Reading a book: how novel! Sometimes we all struggle to find a little catharsis!

As a therapist and the CEO of Harmless often people look to me to tell them what to do, both personally and professionally. This happens both implicitly and explicitly; a request for help, some advice on a pertinent issue, a hand to hold in a crisis… but often in the kind of role that I hold people look to me for guidance in a different way.

I try to lead by example. That’s the best tool that I have in my armoury, really, and the best advice that I have to give.

I live a life that’s relatively easy to follow; I live my life quite simply. Work hard. Love hard.

One example that I haven’t set in a positive manner is that of work- life balance. Whilst I adore my family I have systematically found myself over-working because the burden I feel to support the many, many vulnerable people that access our service is pressing.

Over recent months our service has faced the most tremendous challenges in the face of covid-19 and many of us faced burnout.

I am now revisiting so many old strategies to try and recover a state of catharsis, recovery and pass times that aren’t just related to being a mum or a CEO; they are about being something to myself and for myself.

I have read a book, picked up my pencils and started to draw and ensured that I spend at least some of the day in the outdoors. This is a new effort because no matter who we are, we really need to make the effort toward self-care.

For those of us with a tendency toward perfectionism and drive with a high work ethic it can be ever more pressing to try and revisit the concept of catharsis and escapism. I

t doesn’t come easy; it takes practice and it doesn’t matter who we are and what we do, it is an effort worth making as we all try to stay healthy and well.

Reading a book, how novel!

Some of my favourite things

This week’s theme at Harmless is Positive escapism and coping mechanisms, so I thought I’d talk about the things that I find help me. The things that provide a welcome distraction and a chance to get out of your head and ‘thinking’ mode and get lost in an experience – to be in the moment.

It’s important to try and recognise when your thoughts start racing, with worries and anxieties popping up, to try and find that ‘space’ or ‘distance’ from them, to give your mind a little reprieve, a little respite.

There’s a few ways I do this, without realising I did until I thought about it!  A connection to nature has always been food for my soul.  The sound of the wind, the blue skies, the trees, shrubs and flowers, the birds, the butterflies, and how it feels to be outside. Yesterday I had a walk at Highfields and stopped to watch a Swan and her 5 grey fluffy babies paddling away behind her. One decided to hop onto Mum’s back and then all 5 squeezed on with their little heads poking up riding along, and it was just so lovely to see, it filled me with joy, and for that moment nothing else mattered.

Reading is definitely a great way to relax, a compelling book will absorb your focus and get lost in your imagination. My other half is really into audio books and has Charles Dickens Great Expectations on the go with Matt Lucas narrating, which is great as he does all the different voices!

One thing I’ve loved during lockdown is Netflix, I’ve finally done Season 8 of Game of Thrones and been engrossed in so many great dramas. Everyone has their favourite ‘feel good’ film they connect with on a personal level.

There’s exercise, which can come in many forms, be it competitive sports to swimming, kicking a football around to yoga, it’s finding the one that you enjoy most.

Hobbies and interests, fishing, DIY, painting, making or restoring things, cooking or baking.

Embrace your spiritual side and expand your mind, take some time to reflect on your life, what is important to you and what can you let go, use mindfulness or maybe start journaling. Not easy at the moment but holidays and new experiences broaden the mind. Just getting a change of

scene or doing something you’ve never done before will give your brain a rest from ruminating.

I hope you can identify with some of these and that you find your own ways of finding some positive escapism for yourself. Take care.

Stacey

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Grief, lockdown and coping mechanisms – a few words from one of our clients.

Since I lost my husband to suicide last October, after 52 years of marriage, it was really hard to imagine life without him after being such a big part of my life. Regular support from the Tomorrow Project has been a big help and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Life since lockdown had been difficult at first but I have discovered ways of coping through doing different projects.  I started gardening, painting the garden fence and shed, pressure washing the drive and paths and writing long overdue letters to distant friends and family, which helped me get back on track.  I have also spent time improving the Arbour in my garden.  I have added lights and other touches and is now a peaceful place I can remember and reflect on the life me and my husband had together. Being in lockdown is difficult after a loss, especially as I have a heart condition and other health issues which makes me high risk to Coronavirus, which has meant I was not able to see my family face-to-face for weeks. However, keeping focus on the positive things such as speaking to them on the phone or by video call has helped.  We have also started doing a family Zoom quiz which is fun and gets all the family together.  I have also just started re-painting the garden gnomes in my garden and painting a metal butterfly at the side of my house.  Hopefully, these positives activities will see me through the rest of lockdown.

