Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

In a society that is progressively acknowledging and understanding those with mental health issues, it is no surprise that Mental Health Awareness Week is now a glued event on everyone's calendars around the UK and beyond. Each year, a major issue is highlighted; last year, the topic was body image; this year's theme is kindness.
The coronavirus outbreak, which appears to have swallowed up our day to day lives, is having a big impact on people's mental health, particularly for those who are already battling depression and anxiety. With the added changes to our normality, these suppressed feelings and emotions can really take advantage and make it feel like there is no way out. This is where the focus on kindness has stemmed from.

Being kind means doing something considerate for another or for yourself, that will benefit both parties. It is important to remember that these good deeds needn't take up a lot of your time, nor do they need to cost any money. It is simply the act itself that carries the benefit; even the smallest deed can make a big difference, for example holding a door open for a stranger, or offering to carry shopping for an elderly person. Of course, whilst social distancing rules apply, such acts are prohibited; this isn't to say that you can't help in other ways. Here are six ways in which you can share kindness with family members, friends, and your local community during lockdown.

1. Support the elderly
Times are particularly difficult for those who are vulnerable or ˜high-risk', such as the elderly, many of whom may struggle to get the supplies they need, in a safe and protected way. Why not offer a helping hand, and make sure that they have everything they need, whether that be medication, food, or other supplies? Perhaps you could help to organise an online delivery for them, or even set them up on Skype or Zoom, so that they can contact family members from the safety of their homes.

2. Get to know your neighbours
We are all guilty of not taking enough time to really get to know our neighbours, and if we're truly honest, most of us wouldn't recognise our neighbour in a crowded room. Now's the time to really share some kindness and take that first step. Sure, we can't exactly invite them round for a coffee, but you could post a note through their door, letting them know that you're there to help, if they need you. If you have a neighbour who you know is living alone, and you feel comfortable with it, you could even jot down your number; let them know that if they are feeling lonely, you're there to talk, even if it's just over the phone.

3. Feed those who are struggling
If you are able to, you could volunteer at your local food bank; if not, they are always looking for food donations. There are lots of struggling families at this time, and food banks have become a lifeline for many. Just be sure to call ahead and find out what the bank is in need of, to ensure that you are really helping out as best you can. The Trussell Trust is the UK's largest network of food banks, and they are always welcoming new volunteers.

4. Get a pen-pal
If there's ever a good time to get a pen-pal, it's now! There are many people online, looking for someone to talk to during this tough time. Not only could you be helping someone who is feeling lonely or isolated, you could be making a life-long friend from anywhere in the world! Alternatively, you could pen a letter to a care home resident who may be lonely. You never know, that one letter could really make a difference to someone, and brighten their day.

5. Organise an online meditation
So many people are joining online gym classes, dance classes and everything else you can think of. Why not start your own meditation class? Ongoing research has suggested that a regular practice of meditation can help your brain better manage stress and anxiety that can trigger depression. All you need is Skype, Zoom, YouTube, or another online portal, and you're off! If meditation isn't your thing, you could offer a class or tutorial on really anything that piques your interest; the world is your oyster, and anything that you can do to help others would be hugely appreciated.

6. Offer your knowledge
With children taken out of school, many parents have had to step up, and venture into the world of home schooling. As you can imagine, this would be a struggle for any mum or dad, particularly for those with teenagers and above. If you have any teaching skills, or knowledge of particular subjects, you could volunteer your skills to support home school parents. This act of kindness would release a huge burden from the shoulders of any panic-stricken parents, who feel alien in the academic realm.

Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and wellbeing. For example, it can reduce stress, as well as improve mood, self-esteem and happiness. Whilst this year's theme is primarily about showing kindness to others, it is also important to remember to be kind to yourself too. Be kind to your body by fuelling it with nutrients, granting it sunlight, and exercising when you can. Be kind to your mind by reading, connecting with others, and taking a break from technology or social media. Finally, be kind to your soul, through meditation, breathing the clean air of nature, practicing yoga, and indulging in artwork.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

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