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Sleep Matters

There’s a close link between sleeping and mental health. If you are struggling to sleep this is likely to have a negative impact on your mental health. In the same way, if you’re struggling with your mental health then you are likely to have difficulties sleeping.

 

Why is sleep so important?

-Your body repairs itself whilst you sleep

-The brain consolidates memories

-Rest is needed to feel more aware when awake

-The brain process emotions and reactions

-It reduces your blood pressure

-Your appetite hormones are regulated

-Improves your immune function

-Reduces inflammation

-Improves ability to recognise expressions of emotion

How long should you sleep for?

The length of time that should be spent sleeping varies from person to person. However, most healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Children and teens tend to need more.

How to increase your sleep hours/quality:

-Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for 4-6 hours before bedtime

-Ensure your sleeping environment is quiet, dark and cool

-Keeping laptops, TVs, work materials etc. out of the room will improve the mental association between your bedroom and sleep

-After over 20 minutes of struggling to sleep engage in a quiet, restful activity such as reading (in low light) or listening to music until you’re ready to fall asleep to avoid feelings of frustration which will prevent you sleeping

-Maintain a consistent sleep and wake time to set your body’s internal sleep clock

-Exercise early in the day to help you fall asleep faster (at least 3 hours before bedtime)

-Increase time spent in natural/bright light during the day

-Avoid blue lights from phone screens and other devices at least 2 hours before bedtime

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-tips-to-sleep-better

Terry Hall

When struggling with a mental health issue it can be easy to feel as though you are the only person going through it. However, mental health problems are so common that around one in five people will suffer from mental health issues in their lives. Many celebrities struggle with such issues, and occasionally open up to the public about them. Terry Hall is no exception.

Terry Hall, born in Coventry, is the lead singer of The Specials and has recently spoken out about his battle with depression and addiction. The singer opened up about the mental trauma he experienced after being sexually abused by a paedophile ring in France when he was kidnapped at 12-years-old. He admits that it made something in his head switch and he turned to Valium to cope with the situation.

After leaving school at age 14, Hall took on different short-term jobs including: bricklayer, quantity surveyor and apprentice hairdresser. He then entered the music scene, joining a band named Squad. Afterwards he acted as the frontman of The Coventry Automatics which eventually became The Specials in early 1979.

The singer spoke on the Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast about his struggles. He explained that whilst what happened to him was unfortunate, he didn’t want to let it destroy his life. Hall mentions after 10 years of wanting to avoid taking medication, he eventually started taking Lithium to help with the manic depression.

The Specials broke up for a while but have since reformed and are set to take to the stage at the O2 Academy, Birmingham on 26th April.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-47088000

The importance of checking up on your loved ones

As you get older, the list of things you need to do and responsibilities resting on your shoulders seems to become never ending. There is pressure to give your all at work, maintain an active lifestyle, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, socialise with friends, keep in touch with family members and keep on top of chores.

With a long list of things to do, little things such as keeping in touch with friends and checking in with family members can end up being pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. We tell ourselves that we’ll “do it tomorrow” and then tomorrow becomes the end of the week, then before you know it weeks have passed and you still haven’t contacted the person you intended to.

Whilst it may feel difficult to put the time aside to get in contact with people it can make a huge difference to their life. A friend struggling will appreciate even a quick text message to check in on how they are doing. A grandparent living alone would love even the shortest of visits for a cup of tea. A parent run off their feet would be delighted with a homemade meal by you. Often our loved ones are going through difficult times which they don’t always feel that they can talk to someone about. Whilst they may prefer to keep these things to themselves they will notice your efforts to reach out to them and it may be the gesture they need to open up to you or to help them to feel better.

Everyone would like to think that they would notice the warning signs of the people they care about most beginning to struggle mentally, but this just simply isn’t the case in a lot of circumstances. Whilst it can be difficult to pick up on changes in someone’s mental health and wellbeing it is not difficult to reach out in small ways to show them you are there for support should they need it.

There are a range of ways you can provide support for your loved ones which vary in the time they take to do. You can take as little as a minute to send a message or up to a week of going away on a holiday together to really eliminate any distractions.

Many people struggle with finding the time to contact loved ones, so try different ways to incorporate these interactions in your everyday life, for example:

-Ring someone for a catch up on your journey to or from work

-Invite someone to do the shopping with you

-Ask someone round for a catch up whilst you do dinner

-Work out with a friend

For more ways to spend more time with your loved ones, visit: https://www.familiesforlife.sg/discover-an-article/Pages/30-Ways-to-Spend-More-Family-Time.aspx

How I dealt with loneliness and anxiety at university

Up until I started university I have never really felt lonely or overly-anxious to a point where I would begin to worry that my mental health was suffering. However, moving to a new city without my family and friends was a huge change which took me half a year to get used to. In the beginning I struggled with feeling really lonely and towards the end I began to feel overly-anxious about situations. In the middle I had the time of my life so I suppose the whole experience balances itself out but I wish I had known what I do now when I started.

