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Excersise isn’t just for your body: Escapism and literature

The first post on healthy escapism is on reading, and this is purely because it is without a doubt my favourite way to distract myself from any of my own worries, as well as calm myself down and ground myself.

Often, the most common suggestion made to people suffering from mental health issues is exercise, fresh air, “get out and about!” or “you just need to get your blood pumping!” are things that can often be heard over and over again.

The problem is that when people are in the midst of a mental health crisis, getting out of bed can be an Everest size climb in itself.

Literature is a beautiful way to escape intrusive thoughts from the comfort of your own home. Research has found that one of the main psychological benefits of reading is the ability it gives one to be able to relate to others, and different ways of looking at the world.

In the midst of a mental health crisis, changing our outlook can be incredibly helpful and can often move us a step closer to lifting the fog and realising that the way we are thinking right this minute is temporary and will pass.

Personally, I find it easiest and most enjoyable to escape into non-fiction books, specifically autobiographies. Reading the autobiography of a person who interests you, for whatever reason, can be a form of comfort and can, in a strange way, make one feel slightly less alone.

Getting lost in somebody else’s story, whether fictional or non-fictional for a while can allow us to get out of our own, even if just for a short while. Even better is when we are able to relate so closely to a character that in some way we are able to find answers to our own problems in their stories.

Besides from reading a book, for somebody in the go podcasts are a fantastic way to fit a bit of escapism into a busy routine. My favourite at the moment is Maya Jama’s ‘When life gives you melons’ but there is a huge variety of E-books, documentaries and interviews available on the internet.

Podcasts can be integrated into walks, waits in queues, public transport or even a lunch break in a way that sometimes books cannot, but their distracting and comforting effect is very similar.

On a more practical note, integrating reading into your daily routine can improve sleeping patterns. Specifically reading a couple of chapters of a book before bed (not from an e reader as bright screens) can help us to wind down, and as we all know, a healthy and long sleep can do absolute wonders for our mental health.

At the moment, there is a wealth of mental health literature emerging that can be really directly helpful, but aside from that there is a whole world of escapism waiting for you. My next post will discuss how music can be a healthy form of escapism in much the same way as reading can.

 

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Summertime and Healthy Escapism

The blog’s theme for the summer is going to be healthy escapism. Escapism is a word that means so many different things to so many different people, so I thought it would be a nice wide theme to explore throughout the summer months.

Summer is a time when many of us want to get active, travel, have some time off from work/school/university and channel our energies into something new.

Of course, when you’re suffering with ill mental health getting out of bed takes more energy than you feel your capable of producing in a lifetime. Which is why a conversation needs to be had about what escapism can mean for everybody.

So often we hear that people will ill mental health need to ‘get outside’, ‘leave the house’ or ‘get active!’. At the risk of sounding patronising – duh! don’t you think they know that staying in the house 24/7 does bad things to our minds?!

When going downstairs to get the post is somebody’s equivalent of climbing Everest, we need to talk compassionately about baby steps that we can take to engage our minds in something other than negative and intrusive thoughts.

As well as getting out and exercising, which is no small feat for a lot of mental health sufferers, there are many outlets that have much a similar effect but perhaps engage us on a slightly less mentally intense level.

Over the summer this blog will be exploring outlets like art, music, and literature as a form of escaping and engagement of the mind from the comfort of your own home, for people who perhaps aren’t at the stage where they are able to willingly get out of the house far less start an exercise programme!

Lizzy posts

Help to keep us open!

Over the past year, the Rainbow Heron Cafe has helped many people throughout Sheffield and the surrounding area with issues surrounding mental health. As I know from my visit to the cafe, many members said that Rainbow Heron had filled a void that existed in Sheffield, being one of the only cafes of its kind in the area.

Rainbow Heron is a safe space for people to feel comfortable discussing their thoughts and experiences with understanding and like minded people. There have been many opportunities for expression through art, movement, discussion and many other outlets throughout the time the cafe has been open.

We are now looking to you to help us to keep doing good work. We want the opportunity to keep helping the people who have been visiting us, and to remain an active member of the Sheffield Community.

If you could spare anything you have to our just giving Just Giving Page it would mean the world and will help a charity so close to the hearts of many people in the Sheffield Community.

Thank You!

 

Lizzy posts

Social Media: Cleanse Your Newsfeed, Cleanse Your Soul

Everybody knows that too much social media is bad for our mental health. We are constantly told that, especially by patronising adults, but realistically nobody is deactivating their Facebook or Instagram any time soon.

Right now we are more connected to one another than we ever have been at any point in the history of time, and this can be a great thing. I for one love being able to keep up with the lives of my family who live in many different countries across the globe by sharing pictures and videos.

The toxic side of social media, however, cannot be ignored. The rise of Instagram has also led to the rise of the ‘Influencer’. People who influence their followers by convincing them to shop with a certain brand or drink a certain tea, or even suck a certain lollypop (Kim K followers will know what I’m talking about) in order to live a perfectly filtered life.

In my opinion, even the most confident and headstrong characters would struggle not to compare their own lives to these perfectly filtered, skinny green tea drinkers. This is where the problems lie. Even on a subconscious level, comparing yourself to completely unrealistic images will inevitably impact your self esteem.

