Thursday, 31 December 2020

New Year’s resolutions for your wellbeing

If ever there was a year to consider making New Year resolutions, it’s 2020! Although many people believe that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time, for many they offer focus and a more positive mindset. They don’t have to be about creating a challenge so difficult that you are setting yourself up to fail, they can be something simple to ensure you are more focused on yourself and your own wellbeing. We all need some self care to ensure we are feeling at our best both mentally and physically.

Health goals

Research shows that our physical health is an important contributor to our mental wellness. A report 'Let's get physical - the impact of physical activity on wellbeing' published by the Mental Health Foundation  says that: “Participation in regular physical activity can increase self-esteem and reduce stress and anxiety. Physical activity can help play a role in preventing mental health problems and improve the quality of life of those experiencing it. For example, there is an approximately 20–30% lower risk for depression and dementia, for adults participating in daily physical activity”.

By setting yourself achievable targets to improve your physical health, you can create routines that you are likely to continue as part of a healthier lifestyle. Choose a physical activity that you will enjoy, start off small and increase the amount of exercise at your own pace. Where possible, perhaps walk to work or take the stairs instead of the lift and take things from there.

Many of us understand how big a role diet plays in our physical and mental health so you could aim to reduce the amount of sugar or fat in your diet and replace them with natural, wholefoods such as vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds. The key is to allow yourself to eat the foods you crave from time to time so you don't feel deprived of them. Depriving yourself completely will add to the cravings. 

Sleep routine

Poor sleep or sleep deprivation can lead to significant health problems including depression, weight gain, and even heart disease. The New Year is a great time to get into good sleeping habits as we are usually back into our normal working/study routine. Some ways you can improve your sleep routine include:

Plan wind down time 45 minutes before bed when you reduce the screen time on all electronic devices.
Avoid drinks with caffeine in the evening.

Play relaxing music and practise meditation before you go to bed.

Aim for between 7-9 hours of sleep each night and go to bed at a reasonable time. The website Medical News Today recommends you go to bed between 8pm and midnight.

Make more 'me time'

We often feel like we’re being selfish (especially those with families to take care of) if we take time out to do something we love, but 'me time' is essential for our wellbeing. Put some time aside each day, even if it’s just 15 minutes to take a long soak in the bath, go for a walk among nature, or read a book.

Get outside more

Being outdoors and surrounding yourself in nature can be a huge boost to your mental and physical wellbeing. The fresh air and soothing sounds of nature are great for alleviating stress and anxiety and lowering your blood pressure.

Remember that no matter how small your New Year’s wellbeing resolution may be, it’s a step in the right direction and can only make you feel better.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Day 6 – Six geese are laying – Lay down your reserves

When things are going well, take time to lay down reserves for future leaner times. We can do this by taking five to ten minutes a day to practise some deep breathing or mindfulness/relaxation exercises. These practices have been shown to make us feel less stressed, which allows us to respond better to stressful situations. When we are faced with a stressful situation, our bodies change rapidly and significantly to help us deal with it head on or run away (known as the ‘fight or flight’ response). If these events are constant and our bodies don’t reset in between, it can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues. Mindfulness and deep breathing are some of the ways to manage our stress response. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Day 5 – Five gold rings – Prioritise what matters to you most

What do you hold precious in your life? It’s not always the things that you give priority to. Note down the five most important things in your life and spend today prioritising those things in some way. For example, if your grandparents are important to you, give them a call. If your job is important, think of some ways you could improve your performance going forwards. If your health is important, make an exercise and nutrition plan. When there's a lot going on, it can be easy to do the things that come up and never have time for your important things. Prioritise your important things and you will feel happier and more fulfilled.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Day 4 – Four calling birds – Communication comes in many forms

Communication isn’t always vocal, we communicate a lot about ourselves and our feelings through our body language, actions and behaviours. Do you say that you want to spend time with your partner, but sit staring at your laptop when you’re together? Do you suggest meeting a friend but always turn up late? There may be an underlying message in these behaviours. Perhaps you feel tired and don’t really want to interact with your partner or perhaps you feel ambivalent about meeting your friend and struggle to motivate yourself to get ready and out of the door on time. On the other hand, you may simply be struggling to cope and feel overloaded. It’s important to consider all non-verbal cues when reading a situation. These include not only actions, but also facial expressions and body language. What is your face and body saying about you? Did you know that research has found that we even judge the intelligence of others by their facial expressions? If you want to find out more about non-verbal communication and how to improve the messages you're sending to others, read more here. 

