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The Rise of Self-Help Platforms

Woman using self-help app on her phone

Technology is changing the way we live. From online courses and habit trackers to sleep advice and breathing exercises, there’s never been a better way to explore and embrace how tech can help our mental health.

In 2019, the App Store editors have named self-help the breakout trend of the year. The ever-growing list of options aims to give people fuss-free, accessible ways to focus on the self from the comfort of their own home.

Self-help involves the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.

Moments of self-help add value, energy, purpose, and creativity to everything we do. No matter how fancy or indulgent the term may sound, acts of self-hep are vital in our quest for a healthy, balanced and enjoyable life. Self-help apps can be a helpful way to bring emotional regulation to the forefront of your mind. They are also a great way to get more skilled at thinking, feeling and engaging with the world in a healthier and more productive way.

As self-help can mean different things to different people, the apps can focus on a range of activities including monitoring breathing and stress levels to meditation and mindfulness techniques – all of which can have an enormous impact on our functioning.

Below are some of the most popular apps available online:

Beat Panic

A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes. Beat Panic is designed to guide you through a panic attack or raised anxiety using your phone.

Price – 99p

Be Mindful

An NHS recommended online course to help reduce stress and anxiety and open up life opportunities using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

Price – £30 (One off Payment)

CALM

CALM provides daily challenges to deepen your mindfulness practise and learn more about yourself that include sleep advice, exclusive music to help you relax and focus as well as video lessons on mindful movement and gentle stretching.

Price – £7.99 a month or £29.99 a year

Catch It

Learn how to manage feelings like anxiety, depression and stress with this NHS recommended app. Catch It will teach you how to look at problems from a different viewpoint, deconstruct thoughts into associated behaviours and attitudes and overcome negative emotions.

Price – Free

Chill Panda

Chill Panda is an NHS recommended guided breathing app. In 5 minutes you can start to enjoy the deep relaxation and other health benefits of slower therapeutic breathing. These breathing techniques will help you relax more, worry less and feel better.

Price – Free

Cove

Create music to capture your mood and express how you feel with Cove. Instead of communicating through words, make music to reflect emotions like joy, sadness and anger. You can store your tunes in a journal or send them to a loved one and let the music do the talking for you.

Price – Free

Headspace

Relax with the help of Headspace‘s guided meditations and mindfulness techniques. Meditation has been shown to promote subtle improvements in focus, attention and the ability to ignore distractions.

Price – £7.99 a month or £29.99 a year

My Possible Self

This NHS-featured wellbeing app sets out a personalised self-help toolkit for your mental health. You can track how you feel every day with their Mood Tracker and highlight activities, places and people that influence your mood, so you can focus on the things that make you feel great and keep you well.

Price – Free

Strides Habit Tracker

The Strides Habit Tracker makes it easy to track the goals and habits you have been striving to incorporate into your life. After adding each of your individual goals and healthy habits, you’ll be able to see a daily checklist of tasks to keep you on target.

Price – Free

This story was originally published in the Summer 2019 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Self-Care
Posted on: 14th January 2020


Managing your money

Managing your money

Managing your money is an essential skill to learn to minimise debt, particularly whilst living in London. There are lots of reasons why managing your finances can prove difficult – especially if you have an underlying mental health condition.

We explore some of the reasons why debt can stack up and share some measures that can be put in place to prevent this from happening.

Income

You may have a low income which does not cover the costs of necessities associated with daily living. This may be because your benefits have altered or stopped, you have missed a payment or
not claimed all that you are entitled to. Having a low income puts you at greater risk
of getting into debt as it may mean you lack a safety net or emergency fund. If your income is low over a long period of time and you struggle to manage it, this can mean that debts accumulate.

Life changes

Losing your job, relationship breakdowns and bereavement are all major life changes that can have a significant impact on your ability to cope and manage money. At times like these, we can feel vulnerable to further hits and may resort to short-term and quick fixes such as applying for credit cards or taking out high interest rate loans. This only tackles the symptoms rather than the root cause of the debt which will continue to rise and increase our stress levels and  deteriorate our mental wellbeing.

