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.


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.


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.


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.

Lizzy posts, Uncategorized

Gratitude – What is it?


Gratitude week 1: …But what do I have to be thankful for?

When you’re feeling mentally unwell, often the last thing you want to hear is ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself’, this often comes across as ignorant and patronising, and there are some cases where it is. However, there is a way that we can put this concept to productive use…

So what exactly is the meaning of gratitude when it comes to mental health? According to the Harvard Medical Dictionary, gratitude is:

“a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”

Introducing gratitude into our lives means trying to replace feelings of self-doubt, and self-pity (both of which are part and parcel of a mental illness) with a sense of appreciation for the positive things in our lives.

Research has shown that feelings of gratitude can do well to replace negative feelings of anger and envy that we may hold within us, especially when we are unwell. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher has carried out tests to confirm that gratitude effectively increases happiness and decreases depression.

This is not to say that anybody reading this is ungrateful in the rude sense of the word. Simply that becoming aware of the feeling and actively working to apply it to our everyday lives can have a beneficial effect.

Realising what we have to be thankful for, and being able to realise this even in the worst times in our life can foster resilience. As well as this, it can help us to put our feelings into perspective. We are not our feelings, and encompassing gratitude can make us realise how much else there is to us and our lives than simply the way we feel at one moment in time.

To link back to my earlier posts, mindfulness is a great way to introduce gratitude into our lives. While we are meditating, or grounding ourselves, it can be useful to focus on things in our life we are grateful for and appreciative of.

Gratitude seems like an abstract topic on the surface, and I must admit that at first I was sceptical over it’s practical uses when it comes to our mental well-being. Over the next month we will be looking at practical ways of introducing gratitude into our everyday lives, as well as the science behind it.

Jack posts

Rainbow Heron’s Self Care Cafe


Rainbow Heron Night Café- 26th November

The Rainbow Heron Night Café is a safe space for young people to meet on a Sunday evening. Based at the Wellbeing Centre (formerly/ run by Mind?) on 110 Sharrow Lane, it provides activities designed to promote mental wellbeing and self-care, but the people who attend can use the time as they like. When I arrived, one table was beginning to paint plant pots, while another was making mood and task calendars.

The rainbow theme is prominent throughout the room; on one wall is a long mural/ painting celebrating difference, and even the snacks laid out contain almost every colour of the rainbow.


Around the table, conversations flow pleasantly as people exchange paint colours, brushes and jugs of water. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush since Year Eight or Nine, but found something relaxing about the painting. On our table, some people use masking tape to keep broad strips of the pot free from paint, and make triangular or swirly patterns. Others draw festively themed pots, with penguins in Santa hats, or cartoonish owls and foxes. I draw a tree and some birds, thinking of the Rainbow Heron motif.

At the other table, some people are making Mood Calendars, ruling tiny squares onto bit sheets of card and colour-coding different moods down the side to fill in the days with their feelings. I start on a task calendar, matching the days to tasks that I want to accomplish.

This craft activity, like some others on offer, involves thinking about and recording coping mechanisms. As I see it, Rainbow Heron is a space where everyone can talk about mental health, but nobody has to. The atmosphere is positive; around the table, some people talk frankly about services available, but the conversation also touches on YouTube vloggers and cats. After working on a task calendar for a while, I go back to my pot (now dry), and fill it partway with soil to plant a sprig of lavender in it.

The sessions run from 7 p.m. till 11, but people are welcome to drop in and leave at whatever point they prefer.  The success, as far as I can tell, comes from the relaxed nature; nobody has to take part, and people chat freely, coming and going as they please. I leave at around ten, with my pot, looking forward to the next one.