Read more about non-verbal communication >

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Day 3 – Three French hens – Make time for friends

Like partners, friends are vital to our mental health. They provide us with a different perspective on things and are often kinder to us than we are ourselves. We may not see our friends often, but having social connections is important for our mental and physical wellbeing. Make the effort to give a friend a call today and find out how they are. You can even meet them on platforms such as House Party and do quizzes together. Shared experiences boost the feeling of connectedness. Give it a go! 

Saturday, 26 December 2020

Day 2 – Two turtle doves – Nurture your relationships

None of us can survive alone in the world. We all need someone to love and cherish us. Take some time today to nurture your relationship with a partner or to work on supporting future relationships. According to Dr Arthur Aron, psychology professor at the University of New York’s Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory, the way to rekindle some of the sparks from the earlier stages of your relationship is to do something new and different together. Dr Aron says that couples who share new experiences report greater happiness in their marriage than those who simply share familiar experiences. So if you’re at a loose end today, think of something new to do together and start rekindling those sparks! And if you’re single at the moment, plan to take up a new hobby – join a club or society or take some lessons. Shared interests are vital in new relationships!

Download our FREE relationships booklet (pdf) >

Friday, 25 December 2020

Day 1 – A partridge in a pear tree – Find your happy place

Just like the partridge, it’s important to have a happy place where we feel safe and happy. But you may be surprised to learn that your happy place is a place you can create within yourself – no pear tree required! And the best bit is that once you have a happy place, you can visit whenever you need a top up of happiness. To find your happy place, think of somewhere where you've felt safe, relaxed, carefree and happy. It may be your childhood bedroom, somewhere you’ve been on holiday, on board a ship or whatever works for you. Imagine being there, remember how you felt when you were there (the sun on your skin, the softness of your bed beneath you, the gentle movement of the waves beneath you, etc). What did you see (imagine the beautiful scenary, your familiar things around you, etc). What did you hear? (your favourite music, the waves lapping on the shore, seagulls, etc). And finally, what did you smell and taste? Practise transporting yourself there today and feel the tension melt away.

Further reading on the importance of finding your happy place >

Friday, 18 December 2020

How to bounce back from losing your job

2020 has been a tough year for everyone, and it has had devastating effects besides physical illness. Owing to lockdown and businesses being unable to operate as normal, many people have found themselves not only in extremely difficult financial situations but in some cases, out of work. If you or someone you know has recently lost their job and is struggling with their mental wellbeing, we have some useful tips that could help you get back on your feet and feeling in a more positive state of mind.

There’s no denying, losing your job can seriously impact your health and wellbeing. As well as being faced with the worry of paying your bills and rent or keeping up mortgage repayments, it can leave you feeling rejected, hopeless, and feeling as though you have lost your identity. In the short term you might feel stressed, anxious, or angry and if you don’t find ways to cope with these emotions, it could lead to long term depression.

The emotions you may experience after losing your job are often likened to those of someone suffering from grief with feelings such as deep sadness and loss. In a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, it was found that grief from losing your job can lead to depression. So, what can you do to take care of your mental wellbeing during these difficult times? With these coping techniques, hopefully you will begin to get your life back on track and establish a more positive mindset.

Coping techniques for managing your wellbeing after losing your job

Give yourself time to grieve

Initially, it’s important to accept your feelings of grief, however, try not to dwell on these feelings for too long as it can make it more difficult to get yourself back into some kind of routine and a positive state of mind.

Plan a daily routine

Although you might feel like staying in bed all day or watching television to take your mind off your situation, try and make the effort to establish some kind of daily routine. Shower, get dressed and set yourself tasks (no matter how small they are at first) for the day, such as updating your CV, browsing through job sites, or even just going for a walk in the fresh air. This will help you to value yourself and give you more self-confidence over time.

Learn a new skill

This is a great way to focus your mind and energy into something positive. There are plenty of opportunities for re-training so take advantage of any courses that might be available. You might even find that you’d like to take a completely different direction in your future career.

Highlight your skills

A simple task but one that will improve your self-confidence and help you to see your own self-worth. Write down all your skills and positive personality traits - regardless of how minor they might seem to you - that would benefit a potential employer.

