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

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

Mothers and babies in mind

When I first became a mother over twenty years ago I had never heard of perinatal mental health. Though my pregnancy was very much wanted and I had longed to become a mother for many years, I was unprepared for the maelstrom of feelings that would engulf me both during the pregnancy and following the birth of my first child. I had heard of the ‘baby blues’, but did not fully grasp that the physiological and emotional changes of pregnancy, labour and caring for a newborn baby can make this a particularly vulnerable time for new mothers.

Having already experienced depression and anxiety, I realise now that pregnancy was a catalyst for a surge in emotions that further affected my mental health. I was consumed by fears about not only having my baby, but by how others would perceive me and how I would be judged as an inadequate mother. And after the safe delivery of my first child my anxieties became magnified. Despite no evidence to suggest this was or would become the case, I became overly concerned that people would see me as an ‘unfit mother’ and they would take my baby away.

These fears were ‘irrational’, but they felt very real and they affected my ability to enjoy my time as a first time mother. Above everything else, I felt alone and isolated. I had few friends or family nearby that I could share my anxieties with. Although I felt depressed and anxious I didn’t see it as related to becoming a mother and wasn’t sure that I could get support for these feelings. I also felt guilty and ashamed for not being able to cope as well as I thought I should. I did however find support through a local breastfeeding group. Here I found a community of mothers who met weekly to give mutual support to each other. This really helped me and my self esteem around my baby and my abilities to parent her.

Thankfully I was fortunate, and my anxieties did not completely overwhelm me, becoming a more serious mental health crisis. Over time I felt less anxious about motherhood and began to enjoy my time with my baby a lot more. Sadly, this isn’t the case for some new or expectant mothers, whose experiences can lead to serious conditions such as ‘postpartum psychosis’, that often affects women soon after birth.

By the time I had my second baby two years later I realised that I needed more professional support so saw my GP who referred me for counselling. This greatly helped address underlying issues I had with my mental health and ultimately helped me navigate motherhood more successfully.

If you (or somebody you know) have any concerns about your mental health during the perinatal period, help and support are available to ensure you find a healthier and more rewarding journey through parenthood.

For more information or support you can visit the NHS website on https://www.england.nhs.uk/mental-health/perinatal/ or visit the mental health charity MIND at https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/about-maternal-mental-health-problems/

To gain peer support from other mothers who have experience of perinatal mental health problems visit The National Childbirth Trust at https://www.nct.org.uk/about-us/commissioned-services/parents-mind-perinatal-mental-health-peer-support

And remember that here at Harmless we aim to support anyone experiencing difficulties with self harm or suicidal thoughts, whether these occur during the perinatal period or not.

My perinatal mental health – a blog by Lisa Williamson

In line with this week’s theme of perinatal mental health, I thought I would share a few words. I am a mum to five children (now fully grown adults) and I experienced a ‘wobble’ with my mental health, following the birth of my fourth child.

I must admit, I had become quite complacent about the whole ‘parenting’ thing and having already had three children with no problems, I thought I was invincible…………I wasn’t!

I wasn’t prepared for the huge wave of sadness that hit me. I couldn’t understand how I had just given birth to a beautiful healthy child, who I absolutely fell in love with, yet I felt so incredibly sad and all I wanted to do was sit alone and cry. I was angry with myself and tried to ‘pull myself together’ but this underlying feeling would not go away. Eventually I dragged myself to the doctors feeling a complete failure at admitting defeat. He diagnosed post natal depression and after a series of medication and a bit of self-care (not an easy task to fit in when you’re a busy mum), I slowly got  back to being the energetic, happy mum of four little girls.

It was at this point that I learned anyone can suffer with their mental health. I had looked for excuses everywhere……..I must just be tired, it was due to family issues, it was because my husband worked shifts. I had looked everywhere for the answer, without looking at me.

Here is a picture of my children when they were younger and a more recent one of them now.

 

Lisa Williamson

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Happy growing

It has now become widely accepted, through research and many people’s own lived experience, that gardening and being outdoors are hugely beneficial for our mental wellbeing. Gardening is recognised as having healing properties, in that it can help restore us to a sense of wholeness and offer connection to the cycle of life. This is certainly something that I have experienced throughout my own life.

Living with depression and anxiety since my teens, I felt alienated from nature and consumed by my own worries and fears about life. It was only after I left home that my relationship with gardening began to blossom, when I first started growing vegetables whilst living as a student in a shared house with a very small garden. It was with great pride that I sowed my first tomato seeds and nurtured them on my windowsill until they were mature enough to be planted outside. This process saw me connecting with nature and myself in a way that I never had before and brought about a shift in the way I viewed life. Seeing those little seedlings appear was like watching magic happen before my eyes, and with them, a sense of accomplishment and confidence in my own abilities also began to grow. My seedlings continued to develop into sturdy plants in the grow bags that became their new home and within a couple of months I was rewarded for my efforts with my first delicious home-grown tomatoes!