The Rainbow Heron Night Café is a safe space for young people that aims to promote mental wellbeing. The project takes place once a month at the Wellbeing Centre at 110 Sharrow Lane from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. For further details, contact us

Lizzy posts

Self Care & Nothing by Elizabeth O’Connor

Self care week 3: Training your brain to think about nothing.
When we talk about self-care, the word mindfulness gets thrown around a lot. This week I decided to look into what mindfulness is and how we can harness it in our everyday lives. There are a few different ways to practice mindfulness and preferences are very personal. The one thing that I think we all have to accept on our journey of self-care, and mindfulness in particular, is that it doesn’t happen over night. Being mindful is a skill, just like playing a sport is.

We need to exercise our brains daily in much the same way as we would exercise our bodies in the lead up to a big competition. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be successful on your first try, but the important thing is that you do it time and time again, and before you know it, all that exercise will have paid off and your mind will be doing one handed push ups with zero effort!

In its most basic form, mindful is the art of being in the present. Being in touch with all your senses and becoming completely aware of your surroundings. When our minds are unwell, we are often very far removed from the present. We enter our own little world of unwellness and this creates a cycle which only ends in instability. Often what makes us unwell is worrying about the past or about the future, we need to train our brains that at this moment, neither are important. At this exact point in time, all that matters for you in the world is that you are reading this article, sat in your room/at work/on the moon, and that is where your attention should be focused. Despite my deadlines and other pressures making me anxious, all that should matter to me is that it is 5:09pm on Tuesday the 7th of November and I am writing this article about mindfulness. Worrying about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow, or even in an hour will do nothing to help remedy what has been, or what is to come. Now I say this as though I have mastered the art of mindfulness, I have not, as I sit here I do worry about my deadlines next Monday and my applications due next Friday, and if you’re like me, then we need to get practicing.

I touched on depersonalisation/detachment disorders in week one, and this is a topic I’d like to keep touching upon as detachment is not just a stand alone disorder, it can also come about as a symptom of other mental health issues. The phenomenon is under researched in mental health, which can sometimes be a scary thing for people who are going through it. Feeling like we are not in our own body is almost the direct opposite of feeling mindful. While mindfulness cannot cure these problems, concentrating on practicing it every day can go a ways to keeping these scary and debilitating feelings from taking over.

Think of how much more productive, and happy we would be if we were able to focus only on what we were doing in the moment we are doing it. There are many ways to practice this, and a lot of them might seem monotonous or silly when we are trying to address quite a large concept, but bringing it back to basics can sometimes be the most healing thing of all.


What often first come to mind when you hear the word mindfulness is meditation. Meditation doesn’t only have to happen when you are sat on the floor of a beautiful forest, listening to calming music cross legged and resting your hands delicately on your knees. You can practice meditation while you are sat at the breakfast bar sipping your coffee, or at your desk while working, or even sat on the toilet!

All meditation is is focusing on your breaths, and almost nothing else. According to yoga instructor Ben Wolff, the art of yoga is focused as much around our breathing as it is around posture. While it may seem unnecessary to ‘relearn’ how to breathe, it is important, as our sedentary lifestyles have actually changed the way that adults breath, compared to breathing in babies. Babies breathe directly from their stomach, while adults breathe from their throats. This can have a direct impact on the spreading of oxygen throughout the body, and therefore also our brain, and mental health. When we sense fear, the evolutionary part of our bodies begins to tense up, and breathing is restricted, relearning to breathe is part of bypassing this stress-inducing reaction.

When direct all our attention to the way our body moves as we breath; the up and down motion of our chests, and the in and out motion of our bellies it is hard to think about it has a grounding effect, bringing us into the present and away from the distant world of stress or instability that we have created inside our heads. Learning the art of meditation involves acknowledging your feelings, whether they be stress, sadness, fear or anything else, and letting them wash over you. Instead of struggling against them we need to learn to sit back and watch them pass us by.

The hard part is…thinking about nothing is hard! It’s so easy to let your mind wander off without even realising you’re doing it, so there are some really great resources you can use to help you focus…on not focusing.


I personally use headspace, the app comes with ten free sessions, and from then on you need to pay. It’s a little steep at £74 for the year, however it comes with very specific meditation packs including sleep, anxiety, depression, eating problems and many more.


