Tag Archives: mental wellbeing

Control, influence or concern—understanding these circles could transform your life!

In some ways I feel incredibly fortunate to have gone through some dark times, when I’ve been mentally ill, I’ve had access to therapy that’s taught me, not only how to manage my mental illness, but how to cope with all sorts of nasty things that are thrown at us over time! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have it all sussed, but I noticed something being passed around on social media, I’d completely forgotten I’d learnt in therapy that people might find helpful in times like these.

woman sitting in front of computer head in hands worrying

Do you find yourself worrying about other people not wearing face masks properly? Or feeling that you’re not doing a good enough job home schooling your children because everyone else appears to have it more together than you? Does it feel like you’re winding yourself up into a frenzy but there isn’t really anything you can really do about it?! This could be because you’re spending energy in the wrong place.

Everything in our lives can be separated into circles depending on how much control, or influence we have over them. Click here to see a visual representation, below is a description of why it helps to do this:

Circle of control

These are the things you have full control over; spending time and energy on these things will have the biggest benefit on your life.

Circle of influence

These are things within your influence, there’s something you can do to have some impact on the outcome but that doesn’t mean the outcome will always be in your favour. You may gain some benefit but don’t spend too much energy on these things.

Circle of concern

Most people find themselves spending time worrying most about these things but is there any point expecting energy when there’s nothing you can do to really have much influence? There’s no harm in feeling concerned that there’s a global pandemic, this is called “being human” but put the concern in the right place—you can wash your hands after you’ve been the supermarket, you can remember to wash your face masks so you have a clean one ready to go out, you can ensure you’re leaving enough space when you’re in the post office queue but you can’t do anything about the R number!

If you find yourself feeling hopeless about everything, as seems to be quite common at the moment, please be reassured that this won’t last forever. Turn your eyes to the small things you are in control of and you’ll feel more empowered. Don’t worry about the bigger picture, that can feel quite daunting.

For each worry you have, think to yourself “how much control do I have?”, if it’s something you have full control over, put it in the centre circle, if you realise you have no control over it, put it in the outside circle and let go of worrying about it. If, however, you realise that you have some influence over it, it’s ok to put it in the middle circle but keep your concern in proportion. Don’t spend too much time worrying about it if there’s not really much you can do about it.

This technique is well known to help people in the general population as well as people struggling with mental illness. However, if you feel your anxiety might be out of proportion to size of the concern, it’s impacting your sleep or it’s preventing you from going about your everyday life, it’s important to seek professional support.

Young lady hiding behind her hair

Eating disorder waiting lists are completely overwhelmed

The viral pandemic has caused a secondary pandemic. A mental health pandemic is worryingly out of control and record numbers are needing support.

Young people in particular are at risk of eating disorders and psychiatrists believe they’ve been struggling with the following this year:

  • Fear about the virus
  • Worries about family finances
  • Isolation from friends during school closures
  • Exam cancellations leading to uncertainty
  • Loss of extra-curricular activities
  • Quarantining
  • Increased use of social media
Child hiding under cushions on the sofa

When young people are referred to services for help, lack of face-to-face consultations are leading to patients being severely unwell by the time they’re seen.

England, Scotland and Wales have seen an increase in referrals. There were 16,547 admission in 2017/18, compared to 2019/20 there were 21,794 admissions. London hospitals have seen a tripling in referrals since March 2020.

I’ve worked in eating disorders for 40 years and I’ve never known us to be so busy…

Dr Simon Chapman, King’s College Hospital and South London and the Maudsley

An eating disorder is often a coping mechanism when the world around us is out of control. If you notice your child or anyone around you starting to behave differently with food or exercise, it could be a sign of an underlying eating disorder. It’s important people get help earlier as full recovery is more likely the earlier treatment is started.

For years, mental health has been fighting for equality of funding with physical health but in reality this just doesn’t make sense. How do you compare the following funding?

Physical HealthMental Health
An 8 day course of antibiotics for a urinary tract infection4 psycho-educational sessions in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies for mild depression or anxiety
Diagnostic investigations e.g. gastroscopy followed by 4-8 week course of proton pump inhibitors e.g. omeprazole, to treat gastric reflux6-12 session of individual Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for common mental health conditions +/- medications such as anxiolytics or SSRIs
Surgery for fractured spine followed by physiotherapy, occupational therapy and house adaptationsOngoing specialist support from psychiatrist, community nurse, psychologist and recovery worker to adjust medication, social support and therapeutic input
Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy for patient with malignant melanomaGroup and individual therapy in a therapeutic community for patient with personality disorder
Life long treatments and surgeries required for a patient with osteogenesis imperfecta Multiple inpatient stays including sectioning under the Mental Health Act and lifelong medications for a patient with schizophrenia
Table showing mental and physical health are beyond compare
Vintage scales weighing apples

The latest statistic show that each cancer patient has £1,571 spent on them in research while each mental health patient has £9.75. I cannot begin to comment on how that makes me feel. Perhaps, next time you’re thinking about which charity you’re going to support, will it be a cancer research charity who can afford to spend money on a lot of marketing in order to attract your attention, or could you consider a mental health charity such as MQ Mental Health, a charity dedicated to mental health research?