Ask for help financially and emotionally

There’s no shame in asking for help, and remember, in the long term it will only benefit you and your situation. Government websites contain lots of information about benefits for the unemployed so it’s worth browsing the website or even giving them a call to see if you are entitled to financial help that you’re not currently receiving.

Reaching out to a close friend or family member can have a huge impact on how you cope with your mental health. Often, we feel as though we don’t want to burden others with our problems, but you’ll be surprised at how much love and support people want to give when you ask them for help.

For more about dealing with this, and other, difficult periods of transition, visit our webpage on life transitions where you will also find a free download to our booklet on dealing with life transitions. 

Friday, 11 December 2020

Attracting positive people into your life

One of the best ways to increase your own positivity is by surrounding yourself with positive people. Although there are situations, such as at work, where it might be difficult to choose who you come into contact with, there are other parts of your personal life where you are more in control.

In a study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, we learn that positive thoughts can boost the immune system thus reducing anxiety and creating more positive emotions including happiness, love and contentment. Being around negative people can be a serious drain on our wellbeing and can even affect how we think and what we think, so it’s crucial to spend as much time as possible time with positive people.

Benefits of being around positive people

  • They make you smile more, which releases endorphins and makes you feel happier
  • They can increase your self-confidence
  • They can make you feel more relaxed which reduces anxiety and stress
  • They inspire you to be more positive

5 ways to attract positive people

  1. Be mindful of your conversations – When at social events or in company, be aware of what you are saying to others. If you only speak negatively, then it’s likely that positive people will want to avoid you. Keep your conversation upbeat and full of positivity and you are more likely to attract like-minded people.
  2. Avoid negative people – This can be easier said than done, so if there are times when you do have to be around negative people, try to limit that time and where possible, make an excuse to leave as soon as you can. Alternatively, if someone is saying negative things, perhaps put a positive spin on it so that they might be less negative in the future.
  3. Express gratitude – When you show appreciation for what you already have in your life, it can attract like-minded positive people who also show gratitude. Expressing gratitude (even to yourself in a private journal) can remind you of the positive things in your life and make you feel more positive.
  4. Practise mindfulness – By practising mindfulness techniques, you will learn to shift your thought patterns so that you look for the good in every situation, no matter how small. When we begin to notice the less obvious details in our day-to-day life, we become much more appreciative and positive about the world around us. Our positive outlook will, in turn, attract positive people.
  5. Practise visualisation – Visualisation is a wonderful way of attracting what you want into your life. By imagining positive outcomes in our life, we can increase our confidence and strengthen our ability to achieve what it is that we actually want. Before you start, make sure you know what kind of people you want to attract. Create a clear vision in your mind of what they would be like, imagine what they sound like, how they would interact with you, and how they would benefit your life. 

Once you do start to attract positive people into your life, you’ll notice a shift in your mental wellbeing which will make you feel happier and more confident.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Surviving the festive season under covid-19 rules

This year has been a rollercoaster of changing rules and regulations thanks to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, many people in the UK have been affected by these new rules and regulations. Some of these new rules have resulted in much of the population having to spend long periods in their homes, some not being able to mix with other households, and millions of children being off school for long periods of time. Studies by The Office of National Statistics have shown that the pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s wellbeing, with more than 69% of UK adults being affected.

With the festive season approaching, many of you may be worried about how you will cope with the newly announced plans for the festive period. We have some tips to tackle loneliness, especially if you’re unable to spend time with loved ones at this time of year.

Christmas with covid

Current rules state that if you have covid or covid symptoms, or if you have been in direct contact with somebody with covid, you must self-isolate. Even if you test negative for covid, there are some instances in which you must still stay in your home for at least ten days. Should this happen during the festive season, you may feel very alone without being in physical contact with friends or family. Long term, these feelings of loneliness could lead to anxiety and perhaps even depression.

Thankfully, modern devices enable us to stay in touch with family and friends via video-calls which can help us to feel part of the celebrations even if we can’t be there in person. If you are all alone and suffering with covid symptoms, reach out to loved ones for companionship and practical help if necessary. Over 60s who don’t have any family or friends can get help and company via organisations such as Age Concern who can provide weekly telephone calls to people feeling isolated and alone. There are other organisations who provide support for different age groups in the form of helplines too. 