Escapism through creative writing

I do not consider myself to be particularly artistic.  I can’t draw, I can’t paint and I certainly can’t play a musical instrument.  Whilst I appreciate a nice drawing or painting and love music, I never really felt compelled to learn how to create fine art or play my favourite songs. They were something to experience rather than immerse myself into.

Creative Writing – a series of interviews | Swansea Student Media

 However, when it came to creative writing it was almost the opposite way around. I could take or leave reading a novel (well until the Harry Potter books started being published!) but I absolutely loved creating my own stories.  I could really let my imagination run wild and create a world of my own, free from the restrictions of real life.  I could create the rules and control that world, control the people in it.  If it did not make sense, who cared, it was artistic licence. I felt a real freedom in the immersion of writing and creating fictional worlds and people.  It was escapism in a fantastical way, a way that had no basis in reality but it helped me cope with real life when I was younger.

As I got older, in my late teens, the stories I wrote were still very much fictional but had evolved into something much more grounded in real life. The realities I now wanted to create through my writing were as realistic as possible.  The escapism came from the sequence of events that happened and back stories of the characters in them.  As a frustrated, sometimes angry teenager still searching for a sense of identity, looking back I have realised creating these characters helped me explore my own emotions.  It let me express my emotions and frustrations in a way that was not going to hurt or upset anyone except the fictional characters in my writing. I am pretty sure, looking back, that some of the characters I created were exaggerated versions of myself, friends and family or a version of myself I wanted to be. 

I think escapism is usually discussed from a reader’s perspective, you enter an authors idea to get some respite from the real world, and is heavily associated with fantasy like going on an adventure with Frodo Baggins.  I think the truth of escapism is that is it very subjective and individual and can be something you can actively participate in as well as observe.  

My writing evolved as I got older from fantasy to something darker and more real but it still took me away from my sometimes mundane and stressful real world. The purpose of my escapism had also evolved from a simple coping mechanism to a coping mechanism with the simultaneous benefit of being my emotional punch bag, which allowed me to make sense of my reality. 

Tom,

Bereavement Support Officer

Positive escapism and coping mechanisms 

For a while now it seems like everything is about COVID-19. It’s still the main topic in the news and the thing everyone is talking about. So it’s very easy to be so focused on COVID-19 and worrying for our loved ones physical health and our own physical health, that we may not be focusing on our mental health or our loved ones mental health.

 

The truth is that this virus is having a large impact on our mental health, we no longer get to socialise like we did before, were left feeling isolated and trapped and it’s a horrible feeling. A feeling that some people have known from before this.

 

Think about the people who felt like that before this virus, and imagine how much worse they must be feeling now. Please check up on your loved ones who struggle with their mental health during this pandemic, but also after. Remember how you felt in this moment and how you coped with feelings of isolation and anxiety and show understanding and compassion.

 

We need that human connection and so a lot of people are coping by FaceTiming family members or friends or even stopping by their houses from a distance on their daily exercise or helping out those who are vulnerable, and I hope we can carry that on after all this. If you look at this pandemic from afar you can see it has brought out a kindness in people, stronger communities and more family bonding. I hope that those are things we can carry on after all this, and that we will have more appreciation for one another. These ways of coping may be temporary for some people but for others they’ll still need those coping mechanisms after the pandemic has passed.

 

Sofia,

Suicide Bereavement Support Officer

Self-care, Resilience & Mindfulness Training

In line with this weeks theme ‘Positive Escapism and Coping Strategies’ our wonderful Specialist Trainers Claire Dixon & Aja Ireland will be delivering an online live session on Tuesday 2nd June 2020.

This CPD-accredited course is designed to enhance knowledge, understanding and practice around mental wellbeing. It focuses on improving self-care techniquesresilience to adversity, and practice in mindfulness (including a guided meditation).

Using examples from lived experience of recovery through self harmsuicidal crisis and mental ill health, our Specialist Trainers will build your confidence in what we can all do to improve our own, and others’, emotional health and wellbeing.

It’s your last chance to book on.

Welcome to this weeks Theme: Positive Escapism and Coping Mechanisms

Positive escapism and coping mechanisms can be a powerful tool when you’re going through uncertain and exceptional times such as these. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and overrun by all the negativity and the high-pressure nature of our lives, and it’s even easier to allow ourselves to get trampled and run down.