Mental and Physical Wellbeing

Mental or physical illness may require you to take time off work in order to prioritise your health and recovery. During these periods away from employment, you won’t have as much disposable income but may end up spending more on prescriptions and travel to appointments.

Ignorance is not bliss

You may find it too overwhelming to budget, speak to your bank, calculate your monthly payments or pay your bills. This avoidance will lead to your debt continuing to grow.

One in three people regularly worry about money to the extent that it has a negative impact on their mental health. Debt can contribute to this as it can make you feel:

  • Out of control
  • Helpless, especially if debt continues to spiral
  • Embarrassed and isolated as you feel unable to talk about your financial problems. This feeling is often compounded by the double stigma around mental health and money, which may make it feel difficult for you to confide in others or seek help
  • Guilty due to the shame that can be attached to debt. This is especially the case if your sense of self-worth is connected to your ability to provide for yourself and your family.
  • Inferior and inadequate when you compare yourself to others
  • Stressed and anxious. Debt is often a major factor for those suffering from anxiety, and the two issues can feed into each other, creating a vicious cycle

There is help out there!

Don’t feel like you have to tackle managing your money alone. There are many services in London that can help you manage your money and debt. The Navigator Service at Community Living Well can support you through:

  • Signposting you to specialist services both online and in your area
  • Making referrals to different money management organisations
  • Supporting you to contact these services or speaking to them on your behalf

Start today

Seeking help is a great way to avoid a downward spiral in your health and wellbeing. However there are also changes you can make yourself. The first step to managing your money better is creating a budget. It will take a little effort, but it’s a great way to get a quick snapshot of the money you have coming in and going out. Take control of your finances by trying out our budget planner on page 18.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2019 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Navigator
Posted on: 7th January 2020


January Peer Support Calendar

January Peer Support Calendar

Welcome to the January Peer Support Calendar!

We have a wide range of activities and groups on offer for our members. Highlights include a visit to the Wellcome Collection, a Cars Exhibition at the V&A Museum and a meal out at Nandos. All our groups are underpinned by the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Active, Connect, Give, Learn and Notice.

Download the January Peer Support calendar.

New Members

Are you new to Peer Support and looking for company this winter? Join a friendly Peer Support group and connect with like-minded individuals in an enriching and positive wellbeing environment.

If you are just starting to find your feet in the service, we understanding that joining new people at our groups can feel daunting. To help joining be less stressful and reduce your worries, we can offer you a one-to-one introductory meeting on a Monday Afternoon at the Community Hub at St. Peter’s Church, Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN.

Afterwards, you will also have the opportunity to experience our weekly hub. This Monday group is a place for laughter, music, companionship, light snacks and a warming cuppa. If having a slot with a Peer Support coordinator could help you to try out our service, please email us at [email protected].

We hope you enjoy our January Peer Support Calendar. To attend a Peer Support group or book a one-to-one introductory meeting you must be registered with Peer Support. To refer yourself please complete this quick online form or call 020 3317 4200.

Find out more about Peer Support.

 

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support
Posted on: 30th December 2019


A Brave New World: How technology could transform mental health treatment

woman experiments with VR technology

Technology and mental health may initially appear at odds. The fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyle that has stemmed from an increasingly interconnected world has often been reported to add to our stress levels and hinder our happiness.

However, a pioneering wave of new research has started to capture how technological advancements may enhance mental health treatment in the UK. While digital can never replace the relationship between a person and a therapist, it may have a real role to play through additional help alongside traditional face-to-face therapy

While most of these technologies are not ready to be used yet and require more research, the following treatments are what could be on the horizon.

ClinTouch Mobile App

Great Manchester NHS Trust recently piloted a mobile app for people recovering from psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. ClinTouch asks users how they feel a few times a day, generating an alert if a relapse looks likely. As people typically only see a care co-ordinator once a month, the app has the potential to bridge some of the gaps in their care provision. The value of this additional support is significant, especially when symptoms of a relapse can appear within days.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive experience that blocks out the physical world and transports the user into a digitally enhanced environment.

VR has been making waves as an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress disorder for a while now. However, it is only in recent years that VR has been trialled as a potential vehicle to aid exposure therapy – when a person is exposed to anxiety inducing stimuli in a safe and controlled environment.

