How you can look after your mental wellbeing during winter Covid lockdown
A local mental health trust is encouraging people to look after their mental wellbeing during the winter months and ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), which provides mental health and learning disability services in North Yorkshire, recognises that the combination of dark winter nights and a national pandemic is impacting people’s mental health and resilience, with many people experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression for the first time.
For those people feeling they need extra support, the TEWV Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service, otherwise known as Talking Therapies, is one of the many services available to people in the area.
It’s open to anyone aged 16 or over, registered with a GP practice in North Yorkshire, who is experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Treatments and therapies vary according to individual needs but may include face to face virtual wellbeing sessions or computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT).
Brent Kilmurray, chief executive, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said: “If you feel your mental health is being affected, or someone you know is being affected, please seek help and support as soon as possible.
"We know people are worried about being a ‘burden’ on the NHS system.
"But the NHS is here to support your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as your physical health."
Dr Charles Parker, chairman of NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We know it’s a struggle for many people at the moment. Whether it’s additional anxiety brought on by winter or you’re facing added stress because of the national COVID lockdown, TEWV offers services that will help you cope.”
To support local people to improve their emotional wellbeing, TEWV’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service shares 10 small steps people can take to improve their mental wellbeing this winter:
1. Keep to a routine
Having a regular routine is important for your own sense of worth and self-confidence.
Try to keep to your usual sleep routine, get a good amount of sleep so you wake feeling refreshed and try to start your day at the same time.
2. Stay active
Many people find it hard to stay motivated during the winter months, but regular exercise can boost your mood and release endorphins that improve how you feel.
Don’t worry if you’re not used to exercise, you don’t have to run a marathon on your first day!
Simply adding more activity to your daily routine can make a difference, such as walking up and down the stairs in your home or doing the vacuuming.
There are lots of free online exercise tips and advice available via the NHS One You website.
3. Have family time
With many people now working from home, the long commutes may be a distant thing of the past, which gives extra time to connect with loved ones.
Take the opportunity to spend quality time together by playing a board game or going out for a walk, and for those you can’t be with in person, organise a video call or a family quiz.
4. Make the most of natural light
Natural light plays a large part in our emotional and mental wellbeing.
As we go through the dark winter nights, try to embrace the daylight as much as you can – throw open your curtains and maximise the light in your living space.
Some people also find that light boxes can help improve their mood.
5. Do something you enjoy
Many people are juggling work, childcare and other commitments during the current lockdown, which can take its toll.
Having time and space for you is important for your mental wellbeing and resilience.
Make time to do something you enjoy, whether that’s listening to a podcast, taking a long soak in the bath or reading a book.
6. Improve your environment
Feeling comfortable in your surroundings can have a huge impact on how you feel and having a calm and relaxed environment can aid your wellbeing.
We are all spending more time indoors at the moment, so why not take some time to improve your living space.
It could be something as simple as clearing out a cupboard or arranging your sock drawer, giving a room a lick of paint or doing a spot of gardening.
Taking on mini projects can give you a sense of achievement, as well as filling your time.
7. Take time for self-care
We are going through an extraordinary time with immense pressures many have never experienced before, so try not to be too hard on yourself.
Mindfulness is a great tool to help you learn to be kinder to yourself and more accepting of how things are.
Meditation and relaxation techniques can help reduce tension and stress.
There are many free sessions available online, including sessions from the TEWV mindfulness team.
8. Keep in contact
A lockdown can make many people feel disconnected from friends and family, which can also lead to periods of feeling lonely and isolated.
It’s so important to maintain contact with your loved ones as evidence shows that connecting with others is important for mental wellbeing.
Check in with family and friends and make time to chat about how you’re feeling, or take part in a fun activity together such as a virtual quiz.
The sense of connection will really improve how you feel.
9. Eat well
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health and can help you feel your best, both physically and mentally.
This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, staying hydrated, getting your 5-a-day and making sure you don’t skip breakfast.
There is lots of advice available on how to maintain a healthy, balanced diet here.
10. Try something new
Learning a new craft or skill can boost your self-confidence and give you a real sense of achievement.
Try taking on some lockdown learning this winter such as painting, drawing, cooking a new recipe, or you could enrol onto an online training course.
Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you will enjoy and can fit in and around your daily routine.
Click here to find out more about the IAPT service, or to self-refer.