Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Quarantine for a Newbie

Hi everyone, so we're now in to the second week of quarantine, some of you may be sailing through it while others are either going stir crazy with boredom or are genuinely struggling to cope.

For someone like me having a chronic illness, my everyday life is like self isolation.  I generally only go out about once a week, sometimes once a fortnight, because going out for the day makes me feel so exhausted and in extra pain.  So as I spend the majority of my life indoors, and because of this I like to find as many things as I can that keep me busy, keep me entertained and things that I enjoy doing because I suffer with depression and anxiety too.  I know, fun!

I also know many of my readers have a lot of the same issues, so I wanted to write a list of ideas to help you beat the boredom and also to try and help if you're struggling mentally too.

So here's my 'How to Stay Sane List' -

1. Keep in touch with people, family and friends - I think this is probably one of the most important ones, it helps you to still feel connected to the outside world and at the moment, as everyone is in the same boat (and for a lot of them it's a new worrying experience), it will help them not to feel so alone.  You can share your tips and ideas to get through the long days and maybe chat about other things in life (ie not just the dreaded virus) to help calm each other and take your mind off the current problems!
One of my favourite ideas is to Skype or video chat with friends that you would normally meet up with.  Why don't you and your friend make a nice drink/food etc, wear something nice and go in a different room to video chat with each other, just as if you were going out to meet them. That way it will feel more 'normal' and make it a bit more fun.

2. Netflix - my absolute saviour on days when I just need to get out of my head-space.  And there is Sooooo much to choose from.  I'll upload a post next week of all my favourite films and shows that I love to watch to give you a few new ideas.

3. Pamper/play with your pets - they will need a lot of comfort just as much as you do, as their routine is going to be very different too.  They will also need something new to occupy their mind and to give them exercise as they won't be able to go out for their regular walks or be able to socialize with other dogs!  Have a look at this RSPCA article, for the latest pet advice, updates and tips on how to best care for your pet while in isolation, as there are some great ideas on there and of course a lot of important information too.  Have a fun play with them and sit and cuddle them, you will both enjoy it and it will be time well spent.  (Currently sat here now trying to type this with a very fidgety poodle on my lap!  But it's lovely.)

4. Pamper yourself - have a relaxing bath, a face mask, paint your nails, do your hair etc, anything to make you feel 'nice'.  Treat it like a spa day!

5. Read - how many times have you started a book and thought I'll finish that one day, now is that day!

6. Get baking - whether you live alone or with family, you can always appreciate some fresh home cooked cookies or cakes, plus it makes the house smell delicious hmmm!  It's times well spent, great do to with kids, and really enjoyable fun, plus you have something tasty to show for your efforts afterwards.

7. Exercise - this is really important even if you just do 5-10 minutes of stretching each day, it makes you feel so much more awake and gives you more energy.  Try doing it twice a day if you feel you need an energy boost.

8. Start a diary - it can be a journal of your thoughts, sometimes writing down how you feel, even a little bit can really help clear your mind and put things in to perspective.
A book of your favourite quotes, I have one of these and I add to it often, because I love quotes and it's also lovely to look through at times when I need a little 'pick me up'.
A gratitude diary, because even though things are not good right now we all still have a lot to be thankful for each day.  Family, friends, pets, good health (if you do), sight, hearing, any little thing in the day that made you smile, it all helps!
Or you could start a bullet journal, there are hundreds of great videos on youtube all about them.  I started one over a year ago for this year and I love just sitting down for half an hour or so and drawing little doodles, it's very relaxing.  I'm planning to film a video for my YT in the next couple of months to show my progress.

9. Start a new hobby or pick up and old one - crafts are THE best way to relax, use your time wisely and you can even make money from them. Anything from painting, drawing, card making, upcycling, etc and you can always get any bits you need ordered online.  Another hobby could be starting a blog, you tube channel, learn an instrument, take an online class (there are free ones around), make a scrap book etc

10. Go in your garden and appreciate nature - for those that can, this is something people are still able to do at the moment, so make the most of it. Feel the sun, get some air, let your dog have a wander and stiff. If you have a small garden close to others I think the government advise not to spend too long outside, but even for a few minutes you can still stand at the back door, catch some rays and listen to the birds!  If you have more of a quiet secluded garden away from others, spend a good bit of time outside when the weather is nice, plant some seeds in pots and make a pretty area in the garden or take a book outside and find a shaded corner to sit and read.

11. Keep a routine - even if you're not at work/school etc, still try and maintain a routine, ie make your bed, get up and go to bed at a good time, eat at the same times etc.

12. Do something you've been putting off/didn't have time to do before, like a DIY project, tidy a cupboard, make something, watch that documentary you've had on your watch list for ages, listen to an album you didn't have time to before, clean the kitchen! etc

13. Put on some of your favourite music and dance!  Music is one of the best things to help make you feel happier, it's a known fact.  And you can turn it in to another fun thing to do, go on Spotify and create a playlist of all your favourite songs to dance to!