Get outside – if you can

Even those in high risk areas are currently permitted to socialise outdoors, adhering to social distancing rules, and maximum numbers of people/households. Get into the festive mood and grab some mince pies and a flask of tea (or mulled wine if you fancy) and organise an outdoor get together at the nearest park or public green space. The elements shouldn’t be too much of a hinderance if you wrap up warm, pull on your wellies and bring a brolly. Being outdoors can work wonders for your mental health, as can a catch-up with friends you may not have seen in a while. Christmas gatherings may be very different this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be fun.


Single parents and people living alone are still permitted to join one other household, which is known as forming a 'support bubble'. This means you can join others in your bubble in the run up to Christmas and New Year. Try to create a bubble with a local household so that transport won’t be too much of a bother. If your only option is to be in a bubble with loved ones further afield, try to arrange transport well in advance for you to join them or vice versa. If you haven’t yet formed a support bubble, contact family and friends you would like to spend time with and discuss creating a bubble with them. In addition to these rules for single parents and people living alone, new regulations were announced this week to extend the bubble concept allowing up to three households to meet indoors for Christmas. If you need some human contact over the festive period, this may also be an option for you to join with others to celebrate.

If you are struggling with loneliness, you may find this page from the NHS helpful. It looks at some things you can do to feel less lonely during the coronavirus pandemic. 

For more tips on how to make the most of the Christmas season despite the lockdown restrictions, why not book a place at our free webinar How to Have a Merry Lockdown Christmas. 

Friday, 6 November 2020

How to make guilt-free choices to improve your wellbeing

Many of our thoughts about ourselves are actually not our own at all. Outside influences can have a major impact on how we view our actions and even our physical appearance. You may compare your life with that of others and feel guilty that you aren’t perceived to have achieved as much. Sometimes family members or friends can make you feel inferior with their questions and observations about your life. It’s time to take a break from these negative influences and to reflect on what you want. Learn how to improve your mental and physical wellbeing while tearing off the shackles of guilt imposed by others.

What pressures can affect my wellbeing?


Even the most well-meaning of family members can chip away at your confidence, merely by asking questions that highlight certain areas of your life. You could be of an age when family and even society expects you to have married, bought a house and and started a family. If these are all things you really want and you haven’t yet achieved them, being questioned about these subjects can cause negative feelings towards yourself and knock your self confidence.


As you grow older, you will undoubtedly discover that friendships change, as your friends, and you, make certain life decisions. Parents can often be made to feel that they need to keep up with the social lives of their child-free friends. Single and child-free people may feel the pressure of questions about when they intend to marry and start a family. The same pressures can be felt with regards to work as some friends may have already discovered their perfect career and be content climbing the corporate ladder. In contrast, you may not have found your career path, or may feel completely happy to have a low-pressure job with minimal commitment that allows you to concentrate on other aspects of your life that you deem more important. In all of these situations, you may feel that you aren’t living the life that is expected of you, especially if friends expect you to be just like them.


The reality is, you can choose to ignore outside pressures, but this is easier said than done. For many of us, our hardest critic is ourselves. It’s particularly difficult if you had visions of where you would be at certain points in your life and these goals haven’t been achieved. Alternatively, you could have achieved these goals and still feel discontent or frazzled by the building pressure of maintaining what you thought you always wanted. For example, your dream of having the perfect family may be much less than perfect in reality. Your well-paid job for which you have strived so hard might not be what you envisioned at all.

How do these pressures affect our wellbeing?

  • Guilt – the feeling of guilt can be overwhelming for those who feel they haven’t achieved their potential or feel they should be much happier than they are.
  • Depression – being constantly bombarded by pressure from family, friends, and work colleagues can lead to bouts of depression. If your peers and loved ones don’t find you worthy as you are, the chances are, you won’t feel this positively about yourself either.
  • Low self-esteem – If you judge your success by certain goals and these goals haven’t been reached then you may experience feelings of failure, which can knock your self-esteem.
  • Low energy – depression and anxiety can render you inactive which may lead to a vicious cycle of doing nothing, feeling bad about this, and again, unable to do anything about it because your energy is depleted.
  • Regret – looking back you may question past choices and blame yourself for not making the right ones which has led you to an unhappy place in your life. You might begin to question relationship breakups and begin labelling an unworthy ex as the one that got away, just because you think you should be married by now. Or perhaps you regret turning down a previous promotion because you feel as though you would be financially better off if you had accepted it.

