Internship Opportunity

The Tomorrow Project are recruiting for a voluntary intern who can work with us on a short term project. 

The internship will involve creating support documents about a large variety of topics, for Harmless and its associated services. Examples of topics are housing, sexual health, bullying, drugs and alcohol, learning difficulties, and more. The support documents would contain general information about these topics,  helplines and useful websites that can be accessed nationally, and local support services in the Nottingham/shire area. 

The opportunity is well suited to a student or graduate seeking voluntary experience within a mental health service. This work can be done from home, so is accessible to everyone regardless of COVID-19. 

The project will commence in October and we look forward to receiving your application to the email address katie@tomorrowproject.org.uk. Please put ‘Internship Application’ as the email subject. 

You can express your interest in this opportunity by sending us your expression of interest, a brief summary of your experience, and what you think you could bring to this project. We look forward to meeting our successful applicant, and cannot wait to hear from you! 

Tell us about your opinions on text messaging support services!

Harmless are currently carrying out some research about what the general public expects from text messaging support services. We’ve created an online survey, and we would really appreciate it if you could fill it in! It takes no more than 10 minutes, and all answers are completely anonymous.

Here’s the link:  https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/TP_text_services

Your opinions are important to us, and all answers will be contributing to life-saving work. Thank you in advance if you fill it in!

Laura and Katie
The Tomorrow Project

Befriending

Nearly one third of older adults experience loneliness and/or social isolation (Berg_Weger & Morley, 2020). This figure will be exacerbated due to the COVID-19, with over-70’s self-isolating and being particularly vulnerable to the virus. Social isolation can negatively affect the elderly in numerous different ways, including elevated feelings of stress, anger sadness, depression, emptiness, worthlessness, and pessimism (Griffin, 2010). Physical health can also be affected by loneliness, such as elevated cortisol levels, weakened immune system, poorer sleep quality, and doubled risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease (Age UK, 2015).

Befriending has been shown to help loneliness in the elderly. Befriending is “an intervention that introduces the client to one or more individuals, whose main aim is to provide the client with additional social support through the development of an affirming, emotion-focused relationship over time” (Mead et al., 2010). Befriending often consists of regular visits to an older person’s house, and telephone calls by either a paid worker or volunteer. Befriending has been shown to:

  • Reduce depression, loneliness, and feelings of being a burden.
  • Improve confidence and anxiousness
  • Improvements in physical health as well as emotional health
  • Improve general well-being and quality of life

Older people who use the Age UK telephone befriending service reported that they valued the ability to talk, listen, and share information with another person who they could trust and rely on. Additionally, it’s not just the elderly who experience the benefits of befriending; volunteers for the Age UK befriending scheme showed increased self-confidence, improved interpersonal skills, and feelings of satisfaction as a result from volunteering (Age UK, 2015).

Here is a list of local and national befriending services, for you to volunteer at if you would like, or for you to suggest to any elderly friends or relatives who are experiencing loneliness.

Age UK Notts – regular companionship, listening ear, and friendship.
Website: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/notts/our-services/visiting-and-befriending/

Telephone Friendship – a national telephone friendship service run by Age UK and The Silver Line.
Website: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/befriending-services/sign-up-for-telephone-befriending/

Good Companions – reducing loneliness and isolation for older people in Clifton, Wilford, and Silverdale.
Phone: 0115 878 6182
Email: info@goodcompanions.org

East Leake Community Care Association – the Community Care Association run a Befriending Group for the elderly people of East Leake.
Website: https://east-leake.co.uk/befriending-group/

The Silver Line Helpline: 0800 4 70 80 90 (free, confidential, open 24/7, 365 days a year. Provides information, friendship, and advice to older people aged 60+).

Why am I having so many weird dreams?

Has anyone else been having vivid dreams lately? 

I’ve heard so many people talk about how since the start of lockdown, they have been having more dreams than usual. Google Trends (2020) reported that in the US, the number of Google searches for ‘weird dreams’ has doubled since this time last year, suggesting that not only are people dreaming more often, but they can remember them when they wake up.

Not only are vivid dreams increasing, but so are mental health struggles. The United Nations have said that due to the poverty, anxiousness, isolation, bereavement, and illness that COVID-19 is bringing, a mental health crisis could happen (Routers News Agency, 2020). This is already being made apparent in the referrals to mental health services – Harmless and the Tomorrow Project have received a 200% increase in referrals. 

Here’s how these two things could relate to each other. 

