Mental Health Awareness Week 2020
Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. Rob Murray, Scotland Commissioner (Community Impact), and Alan Freeburn, Scotland Commissioner (Inclusion), have written a blog bringing together the work we’re doing with our A Million Hands partnerships and the work of our Inclusion Team.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme is #KindnessMatters, and for Scouts this fits perfectly into our A Million Hands partnership. Just over a year ago Scouts the length and breadth of the country decided on what was important to them. They came up with six themes, including Mental Health and Providing Kindness in every community.
Over the past 18 months, our young people have been co-creating over 120 activities that support discussions on Mental Health and Kindness. These can all be found in the helping others portal. It’s been a remarkable journey and we’ve been delighted to see Scouts in Scotland taking such a proactive role in improving our communities.
2020 is a challenging year for many reasons. We know many people are finding it hard just now with the global pandemic, particularly those in our vulnerable communities and our young people. It’s okay not to be okay.
We’re working to provide resources to support Mental Health and Kindness. Here’s some of what we’ve been doing, and how you can get involved.
Young People told us that their mental wellbeing is going to be disproportionately affected by the current coronavirus crisis, and yet it’s not being widely talked about.
That’s why we’re asking Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers and Scout Network to share Three for 3.
Write (or draw) three things you’re doing to look after your mental wellbeing during this challenging time and share these ideas with three other people.
Once you’ve shared your three things, the people you’ve shared with should share their own three things with you and three others, keeping the conversation about wellbeing going. You can do this with your family, friends, or if you’re over 13 and have social media, by tagging people on social media using #Threefor3
As Scouts we want to help others, so we’re asking all sections to help reduce the loneliness and improve the wellbeing of people in care homes as we collectively carry acts of kindness across Scotland. These acts could be as simple as leaving a kindness rock at the door of a care home or sending in a postcard / picture or letter engaging with local residents.
Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health
Feelings of distress and anxiety can be normal when we’re experiencing challenging life events. You may well feel anxious, sad, angry, and confused. And that’s ok. Realising this is normal is the first step in finding better ways to cope.
Accepting that there’s a level of uncertainty at the moment can help to reduce worries. The drive to always wanting certainty makes us worry more and gives us a false sense of control.
Having a good structure and routine to your day and your week can be really helpful. It fosters a sense of control and predictability as well as a feeling of achievement. Getting into a good routine of when we’re working, resting and sleeping helps our mind and body re-energise.
It’s sometimes nice to rest and feel there’s less pressure on our time but too much sedentary behaviour can have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. Make a point of increasing physical activity even in small ways such as getting up and walking around the house or garden if possible or tackling the housework. Make regular exercise part of your good routine. Just don’t overdo it!
It’s important, though, to engage in daily activities you enjoy such as reading, baking, craft work, painting. Anything that reduces stress and increases feelings of wellbeing. Use these as a reward for some of the tasks you have set yourself and build into your daily routine.
What you eat and drink can affect your mental health and wellbeing. Drinking adequate amounts of water and eating a balanced diet rich in healthy nutrients is associated with feelings of wellbeing. Limiting alcohol and caffeine can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Staying connected with friends and family is really important for us as social animals. Many of us have made use of technology to keep in touch with work but it’s really important to have social time too. A feeling of connection with others can boost our wellbeing and happiness.
These days we have news and information 24 hours per day, anytime you need. However, for mental wellbeing it’s important to limit exposure to constant social media. Set limits to the amount of time you’re exposed to media coverage so you don’t become overwhelmed.
Sometimes we need to keep on top of the physical feelings of stress. One way to do this is to practise controlled breathing techniques which can reduce both the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety and stress. Perhaps look at learning more about meditation and mindfulness and develop other skills that can help you cope.
Higher levels of self compassion and kindness are strongly related to fewer mental health difficulties. As well as being kind to ourselves, being kind to others can also have a positive mental health benefit. Undertaking acts of kindness can reduce feelings of stress and help us feel better about ourselves and the situation through the release of oxytocin, making us feel good as well as developing bonds with others, and serotonin which helps regulate mood.
There is some research to suggest that, rather like yawning, kindness is contagious! A simple act of kindness to one other person can trickle down to others as the recipient of your kindness is more likely to carry out further acts of kindness. Being kind to ourselves and others costs nothing yet can have a positive impact on our own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of others. You may well already be carrying out acts of kindness and haven’t even noticed.
Can you take on a kindness challenge and do an act of kindness every day with nothing in return? Can you do a different act of kindness every day, perhaps pushing out of your comfort zone? Can you do some of them anonymously? Why don’t you find out how your acts of kindness make you feel after a week?
This global pandemic will impact us all in different ways. It’s important to remember that as Scouts we do our best to help others and ourselves.
Some material adapted from an article by Dr Nicola Cogan and Dr Liza Morton ‘10 tips to protect your Mental Health in a time of Coronavirus’ originally appearing in the Glasgow Herald on 21st March 2020. Used with permission.