How do I pursue my own wellbeing and let go of the guilt?

  • The first step is to stop feeling guilty. This includes regret about how your life could have turned out differently if it wasn’t for certain choices you made at the time. The fact is, there is absolutely nothing you can do about past decisions; you can only learn from them and move forward.
  • If you're feeling guilty that you haven’t met your family’s expectations, realise that it isn’t your responsibility to live your life for them. This also means letting go of the guilt you may experience when you take time out for yourself.
  • Express your feelings to loved ones and explain that although you appreciate their concern, you would prefer to make your own life choices.
  • Parents often feel guilty for allocating any time or attention to their own wellbeing. However, self-care is essential for parents, because looking after your physical and mental health means you are better equipped to help your family. Talking to a close friend or a counsellor about your concerns and the causes of your stress is a great way to release any burdens and feel more confident about taking time to focus on improving your own wellbeing. 
  • Embrace nature – both exercise and being among nature have been proven to improve mental health. Combine the two and go for country walks or, if time is limited, spend your lunch hour strolling through a park or in the fresh air.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as it’s often known, is a type of depression that occurs at specific times of the year or during certain types of weather. Depression is a condition that differs very much from the occasional bouts of sadness we all may feel from time to time. When you experience depression, you can feel sad, worthless, and anxious for long periods of time. If your mood is severely affected by changes in weather, it can have a serious impact on all areas of your life. However, there are steps you can take to alleviate these symptoms. 

How do I know if I have SAD?

There are all different types and symptoms of depression and it’s important to ascertain the cause or causes in order to get the right treatment. Although symptoms can vary from person to person, these are just some of the signs that you could be suffering from SAD:

  • Low mood
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Noticeable changes in appetite - eating more or eating less
  • Loss of libido
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts – if you feel suicidal you should contact your health practitioner immediately

There are other symptoms and feelings associated with SAD, and if you’re uncertain why you're feeling this way, speak with your GP or other health practitioner.

What causes SAD?

It's thought that lack of sunlight is a contributory factor of SAD and that people with this disorder are likely to suffer significantly during the winter months. There are, however, some people that experience SAD during the warmer months too. It is thought in these cases that SAD may be a hereditary disorder. For those that experience seasonal affective disorder during darker seasons, it is believed that the lack of sunlight affects the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is part of the brain that contributes to:

  • Melatonin production – a hormone that makes you feel tired. Those with SAD may produce more than normal.
  • Serotonin production – often thought of as the 'feel good' hormone. Lack of serotonin can occur with lack of exposure to sunlight and lead to feeling depressed.
  • Your body clock – people usual rely on sunlight to assist with things such as when to wake up and when to go to sleep. When nights become longer and days shorter during winter, the body clock can be disrupted.

How to cope with SAD

The good news for those experiencing SAD is that there are measures you can take to alleviate symptoms and to make life a lot easier.

Get as much natural light as you can

As discussed above, sunlight is a significant factor in maintaining mood levels and it therefore makes sense to spend as much time as possible in natural sunlight. Set aside time each day to either sit outside or take a stroll during daylight hours. If you spend a lot of time indoors, make a point of sitting near a window that allows in natural light.

Light therapy

Since many of the symptoms of SAD can be attributed to lack of sunlight, artificial measures can be extremely helpful when you can’t access the real thing. Although the efficacy of light boxes has not be definitively proven, there are those that insist they improve symptoms of SAD. Light boxes mimic natural light and emit a steady flow of light which can be set to various times throughout the day. It is thought that they can help people who have trouble waking on winter mornings by mimicking the rising sun of dawn. Some people prefer to have a lightbox by them throughout the day as they find it steadies their mood.

Exercise in daylight

As helpful as many find light boxes, they’re no substitute for the real thing. The combination of authentic daylight and exercise can help increase mood levels. Exercise is renowned for assisting with the release of serotonin, and daily exercise will also make you healthier when combined with a good diet. Being physically healthy can help with feelings of sluggishness, especially if you are exercising in the sun, which is known to help with the production of melatonin.


Talking therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling are known to help with symptoms of SAD. CBT assists by helping patients create ways to change habits that they have associated with SAD. This therapy concentrates on the connection between thoughts and feelings, and physical responses to this and how negativity can result in a harmful cycle. CBT can help you devise positive actions and habits by breaking your problems into easier to handle smaller sections.