A new project that took place recently involved a computer-generated avatar guiding a user through cognitive treatment programme for fear of heights. The project randomised 100 people with a significant fear of heights to either their VR application or no treatment. Participants had lived with their fear for, on average 30 years. After four or five 30 minute VR sessions, their fear had reduced on average by two-thirds.

VR has also provided a useful environment to teach patients experiencing emotional distress how to restore an equilibrium in their mood. It is hoped that the patient will then be able to transfer these coping mechanisms into the physical world.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) blends the virtual and physical world through an overlay. AR allows the user to access additional information through AR glasses. Initial research suggests that this perceptually enriched experience may present an opportunity to provide realtime feedback to people in non-clinical environments as part of their therapy intervention. Personalised treatment is achieved through the customisation of the virtual world a patient will inhabit.

Modernising Monitoring

Many digital companies are exploring tech’s ability to improve mental health diagnoses. New programmes may be able to analyse:

  • a person’s voice
  • the language of written messages and the content of social media pages
  • how fast a person swipes on a mobile device.

 

Mental health diagnosis frameworks have historically relied on paper questionnaires and people’s memories, so it is hoped that this new form of technology could aid and improve the prediction and monitoring of mental health illnesses.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Primary Care Liaison Nurses
Posted on: 18th December 2019


Support during the holidays

support over the holiday period

Christmas can be an exciting time of the year for many, but it can also be a challenging time, especially for those living with a mental health problem.

For those of you who might be struggling, or who are supporting someone who is struggling, we’ve put together a document with useful contacts over the holiday period. It also contains information on activities happening over the holiday period and where you can volunteer if you’d like to give back over the festive period.

To attend the Peer Support group you must be registered with Peer Support. To refer yourself please complete this quick online form or call 020 3317 4200.

Find out more about Peer Support.

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 16th December 2019


Bridging the generational gap

Family bridging the gap between generations

A generational gap can conjure memories of painful family conflicts. While it may be experienced in any family, differing cultural views and practices that can exist within an immigrant family can create additional conflict. Whilst immigrant families from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia may place emphasis on family obligations and social harmony, mainstream British culture tends to celebrate independence, self-sufficiency, and individuality.

As an immigrant adult living in the UK, you may wish to continue your native practices in your new country. However, this may feel at odds with your children who are learning new practices of their own or attempting to cast off the ways of life passed down to them. Balancing this tension with the preferences of your children and the expectations of your community can lead to generational rifts within the family.

As you try to juggle the old with the new, differences may multiply and moments of mutual understanding may become rare. This may leave you feeling frustrated, distressed and trigger symptoms commonly associated with anxiety or depression. You might find yourself worrying a lot or imagining the worst-case scenario. This may disrupt your sleep pattern and make it difficult to relax at home.

There are several steps you can take to defuse the tension, build bridges and achieve conflict resolution.

Communicate openly

Make healthy and honest conversations a part of everyday life at home. Share details about your day with your children, so that they feel comfortable doing the same with you. Listening to your children’s perspectives can help you gain valuable insight into their lives which can strengthen your relationship with them.

Practice acceptance

Accept that your children may have interests, hobbies and attitudes that differ from yours. Treat a clash not as a power struggle, but as an opportunity to use discussion to improve communication and understanding. Try to be accepting of the different opinions and viewpoints your child may hold.

Engage in mutual activities

Demonstrate an interest in your children’s activities and their lifestyle choices. Don’t let your differences divide you – frame them as a positive instead and use them to develop a system of mutual learning. For instance, when you share your culturally significant traditions with your children, let them teach you about an interest that is close to their heart. You can also share companionship by doing mutually enjoyable activities together – even if it’s a hobby as simple as watching a TV show.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help

If you’re finding it hard to reach a common understanding, have a chat with someone outside the family. They might be able to give you a fresh perspective on the situation. Seeking support from friends with similar experiences may help the stress caused by the conflict. You can also make an appointment with a counsellor to talk things through.

