim. Turning the cup back and forth will create a sound similar to rainfall, stimulating their sense of hearing but also their fine motor skills if they help assemble it. 

At home Lava Lamp

Using four ingredients you can make a child-friendly home lava lamp style activity for your child. Fill a large reusable sandwich bag a quarter full with baby oil and food colouring, this can be any colour but would be a good idea to use your child’s favourite to attract them to it. Just before use add a few drops of water and tape the bag shut to prevent leaks. Your child can lay the bag flat and have fun manipulating the drops, forming patterns and creating their own movements.  

Edible jewellery

This is particularly good for developing the child’s fine motor skills. Use a sweet strawberry lace and any sweets you can find with holes in. If necessary you can create your own holes or improvise and use something such as cereal instead. Your child will have lots of fun creating bracelets and necklaces out of their favourite sweets and once they have finished will have a nice treat to enjoy. This will develop your child’s creativity, help them engage with the colours and find their own patterns to create. Alternatively, you could use string and pasta shapes or string and small counters for a non-edible version.

Smelling game 

A lot of sensory activities are based upon touch and sight, this activity will stimulate your child’s sense of smell. Get a collection of small containers such as jam-jars or tupperware and fill them with different ingredients that have a distinctive smell, such as coffee, soap, spreads, flowers, and spices. Place a seal over the top with some fabric and a rubber band and see how many different smells they can identify. Children and especially those with autism will benefit from this as they will be able to identify these smells in the future. 

Your child will enjoy all of these activities, as they stimulate a range of different senses and can be made unique and personal to each individual child, dependent on their interest and skill levels. 

These kinds of activities are beneficial to any child, not just those who are diagnosed with or display symptoms of Autism. You may find these activities especially good during this current time of rules and restrictions during the pandemic. They help your child stay engaged, focussed and calm which all children will benefit from, but especially children with autism who may be finding this change, lack of routine and reduced freedom particularly difficult. 

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Inside out

Lessons to learn from Inside Out

Lessons to learn from Inside Out 1280 720 Alisha Gibbons

Disney has been entertaining us for generations with its family-friendly animations that people of all ages can enjoy. Many of its films pull on our heart-strings and teach us important messages but one film at the top of that list is their 2015 animated, instant classic, Inside Out. 

Inside Out follows the story of a young girl, Riley and her parents as they move away from their hometown due to the fathers work. They move to a new city, move into a new house and Riley has to go to a new school. Everything about Riley’s life is changing and the film is all about how she copes with these changes. While Riley is the main character, the real stars of the film are her emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. These emotions have been characterised in Riley’s mind and we follow them as they try to help Riley and control her emotions along the way. 

While the film on the surface is a fun, funny film for everyone to enjoy, if you look deeper into the film’s messages there’s a lot we can learn from Inside Out about mental health. In fact, many mental health professions use Inside Out as a tool during their therapy sessions with mental health patients of varying disorders. This is not just within children’s mental health services but adults too. It is a brilliant example of the wider media starting to inform us about mental health in a positive way and has lessons that we all need to be reminded of sometimes.

It is ok to feel sadness

One of the most important lessons to learn from Inside Out is that it is ok to feel sadness sometimes. Sadness is an emotion with a lot of stigma and negativity around it, to the point where many of us have probably wondered why we have it. This is reflected at the beginning of the movie when Joy literally states “This is sadness…I’m not actually sure what she does.”

Much of the time people decide to bottle up their sadness, not let anyone show how they are truly feeling. It may be that we sometimes think that we aren’t allowed to be sad as that is what society constantly teaches us. Joy visually represents this motion by drawing a circle around Sadness, telling her to not leave the circle and to stay suppressed in Riley’s mind. While it may seem easier at times to bottle up our sadness and put on a positive front for people to see, what we are actually doing is neglecting natural feelings which can only lead to more problems and outbursts in the future. 

Sadness is a natural human emotion, it allows us to feel empathy, nostalgia and is a coping mechanism for many situations in life. We are allowed to feel sad when big events happen in our life, such as Riley. She has moved to a completely different city, left her old friends and her old school and she feels as if she has to start all over again, so of course, she is probably feeling a little, if not a lot sad. At one point Sadness understands this saying “I should drive now right?” In reference to the fact she should take control of Riley’s emotions as this is a sad time for Riley, however, Joy stops her, once again suppressing the sadness. 