Research into mental illnesses will show us:

  • How to prevent mental illnesses
  • How to treat mental illnesses – what treatments work and how
  • How to reduce the impact when someone is chronically unwell
  • How to reduce suicide rates
  • Understanding co-morbidities of mental illnesses

We all have a responsibility to look after those around us. We need to look out for signs of them needing support, enable them to talk if they want to and/or advise them to seek help. There’s all sorts of support out there:

  • Mind (UK) offer information about all sorts of mental health related topics including legal matters and help and support including Side by side, their online community.
  • Beat the UK’s leading eating disorder’s charity offer information about eating disorders and have helplines dedicated to supporting sufferers and carers on the phone, via web-chat or by email.
  • Samaritans (UK) available 24/7 on the phone or via email.Female speaking anonymously on mobile phone
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline (USA) available in various forms: English, Spanish and relay. Specialist veterans and disaster distress lines available.
  • Get Self Help is a great resource for helping yourself. There are all sorts of ideas for helping yourself, for example mindful breathing and sleep self help.

All mental health charities are under tremendous strain at the moment, please support them if you can.

None of these replace professional support, please speak to your primary care physician (GP) if you or someone you care about is unwell, it’s really important to seek help early.

What is lockdown brain? And what to do about it!

A survey conducted by the Alzheimer’s Society showed that since being forced to stay isolated and inside their homes, 82% of people with dementia saw a deterioration in symptoms.

Knot on finger "Just a reminder"

But it’s not just those already showing memory problems who’re struggling. Many of us are forgetting to buy milk, to write that email (again…) or that word that’s on the tip of your tongue!

There are different types of memory, research is helping us to understand how the constraint have impacted us.

  • Loneliness has had the biggest impact on people’s mood—feeling depressed is known to have an impact on memory
  • Lack of social interactions—repetition of stories helps consolidate memories of events (episodic memories). Watercooler moments can mean we talk to dozens of people in day, these aren’t happening with people furloughed or working from home. As big events have been cancelled, even when we have chatted with friends and family we’ve had fewer stories to tell meaning we’re not exercising out episodic memory.
  • People have been feeling generally more anxious and there’s more uncertainty. This has been worst for young people, people living on low incomes, people in urban areas and those with children.
  • When there’s less variety in our lives and lack of memory cues—it’s hard to differentiate one day from the next and we simply can’t remember what we’ve done! When all your meetings are in front of the same screen, they’re all the same, there’s no way to tag your memory. In the office you might walk passed the lift where you had a conversation and it reminds you to email someone or you’ll drive by the petrol station on your commute home and it’ll remind you of the milk you need to buy.mum using computer looking tired with children in the background running riot
  • Disturbed sleep due to lack of stimulation and worrying about the pandemic is causing fatigue. The brain, like any organ needs us to be fit and healthy, poor sleep, lack or exercise and poor sleep, and it’s functioning less well.
  • Not going out and about and finding our way around means the size of our hippocampus is decreasing (the seahorse shaped structure in the brain involved in learning and memory)—it’s a use it or lose it scenario! Research has found London cab drivers have an incredibly large hippocampus!

But there is good news—there are things we can do to stimulate our brains again!

  • Go for a walk each day, especially along unfamiliar streets.
  • Turn the videocall into a phone call and go for a walk instead of sitting in front of the computer.
  • Make sure the weekend is different from the weekdays or make sure you have specified rest days that are noticeably different.
  • Do something creative and new and tell someone about it afterwards.
  • Deliberately reflect on your day, even in a diary can help. Remembering what you did and recounting it exercises your brain.
  • Don’t be ashamed of using alarms and alerts on your phone, these are helpful cues for your brain.walking in the countryside
  • If trying to remember a list of items, for example a shopping list, imagine yourself in the aisle in the shop actually picking up the items.
  • To fight fatigue, good sleep hygiene is best for a good night’s sleep—no caffeine or sugar before bed, sleep in a dark cool room and make sure you’ve had fresh air and/or exercise everyday.

If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, it’s important to get the right support. Contact your GP or speak to a counsellor or therapist. If you’re finding it difficult to cope, talking about it will be the best thing you can do.