Little problems and anxieties can build up and make us feel low without realising. Therefore having someone you can use as a sounding board for your thoughts is helpful. The counselling offered through Community Living Well is a talking therapy in which you can explore difficult, confusing or painful experiences with the help of a clinician. Through this process it is possible to gain insight and find new ways of relating to yourself and others. You can make a referral online at communitylivingwell. co.uk.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Talking Therapies
Posted on: 10th December 2019


Prevent burnout by pressing pause

prevent burnout at work

Everyone should be able to access and enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career. When a healthy work to life balance is achieved, work can foster a range of health and wellbeing benefits. These can include personal enrichment, mental stimulation and a sense of purpose. However, when this balance is compromised, it can lead to stress. While stress can increase motivation and productivity, if left unmonitored, it can build up resulting in exhaustion or burnout.

What is Burnout? 

  • Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained and therefore unable to cope with the demands of life. 
  • Many employees push themselves to the limit and end up putting their health at risk in the process. 

How does it affect us? 

  • Research shows that 51% of UK workers experience burnout. 
  • If left unaddressed, it can make it difficult for you to function and live well in your everyday life. 

Signs and symptoms

Burnout is a gradual and incremental process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can spring up on you. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but progressively become worse as time goes on. Think of the early symptoms as red flags that are notifying you that something is wrong. Remember that prevention is better than the cure. For instance, if you pay attention and actively reduce your stress, you can prevent burnout.

Behavioural symptoms

  • Alienation from work-related activities 
  • Reduced performance – concentration levels dip and procrastination increases. As a result, work and everyday tasks start to take longer and feel more labour-intensive.   
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities or social situations 
  • Reduced ability to engage in pleasurable activities and relationships 

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches, nausea and muscle pain 
  • Disrupted sleep patterns 
  • Change in diet or appetite  
  • Feeling frequently lethargic and tired  

Emotional symptoms

  • Emotional exhaustion – irritability, low mood 
  • Feelings of ineffectivenessinadequacy and lack of accomplishment 
  • Lowered self-esteem – increased sense of failure and self-doubt  
  • Loss of motivation that is caused from feeling undervalued 

It is important to emphasise that burnout is different to stress. For instance, stress in small doses is fine but when we are continually exposed to stress and anxiety, it can turn into burnout. 

Prevent burnout using our tips 

  • Be kind to yourself – Relax some of your rigid self-expectations. In other words, it may not be possible to have a busy social life, deliver on a big project and meet all your personal fitness goals all at once. Therefore, prioritise; narrow your focus and don’t demand too much of yourself.   
  • Speak to your employer – If your workload feels unmanageable or there is a lack of clarity around what your role involves then speak to your employer to see if any adjustments can be made.  
  • Set yourself a ‘going home’ deadline once or twice during the working week – book a gym class or schedule a meet up with a friend. If you schedule downtime into your diary you will be more likely to find time for it. 
  • Learn to say no and don’t try to please everyone– Drawing boundaries is critical. In other words, assuming new responsibilities without taking stock of the ones you already have can lead to further exhaustion.  
  • Fight off imposter syndrome – Remind yourself why you deserve to be in your position and celebrate your professional and personal victories – no matter how big or small.  
  • Take time out – Integrating relaxation and self-care techniques into your life will allow you to unwind and recharge your batteries after a stressful period. Thus, helping you prevent burnout. Our self-care services can link you up with support in the community. 

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Employment, Self-Care
Posted on: 3rd December 2019


December Peer Support Calendar

Welcome to the December Peer Support Calendar!

We have a wide range of activities and groups on offer this month for our members. Highlights include a visit to the Royal Albert Hall to watch Peer Support favourite Guy Barker and a weekend trip to one of London’s hidden gems, Banqueting House. All our groups are underpinned by the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Active, Connect, Give, Learn and Notice.

Download the Peer Support December Calendar.

New Members

Are you new to Peer Support and looking for company this winter? Join a friendly Peer Support group and connect with like-minded individuals in an enriching and positive wellbeing environment.

If you are just starting to find your feet in the service, we understanding that joining new people at our groups can feel daunting. To help joining be less stressful and reduce your worries, we can offer you a one-to-one introductory meeting on a Monday Afternoon at the Community Hub at St. Peter’s Church, Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN.

Afterwards, you will also have the opportunity to experience our weekly hub. This Monday group is a place for laughter, music, companionship, light snacks and a warming cuppa. If having a slot with a Peer Support coordinator could help you to try out our service, please email us at [email protected].