First Psychology is hosting a free webinar on 27 November 2020 on 'Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder During Lockdown' as part of its winter webinar series. Find out more and book a place >

Thursday, 8 October 2020

How to find your sense of purpose in life

There have been numerous studies into the impact of having a clear direction in life and the conclusions are extremely interesting. Research has revealed that having a life purpose can lengthen your lifespan, improve your physical health, and even improve mental health issues.

The meaning of purpose can differ dramatically for each individual. For example, one person may view having a fulfilling career as entirely purposeful, whereas another could believe parenthood and bringing up a happy family will provide the ultimate fulfilment. However grand or simple a purpose may seem, it is evident that having a purpose can have a positive effect on your life. If you are struggling to determine what it is that would give you a sense of purpose, there are steps you can take to help you find it.

What does it mean to have a purpose in life?

Having a purpose in life means having an aim, whether it be a daily aim or a long-term goal. It could be as simple as having something to wake for each morning. Without such a goal your life may have no direction and you could find yourself feeling despondent and down. This, in turn, can lead to poor mental health, and bad physical health, especially if you fail to participate in any activities at all.

How having a life purpose can benefit others

Not only does being proactive have benefits for you as an individual, but your life purpose could also have a positive impact on others. Becoming a volunteer can help your community. Creating an organisation that helps people or animals can assist others in your immediate or wider communities. Even becoming more positive because you have found your life purpose can make you a more pleasant person to be around, which will affect the mood of others. It’s important to remember that a sense of purpose is unique to each of us, and you should not compare yours with anyone else’s.

How reflection can help you find your life’s purpose

There are questions that you can ask yourself that can help to find your purpose:
  • What am I passionate about?
  • For what would I like to be remembered?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What were my childhood ambitions?
  • What are my dreams now?
  • If I could spend one day doing anything, what would that be?
  • Who are my idols?
  • When were the happiest times in my life: who was I with and what was I doing?

Writing down the answers to these questions can provide a great start to finding your purpose.

Expand your horizons

You may not have experienced anything that piques your interest yet, which is why you should try new things.

  • Join a club – this can be online or in your community. Think about joining a book club, hiking group, writing group, or debating team.
  • Volunteer in your community – not only will you be helping people or animals, but you will experience new situations that could prove inspiring.
  • Research religions or spirituality – some people find that their purpose in life is associated with religion or spirituality. Contact local religious leaders or attend their place of worship to find out more about specific beliefs. 
  • Learn an instrument – it's never too late to learn a musical instrument and there are instruments to suit every budget. You could even find them in charity shops or online. Can't get out? You can teach yourself via online learning or books if necessary or you prefer.
  • Learn a language – learning a new language can be extremely fulfilling and can be self-taught. If you choose to attend a class, you also open the door to meeting new people with the same goal and it can be more fun.

If at first you don’t succeed....

Be patient with yourself and if one hobby or interest doesn’t pan out, try something else. Finding a purpose in life can be an extremely fun and interesting path which doesn’t necessarily have to be reached via a direct route.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Getting the tech-life balance right

As essential as technology is to most people, it has its drawbacks. It’s all too easy to spend hours scrolling through social media posts, checking emails, or playing mobile games. This type of behaviour can result in mental and physical health problems as you become too dependent on technology. However, there are ways to get the balance right.

Understand how technology affects your life

Technology, when used as a distraction rather than a tool can impact your work and social life. The modern workplace often requires technology and so it is difficult to erase it from your life completely, or even for extended periods of time. However, if you actually record how often you spend online you will become more aware of how much time you are spending being distracted.

Do you:

  • Check emails and social media as soon as you wake up?
  • Remain logged into to online accounts all day?
  • Receive notifications and respond to them immediately?
  • Communicate with friends and family mostly via apps and social media?

Although this may seem entirely normal, it is important to realise how much time online is stopping you from interacting and socialising in person. Besides the practical implications of spending so much time online, there’s the impact it has on mental health to consider.

According to a report compiled by the Royal Society for Public Health, sites such as Instagram can have a negative effect on teenagers’ mental health. This investigation reveals that Instagram contributed to “anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying, body image and 'fear of missing out'".

Consider changing your settings so you no longer receive non-essential notifications and log out of sites and social media when you are not purposely using them.