Researchers have found that dreaming could function as a way to regulate emotions (Scarpelli et al., 2019). Struggling with our mental health often results in excessive negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, confusion, anxiety, or grief. Large numbers of us are currently experiencing these emotions in response to the pandemic. So in theory, an increase of these emotions could be the cause of an increase in dreaming. The reason why we’re all having so many “weird dreams” could be due to our brain trying to cope with the many intense emotions we’re feeling at the moment.

But, why do we still feel so tired?

When we enter REM sleep (the stage of sleep in which we dream), our brain waves are almost as active as when we are awake (Purves et al., 2001). Our heart rates also increase, as does our breathing. This means that we may not feel rested when we wake up after having a lot of REM sleep and vivid dreams.

Hopefully that answers some questions that you might have been having lately about weird dreams! If all the emotions you’re feeling right now are getting to be too much, resulting in feeling suicidal, then please be reassured that the Tomorrow Project are here for you. We aren’t going anywhere.

Laura

Suicide Crisis Support Officer 

References:

Google Trends. (2020). https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=weird%20dreams&geo=US

Purves, D., Augustine, G. J., Fitzpatrick, D., Katz, L. C., LaMantia, A. S., McNamara, J. O., & Williams, S. M. (2001). Sleep and Wakefulness. Neuroscience. 2nd Edition. Sunderland, MA: Sinnauer Associates Inc, 26.

Reuters News Agency (2020). Health Experts Warn of COVID-19 mental health crisis. The Telegraph.  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/14/health-experts-warn-covid-19-mentalhealth-crisis/

Scarpelli, S., Bartolacci, C., D’Atri, A., Gorgoni, M., & De Gennaro, L. (2019). The functional role of dreaming in emotional processes. Frontiers in psychology10.

Children and young people’s stress

The Children’s Commissioner for England conducted a survey, exploring the stressors that children and young people experience. They asked just under 2,000 8-17-year-olds about stress, and here is how they responded:

  • 66% said that they felt most stress towards homework and exams. Coincidentally, this research was conducted at the same time as the coronavirus outbreak, and schools were beginning to close. This therefore, could have heightened the stress that children felt towards these things, due to the uncertainty surrounding their education and exams.
  • 39% said that they felt most stress towards worrying about what other people think of them.
  • 25% said that they felt most stress about bullying.
  • 21% said that they feel stressed about money and their parents’ jobs. With many jobs being affected by COVID-19, these issues may now be even more prominent for children. Additionally, as many people are now working from home, these jobs are being brought into children’s homes, potentially increasing their exposure to job-related stress.
  • Many children also mentioned that not being listened to, is a main cause of stress. Since this research has been conducted, there are many discussions about schools re-opening as part of the lift of lockdown, so it is important for children’s thoughts and opinions about this to be heard, as well as those of teachers, parents, and politicians.

This research has highlighted just a few issues that children and young people are dealing with at the moment. If you would like to read the whole article, it can be found via this link: https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2020/05/20/children-and-stress-whats-worrying-them-most/

And finally, here are some services which may help with some of the stressors mentioned:

  • Samaritans: 24/7 listening support for anyone of all ages. Call 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Childline: Childline counsellors can be spoken to about anything on the phone or online, between 9am-midnight. This service is for anyone under the age of 19. https://www.childline.org.uk
  • Exam Stress information from Young Minds:

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/exam-stress/

https://youngminds.org.uk/blog/exam-self-care/

And if stress levels are getting to be too much, resulting in feeling suicidal, please know that the Tomorrow Project is here for you. 0115 880 0282 / crisis@tomorrowproject.org.uk

Laura

A creative reflection

When you think of ‘creativity’ what do you think about? This was the question that was asked to me when I attended a course called ‘Creativity for Recovery’ at Nottingham Recovery College some years ago. I made a list of all the things I thought were creative: drawing/painting/visual arts, dance, writing, baking, fashion, origami, music and gardening. It was helpful for me to answer this question because I had never really considered myself ‘creative’, that was something other people were and I could only aspire to. But by doing this course I realised I was actually more creative than I had given myself credit for.

Since I was a child I have danced, drawn, written, knitted, played musical instruments and as I grew older became more interested in gardening. I was already a creative being, even though I didn’t recognise it in myself. And I believe that as human beings we are all born with a creative potential inside us – you only have to see young children play to realise how naturally creative we are! But for some reason, this creativity can leave us the older we get, as society starts judging us on what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be producing creatively, whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The lessons people learn in school, for example, can sometimes be particularly damaging as we are graded on the piece of work that is produced, which is not evaluated on its own merit but is held up for comparison with others. I have heard many people speak of how music teachers told them to stand at the back of the class because they ‘couldn’t sing’… This can lead to people switching off their creative selves.