We hope you enjoy our December Peer Support Calendar. To attend a Peer Support group or book a one-to-one introductory meeting you must be registered with Peer Support. To refer yourself please complete this quick online form or call 020 3317 4200.

Find out more about Peer Support.

 

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support
Posted on: 26th November 2019


Supporting someone with a mental health problem

Mental Health Support

It can be distressing and upsetting to see someone we love experiencing a mental health problem. Despite your good intentions and desires to help, you may be left feeling powerless and ill-equipped to provide mental health support. Remember that for this person, even having someone check in on them may make a vast difference. It will help them feel less alone, as they are reminded of the fact that people care about how they are feeling.

What symptoms might they have?

Anxiety and depression are not one-size-fits-all disorders. In fact, the symptoms can vary drastically from person to person. Some of the physical signs you can look out for are:

  • Lack of energy or feeling tired all the time
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much

Emotional signs may be harder to spot if the person isn’t very forthcoming or communicative about their emotional state and their distress is not visible.

  • Changes in behaviour and demeanour
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Seeming sad and in low spirits
  • Saying that they feel helpless or hopeless
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • A lack of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable
  • A decrease in concentration levels
  • Being more irritable and impatient than usual
  • Finding day-to-day life difficult e.g. household chores
  • Trouble relaxing and symptoms associated with restlessness

Top Tips for Providing Mental Health Support

Find a way to get time with them – Let you know you are there for a chat.

Create a compassionate space – Be kind, curious and patient; show your interest in helping.

Ask twice – Often we aren’t prepared to give a full answer when someone asks us how we are. Therefore, it is important to go beyond a passing comment and get to the bottom of how the person is feeling.

Reserve judgement – By fostering a warm and non-judgemental space, the person may feel more able to confide in you.

Ask open questions – Those that invite them to explain more how they are doing. For example – How are you feeling? Do you want to talk about it?

Active listening – Repeat back what they said to ensure you have understood it and pay attention to your body language, eye contact and facial expression.

Display empathy – Validate how they are feeling by reassuring them that you understand or sharing any similar experiences you may have. But try not to make the conversation about you though – always relate your experience to what they are going through.

Don’t try to diagnose – Or second guess their feelings or jump to conclusions.

Let them go at their own pace – Don’t fire too many questions at them and give them enough time to answer.

Respect privacy – Let them lead the discussion so that they can share as much or as little as they want to. Respect that the conversation may be nerve-wracking for them and don’t add to the pressure they may be experiencing.

Offer them help in seeking professional support – By offering to go to their GP with them for instance,  or helping them talk to a family member or fill out a referral form.

Know your limits – Signpost to a mental health support service such as Community Living Well if necessary. However, if you believe they are in immediate danger, then always call 999.

This story was originally published in the Autumn 2019 Community Living Well magazine. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Tamsin Cogan
Category: Community Living Well, Employment, Navigator, Primary Care Liaison Nurses, Self-Care
Posted on: 19th November 2019


World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day

Today is World Kindness day!

Have you ever heard of the phrase kindness makes the world go round? Well it turns out that beyond the warm glow and increase in wellbeing, spreading kindness may even help us live longer! To find out more, read the World Kindness Day BBC article that explores new scientific research into the benefits of kinder living. Are you interested in giving back to your community? Keep reading to find out how you can get involved with our Peer Support Giving programme.

Get involved with Peer Support Giving

Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research. As a result, anecdotal evidence has found that individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. In addition, research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness can result in improved feelings of wellbeing.`

There are plenty of ways to give back to others in need through the Peer Support programme. For instance, you can give the gift of hope and companionship to people that have walked a similar path to you at one of our Anxiety and Depression Support groups. By sharing your lived experience of anxiety and depression, as well as any coping mechanisms and tools that you have learnt along the way, you will be able to help someone in need. The groups are based on a shared journey of support within which people help each other as equals, share their personal stories, teach, learn and grow together. Therefore, you will also have the opportunity to connect with and feel encouraged by people who know what its like to feel the way you do.

Refer to the Peer Support service here 

Author: Tamsin Cogan
Category: Peer Support
Posted on: 13th November 2019