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Top tips for your mental wellbeing this winter

People in York, Selby, Tadcaster, Pocklington and Easingwold can find out more about the IAPT service, or self-refer by visiting https://yorkandselbyiapt.co.uk/. People registered with GP practices in Pickering, Helmsley, Terrington and Kirkbymoorside can visit https://northyorkshireiapt.co.uk 

As part of the #FeelRealYork city-wide emotional wellbeing campaign, a local mental health trust is encouraging people to look after their mental wellbeing during the winter months and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), who provide mental health and learning disability services in York and Selby recognise that the combination of dark winter nights and a national lockdown is inevitably impacting people’s mental health and resilience, with many people experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression for the first time.

Brent Kilmurray, Chief Executive at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The pandemic and periods of lockdown are undoubtedly affecting the way we go about daily life. Large or small, changes to life can impact our physical and mental health in many ways.”

Denise Nightingale, NHS Vale of York CCG’s Executive Director of Transformation, Complex Care and Mental Health, said: “We know that in our communities everyone is pulling together to support the local NHS through the COVID crisis and the vaccination programme. We also know it’s been a long, hard battle for everyone, and that for many people things will now feel tougher than ever.

 “Even if you think you’ve never struggled with mental health, it’s important to recognise that circumstances like a lockdown winter can prompt low mood and anxiety which make it difficult to cope with daily life. It’s also important to know that help is available.”

Cllr Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care at City of York Council, said: “January and February can be a tough couple of months, without the added impact of COVID-19 restrictions. We are working together with partners to help local people to get through this time best we can. Our #FeelRealYork campaign is encouraging people to talk about how they’re feeling and seek support where necessary.”

To support local people to improve their emotional wellbeing, Charlotte Fisher, Senior Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner from TEWV’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service, otherwise known as Talking Therapies, shares 10 ways people can improve their mental wellbeing this winter: 

  1. Keep to a routine

It can be tempting to spend all day in your pyjamas, but having a regular routine is important for your own sense of worth and self-confidence. Try to keep to your usual sleep routine, get a good amount of sleep so you wake feeling refreshed and try to start your day at the same time. 

  1. Stay active

Many people find it hard to stay motivated during the winter months, but regular exercise can boost your mood and release endorphins that improve how you feel. There’s lots of great parks and outdoor space in the local area for you to enjoy. Don’t worry if you’re not used to exercise, you don’t have to run a marathon on your first day! Simply adding more activity to your daily routine can make a difference, such as walking up and down the stairs in your home or doing the vacuuming. There’s lots of free online exercise tips and advice available via the NHS One You website. 

  1. Have family time

With many people now working from home the long commutes may be a distant thing of the past, which gives extra time to connect with loved ones. Take the opportunity to spend quality time together by playing a board game or going out for a walk, and for those you can’t be with in person, organise a video call or a family quiz. 

  1. Make the most of natural light

Natural light plays a large part in our emotional and mental wellbeing. As we go through the dark winter nights, try to embrace the daylight as much as you can – throw open your curtains and maximise the light in your living space. Some people also find that light boxes can help improve their mood. 

  1. Do something you enjoy

Many people are juggling work, childcare and other commitments during the current lockdown, which can take its toll. Having time and space for you is important for your mental wellbeing and resilience. Make time to do something you enjoy, whether that’s listening to a podcast, taking a long soak in the bath or reading a book. 

  1. Improve your environment

Feeling comfortable in your surroundings can have a huge impact on how you feel and having a calm and relaxed environment can aid your wellbeing. We are all spending more time indoors at the moment, so why not take some time to improve your living space. It could be something as simple as clearing out a cupboard or arranging your sock drawer, giving a room a lick of paint or doing a spot of gardening. Taking on mini projects can give you a sense of achievement, as well as filling your time. 

  1. Take time for self-care

We are going through an extraordinary time with immense pressures many have never experienced before, so try not to be too hard on yourself. Mindfulness is a great tool to help you learn to be kinder to yourself and more accepting of how things are. Meditation and relaxation techniques can help reduce tension and stress. There are many free sessions available online, including sessions from the TEWV mindfulness team. 

  1. Keep in contact

A lockdown can make many people feel disconnected from friends and family, which can also lead to periods of feeling lonely and isolated. It’s so important to maintain contact with your loved ones as evidence shows that connecting with others is important for mental wellbeing. Check in with family and friends and make time to chat about how you’re feeling, or take part in a fun activity together such as a virtual quiz. The sense of connection will really improve how you feel. 

  1. Eat well

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health and can help you feel your best, both physically and mentally. This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, staying hydrated, getting your 5-a-day and making sure you don’t skip breakfast. There is lots of advice available on how to maintain a healthy, balanced diet here. 

  1. Try something new

Learning a new craft or skill can boost your self-confidence and give you a real sense of achievement. Try taking on some lockdown learning this winter such as painting, drawing, cooking a new recipe, or you could enrol onto an online training course. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you will enjoy and can fit in and around your daily routine. 

Brent added: “If you feel your physical or mental health is being affected, or someone you know is being affected, please seek help and support as soon as possible. We know people are worried about being a ‘burden’ on the NHS system. But the NHS is here to support your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as your physical health.  

“We want to reassure everyone that TEWV is continuing to provide mental health services to people of all ages across the Vale of York. We are here to provide advice, support and, where needed, care and treatment."  

For anyone who feels they need extra support, the York and Selby Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service, otherwise known as Talking Therapies, is one of the many services available to people in the area. It’s open to anyone aged 16 or over, registered with a GP practice in York and Selby, who is experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Treatments and therapies vary according to individual needs but may include face to face virtual wellbeing sessions or computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT). If you’re experiencing low mood or anxiety as a direct result of COVID-19, York and Selby IAPT also have a specific course to support you. 

For more ideas on how to support your emotional wellbeing and local support available please visit www.livewellyork.co.uk/feelrealyork .

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