Many years later, after starting a family, it was with great excitement that I introduced my children to the world of gardening and they delighted in growing their own little plants. Cress seeds were particularly fun to try first, as they could be sprinkled on the earth to form letters as they grew. Potatoes and carrots were always a big hit, because harvesting them was like digging for treasure, with instant rewards being unearthed by little hands. Peas were also popular because they tasted so fresh when eaten straight from their pods. And we found that there is no supermarket competition for freshly picked corn on the cob, which was particularly sweet when cooked straight after harvesting.

In time I took on an allotment, where we grew more and bigger crops. And not only was it a productive place for growing fruit and vegetables, it became my sanctuary, a safe place I could escape to when life got too busy and chaotic. I often took with me a book to read, or wrote in my journal as I sat under the apple tree on my plot, feeling a sense of renewed peace as my batteries were recharged by nature. But as my life has continued to grow busier I have had less time to spend on there and it was with some sadness that after fifteen happy years I recently gave up my plot.

All is not lost though, and here’s another great thing about nature – it is all around us and we don’t need to travel far to feel its benefit. I am fortunate to have a back garden at home and this is where I am now turning my attention again. But even without a garden you can still experience the joy of gardening, growing flowers and vegetables in pots that can fit on small balconies and windowsills. Or you can enjoy one of the larger community gardens that have sprung up and been cultivated in many of our towns and cities.

Happy growing!

Sonia

Noticing beauty

At the moment, the world seems like a really ugly place. The news is full of illness, death rates, stress, and chaos, and seeing that on a daily basis can make us forget that the world is full of beautiful things too.

I have recently started enjoying going out for a walk, and actively looking for beautiful things. When I find them, I stop and take a photo, so at the end of my walk I have a soothing photo collection of nice things that I’ve seen that day. Not only does this temporarily take my mind off the stress of going through a global pandemic, but it also reminds me of how simply lovely the world is. You don’t have to have a fancy camera to do this, I just use my phone! 

Here are some of the photos that I took on one of my walks last week!

Hope you’re all well and are staying safe,

Laura

Gardening, Nature and the Outdoors

As we find ourselves going another week into the lockdown guidelines, I have an ever growing feeling of isolation and claustrophobia.

I never realised how important being outside was for my mental health until it became so restricted.

I appreciate how important it is to stay home and stay safe but it is now more important than ever to make sure we’re looking after our mental well-being, whilst sticking to the government guidelines.

I find the hour a day “exercise” I get out walking my dog is often my favourite hour of the day.

No matter the weather just the feeling of fresh air against my skin brings an aura of peace and safety that I struggle to find in the four walls of my home.

Be it through your choice of exercise, a walk, run, yoga in your garden or just relaxing in the sun I think being outside even if for just half an hour a day makes an unmeasurable change to your mindset.

This is an incredibly challenging and scary time for us all, but please remember everyone here at Harmless and The Tomorrow Project are here for you and our crisis line IS open for new referrals.

✉️ crisis@tomorrowproject.org.uk

☎️ 0115 880 0282

Lydia

How Tom rediscovered the great outdoors

One thing the lockdown has really highlighted for me is how under appreciative I was of the Derbyshire countryside only a 10 minute walk from my house. The dry, warm weather we have experienced through most of March and April has encouraged me to step into the countryside and really explore its beauty and nature.  It is not as dramatic as High Peak areas of the Peak district or have the spectacular views of Kinder Scout, but it is still stunningly picturesque. If I can take a positive from the current situation, it has at least enabled me to rediscover what I forgot was right in front of me and how it benefits me.

I have realised that walking in the countryside has some almost therapeutic benefits. It really seems to stimulate the senses and set me loose from my thoughts, anxieties, and stresses. Even when it does not alleviate those worries, there is a calmness and serenity which helps me think more clearly and calmly, meaning I can often come up with ideas and solutions to my problems whilst I am walking.

A further beneficial by-product of walking in the countryside is the exercise itself, which has replaced going the gym, and the mental health benefits that has. It keeps me active and when I am active, I feel less agitated and more relaxed. I also experience that feel-good factor or sense of achievement you often get when you have achieved a goal or target.

I realise I am very fortunate to be able to walk in the countryside, and not everyone can, but I would like to think most people have a place or an activity that can give them a sense of calmness and can give them an escape from their worries and anxiety.  However, like I took the countryside on my doorstep for granted, we sometimes forget what these are or forget the benefits they have on us. When life and time seem to fly by and external pressures are everywhere, it is easy to forget activities we can do to benefit our mental well being. Now, with many of us at home most of the day and social contact unattainable, seems to be a good time to discover (or rediscover) what we can do to help ourselves as individuals.

Tom,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Blending in

This week’s theme here at Harmless is Gardening, Nature and the Outdoors. I have tried gardening before. Let us just say it is a work in progress… But nature and the outdoors – oh I could talk for days about that.

Nature is (for me that is) the utmost definition of what non judgemental means. It is real, visible, factual, and tangible. Places of calm and quiet, with just the right type of noise and the right amount of light. Nothing clashes, everything has a place where it belongs. And you can just blend in.

Not many places are completely free of human intrusion and meddlesome, but I still try my best to find them. Back home, you would usually find me swimming in the ocean. Now, the Peaks are where I feel at home. And I miss my walks terribly right now, so I’ll end my short contribution to this week’s theme by sharing some of my favourite places out there in the big wide world.

Ana,

Suicide Bereavement Lead