Counselling by Nicola Stewart

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Being a mental health specialist and trainer is a varied and rewarding role.  Read my thoughts on current press, pace and progress regarding children's mental health and the support services available to families.

What next?...Looking after your mental health and wellbeing as we observe this period of social isolation / distancing

By Nicky Stewart, Mar 21 2020 08:36PM

You have no doubt been practically preparing for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This may have included making arrangements to work from home or arranging support in preparation for school closures. Whilst organising this you may also be managing difficult emotions for yourself or your family. It is essential at this time that we all pay attention to how we are going to maintain a good sense of wellbeing. Following the 5 Ways to Wellbeing you can access the support you need. I have put together a list of activities for all the family so you can plan out ways to look after your wellbeing over the coming weeks.




TAKE NOTICE of how you are feeling:


Mind has a great resource to support you with all aspects of this current situation. Practical advice and tips on how to support your mental health and wellbeing at this time.


Sleep is vital for our mental health and wellbeing. Read the advice from the Sleep Council giving you tools to get better rest and sleep.


Eating well is essential in times of stress. Read this advice from the Mental Health Foundation on a healthy diet and links to our physical and mental health.


Good-thinking - A full range of useful guidance and on-line support developed by the Healthy London Partnership to support mental health and wellbeing.


Every Mind Matters – NHS – access expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental health and wellbeing.



CONNECT with friends and family:


At times of stress we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, by telephone, email or social media, or contact a helpline for emotional support.


Connect with your community by joining the umbrella organisation Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK who are made up of small groups of people who have set up independently in communities to support vulnerable people in their local area through the outbreak.


Virtual coffee mornings for adults and play dates for children using apps such as House Party app.


Join an on-line book club. Check out this coronavirus reading list with reader suggestions to bring joy in difficult times - recommended reads for when things get tough – like a 14-day quarantine.


SHOUT - the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.



BE ACTIVE with your family inside your home and outside:


The National Trust will, where possible, open as many of its gardens and parks for free, but close its houses, cafes and shops to help the nation fight the spread of the coronavirus.


The Body Coach offers free workouts you can do with your children at home here.


The Woodland Trust - Following the guidelines on social distancing you could take your family outside and use the Tree ID checklists here. Nature connectedness is essential for our wellbeing. There are downloadable ID guides to cover all four seasons so children can discover how trees change throughout the year. Use them to identify leaves, winter twigs, spring blossom and autumn fruits.


If you are working from home it is important to consider both your mental and physical health and wellbeing. Physical wellbeing including taking appropriate breaks and regularly moving is especially important. Try out this desk-exercise routine you can do to help your posture.


Cosmic Kids - online yoga and relaxation for all the family to do together



KEEP LEARNING new things:


Pretend to travel the world. Go on a virtual tour of these 12 famous museums.


National Geographic Kids website has really useful resources, games and quizzes for families.


Learn all you wanted to know about animals here accompanied by pictures, videos, facts, news, and more.



GIVE your time and attention to those in need:

Giving your support to your children:


Your children may have questions regarding COVID-19 and you may want advice on how to share the current situation in a measured, calm and appropriate manner. Here I have collated some useful age appropriate resources for you:


A useful video by BBC Newsround doctors answering questions from children about the Covid-19.


A short FREE book to download to support and reassure our children, under the age of 7, regarding the COVID-19. This book is an invitation for families to discuss the full range of emotions arising from the current situation.


OAKA free downloadable book to use with your child if they are finding the current situation confusing and scary. This booklet may help them understand a bit more and feel less anxious.


Young Minds offer you advice if your child is worried or anxious about coronavirus. They also have a Parent Helpline available for expert advice on what you can do.


Anna Freud NCCF – Help and advice in minimising the impact on children and young people's mental health.


Supporting yourself:


Due to the nature of the pandemic we may be supporting members of our community who will experience feelings of loss or grief.


You may be experiencing a type of grief called ‘Collective Grief’ which is grief felt by a collective group such as a community, society, village, or nation as a result of an event such as a war, natural disaster, terrorist attack, death of a public figure, or any other event leading to mass casualties or national tragedy. Please read this article to gain a greater understanding of this.


Loss can be felt due to the change in routine, work or school life. This change can evoke many feelings so it is essential we notice and acknowledge these. The Kubler-Ross model (1969) explores the 5 stages we may experience in managing this change and feeling of loss.


Cruse offer support and advice if you are effected by loss. This loss may be felt deeply alongside being isolated from family or friends.


This list is not exhaustive - there are many supports available to us as a community in the UK right now. By paying attention to our own 5 Ways to Wellbeing we can endure the coming days together as it will be a sense of connection that gets us through this time. So rather than think about this time as 'social distancing/isolation' we can think of it as physical distancing - we are social beings and we thrive on our sense of connection. Let's stay connected.



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