As I said, I know from experience that reading blogs like this won’t suddenly inspire you to take yourself of the grid, but there are small steps you can take to cleanse your feed. I was first told by a friend to unfollow all the ‘Influencers’ who’s pages or posts I wasn’t genuinely interested in (e.g. because they fought for a cause, or posted interesting photos).

This is a small thing you can do that I think can make a big difference. If we’re going to spend hours a day scrolling we can at least be scrolling through inspiring and informational pages.

I’m not saying purge your entire social media account, just take steps to consider how you feel when you see different types of posts. There are loads of people out there using social media for good, interesting and inspiring causes and I’m telling you from experience that seeing things like that every day makes me feel slightly less guilty about the amount of time I spend scrolling.

Lizzy posts

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

If you’ve been considering taking action to better your mental health, or get involved in your local community, there’s no better time than this week to do it.

It’s mental health awareness week across the UK, a chance to really bring issues surrounding mental health to the forefront and apply even more pressure for everyone to start sharing their stories.

The theme of this year is stress, something which affects everyone in varying ways and to different degrees. A bit of stress in life is normal, and even a good thing, if we were never stressed at all, nothing would get done.

The problems begin to develop when we experience an irrational amount of stress in too many parts of our life and have no outlet for it. In today’s busy, interconnected and high pressure world we are seeing more and more people struggle with this. Stress can lead on to more serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression so this years #mentalhealthawarenessweek wants to nip the problem in the bud by starting the discussion.

Often the main cause of stress is losing perspective, whether it be at work, with family or personal life. While it is far easier said than done, dealing with stress is about accepting things you cannot change, and understanding that the world won’t end because of it. Important ways of doing this are simple: acknowledging that you are feeling stressed and taking a bit of time out, doing some deep breathing and feeling the stress come, and then go without engaging with it and giving it any power over you.

Perhaps one of the biggest sources of stress in most people’s life is work. Often our jobs can take over our lives and we lose perspective of what is really important, and the importance of a work life balance. This years awareness week is therefore trying to further the discussion about mental health in the workplace. Often lose perspective and let stresses at work take over our lives.

To make it even worse, there is a serious disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to discussing and taking responsibility for mental health. That’s why this week Mind is creating focused information for employers and employees on how to create a healthy, open and productive workspace. https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-awareness-week-2018/

If you’re an employer or an employee, use this week to take notice of your work environment and see if there is anything to be done to make it more open and honest. Aside from that, everyone can take part in this week by being open and honest about what’s going on in their heads, and taking steps to listen to others too.

 

 

 

Lizzy posts

***EVENT ALERT***

[Sorry it has been a while since the last blog, deadlines have taken over]

Rainbow Heron in association with Chilypep and Sheffield MIND are proud to present an art, activism, youth and mental health event.

On Tuesday 5th June, 2018 at The Quaker Meeting House, 6-9pm. The event is open to all and will involved conversations, debates, presentations and discussions centred around how art and activism can help create a more inclusive future for young people when it comes to mental health.

Art is an important form of expression and has been shown to lessen feelings of depression and anxiety. Creating something is a way of being able to see with your own eyes something that you are feeling internally. Art is a way of externalising the feelings that you may otherwise struggle to express, giving them less power over you.

Although some people may not necessarily identify as artistic, everybody has something to give and art can come in the most abstract of forms.

If you think that this is something that might interest you, then please follow the link on this Poster for tickets and more information. There is no obligation to take part, observers are welcome, who knows – you might be inspired!

 

Lizzy posts

Mental health nature week 1: Green is a happy colour

Often when we are feeling down, a walk in the park, or a relax in the garden can help to brighten our mood, so much so that there is actually a field of science dedicated to exploring why.

The field of ecotherapy is attempting to develop scientific evidence to back up the long standing assumption that nature is physically good for us. Since the 1980s, there have been theories that our love for nature is rooted deep in our biology and genetics.

In 2016, professors at Harvard University confirmed the link between more green space and lower mortality rates. To relate back to some of my earlier posts, being in greenspaces can help to ground us, and bring us out of our anxious or depressive thought patterns and into the real, rational world.

Korea is developing a healing forests initiative, and Sweden virtual nature spaces are becoming widely prescribed. In the UK and more specifically in Sheffield there is the IWUN project (improving wellbeing through urban nature).

Academics and nature organisations are working together do develop an app, connecting city-dwellers and offering the chance to have a say in how their urban spaces are green-ified, and explore the connection between socioeconomic status and interaction with green space. The final aim of this is to develop a way to feed this knowledge into policy and avoid the continued destruction of green space in favour of urban developments.

The Landscape institute has recently released a position statement on the importance of ‘healthy places’ to public health. The document talks through the physical and mental healing powers of green (and blue!) space, as well as the opportunities it provides for social development. Urban areas with more green space have been shown to experience lower levels of antisocial behaviour, and more social interaction.

Through the month of April (in the couple of days of sun that are staring to squeeze through the cold) try to make it your goal to get outside at least once each day, spend some time outside and see if you can feel the benefits!