14. Write letters/emails to old friends you'd love to get in contact with again or distant family that you haven't been in touch with for a while, check up on them.  Maybe start up a new thing with your best friend of writing to each other regularly like Pen-Friends, like when people used to actually write letters to each other instead of just texting every so often.  Add little homemade gifts or photos in the your notes too.

15. If you live with others, make sure to find time to be on your own, even if it's just 5 minutes.  Sometimes just taking a minute for yourself, especially when several people are all stuck in the house together, all feeling anxious, it can get a bit much and a bit stressful.  So it's really important to take a step away, go in another room, do something on your own for a little while, just have a breather away from each other.  Believe me, it will make all the difference

Finally, and this is just my personal advice; obviously it's important to keep up to date with the latest government guidelines and rules, and to know the extent of the situation.  But, try not to dwell on it all, try not to let your mind wander and worry about possible future problems any more than you have to.  You'll notice I haven't mentioned anything about going on social media.  That's because the current world problems are pretty much all everyone is talking about and at times it's better to try and limit your time spent reading through it all, and have a break away from it.

I hope you find this post helpful and if you can think of any other tips or ideas, please write them in the comments to share with everyone.

Most importantly, Stay Indoors and Stay Safe

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Monday, 17 February 2020

Mental Health - Suicide Awareness

Hi everyone, news of yet another suicide this week has prompted me to write this post, as suicide awareness and mental health is something very close to my heart.
Whether it's celebrities we hear about in the news, close loved ones or if you reading this now are feeling this way, suicide is NEVER the answer!

There is help out there for those that are brave enough to reach out.  But sadly not everyone gets to know about that help, or can find the courage to search for it.  So I feel it is our job and our duty to help spread far more awareness, reach out to those in need and help stop the ignorance that many people still seem to have about this issue.
It amazes me that even now in this day and age, when so many people suffer with depression and anxiety, so little is known about where to get help, that SO many people STILL ignore the signs and the whole subject is still a taboo and something people are ashamed to admit they suffer with!

People NEED to start being kinder to each other!  This world is cruel, unforgiving, selfish and egotistical.  And people are suffering in silence because of it, to the point where they feel they don't even want to live life anymore!  That is so absolutely, truly tragic and saddens me to my very core.  Too many people suffer alone and take their own lives every day, so something has to be done to help them!

I have been on both sides of the scale, I've watched two people I deeply care about suffer with such severe depression, they've tried to take their own lives, several times.  Coping with that is incredibly difficult, worrying and upsetting.  Never quite knowing if you're saying the right thing to help them or if the worst might happen and their attempt will be successful.
And, during bouts of my own severe depression, I have been in that frame of mind myself in the past too.  Being in such a dark place and not having the slightest clue how to get out, it's a very lonely feeling.

While in that vulnerable state recently, I eventually talked to my GP who put me on a waiting list to see a counsellor.  For me with my long term issues, it was bearable but I did find it very hard waiting almost 5 months before I could talk to someone and was basically counting the days!  Also many years ago after a bad breakdown, I asked to see a counsellor then, and was told it was a 12 month waiting list!!  Crazy!

These waiting times are absolutely ridiculous and it's purely because there are just not enough counsellors available in many areas for people to see.  Many GPs aren't equipped enough to deal with the level of mental health issues.  If it hadn't of been for my counsellor (when I finally got to see her) I wouldn't of known about some of the helplines and other mental health therapists that are available to talk to immediately, because my GP never even told me about them!  Again this is not good enough.

Therefore the more people that speak out and ask for help and the more people that speak out to help those in need, the more the NHS will have to listen.  GPs need to be more aware of the needs of sufferers and most importantly, be able to give them some immediate help and guidance so they don't feel so alone and abandoned, just adding their name to some list and left to get on with it!

Here are the contact details I was given and some others that I feel would be of benefit (Uk only) -

Shout helpline (originally called Crisis Text Line) - text 85258 (I highly recommend this one)
Live Fear Free (originally Welsh Womens Aid) - call 0808 80 10 800 (24 hours)
Mind Uk - www.mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm).  Email info@mind.org.uk or text 86483
C.A.L.L. Helpline (Community Advice and Listening Line) - call 0800 107 0900 (Uk) or 0800 132 737 (Wales) or text "Help" and your question to 81066
- call 116 123
Childline - call 0800 1111
You can also visit www.ntw.nhs.uk/selfhelp where you can find loads of various pdf leaflets that cover all kinds of issues from depression to abuse to self harm to bereavement.  You can click to view them or pay a pound per leaflet to download them.  The information is actually quite detailed and there is also a long list of specific helplines etc at the end of each one.

I hope this post helps even just one person out there.  But you (my readers) can help too by please sharing this post or at least sharing the message with those around you to do what you can, to help lift the taboo surrounding mental health and suicide, and help end the silent suffering.

So until next time, be kind

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