18 May 2020
To kick off Mental Health awareness week, UK Connects Sales & Marketing Director Amy Rowcliffe tells us how she has been applying the ‘5 Days to well being’ written by mental health charity Mind.
Over 12 years ago, the following steps were researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation as the key things that contribute to our wellbeing. Echoing the fruit and veg ‘5 a day’ it’s a great quick checklist to ensure we are our best selves and feel good.
And, during these unusual circumstances of the Coronavirus – lockdown, remote working, home-schooling – it’s even more important to focus on what we can do to take care of ourselves and others.
So here are the 5 ways, with their definitions, and my viewpoint on how I’m managing (trying) to achieve them….
Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
This is very different at a time of social distancing or shielding. You can only socialise face-to-face with the people you live with. So social platforms are booming (Teams, Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp – we’re using them all!) enabling us to see friends and family and communicate effectively with colleagues – which is great. But like me, you might also be ‘totally over’ booze and quiz nights with people you would usually only see every six months or have burning eyes from looking at a screen all day long.
I’ve now started to pick up with individuals again, use the traditional phone call. My daughter Poppy and I have also been chatting to our neighbours over the fence; opening the door to the postman to say hello; greeting the people we see on our daily walks and even getting to know our Sainsburys delivery driver. My sister also drove round over Easter to deliver some goodies and we chatted across the driveway for 20 minutes, loving the physicality of a face-to-face chat.
But also the hand-written note is a long lost treasure – we’ve been putting messages up on our window for people passing by – you’ll have noticed all the lovely Rainbows the children are doing for each other to make their walks more fun.
Try sending postcard to your family or friends, or an unexpected gift – you’ll make their day and feel great yourself 😊
Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
This is so important and I would say this is my number one focus! If I have exercised my day is great – the endorphins are awesome. Obviously, guidance says everyone (in groups of no more than two from the same household) can go out each day for a walk, cycle or run. Hallelujah! Just do it, get outside with nature – reconnect, breathe deeply and appreciate our beautiful surroundings, we’re so lucky to be in The Surrey Hills – “area of outstanding natural beauty”
There are also loads of online options for dance classes, Pilates, HIIT workouts (the infamous ‘Joe Wicks – The Body Coach’ for one) or my personal favourite Yoga with Adriene. There’s a huge range out there but find one that suits you and can be sustained – build it into your day and commit to it. Maybe sign up for something as a goal (there’s loads of fun runs out there).
We have been doing some of the PE lessons with Joe Wicks and a walk ‘off the beaten track’ every day (Poppy has astonished me by walking 5-6k each walk!). And who’d have known our very own engineer Luke has taken up roller skating as a new challenge!
Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
This can be done in many ways – and the art of ‘mindfulness’ has been talked about a lot in the past few years. I use applications such as Headspace and Calm most days in some shape or form, but have to say I am not a master at this, and instead apply the principles to my day e.g. if I’m on a walk, leave my phone at home so I take in my surroundings. If I’m having a (i.e. ‘lots of’) chocolate, I really savour it. Or, if I am playing with Poppy, I make sure I am fully present, not working, checking messages or chatting to my husband – she feels the difference immediately, and it’s much more rewarding.
We also chat about how we are feeling (mostly exhausted!) and make sure we focus on the positives – gratitude for what you have makes a huge difference to your mindset and energy.
What are you grateful for?
Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. As well as being fun, learning new things will make you more confident.
Learning something new or rediscovering an old interest is really fulfilling. You’re developing yourself (and distracting yourself from the things you can’t do!) and we all love a sense of achievement. I haven’t had time to do this properly (I’d love to be doing an online course right now or reading a new book) – but instead we have been doing small things to change it up e.g. we’ve had breakfast outside, tried a new recipe each week, picked flowers and looked up what they are, talked about new things – and most importantly, tried new wines!
Poppy and I also did a ‘blind tasting’ where we had to guess the food (I got fed mint sauce!!! Urgh). But lots of my friends have taken up baking, gardening, picked up their bikes again or taken on the Run for Heroes 5k challenge (my turn this week) – its really important to step back from work and keep expanding the mind or challenging yourself with new things.
What’s one thing each week you want to do differently, try or learn about?
Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
A lot of you already do great things to help your community and give back, so will understand how rewarding this is. Being selfless helps build self-esteem and happiness. And during lockdown there are quite a few new ways to help people, here are just a few….
Local action groups – my village has started up a ‘Help Hub’ with a phone line for anyone needing support and I have donated to their Food Hub
Giving blood is more important than ever and still possible to do in lockdown (who knew!) – Kate is going in two weeks!
Delivering medication – volunteers are offering to drop off prescriptions to the vulnerable. Community running group ‘This Mum Runs’ in Bristol have been on the news
NHS volunteer responder – our very own Hannah Martin has signed up for this
Or you can support and thank the NHS with a banner or send a message and/or donate on the Thanks a Million NHS site. As well as joining the weekly ‘clap for our carers’ every Thursday night @8pm – its amazing what the NHS are doing.
Lastly, it’s also critical you give to yourself. Rest. Have a break. Be SELFISH for a bit. Find a quiet spot in the house or garden and sit with a cup of tea (without your phone!); take a long bath and do that face pack; listen to music – or buy yourself that thing you’ve been wishing for, for ages. Treat yourself, you deserve it!
But overall, just slow down a bit, stop trying to ‘do’ stuff all the time and ‘be’. You’re great and remember – you’ve got this!
CONNECT… with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
BE ACTIVE…Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
TAKE NOTICE…Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
KEEP LEARNING…Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. As well as being fun, learning new things will make you more confident.
GIVE…Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
MIND – provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem and have some great tips for taking care of yourself at work
Mental Health Foundation – they have a vast array of resources and advice – especially for coping during the Coronavirus
Heads Together – just released a new mental health radio series: 60 Second Support – with new tips and ideas to help you take small steps to look after your wellbeing and of those around you.
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