Limit time online

Once you've made a record of how much time you spend online, if you realise it’s quite considerable, make a conscious effort to change.

You can do this by:

  • Responding to work emails only during working hours and put your out of office response on as soon as you finish work 
  • Allowing yourself only set times when you can access social media and emails
  • Leaving your mobile at home when you don't need it
  • Not using your mobile or device while in bed

Once you’ve limited your time using devices, you may realise that it has been causing you to neglect hobbies, activities, and even other people in your life.

Fill the void

Although your fingers may be itching to message someone or to scroll through timelines and pages, give yourself something else to do instead. Be in the moment when enjoying family activities and relish in the feeling of being completely committed to a family day out, group activities, or even just listening to one another without being distracted by the ping of your ‘phone. Take up a new hobby or go back to an old one and rediscover the feeling of being connected to activities you enjoy.

It isn’t all or nothing

Although taking a day or more away from technology each week could be extremely beneficial, in reality, technology keeps us in touch with friends, family, and current events. There’s no need to shun technology completely, but finding a healthy balance is sensible. Set yourself realistic time limits and create a habit of technology-free time each day and you will soon realise how much more fulfilling your life can be.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

How to manage covid stress and rebuild your life

To say that the past months have been stressful would be an understatement. For many, the normality we once knew has been replaced with long periods of solitude, apprehension, confusion, and fear. Covid-19 entered our lives as an uninvited guest and has yet to leave. It is therefore not surprising that so many children and adults are exhausted and stressed by it all. 

Although the virus is still very much present, the lockdown we once knew has changed. With restrictions having been lifted and then new measures imposed and people being encouraged to go about essential daily matters (including work where homeworking isn't possible) and to embrace the new normal, many are seeking ways to rebuild their lives.

Discover ways you can beat the stress caused by Covid-19 and learn to rebuild your life so you can live it to the fullest.

Establish a new routine

Whether you were aware of it or not, before Covid you would have had a routine which was interrupted when the virus arrived. Routines help both children and adults have a sense of stability and assist with focusing your mind. Make a list of things that are essential in your life – things you must do and things you want to do.

According to the NHS, and Leeds Children’s Hospital, this list could focus on:

  • Work/School/College
  • Family
  • Hobbies
  • Meals
  • Self-care
  • Engaging in activities that may include seeing other people. This can be anxiety-inducing because of covid-19, but there are ways to make sure you feel safe and can begin to enjoy socialising and working again.

Plan each outing

Preparation is key to feeling relaxed once you venture into the world. If you haven't ventured out much or at all for an extended period, plan what you need and what you will do. Make a list of what items you may need such as face coverings and hand sanitiser. If you have children continue to remind them what is expected of them including minimising the touching of anything if you’re going shopping, and that they must wash their hands before they leave and when they return to the home. If you’re meeting with friends at a permitted location, share any concerns you may have with them. Some anxiety is to be expected when you first go to parks, shops, or to see friends and so it may help to begin with very short trips until you get used to going out again.

Share your concerns with your employer or tutor 

It may be necessary to return to work or to a place of learning. Communicate with your employer or tutor and ask for information about what steps they are taking to make the spaces as safe as possible. If you have specific needs let your employer or tutor know before you return to work or college. Both workplaces and schools and colleges will be required to follow strict guidelines and so you should find some comfort in this if you are concerned about the virus and the impact it may have on you and your family.

Embrace the new normal

Instead of becoming frustrated that for now you can no longer have friends round or meet large groups of friends and family in restaurants or theatres in the same way as you did before, embrace the change. Doing things that bring you pleasure is so important for your mental health. Theatres are streaming recorded plays, so if going to the theatre is one of your passions, organise a “theatre at home” evening for yourself and your household. Get dressed up, enjoy your favourite tipple and snacks, and think about donating to the theatre company so they can still be up and running when covid restrictions are lifted. Take the opportunity to stay connected with friends and family in whatever way is permitted. It is important to know you have loved ones to talk to and to spend time with. 

Visit our covid-19 resources page for help with dealing with some of the issues that may arise from the current situation

For specific information on Covid-19 and what you can and can’t do, visit

Monday, 31 August 2020

How to avoid burnout as a single parent

As any single parent is aware, parenting alone has both benefits and drawbacks. One of the benefits of being a single parent is that you’ll most likely be able to make all the parenting decisions independently on a daily basis, without having to compromise on parenting styles. However, this also means you’ll bear the brunt of parenting, both physically and mentally. This can be extremely exhausting, and if a single parent doesn’t prioritise their wellbeing, they could soon experience burnout.