Sadness can actually help us get through difficult situations such as a big move, or losing a loved one, and it can also show other people that we are struggling and need help. At the end of the film, Riley is allowed to feel sadness and this is ultimately what reunites her with her parents, they can see that she’s struggling with the transition and know that she needs their support. Showing sadness does not make you weak, it can be a sign you need help or a coping mechanism when going through a challenging time.

Learn to balance our emotions

Many mental health issues stem from a lack of balance over our emotions, and a lot of the time letting ourselves be over-controlled by one of them in particular. In this way, the characters featured in Inside Out could all represent a different mental illness. Sadness is Depression, Fear is Anxiety, Disgust is OCD, Joy is Manic Behavior and Anger is violence issues. While all these emotions help us in some way, too much of any could result in a diagnosable mental illness. At the film’s resolution, Riley’s headquarters has an upgrade in which all five emotions get their own controls and can work together simultaneously to help her, this suggests that we need to let ourselves feel different emotions at different times and that our emotions working together is the best resolution and aim of recovery.

True happiness

It is a common belief that to feel true happiness is all about joy, positivity and excitement. The character Joy represents this very well in the film. She is responsible for making sure Riley is happy all the time and only allows RIley to have happy memories. Joy often takes control and leadership over all of Riley’s other emotions and very rarely lets them have their turn. Every situation Riley has had through her life Joy finds a way to put a positive spin on it, not allowing Riley to feel anything but happy all her life.  

This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s good to find the positives in life, look on the bright side and try to find the good in every situation, but that is not to say that we can’t find happiness while also feeling the emotions. For example, we may go through a hard time in our lives, which are sad to look back on but ultimately we are happy that we got through it. As human beings, we need to experience negative emotions such as sadness and fear in order to really appreciate the moments that make us truly happy. 

For example, toward the end Joy and Sadness return to headquarters where Riley’s emotions are controlled. Before this, Riley has been left for a couple of days only feeling anger, disgust and fear towards her new life and her parents, which has led her to the irrational decision to run away back to her hometown leaving her parents behind. It is only when she allows herself to feel sadness, and let sadness take control that she decides against her plan. She returns home, is reunited with her parents which allows her to feel a deeper sense of happiness and comfort from her family, even though she is still feeling sad about her situation, she can feel happy that she has a loving family to help her get through it.

The film teaches us that our emotions can work together and help us get through tough times in order to find a deeper form of true happiness. 

Artificial happiness

More people than you think will be guilty of doing this, being happy on the outside even when on this inside they are anything but. Feelings such as Sadness, Fear and Anger are seen by society as negative emotions, and ones that we should suppress and hide. We want people to see us in a good light and so only let ‘positive’ emotions such as joy and excitement show. This may be known as Artificial happiness, we pretend to be happy for the sake of others. 

We don’t know what people are going through in their lives and behind closed doors, they could be the happiest people we know but on the inside, they feel alone and neglected. In society we need to normalise that it’s ok not to be ok, start to talk more openly about our emotions and not judge people for not being positive all the time. 

Opens mental health discussions to children

Inside Out being a film aimed at children is a brilliant tool in helping children of all ages start to talk about their feelings and emotions. In fact, many mental health professionals now use this film as a tool in starting these conversations. Asking questions such as; Which character are you feeling like today? Do you have any core memories you would like to tell me? If you could talk to one of the characters which would it be and what would you tell them?

Even if they have not developed the language to fully explain their emotions through the use of the characters in Inside Out it will help us to better understand what a child may be mentally going through and in turn help us find ways to best support them, be that professional or family based.

Recovery from a mental health disorder

What does it really mean to be recovered from a mental health disorder? For many people even though they are considered recovered they may feel that in some ways they still have hints of their illness, but the way they deal with these little triggers are now more effective than their disorder so they can deal with them themselves in a controlled manner. For some people, a life fully free from their mental disorder may not be possible, but through learning to balance their emotions, control their feelings and through coping mechanisms can still live a relatively normal lifestyle.

The film’s ending isn’t the typical ‘Happily Ever After’ as all the characters’ issues have not been resolved. However, what the ending of the film may represent well is the happy ending for many people in recovery from a mental disorder. Riley’s headquarters gets an upgrade and all of her emotions now have equal and balanced control. She has found the correct balance of her emotions and ways to deal with situations that may arise in the future. While on some days she may feel one emotion more than another, she can now let her emotions work together which will be beneficial to Riley. 

