Mental Health Matters: Nic Goddard

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‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’.

Hopefully. But for some people it can be the most challenging time of the year. Short dark days, cold grey weather, financial woes or loneliness can mean Christmas falls right in the middle of the toughest season of the year for many of us.

With our usual routines and coping strategies disrupted due to seasonal or Covid- related shutdowns, too, it is important to include ‘look after our mental health and wellbeing’ along with the other items on our Christmas list.

Remembering the Five Ways to Wellbeing can be a useful way to help with this. Here is a quick reminder of them along with some suggestions of ways to add them into your life.

CONNECT – there is nothing more soul feeding than being in the company of people who make you laugh, really listen when you talk and make you feel valued and important. A telephone or video call to family or friends can provide a great boost if meeting up for a coffee in person isn’t an option. If you are struggling to find someone to reach out to connect with then don’t forget the army of volunteers who work on helplines and are trained to listen, empathise and provide a friendly ear. If you are a Twitter user then the fantastic #joinin campaign will be running again to provide company this Christmas.

BE ACTIVE – It can be hard to summon enthusiasm to get up and outside when the weather is bleak, but fresh air, exercise and some time outside connecting with nature is always beneficial for us. Wrap up warm, take a flask or travel mug of your favourite hot drink and remind yourself why we live in the outdoors capital of the UK, with stunning scenery, amazing wildlife and physical activity options from a gentle stroll to skiing down a mountainside.

TAKE NOTICE – At this time of year with overwhelming lists of things to do, buy or organise it can be really hard to slow down, catch your breath and find a moment to notice the small things. The winter solstice on December 21 marked the shortest day of the year, though, and from now on every day will have a few more minutes of daylight, with the sun rising earlier and setting later. Take five minutes to watch the birds out of your window, indulge in a spot of people watching or sit and watch the sunrise or sunset if you can.

LEARN – no matter how old we are we can still learn something new every single day. Whether it is starting a new hobby or craft, learning a new language or turning an idle ‘I wonder how…?’ thought into a research project by looking online or borrowing a book from the library to find out more. Challenge yourself to add some new recipes to your repertoire in the kitchen, learn an instrument or a line or a poem every day until you can recite the whole thing by heart.

GIVE – Christmas may well be a time of giving but we can extend our generosity all year round. Doing something nice for others has the double win of making us feel good as well as them. Whether you are able to offer your time, your skills or your money every one of us has something to give to others, from a regular volunteering position to a small random act of kindness. Think about what you have to give and find a way to do it.

Hopefully some of these suggestions will have given you ideas for ways to improve your
wellbeing. If you are finding things tough then do remember you are not alone and there is always help and support available from your GP, charities or from reaching out to family and friends.

Some useful numbers:

Mickey’s Line textline – 07786 207755

Ewen’s Room textline – 07537 431637

Samaritans 116 123

Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87