Why is it so hard to be a single parent?

Being a single parent doesn’t always mean you aren’t co-parenting, but it can mean that as the majority care giver you have the bulk of the financial and practical parenting responsibilities. The financial side of single parenting is exhausting in itself and may mean you are working extra hard in order to fulfil your financial obligations and to give your child/children all the things they need. Pile onto this the physical strain of parenting such as domestic work, helping with homework, taking children to appointments and extracurricular activities, and it soon becomes apparent how burnout can occur.

Single parenting and mental health

There are many ways we can become a single parent: by choice, through separation, or from the death of a partner. Each situation presents individual emotional and practical stress, and all can lead to deteriorating mental health. The sudden change in circumstances can be stressful for you and your children and even if you were prepared to parent alone, it’s rarely easy. Single parents, especially single mothers, are still often stigmatised in society, which can result in feelings of guilt and anxiety.

Single parenting and physical health

According a piece of research discussed on the NHS website, there may be a connection between single motherhood and ill health later in life. Commenting on the research conducted in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2015, the NHS website suggests:

“Health status in later life is likely to be linked to a complex number of interrelated factors. Being a single mum may be one, social networks might be another.”

With this in mind, take care to not only ensure your children attend checkups, but make sure you keep on top of your own physical health and medical appointments too.

Taking care of yourself can include:
  • Eating a healthier diet to avoid feeling sluggish and to promote energy
  • Doing regular exercise to maintain health and energy
  • Asking your GP for a full medical so you can tackle any underlying health issues
  • Keeping on top of your oral health by attending routine dental checkups

Avoid burnout by seeking support

There aren’t many people that like to admit they need help, but as a single parent it is important to seek support from friends and family if possible. Speak with trusted family members about how you feel and see if they could look after your children for even just a few hours on a regular basis. Utilise your friendships with parents of children at your child’s school and organise sleepovers where parents take turns in hosting each other’s children. This kind of arrangement can give you an entire night to yourself, allowing you to relax, or socialise if that is what you need. Playdates at parks or play centres are fantastic for allowing you to socialise with adults and to relax (a little) as the kids go and play with their peers.

Support for parents of children with complex needs

Being a single parent of a child with additional needs has its own set of considerations. However, there is assistance available for parents of children with complex needs such as day centres and respite care. Your local council will be able to provide the contact details of centres and carers specifically designed to support the needs of your child. You will also find there are numerous charities providing support for parents of children with complex needs such as Autism, Down’s Syndrome, and additional physical needs.

Reject the guilt

Single parents often feel guilty for taking time to themselves but if you want to avoid exhaustion, then you will need to reject those feelings of guilt and know that you are entitled to some time to yourself. If this means allowing your kids to watch more TV or play computer games for a little longer, then so be it. While they occupy themselves, exercise, read, facetime with friends or simply take a nap (if your children are old enough to self-supervise). Try to set aside time each day for a little alone time and extend that time once a week for you to enjoy your favourite activities or to catch up with friends.

Organise your time with the children

Although the best laid plans can often go awry, organising a specific activity to enjoy with the children can help to alleviate the guilt of having 'me time'. Let your children know that there will be specific family time, be it mealtimes, film night, or board games night, and try to stick to these arrangements as much as possible. Knowing that you will be spending quality time with your kids allows you to enjoy that precious time to yourself even more.

Start each day anew

Some days are just completely horrible. You’ll feel like the worst parent ever and may even be driven to tears as you feel like you have failed as a parent. Stop, breathe and start again. Learn from the mistakes of the previous day and forgive yourself if you’ve been a bit more shouty than normal. Parenting, be it as a single mother or father, or as part of a couple, is going to be filled with days where it feels like everything has gone wrong. Try not to carry that guilt into the next day and begin the day with a positive mindset. If appropriate, speak with your children about how their behaviour or your actions played out the previous day and talk about what your expectations are going forward. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when you do something wrong too – apologising as a parent will show your children the importance of saying sorry and acknowledging when you’re wrong.

For more information about support for single parents in your area, visit One Parent Families Scotland, a charity specifically for single parents. You may also find the website of the charity Gingerbread, who operate in England and Wales, helpful.