Overall while Inside Out is an animated film aimed at children, looking deeper into the messages of the film there is something there for us all to learn and to open up the conversation about mental health.

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Myths about depression

Myths about Depression

Myths about Depression 1103 810 Alisha Gibbons

Depression is a mental illness characterised as having a constant low mood for a prolonged period of time, and this low mood affects an individual’s everyday life and activities. Everyone may feel a bit down every now and again for different reasons, but it is when this low mood does not go away or keeps occurring then it may have started to develop into a more serious problem.

While depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the UK, with 1 in 6 people experiencing it, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding it. People struggle to fully understand the disorder and what causes it, which in turn leads to the stigma around depression forming. These myths need to be addressed and people given the correct information about depression in order to reduce this stigma, and for depression to be normalised. This would help people suffering feel safer to come forward and get help, and for people to notice signs of depression in loved ones easier. 

Depression isn’t a real illness

Some people wrongly assume that depression isn’t a real illness, saying that people are just sad, not depressed and they are able to stop being sad by choice. This is a very dangerous perception to have. One, it can make people behave in an insensitive manner towards someone who is suffering and two, it can stop someone who is suffering from speaking out and getting help for their depression as they worry about what people will think. 

Depression is an illness recognised by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the handbook used by healthcare professionals to diagnose people. Therefore it is a real illness which people are diagnosed with and anyone can suffer at any time of their life. 

Medication is the only way to cure Depression

If someone is trying to recover from depression then they may be prescribed medication known as antidepressants by a professional. The aim of these drugs is to alter your brain chemistry and address any biological factors that may be contributing to the disorder. However medication is not the only cure for depression, in fact, many healthcare professionals suggest a more holistic approach to treatment, using a variety of methods such as psychotherapy or counselling. 

Different treatments will work for different people, some people may see results with talking therapy, while someone else with antidepressants. This is why a combination of therapies is the preferred way to treat depression, so people can find out what works for them and increase their chances of recovery. 

If your parents have depression, you will too

It is well known that mental health disorders may be caused by biology and genetics, and that having parents or relatives that have suffered may increase your chances that you will experience the same problems. However mental health disorders and what causes them is complex, they also have environmental and psychological factors and most commonly it is a combination of all these factors that will result in a mental health disorder. Therefore, if your family members suffer it is not certain that you will also. 

If you do suffer from depression and have a family member that has also suffered, this may in fact help you. You will be able to speak to them about your feelings and they will understand much more as they have similar experiences and be able to support each other through the recovery process. 

Depression only affects women

Anyone can suffer from depression, no matter their age, gender or background, therefore men can and do suffer with depression. The reason behind this misconception may be that men aren’t as comfortable discussing their feelings or asking for help as women may be, therefore it may seem like more women suffer but in reality men suffer just as much as women. 

Men may not want to admit they are experiencing depressive symptoms due to social pressures and gender stereotypes. This is dangerous as it has actually been found that men are more likely to have serious consequences to their depression, including self-harm and suicide. 

Men and women may also have different symptoms when both experiencing depression. Men may act out in anger and aggression rather than being sad, and this may mean that their behaviours are dismissed and not considered to be depression.  

While it is getting better, societal attitudes need to change to make male depression and men talking about their emotions more normalised.

Depression is always triggered by trauma

While going through traumatic events or life changes such as losing a loved one, extreme grief or a serious accident can increase the chances of developing depression due to the emotions and hardships they have gone through, it is not always that case that an individual who has experienced trauma will develop depression. Everyone reacts to situations differently and so while some people may develop depression others will work through the event and be able to live life the same as before. 

Furthermore depression can affect anyone at any time, even if everything in someone’s life is seemingly going well, they could still develop depression. Depression is caused by a complex mix of biological, environmental and psychological factors, there is no certainty that someone will develop this disorder.

Everyone experiences depression in the same way

Everyone is different, they live different lifestyles, interests and hobbies, and just like this, everyone will experience depression in different ways. There are a wide range of psychological, emotional and physical symptoms that people may have during a depressive period, and people can experience a range of them at different times. 

