Kindness

Mental Health Awareness Week (18th-24th May) this year (2020) is themed “kindness”, simple but effective – the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.

During this global pandemic, communities have pulled together and shown kindness to one-another, through the most difficult of times it has given people hope. For the first time, mental health has been on the daily agenda – let’s keep this going!

Being kind to others lets them know that they’re not alone. Even the smallest act of kindness can have a big effect, perhaps and text, a phone call or a plate a cookies left on the doors step, these things say “I’m thinking of you and I care”.

My first blog this week asked you to say to someone “how are you, really?” – have you tried it? Did you listen to the answer? How did it go? The conversation doesn’t have to be incredibly deep and heavy, just meaningful and meant with kindness. It’s a way of connecting and could have a profound impact on that person.

This pandemic crisis is putting a lot of strain on relationships because spending enforced time together can be incredibly difficult! If relationships are frayed, I’ve heard some people say it helps to stand back and think “what’s best for the relationship?”. It might be hard, in the moment, but showing the relationship some kindness could save it in the long run. If, however, you’re living with an abuser, this is entirely different, I sincerely hope you can find support to leave.

If you receive kindness you feel good but an act of kindness, boosts the mental health of the person who gives it as well! Thinking of someone else can lower stress and improve mood!

Being kind to ourselves is important too. Most of us can think of ways of being kind to other people but when it comes to being kind to ourselves, we’re stumped! At this time, you may have had things taken away from you that you usually enjoy, it might be hard to find new things to treat yourself. Try these things to show kindness to yourself:

  • Female reading in bath full of bubblesPlan a period of time that’s just about self care for you – reading books, watching TV, having a bath, playing music, doing things that you really like
  • Try a new creative hobby – perhaps drawing or painting
  • Get an early night – take time to prepare yourself and the bedroom, perhaps listen to a audiobook or podcast. Make sure the bedroom is dark and not too hot or too cold.
  • Write down your feelings in a journal – if you don’t know what to write, just start writing anything and see what happens.
  • Join a support group (online) to get ideas from other people about how they’re kind to themselves
  • Act opposite – have a pyjama day if you’ve never it! Or, if you’ve not got dressed for a few days, find some lovely fresh clothes and get dressed.
  • Note down 3 things each day that have gone well and reflect back at the end of the week/month
  • Call a mental health helpline to speak to someone about how you’re feeling

Sometimes we need to turn away from unhelpful habits that may be harming us in order to show kindness to ourselves. Drinking too much, talking harshly to ourselves, eating too much or too little, going to bed late, stifling emotions or many other forms of self harm. As we grow up we set ourselves some core values that come to define our character; step back for a second and consider if these are benefiting you or harming you? It won’t be easy but could you let go of some of these a little to give yourself a break?

I challenge you this Mental Health Awareness Week, you can choose, being kind to others or being kind to yourself (or both if you like!). Whichever you choose, do 1 act of kindness each day, if you think you need accountability, keep a journal and write down the 1 thing you did each day when you’ve done it. After a month, look back and reflect on the difference it’s made in your life.

How my faith has helped me during lockdown

When church buildings closed their doors, headlines made it sound as though religious and faith communities were going to halt proceedings. But during Mental Health Awareness Week I’m writing this blog to let you know how Christianity and my extensive Faith community has helped my through one of the strangest times any of us have seen.

I have been struggling with my mental health for all sorts of reasons and I’ve had to dial up the coping strategies to ensure I don’t slide down into the darkness.

For me, mindfulness and distraction are helpful. Mindfulness is a form of meditation where you focus on the here and now, ensuring your attention isn’t distracted by dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. I use crafting to distract myself from distressing thoughts, knitting is my favourite hobby at the moment!

Routine is vital for my mental health and I think the vast majority of us have had our routines jolted out from under us without our consent. I’ve heard lots of people struggling with weekdays and weekends feeling the same. I’ve been involved in producing church services that we can watch online as though we’re going to church at the same time each Sunday. Doing this has given me some purpose. We’ve also have Zoom-coffee after the service to catch up with friends afterwards. Staying connected has been really important for my mental health.