Another app is Calm, I don’t personally use it so couldn’t comment on what it contains, but it comes highly recommended and is considerably cheaper at just £29.99 for the year


If you don’t feel like paying, or even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can simply search for mediation guides on youtube! There are many channels that will take you through a session. Beneath is a link I found to a blog containing the ten best guided meditation channels for those struggling with mental health issues.

Adult colouring books

For some, meditation can be tough because it is hard to clear the mind with little else to focus on other than your breathing. This is where adult colouring books can be a real life saver. I used adult colouring books to help keep my anxiety at bay throughout my whole final year at university. Unlike meditation, when you are colouring in an intricate design you become totally focused on what you are doing without even realising it. It is a great way to unwind and take your mind off the struggles of the day. I personally enjoyed using them the night before an exam. You can buy the books almost anywhere, mine were from WHSmith.


Lizzy posts

Self Care Week 2

BY Elizabeth O’Connor

The politics of Self Care: How putting your feet up can make the world a better place for everyone.

Last week we went through some of the best ways to access self-help advice, and how to integrate it into our lives. This week I want us to focus on WHY we should, and how it can have a far wider impact that we might have first thought. I’ve been reading up on what’s going on with self-care in the politics of today and I’m going to take you through the most interesting things that I’ve found, hopefully these can help us better understand that self-care is about more than just ourselves, but about making the world a better place! I know self-care seems unrelated to caring for the outside world, but just humour me…

There is a large part of self-care that many of us young people see on social media that can distract us from its true meaning. When we see sponsored posts on instagram, trying to promote the newest face creams, or avocado drinks as methods of #selfcare, it’s true meaning can become lost.

Although the term self care has re-emerged in the last year or so within popular culture, it’s importance has been acknowledged for centuries. To look at the true meaning we need to go all the way back to ancient Greek politics. Socrates is quoted as saying that he was here to tell the people to “concern themselves not with their riches, not with their honor, but with themselves and with their souls.” I know this seems a bit irrelevant and old school to be bringing up today, but the Greeks weren’t one of the most successful civilisations for nothing!

The act of self care has been linked with politics since the beginning of politics itself. To bring us a little more into the present, I did some research on Audre Lourde, a famous activist, who in 1988 famously said “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. What she is saying is that in our busy lives we are taught to internalise the idea that it is important to live up to everyone else’s expectations, and keep everyone happy, whatever the cost. Lourde considers self-care to be an act of political warfare because putting ourselves first can sometimes feel like we are going against what we are conditioned to believe.

Interestingly, political change has massively impacted the self-care movements With the recent Brexit and US elections causing many to lose faith in the system, there is a growing movement prompting people to embrace activism through self-care. We can use the practice of Self-Care to communicate the type of world we would like to live in, whether through art, literature, or even being open and honest about how we are feeling with someone we trust. One piece that I read really struck me when it said “pleasure is necessary as it helps guide us onto the path of what’s right”.

After the 1980s, the next re-emergence of the Self-Care concept has been in the last couple of years. In fact there has been such a re-emergence that there is even an online guide to online self care guides! The #selfcare-as-politics movement of 2016 has arguably been the most important one yet. Thanks to social media, movements can spread much faster and reach so many more people. The challenge however is to be able to filter through the #spon or #ad that we see so much of. The self-care movement has also, as most things do these days, become a moneymaking opportunity for many. Although indeed it is lovely to buy the best new facemask, or protein shake and I don’t doubt that they feel great and are good for you, at the heart of self-care is not the need to buy material things. This is where I think the issues lies in the modern campaign, as compared with the 1980s or even ancient Greece.

At its heart, what the self-care movement is trying to promote, and extend, is the importance of a Work-Life balance, whatever this may mean to you personally. Although we might feel that it is selfish, or counterproductive to tune it all out for a bit each day, in reality it’s one of the most important things we can do if we are to become activists for a better world.