Some people may suffer from depression but not experience the most typical symptoms of a low mood and lack of interest in activities, while others may suffer from one particular symptom more severely. Another factor that affects depressive symptoms is age and gender, children and adolescents may have symptoms such as anxiety and irritability much more than reduced mood while men are more likely to show aggression than women. 

As people have different symptoms and experiences of depression this may affect their treatment and their recovery. People may not realise what they are suffering from is depression due to their uncommon symptoms and so never seek the help they need. Therefore more information about the huge variety of symptoms needs to be more widely available. 

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child back to school

How to support your child returning to school

How to support your child returning to school 1337 981 Alisha Gibbons

The ongoing pandemic has seen normal life completely change. We have been told to stay at home, social distance, avoid gathering with friends and family, exercise outside once per day and to work from home. All this has taken some getting used to and had an effect on our mental health. 

Just like all these aspects of the pandemic have affected our mental wellbeing, all these plus the fact that schools have been closed and classes have been held online will have affected our children’s mental health significantly. They are not allowed to see their friends or their teachers and have to adapt to a whole new way of learning in a short space of time. As well as this many children do not fully understand the pandemic and its cause and so are left confused and upset. 

On the 8th March, schools were once again allowed to open their doors to all pupils and to full capacity. While this is the first step in getting all our lives back to normal and a time for excitement and joy, some children may find this transition back to school quite difficult. This may be for many reasons, they have not had the social interaction they usually would, they may fear getting ill and in some cases may have developed mental health problems such as phobias and anxiety. 

As a parent or carer of a child of school age, you play such an important part in helping them get through this transition back into their school and to normal life through your nurturing and support. Here are just a few ideas on things you can do to help your child feel more confident in returning to school.

Let them know their feelings are valid

Your child will more than likely be feeling all sorts of different emotions during this time. They may feel excited to go back to school to see their friends and be enthusiastic about their learning, but they may also feel quite anxious about the return, worried about how school may have changed and scared about the virus. 

If they are feeling the latter and are anxious about going back to school the first thing you need to do is talk to them, with the main focus being to let them know that how they are feeling is ok. There is nothing wrong with feeling anxious or scared about the return and that many children will be feeling the same as them. Acknowledge how they are feeling, and listen to them. You could even tell them that lots of adults will be feeling that way as well about going back to work. We have all had to work or learn from home for a long time now and to feel anxious about returning is completely normal. 

Keep a routine

During the lockdowns and the last few months especially with school being closed, we may have lost our sense of routine, especially in regards to school. While routines and structure in a day may not seem too important to adults, to children they can reassure them and are an important factor in their mood and productivity levels. Making sure to get back into the routine of having uniforms and lunches ready the night before, waking up early enough so that the children are not rushing and have time for a good healthy breakfast can set them up for a good day at school. 

Additionally, sleep is so important to our own and our children’s mental health and a good night’s sleep can help your child be alert and ready to learn. Pairing regular bedtimes with a relaxing night time routine, such as a story before bed and no screens for 30 minutes before sleep, can significantly improve the quality of a child’s sleep. 

Regular conversations

Make sure to talk to your child regularly during the next couple of weeks and do not assume that just because they seem to be fine that they are, as they could be bottling up their feelings or simply do not know how to express themselves. Make this a regular conversation, asking them how they are, what they have enjoyed in the week, what they maybe haven’t enjoyed and things that you can improve on next week. This will make them feel supported and that their feelings and opinions are valid.

Your child may take a few weeks to adjust back to school life, so observe their behaviour and talk to them regularly throughout this transition back to normal life. If you have any concerns about what your child is doing or saying, perhaps they are having more problems sleeping than normal, not interacting with their friends as much, have changed their eating habits or are isolating themselves. If this is the case and these behaviours are happening over a prolonged period of time it is best to speak to your local GP or someone at the school for advice. 

Focus on what they can control 

At this time it’s easy to get carried away and think far into the future about our return to normal life, however this can actually sometimes be more stressful and overwhelming than exciting, especially if your child is prone to anxiety and worry. Focus on the present, what they are doing that day and what they can control such as getting their school bag ready, deciding what they will have for lunch, washing their hands regularly and wearing a mask if they are old enough. 

If we look too far into the future we could also be let down if restrictions do not ease as we had hoped, so it is best to focus on our day or week ahead and how we can continue to keep ourselves and our children’s physical and mental health safe and healthy. 

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