These are the things that have helped me to cope with loneliness and anxiety at university:

Join the gym

Even if you do not plan to be the most athletic person when you get there, it has been such a form of escape for me. I have a really light course where there are often lots of days off and if I spend too many of them not doing anything I end up feeling very restless and unable to sleep. Going to the gym gives me a reason to leave the house. It makes me feel as though I have accomplished something. As a student money can be tight but you can get a monthly membership for about £15 which will work out cheaper than a lot of other hobbies, I imagine. The exercise itself releases serotonin and endorphins to make you feel happier.

Work in the library

When you have lots of work to do it can be easy to just stay at home in order to get it done. But staying in can lead you to feel restless if you do it too often or for too long. I find it helpful to walk to the library so I have gotten some fresh air and exercise on the way to getting some work done. For me I am more productive in the library because I don’t get tempted by distractions like Netflix or my bed! I also find it helpful to be around others who are working hard and this can give you a feeling of being around people and socialising more. It can be even better to go to the library with house mates or course friends to have short breaks where you can chat but ultimately still get work done as you are in a work environment.

Try out a society

Every university has loads of different societies to choose from. Whether you want an active or relaxed one you could choose from hockey to baking. Just choose something you enjoy and will look forward to. It gives you a reason to get out of the house and do something productive. You will also meet people with similar interests to you and might make some good friends out of it. Remember if you do not enjoy it you can always try another one or stop, there really is no reason not to try one to begin with at least.

Get a part time job

You may already have one but if not it can be really easy to get one. Your university most likely hires students for part time jobs. The pay is often really good and they are aware of your situation so are often super flexible about hours. Additionally, most of the jobs the university offer are mainly for term time so won’t get in the way of your holidays if you are wanting to return home. Having set times where you will have work helps to make you more efficient in the time you have free, encouraging you to work more productively.

Make exciting plans

With a long onslaught of work, it can be easy to become buried in it and start to feel stressed and down thinking about the long period of time you need to work really hard for. I find that planning to get a reasonable amount of work done during the week helps me to feel as though everything is under control. You must have time off though so set plans to look forward to. I reward myself with a Netflix episode and maybe a chocolatey treat on an evening for after I have spent the day working hard. I also mark weekends off as time to visit friends and family. Short day trips to new cities can be really exciting and help you to have a real break from your work.

 

Have dinner or watch a film with friends each evening

In our house we have started to meal plan and each be responsible for cooking on different nights of the week. This adds variety to meals and helps to ensure you’re eating a freshly cooked meal each evening. We eat together so have that social interaction every evening without fail even if everyone has lots of work, we still eat dinner together. If you have accomplished all the work you need to do for the day, it’s nice to watch a film as a group to unwind.

Hobbies to improve Mental Health

When struggling with your mental health it can be difficult to know what to do with yourself during your free time, that won’t have you feeling worse. As tricky as it can be to push yourself to do something productive when you’re feeling down, it is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Taking up a new hobby or re-discovering an old one will help you to focus your efforts on something positive and constructive. Research shows that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, low mood and depression. So, spending time on an activity that you enjoy can improve your mental health and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, Netflix is not one of the recommended hobbies. Whilst watching TV has been found to have a relaxing effect when watched short term, over two hours of TV a day begins to have a negative impact instead. It has been shown that each extra daily hour of TV kids watch, is associated with an increase in developing depressive symptoms by young adulthood. When studied alongside other activities, watching TV was the only one that showed a negative relationship with happiness over the long term.

With that in mind, here a list of more beneficial hobbies:

Reading (Improves memory & language, decreases stress)

-Fiction books

-Non-fiction books

-Blogs

Art (Boosts creativity & problem solving skills)

-Water painting

-Sketching

-Colouring

-Origami

-Photography

Crafts

-Knitting

-Sewing

-Card Making

-Cross Stitch

Exercise (Improves sleep & self-esteem)

Team Sports

-Netball

-Football

-Tennis

-Swimming

-Basketball

-Hockey

-Badminton

Other

-Gym classes

-Walking/hiking

-Dog walking

-Cycling

-Running

-Skipping

Meditation (Lowers stress levels & blood pressue)

-Yoga

Music

Playing an instrument

Singing

Sources:

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/3daqaj/is-watching-tv-actually-a-good-way-to-rest-your-brain

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/11/11/too-much-screen-time-linked-to-anxiety-depression-in-young-children-and-teens/139931.html