There's a whole range of apps out there that can help to support mental health and wellbeing. They aren't just for those who have a diagnosis. We all need to stay fit with our mental health and wellbeing in the same way as we need to stay fit physically. These apps can help - but one size doesn't fit all! Just pick the ones that are most helpful for you. If you have concerns about your own mental health and wellbeing, or that of someone else, we always advise seeking professional medical help. If someone is in immediate danger of harm, A&E is the best place for emergency support. Check out the crisis support available in your own area or access one of the helplines here.
Here's a selection of some apps that you, or those you know, may find helpful (available on both android and ios):
My Possible Self
My well being
It's mental health awareness week and it's most timely when we are in the middle of a prolonged period of lockdown and 'normal' life, whatever that might be, seems a little beyond reach. The theme for the week is 'Kindness' and it's one of those strategies for managing mental health that comes up in most weeks of the Kintsugi Hope Wellbeing Course that we run here at Harbour in Cheshire.
Why is kindness so important as a strategy? An unexpected kindness from someone else can be so uplifting - remember when you were on the receiving end? I've been in a car park struggling to find change, when a stranger has given me what I needed (in the days before we could pay by phone!) and the rest of the day just felt that bit brighter. Being kind to ourselves is hugely important - do we talk to ourselves the same way as we would talk to a friend or are we far more self-critical?
But the really powerful kindness is the one where we are giving kindness to others. It's an antidote for depression and anxiety, as we move from focusing on our own thoughts and needs. It affirms the value we place on others and in doing so we affirm ourselves and our own values. It has the power to break cycles of unhealthy behaviours by redirecting our actions. It isn't just being kind to people that helps. One mental health unit in our area kept chickens and rabbits. Being kind to those animals, taking care of them, was therapy for the youngsters in the unit. I guess the proof of that is that we are now left with a couple of rabbits in our garden whilst daughter is living life to the full and independently! Being kind to the earth is also a self-esteem boost.
So, what will you do to surprise someone else with kindness this week? To boost their own mental wellbeing, and in doing so boost your own?
Mental health is a continuum that we all move around on. If you want to learn more about strategies that you can use for your own mental wellbeing or to support others, our next Wellbeing course will be starting towards the end of June - online, of course! Register your interest here.
I love food. Eating good food, making food for those I love, sharing time with people over food. Food is part of celebrations and festivals. Times of joy. Comfort eating is sometimes a way of recreating the feeling associated with those times of joy and fellowship.
Today is Maundy Thursday and is a day when we, as Christians, think about the symbolism of food. The celebratory meal we remember is a Passover meal. It may have been the last supper for Jesus but was the first of many re-enactments in communion when we are reminded about his body and blood and all that he did for us.
Sharing celebratory meals, sharing communion, with our friends and family may be limited just now because of this time of lockdown. But the symbolism of continuing to do these things reminds us of those times that we have known in the past and give us hope of these things happening again in the future. Whether we are thinking of the joy and fellowship, hugs and shared meals at the end of lockdown, or eternal joy and fellowship, let us enjoy the symbolic celebration through our food over this Easter time.
Maybe too much information is making my brain foggy. There is so much available at all times of day and night. Not that I look at any of it at night, but I know some people do. We are bombarded if we allow it. Social media, TV, radio. It’s sometimes exhausting trying to discern between facts and fake news. It’s far less taxing to just look at the humorous posts.
But if we don’t look beyond the funnies, are we in danger of making our world too small? Are we just seeking out information that reinforces our own personal viewpoint? Or do we also allow in the information that challenges our own viewpoint? Do we ask ourselves the difficult questions? Do we fact check the posts that reinforce our thinking?
Are we going to let all that information shrink or expand our world, our thinking?
Working from home is a huge blessing when things are ‘normal’ and it’s been a blessing in the last few weeks as my routine during the day isn’t hugely different. I’m very conscious that’s not always the case for people. But even though I am relatively blessed with this, yesterday was a real brain fog day. I’m not the only one - on a couple of calls I discovered I am definitely not unique in this - but it seems as though the stress may be affecting me more than I realised. The sentences I started but was unable to finish, because I couldn’t remember what I was talking about, made me stop and evaluate.
Brain fog is caused by many things: stress, grief, medication, illness, vitamin deficiency, hormones, fatigue. It hampers the clarity of our thinking and reduces our own confidence in ability to perform as usual. But there are things we can do to help improve matters. Exercise, good nutrition, healthy sleep patterns, effective relaxation and all those elements of a healthy lifestyle that support our well-being will improve our brain fog.
So, I will be having an early night tonight, practising good sleep hygiene, eating well and I will be continuing to take the vitamin B12 supplement as advised for my anaemia. Maybe tomorrow my brain will feel less foggy.