That’s why it’s necessary sometimes to turn off our brains and allow them the chance to reset and recharge in a way that is more in tune with their natural state of joy. If you’re struggling to keep your head above water in this new age of social distancing, take heart. Positive Escapism and coping mechanisms might be just the tool you need.

This Weeks Podcast: Parenting During Lockdown

So proud to tell you that we are back with another great episode of our podcast series.

Today, we are going to focus on parenting during lockdown. In this episode, our host Caroline Harroe, the CEO of Harmless, and our special guest Rani will be discussing personal experiences of parenting during lockdown. 

We’re really proud of the conversations that we are having.‪

Why not listen today?

Creative Games for Little Ones in Lockdown

Lock down can be tough with working from home and looking after the little ones! Especially when they’re at that age where you take your eye off them for 2 seconds and they’ve trying to eat the suncream! If you’re running out of ideas of how to entertain the little ones and keep their brains active here are some creative ideas that don’t break the bank!

Making Pom Poms

Pom-poms add a fun pop of colour and texture to knitting projects and other fun crafts. They’re easy to make and you don’t need any special tools or supplies and can be a great creative project for the kids!

What You’ll Need

  • Cardboard
  • Circular items to trace (small glass, lids, etc.)
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Yarn

Instructions

Make Cardboard Pom-Pom Templates
Use the lids and other round items to trace circles onto the cardboard. Trace a larger circle with a smaller circle inside. The larger circle determines the diameter of your finished pom-pom. By making a few sizes of templates, you can make several sizes of pom-poms.

Cut Out the Circles
Cut out around the larger circles. (Don’t use your good sewing scissors for this!) Next, cut a slit to get to the center circle and cut away the center. You may want to widen the slit a tiny amount, to make it easier to pass yarn through.

Start Wrapping Yarn Around the Template
Begin wrapping yarn around the cardboard ring. Hold the end of the yarn in place while you wrap over the end, which secures it. Work your way around the entire ring, filling in all the gaps. Tip You can work the wrapping near the slit in the ring, but make sure it doesn’t get so close that it might slip off the ends of the cardboard.

Wrap the Yarn Until the Ring Is Full
Wrap the cardboard ring until it is full and then wrap it some more. To create a full and round pom-pom, you should wrap the yarn so the ring is very plump and the center circle is nearly filled in. If you want a loose and floppy pom-pom, you can stop wrapping sooner.

Cut Around the Edge of the Ring
Trim the wrapping yarn, then start snipping through the wrapped yarn all along the edge of the ring. Be sure to cut through every strand of yarn. Sharp scissors with a small point make this part easier. As you cut the yarn, be careful not to let the cut pieces push to one side or come out through the opening.

Tie the Cut Yarn Pieces Together
When all the edges are snipped, cut a length of yarn and tie it around the middle of the pom-pom, close to the cardboard ring. Tie the yarn once, then wrap the ends around to the other side and tie a double knot. Pull the yarn as tight as you can, without breaking the yarn. Leave the ends long. Remove the cardboard template.

Shape the Pom-Pom
At this point, your pom-pom probably looks a little odd and misshapen. To fix this, trim the yarn to even out the shape. It’s a bit like giving the pom-pom a haircut! Hold onto the long yarn ties and work all around the pom-pom. Keep turning it as you trim so it doesn’t end up lopsided.

Fluff the Pom-Pom and Finish Trimming
When the pom-pom looks like it’s almost done, gently roll it in your hands. This fluffs the pom-pom and reveals any areas that may need a little more trimming. Trim and repeat as needed.
Use the long yarn ties to attach your pom-pom to your project. (Sourced from Mollie Johanson)

Cardboard Boxes

There are so many things you can make a cardboard box into! All you need is a cardboard box and some paint / pens or crayons and let your imagination do the rest! Here are some of our favourite ideas!   

Some other ideas are:

  • Bake a Cake
  • Hide and Seek
  • Make your own playdough at home (Check this link to see how https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAIAm6BF0fs)
  • Icecubes with tiny toys in
  • Watching and feeding the birds in the garden
  • Drawing, painting, making potato prints or art with pasta
  • Going for a walk and seeing what insect you can find
  • Growing flowers and vegetables in the garden
  • Making a den with old sheets and cushions
  • Making puppets from socks
  • Making a playlist together of your favourite songs
  • Meditation (here is one specially for the little ones – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWOHcGF1Tmc)
  • Crepe paper obstacle course
  • Hammabeads
  • Painting Pebbles
  • Painting a rainbow for the NHS

Aja,

Specialist Trainer