This certainly was the case for me. The things I loved as a child slowly became less appealing to me as I got older and was assessed and graded for my efforts. I started to feel ‘not good enough’, and lost a love for the creative process in itself. This remained the case for many years, until I experienced a serious mental health crisis and found myself referred to the Recovery College. It was here that I began to throw out all those old messages about not being good enough. Here the focus was on self-expression and creating for the pleasure and benefits of doing so.

And there are many benefits to our mental health from creative activities, such as for the enjoyment or as a distraction, to express our feelings, offer satisfaction and to give us something positive to focus on. It can help with reducing anxiety and bring us into more social situations where we might make new friends and feel less isolated. It can be great for reducing tension and helping us to relax. It is known to boost self esteem and confidence, increase self awareness and offer a meaning and purpose to life. Creativity can help us simply ‘be’ in the moment, which is a key aspect of mindfulness practice. I particularly believe, as a person-centred therapist, that creative expression is a natural part of a healthy life, which can help reveal the infinite potential of us all to grow and become more fully ourselves. And above all else it can offer us hope – with a little bit of imagination anything can seem possible.

The paradox I’ve found with my own mental health and creativity is that when I am struggling the most, I don’t have the energy or motivation to do the things that I know will be helpful for me. Picking up my pen to write, or sitting down at my piano to play are usually the last things I want to do. This is when it is so important to be kind to myself and recognise the limitations I have at that moment. Maybe the step I am trying to take is too big and I need to break it down into smaller, more manageable bite-size pieces. These are the times when it is enough to just put on some music that I love and get out my colouring book. Just half an hour spent doing some creative activity can be just the tonic to help lift my mood on the most difficult days. When even this isn’t possible then just sitting outside in nature and admiring the beauty around me is a creative act that can help me feel more connected to and positive about my life.

So even if you don’t think you have it in you, give it a go anyway and maybe you will awake your very own creative self!

Sonia

Harmless therapist

Creativity and mental health

This week’s blog theme is Creativity and Mental Health, and with us all being in lockdown, there is opportunity to try out some new activities and potentially start some new hobbies. I took to Twitter, and asked people for the creative things they use to nurture their mental health, and here is a list of their responses. If any of them catch your eye, give them a go!

  • Reading (escaping into a new world, interpreting characters and scenes in your imagination)
  • Video Games (The Sims, Animal Crossing, Minecraft, LittleBigPlanet, Scribblenauts, Terraria)
  • Sewing, knitting, embroidery
  • Colouring (adult colouring books, colouring in mandalas or calming pictures, or colouring in angry words could function as a stress outlet. There are also colouring apps, which you can use if you don’t have access to pens or paper)
  • Scrapbooking (arranging photos and memories in a pretty layout, also is a great way to focus on happier times. The final product can also be something that you treasure for a long time.)
  • Puzzles
  • Bullet Journalling
  • Planning out your day (getting creative with coloured pens, making it look aesthetically pleasing)
  • Cooking (experimenting with different foods, writing out recipes colourfully)
  • Baking (getting creative with decorations and icing, experimenting with flavours and ingredients)
  • Making bracelets or necklaces
  • Gardening
  • Painting (this could be a ‘paint by numbers’, or freehand painting!)
  • Rearranging/redecorating your house or bedroom
  • Playing a musical instrument (composing own pieces, learning new pieces, experimenting with dynamics and interpreting the music in your own way)
  • Writing short stories or poetry
  • Dancing (not only is exercise great for your mental health, but getting creative with dance can be great for expressing emotions and feelings)
  • Going for a walk, taking photographs and editing them (see my previous blog post!)
  • Writing or drawing our your thoughts (writing doesn’t have to be in a structured way, it can be great to just let the words flow. Someone also suggested drawing what you think your thoughts resemble, to ‘bring them to life’, acknowledge them, or make sense of them)
  • Meditation
  • Making bird feeders with peanut butter and pinecones, and learning about the new birds that use it!
  • Writing a quiz and hosting it online with your friends or family
  • Creating playlists on Spotify

I hope that there’s something in there which interests you! Remember not to pressure yourself whilst doing any of these – you don’t have to be particularly good at something to enjoy it! Enjoy having some down time with yourself, getting creative, and nurturing your mental health.

Hope you’re all staying safe, remember that we are here if you need any support.

Laura