I was once talking to someone who did a lot of flower arranging. She told me that in nature, life is filled with odd numbers. Flowers usually grow in odd numbers. There are usually an odd number of petals on a flower. In her arrangements, she continues the theme of odd numbers to ensure that the arrangement is more beautiful. I checked flowers for ages afterwards, only to find that the odd number theory continued. Even the shell in my bathroom has an odd number of ridges!
We are also told that people are usually considered more attractive if they have a more symmetrical face. Of course, beauty is skin deep, so that is just an initial judgement that we make before getting to know the person.
Life is full of all kinds of beautiful. Odd numbers, even numbers. Symmetrical, asymmetrical. Inner, outer. Industrial, agricultural. Urban, rural. Minimalist, elaborate. Where is the beauty in your everyday life at the moment?
At the start of this second week of lockdown, the theme of these blog posts shifted from resilience to one particular aspect that supports our resilience. Did you spot the common theme since Tuesday? Yes, it’s creativity! So what does that have to do with Palm Sunday, I hear you ask.
Churches around the world have celebrated the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem the week before His death for as long as Easter has been celebrated. This was the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem - creative mode of transport for him was a donkey. And there was such creativity in worship! No flags or bunting as we might use for a royal visit from the Queen, but palm branches waved instead. No red carpet, but the crowds laid down their cloaks. This was how royalty was greeted in those days, and although they might have ridden into town on something slightly less humble than a donkey, this is an insight into the lack of value Jesus placed on earthly royal trappings.
How creative are we in our approach to the current lockdown? How creative are we in our worship? How royally do we treat those around us? How royally do we treat the King of Kings? Are we caught up in earthly trappings? Or are we using whatever we have around us, whatever skills we have, to worship the Lord?
The evenings are getting lighter. The birds are getting noisier. The daffodils are turning their faces to the sun each day. It can mean only one thing - Spring has Sprung! Creation in all its glory is showing the creativity of birds nesting and weeds finding new places to grow.
Spring just cannot be stifled. It keeps coming back each year, bringing a fresh hope. Spring always follows winter. We can’t hold back the dawn. Morning always follows the night. There’s a time and season for all things. Nothing lasts forever on this earth. Lockdown will not last forever.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 in the Bible sums it up perfectly and reminds us that such seasons have ever been thus:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Even if you don’t know the words from the Bible, you may have heard them in the 1965 grammy-award winning Byrds hit, “Turn, Turn, Turn”. We could possibly write some additional lines that are very relevant to our current context,
but the pattern of life lets us know that there is hope for tomorrow.
I admire the work of any artist. I cannot draw or paint to save my life. I can only just manage colouring in and even that is poorly done. I can see beauty, skill, messages in the work of artists, whether they are famous, infamous or without a public audience. My sister is able to draw and paint and extends her creative skills to her amazing craft work; one of my daughters creates beautiful artwork in both traditional and digital media. Whilst I learnt to sew and knit as I was growing up, I never had quite the same flair for colour and style choices, but could follow a pattern. Not my own creativity, I thought, just following in someone else’s footsteps.
It took me a long while to see any creativity in what I was doing. My background was science and engineering before I went into teaching. Not particularly creative I thought. But maybe the logical side of that training helped me spot patterns and think creatively about problems at work.
There are all kinds of creativity. My husband's skills and creativity are practical and he enjoys nothing more than tinkering on his workbench and restoring a machine back to working order. Another daughter expresses her creativity through music. Maybe you are the sort of creative person who can create something out of nothing, maybe out of necessity (See Lockdown Blog Day 10). Maybe your creativity is taking chaos in your home and creating into some sort of order. Maybe your creativity is in the garden. Maybe you’re creating new ways to help those around you. Maybe you are an entrepreneur.
What I have learnt, though, is that there are some things that help develop our creativity:
I’m wondering what has triggered your ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ moments during lockdown. One of my colleagues was telling me that he had been building all sorts of creative things out of the scraps of wood in the garden. Mine’s more likely to be substituting ingredients in cooking. Or using up scraps of fabric that I might have previously thought were too small to do anything with.
Maybe we need a combination of necessity and boredom (see Day 8) to trigger our inner creativity. Or maybe it is a result of Plan A being abandoned that we have to find a different way of doing something (see Day 9). Maybe it is the shift in our routines and the lack of things that we are normally able to access easily that gives us a different perspective.
Maybe necessity has brought some really positive outcomes. Re-prioritisation in our lives. Identifying the things that really matter. Talking with the people we love. Spending time with God. A delicious meal that we never previously thought about cooking. A scrappy quilt, or two. A repaired rabbit hutch. Whatever it is, the impact may not be the same as The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind but it may be an impact we need.