With church services online, people who didn’t attend church before lockdown can now easily access everything that‘s going on. This is a way anyone can separate weekdays from weekends if they choose. However, it’s also fantastic for those who’re working at the weekend, they can now access their church service any time during the week, when it suits them!

A recent Tearfund study revealed that more people than ever are turning to prayer. My husband and I pray together every night before bed; we find out from each other whether we have felt love from each other that day, ask for prayer requests and then pray, include prayers of thanks and pray for each other. This continued routine has helped me. Prayer helps me because it keeps me connected to what’s important. Sitting with my husband, even if it’s just for 5 minutes in the evening and focusing on a few simple things helps me to see what my priorities are.

Alpha is a course that introduces people to the basics of the Christian faith. Just like every other area of life, Alpha has moved online and more people than ever are engaging with Alpha online! Alpha addresses the big questions and gives an opportunity to address the meaning of life. People are being give more time to think and they’re wanting answers.

Some people struggling with the idea of God “allowing” this pandemic to happen but the God I believe in gave human being free-will and unfortunately this means we make mistakes. This pandemic is a man-made disaster and while God is omnipotent, he could stop it, this would completely negate the point of free-will. Instead, God has provided himself as a source, for us to rely on in times of need. I know, no matter how desperate I feel, if I rely on my relationship with God, I will get through.

How a global pandemic can trigger an eating disorder

Everyone is managing a changing world! It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I’m writing this blog to give insight into the world of eating disorders, not to say “my struggle is worse than yours” but to say, you never know what someone else is going to through – most people have hidden struggles and it’s not always obvious what’s going to trigger someone’s difficulties. Measures imposed by our governments have been vital to keep us safe but at what cost?

Change in routine

A routine for many people can indicate safety. Most of us find a change in routine difficult but someone with an eating disorder, routine can be the difference between them eating enough/regularly each day or turning to disordered behaviours for comfort.

Encouragement to exercise everyday

When in eating disorder recovery, exercise can be difficult to manage. Many struggle with exercise addiction as a way to manage weight and recovery from this may include not exercising or restricting exercise. The UK government’s lockdown rules allowed 1 trip outside each day for exercise. If one of the few things you’re “allowed” to do each day is exercise, it can feel like you’re being told you “should” exercise everyday and this only adds to the battle already going on inside your head about what your should and shouldn’t be doing. How many adults actually exercise everyday?! Not many, but for someone recovering from an eating disorder, this is a minefield!

Supermarket stress

Recovering from an eating disorder can include a strict diet plan. Panic buying lead to limited stock and then restrictions on items we could buy. While to the average family, these restrictions may have been inconvenient and caused them to use alternatives. This may have caused chaos to someone with an eating disorder. If the food item you need is not available, this could have triggered days without food altogether. While the queues at the supermarket are essential to keep numbers within at safe levels, this could cause extremely high levels of stress for someone who already finds the trip anxiety provoking.

Encouraged obsessive actions

While washing our hands is vital to prevent spread of Covid-19, with the UK government telling us to wash our hands often, this can play into the obsessive compulsive mind of someone struggling with an eating disorder prompting further ritualistic behaviours around food.

The wrong type of “vulnerable”

Those most at risk of dying from Covid-19 have been put on a vulnerable list in order to ensure we can keep them safe from catching the virus. This has meant that some support systems are no longer available for other people who usually use them. For example, people who usually use the online supermarket delivery systems haven’t been able to get slots. Going to a supermarket, for some people recovering from an eating disorder, is simply impossible. What do you do if you can’t get a delivery slot, because they’re reserved for other people?

Lack of therapy or online therapy

Therapy is a vital part of eating disorder recovery. Some agencies have completely shut down due to lack of resources. Some, fortunately have been able to continue online. Some people may prefer this and there are benefits, such as not having to travel. However, at times technical hitches can delay sessions and talking through a computer means some subtle communication is lost. I’m not alone in having a violent dislike of seeing myself on screen and a therapists sensitive use of physical touch is completely lost.

While the social distancing and lockdown measures have been vital to keep everyone safe – the repercussions on those with internal mental struggles, I have no doubt, without additional support, will be extremely long lasting.