Lizzy posts

Establishing a routine: Approaching big life changes with stability and mindfulness.

It’s no secret that major life changes can be a struggle for our mind to process. These changes can come in many shapes and sizes: moving to a new country, a bereavement, changing jobs, graduating from university, or even something as minor as taking on a new hobby, project or interest.

When changes like this happen, it’s important to be aware and conscious of the potential toll it can take on our mental health. With a mindful attitude, we can gently introduce these changes into our routines so that they don’t put our coping mechanisms out of whack.

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of this somewhat abstract idea. Take graduating University as an example – this is a major shift in day to day life: moving back home, often back in with parents/family members, and most importantly no longer having something to work towards, deadlines to meet or a routined lecture timetable to follow.

While on the surface this freedom is exciting, our minds can struggle with the lack of purpose that we feel in this limbo between education and working life. The same goes for the feeling of being in between jobs, or in a brand new place – the well practiced and deeply internalised routines and daily goals that we are used to are totally shifted.

It can take some time for this to sync in and for us to start to feel a little lost, which is why whilst our routines and norms are changing, it is important that they are not lost altogether. Being mindful of the changes we are going through can go a long way towards benefitting the way in which we cope with them.

To go back to the University example, upon graduation, despite not needing to wake up at a good time, get dressed and go to class, it is important to establish a different routine. For example, we must still maintain a healthy sleep schedule, wake up at a good time to start the day and set daily goals, whether it be go for a walk, read a chapter of a book or apply to one job per day.

What must not be lost is the determination to accomplish something every day, no matter how small. If you’re feeling a bit lost and unsure of what your daily goals are, try making a to do list for each day, ticking things off it can give a sense of achievement and purpose for the day.

Overall, it’s important to be fully aware of the impacts that big changes can have on a smaller scale, if we become capable of acknowledging these impacts, we also become capable of changing our behaviours so we are better prepared to cope with them.

 

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Lizzy posts

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.

 

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!

Lizzy posts

Relationships week 1: The importance of healthy relationships and knowing what they are.

Often subconsciously, we view ourselves through the eyes of the people we are closest to, whether that be through romance, friendship or a more professional connection. Our relationships make up a huge part of who we are and how we create our identities, we are the people that we surround ourselves with.

As humans we are made for connections, and to be part of a community but in today’s world we are more disconnected than ever before. A study has shown Britain to be the loneliest place in Europe, with more and more virtual friendships, and families living further and further apart from each other.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, relationships are the forgotten ingredient to a healthy mind, and can reduce risk of blood pressure as well as an array of mental health problems.

An important part of mental health maintenance is focusing in on our bodies and minds, but just as important is focusing on our external relationships. Making connections with the people around us also means that the people we are close to are better equipped to see a change in our behaviours where we may not be able to.

Working together as a community can make sure that nobody will have to suffer in silence, or feel isolated or lonely, and will in turn make us better prepared, and equipped with a support system, to focus on the other aspects of staying healthy.

Over the month of March we will be discussing an array of different relationships and their importance to our mental health. From professional, romantic, medial and friendship based. The power of a positive, empowering relationship cannot be underestimated.

Lizzy posts

Community and Kindness Week 3: Getting involved.

(Sorry this week’s post is slightly late!)

Just a quick, practical and to the point post this week. Over the last two weeks I’ve talked about the benefits of getting involved in the local community, or even volunteering on a personal level. So I thought this week it might be a good idea to actually provide you with some impressive local initiatives that you can join (I’ve done half the work already – so you have no excuse not to!).

The Sheffield Volunteer Centre on Rockingham Street has a drop-in face to face service able to provide advice to people who are interested in volunteering. You can also create your own profile which organisations can then view if they are looking for someone.

Link: http://www.sheffieldvolunteercentre.org.uk/start-volunteering

Going more down the community route, something I found really interesting was the Terminus initiative. Since 2002 the initiative runs events promoting better health & wellbeing for the local community in Lowedges, Batemoor & Jordanthorpe. Currently runs Community Food Growing Project, community lunches (including cooking), boxing club, children’s activities, information about local courses and other events. Previous groups have included dance classes, mental wellbeing sessions.

This could be the sort of place you contact to volunteer, but also to attend and make use of the events and activities.

Link: https://www.facebook.com/TheTerminusInitiative/

For any students at the University of Sheffield looking to get into volunteering, the Sheffield University Volunteering Centre is a great source of information (it’s actually how I ended up writing these posts). You create a profile and list your preferences and will get weekly email updates. Some opportunities are just one offs, others are weekly, semipermanent or permanent positions.

Link: https://www.sheffieldvolunteering.com/

I hope these links give you a good starting point to get involved in your local community. Talking from experience – you won’t ever look back. Its a rewarding and highly educational experience. If you have any of your own volunteering experiences or resources, please comment or share below.

Jack posts

Zine making at Rainbow Heron Cafe

January’s Night Café took place on Sunday 28th at the Wellbeing Centre, with people gathering to make zines or chat and play games. Visiting artist/ workshop leader Chella Quint talked us through zine-making- folding up a piece of paper into eighths and cutting a hole in it, then folding the edges through the middle to make a book or magazine shape. It takes a couple of attempts, but looks impressive once it’s done, with six internal pages between the front and back covers.

The idea of the zines is to write down things to remember or tips to help yourself through day to day life; it can be something serious, like six things to be proud of, or ways to look after yourself, or something as light-hearted as six favourite bands, or most satisfying household chores. Pictures are optional.

Although it’s not necessary for anyone apart from the makers to see these handbooks, DIY self-publication is a medium long associated with political resistance and artistic movements; after printing was invented, political and religious figures of the day would use printed pamphlets to spread their ideas. From the 1930s to 1960s, science fiction enthusiasts began to produce fan magazines, later abbreviated to zines, featuring their own original work and later, the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s used them as a means to write about feminist themes. In this context, they are meant as a means to remember good moments, and cope with difficult ones.

Lizzy posts

Reaching out week 2: Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

As humans, we are not meant to go through life alone, but unfortunately it is within our nature to avoid admitting defeat as much as we can. Most of us, including me, condition ourselves to bottle up our feelings and hide them from others which usually pushes us to breaking point.

Something that we all need to internalise and appreciate is that it is not weak, or a failure, to ask for help. Reaching out to others is a sign that we are strong enough to accept and acknowledge the problem, which is a huge step for people suffering with mental health problems.

Sharing your problems with someone else doesn’t necessarily mean that person will be able to fix them, or that they will be fixed at all, but getting them off your chest takes away all the power that they had over you while they were in your head. Knowing that you are no longer alone in whatever you are going through can give you some much needed breathing room and a break from the constant stress, anxiety, depression or whatever it is that you are struggling with.

Today’s society tell us so much how important it is to be strong and independent, and while this is of course true, it is also important that we don’t value our independence so much that we feel weak when reaching out. To me, valuing it so highly is not independence, it is having too much pride, which is unhealthy and unproductive.

Reaching out isn’t just about telling someone else your problems, it’s also about having access to the necessary information and resources that can help you in ways you may not have even thought of yourself. Always, though, the first and most relieving step is talking through it.