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Looking after your wellbeing in winter

woman looks cosy in her winter jumper looking after her wellbeing in winterThe winter months can make it difficult for many of us to manage our mental health. The colder temperatures and shorter days could mean we feel the need to withdraw from things we normally enjoy. Here are some tips of what to do to manage your wellbeing in winter.

Identify what you struggle with during these months

Triggers and situations that we struggle with can be different for everyone. It may be a stressful day at work, worrying about your finances, a difficult conversation with someone or the bus is running late. By being aware of what you find difficult, it is easier to make plans to manage when these difficult situations happen. For example, when you have experienced a stressful day at work, after work you could plan to go for a jog, enjoy a home comfort meal or spend time with loved ones. If you’re struggling to work out what makes you feel overwhelmed, keep a diary and see if there are any links between what you do and how it makes you feel.

Keep a routine

In the winter months, it can be hard to feel as motivated to go outside and do things like you would in the summer months. Try and keep as much of a routine like the summer months as possible. Humans love routine so doing similar activities can boost your mood. It can be hard to sometimes do things so plan using a SMART goal. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Focused. For example, next Monday at 6pm for 15 minutes I will do yoga at home. This gives us a set-target whilst keeping it realistic.

Spend time in nature

Being in nature whatever time of year can do wonders for our happiness. The weather in the winter months can mean that we don’t feel as motivated to go outside. However, being in nature can improve our mood by being in a
different environment. Why not have a go at going to a local park and come prepared with a coat, scarf and umbrella!

Always have a plan B if you’re doing a weather dependent activity

It can be demoralising when a plan gets cancelled because of bad weather. When making plans, have a backup option if the weather is unkind. For example, if your walk with friends gets cancelled, you could meet at a museum, café or someone’s home instead. This means you still get to feel connected with others despite the initial plan no longer being possible.

Create healthy habits at home

In the winter months, it can be natural for our motivation to take a dip and we can reduce time we spend doing things we’d normally enjoy. We can overcome this by starting healthy habits at home. This could be something like cooking a meal, having a self-care evening (watching a film, taking a bath, reading a book), exercising or choosing to put your needs first. If you struggle with staying up too late, try one night where you start your wind down routine earlier.

Talk to someone

Sometimes things feel just too much, especially during the darker months of the year. It can feel hard to reach out and you can feel alone with your feelings. Know that you are not alone and many other people feel this way.

If you feel comfortable to, speak with a loved one or someone you trust. Speaking about our difficulties can give us a sense of relief. If you don’t feel comfortable to speak with someone you know, you can try other services such as a
peer support or befriending services.

Also, you can reach out to a professional such as a GP or therapist. You can discuss your difficulties with your local Talking Therapies service who may be able to support you to find the best service for your needs.

You can refer yourself for talking therapy by completing this simple online form.

This article was originally published in issue 12 of Community Living Well magazine. You can read past issues of our magazine or sign up to our mailing list for all the latest from Community Living Well. 



Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 20th November 2023

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

When the days get shorter, darker and colder, you may feel a dip in your mood. It’s common to feel affected by changes in the weather and seasons – we all have certain times of year that we enjoy more or less than others, for a variety of reasons. You might find your mood changes when the weather gets colder or warmer, or notice changes in your energy levels, sleeping patterns or eating habits. If these feelings are interfering with your day-to-day life, it could be a sign that you have depression. And if they keep coming back at the same time of the year, it might be a sign that you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) otherwise known as ‘seasonal depression’.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ or ‘winter blues’ because the symptoms are usually more apparent and severe during the winter. Some people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of SAD can include:

• a persistent low mood

• a loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities

• irritability

• feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness

• feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day

• sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning

• craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

For some people, these symptoms can have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

How can I treat the symptoms?

There are some things you can do yourself to improve your mood during winter SAD.

Get natural sunlight. Get outside in the natural light as much as possible as it can help boost your mood or sit next to the window to let sunlight in.

Stay active. Regular exercise can help with symptoms of low mood and depression as it releases serotonin and endorphins.

Connect with others. Winter can make us feel more isolated than usual so make time to connect with others through a phone call, email, text or meet up face-to-face.

Have things to look forward to. Whether it’s a coffee with a friend, or the thought of spring coming, try to keep positive by having something to look forward to.

Pick up a new hobby. If winter means you tend to stay indoors more, keeping busy with new hobbies can help keep your mind active. Why not pick up a book and read or learn how to knit?

Get cosy. Embrace the cold by getting into warm, comfy PJs and enjoying a hot cuppa and take in the warmth. Remember, the cold won’t last forever!

What causes SAD?

Causes of SAD isn’t fully understood however it’s often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. There is some evidence to suggest the following:

• increase in the body’s level of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleepwake cycle. This makes people feel sleepier and more lethargic.

