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When the safeguarding team met recently to think about what best practice looks like in our very different ways of being church at the moment, we recognised that there has been enormous change for everyone and that an inevitable consequence of that will be heightened stress levels for people.  We asked Nicky Rattigan to write some helpful tips for how we can all protect our own mental health and emotional well-being in these challenging times.

Mental health and psychological wellbeing during social isolation
For some of us, the current pandemic, and the restrictions that have been necessary in order to contain it, have created high levels of stress and distress and made it much harder for us to use our usual coping strategies to manage these. It’s really important to remind ourselves that there are plenty of things that we can do to help ourselves and that, even though we may be spending long periods on our own, we are not alone! We have a Church family as well as our individual social circles. (If you would like someone to pray with you or for you, contact the church office on 01480 458565.)
There are organisations whose websites describe things we can do to stay well and feel better (eg. Mental Health UK) and some who offer specific advice for people suffering from pre-existing mental health issues (eg. Rethink and Mind Wise). These are listed at the end of this e-mail, together with some helplines which offer a confidential listening ear.

We’re all different and will not find all the suggestions work for us but here are a few to think about:
Prioritise a good diet, regular exercise and getting enough sleep.
Keep in touch with friends and family using your phone or internet devices.
Make dates to meet for Tea and a chat.
Make a space or time just to relax every day. If you’re not good at relaxation or meditation techniques, no problem, use calm music, scented candles, bubble baths, jig-saw puzzles or whatever helps you to switch off.
Go outdoors or look out of the window at the natural world. Notice the plants, birds and insects. Breathe slowly and deeply as you look around you. Try counting to five with each in-breath and each out-breath.
Plan your day to include some things that need doing (such as chores) but also some things that are just for pleasure.
Whenever you think of something you’d like to do but can’t under the current circumstances, write it on a list as “Something I am going to do when this is over” then quickly look for something that’s possible now. Don’t dwell on what isn’t possible.
End the day with a prayer of gratitude. Spend several minutes thinking about 3 things you are grateful for; they don’t have to be big or important things but you should choose things you genuinely appreciated. Remember them in as much detail as possible, then thank God for them.

Don’t bottle up your feelings. It is OK to admit feeling down or worried or struggling to cope. We are human and designed to have feelings. We are also designed to need others. Talking things through helps us to put them into perspective. If you have troubling thoughts at night, write them down in a notebook and tell yourself you’ll deal with them in the morning.
Watch out for old bad habits. Under stress we are tempted to look for a “quick fix” - anything that will make us feel better for a while, even if it is something that is bad for us in the long run. Comfort-eating, alcohol, smoking, gambling, shopping, excessive housework, OCD rituals and self-harming are all examples of “false friends” that offer brief relief from our distress but then make things much worse for us.
If you are feeling depressed or anxious, then limit the amount of time you watch or read the news. Journalists and media presenters often use techniques to heighten our emotional response and, in the absence of facts (there is still very little known about the Corona Virus), they will present opinions and rumours, which later turn out to have been inaccurate.
Limit your use of social media to those people who make you feel better. If time on Facebook leaves you feeling low, then keep away or unfriend specific people whose posts have a bad effect on you.
Don’t feel bad for feeling bad! This is a situation that no one could fail to be affected by.
Useful websites:
To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email jo@samaritans.org or visit some branches in person.
If you're experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).
If you're under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (Sunday-Friday 2pm–11pm), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.
If you're under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email pat@papyrus-uk.org or text 07786 209 697.
For other helplines see the link below
If things get bad, don’t forget you can ring 111 and select option 2 for your local mental health crisis team/first response team.
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