• irregular production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that influences mood and,

• less production of Vitamin D, which is needed for the production of serotonin.

If it doesn’t get better…

You should consider seeing your GP if you’re struggling to cope. Your GP will carry out an assessment by asking you questions about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any changes in your thoughts and behaviours. After the assessment, your GP will recommend the most suitable treatment programme for you.

The main types of treatments are:

Lifestyle measures – including getting as much natural sunlight as possible such as a brief lunchtime walk, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels

Light therapy – using a special lamp called a light box, which gives off a strong white or blue light, this simulates exposure to sunlight.

Antidepressant medication

Talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling.

For additional support with your mental health, you can refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 18th October 2023

World Mental Health Day 2023

Today (Tuesday 10 October 2023) is World Mental Health Day and the theme for this year is ‘Mental health is a universal human right’. World Mental Health Day is observed every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness and breaking down the stigma of mental health issues around the world.

The stigma and discrimination experienced by people who experience mental ill health not only affects that person’s physical and mental health, stigma also affects their educational opportunities, current and future earning and job prospects, and also affects their families and loved ones. (Source: World Federation for Mental Health [WFMH])

Take a look at our social media channels for posts throughout the day: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.

Prioritise your mental health

Your mental health should be your priority because it impacts our whole life. We want to raise as much awareness as possible on this World Mental Health Day, and to remind you that Community Living Well is here for you.

We offer the following services:

  • Talking Therapies – Short-term support for when you experience difficult emotions, such as, low mood, worry, stress and anxiety.
  • Peer Support – Wellbeing workshops, one-to-one peer support, peer support groups, social activities and peer support training with other people who have had similar experiences to you.
  • Employment – Advice and support to gain and retain paid employment, improve your employability skills and know your rights in the workplace.
  • Navigators – Practical support with a range of issues including benefits, debt, housing options, access to health and social care services and support to access specialist advice and information.
  • Self-Care – Support and activities that help you to take care of your own mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

You can refer yourself to the Community Living Well service here

These local organisations also offer crucial support. 

Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 10th October 2023

New! Community Workshops

A man jogging through the park - Our Community Workshops aim to promote evidence-based knowledge and support a healthier lifestyle and general wellbeing.

Join us for our FREE NHS Community Workshops

Open to all aged 16+

Our Community Workshops aim to promote evidence-based knowledge and support a healthier lifestyle and general wellbeing.

Each session includes a light physical activity, suitable for ALL abilities.

Information stalls with free resources also available!

The sessions will be on Wednesdays at 1-3pm, at Kensington Leisure Centre.

Healthy eating and mood: Wednesday 27 September 2023, 1pm-3pm

Long-term conditions and wellbeing: Wednesday 4 October 2023, 1pm-3pm

Feeling anxious? Let’s get active! Wednesday 11 October 2023, 1pm-3pm

To register your interest in the workshops, complete this online form or use the contact details below:

Or contact one of the following:

[email protected]

[email protected]

To find out more about Community Living Well services, including how to refer yourself, see How we can help

Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 5th September 2023

Peer Support: Alain’s Story

man sitting with his arms folded talking to someoneA couple of years ago, Alain experienced a traumatic health scare which led to anxiety, panic attacks and eventually, severe depression.

He lost his confidence, stopped doing the things he enjoyed, and distanced himself from friends and family. A friend recommended he try peer support. Alain shared his story with us and explained how peer support is helping his recovery.

How did you first hear about Peer Support? Could you tell us a little bit about what you were going through which led you to seek support?

About two years ago, I had a very traumatic operation. It was an emergency operation, I had sepsis, and it was at the height of the pandemic. I ended up suffering a lot of very traumatic post-op difficulties. I started having anxiety on a level I have never experienced; I had panic attacks, I stopped going out. It quickly led to depression, and as the time passed it became very severe. I kept myself from friends, all the things you shouldn’t do, but I didn’t realise that at the time.

I had reached a point where I could no longer connect with people, even with close friends. I was locked in my head. It was absolutely incredible. And physically it had a great impact as well. I found walking difficult, I was always dizzy, I had panic attacks. It was a terrible time. A friend had told me about Kensington & Chelsea Mind, so I got in touch. Initially, I tried going to the social gathering they have at the beautiful church in Ladbroke Grove, but I was still in a terrible place. I felt absolutely overwhelmed and distressed by the fact that I couldn’t connect. I couldn’t open up, I wasn’t even listening!

Then I got a call from one of the peer support workers. He’s not a counsellor, although he has extremely good counselling skills. For the first time, I met somebody who was willing to talk about their own experience. He was sharing stuff about himself that I could relate to, and this had a great impact on my recovery. We had weekly conversations, sometimes online, sometimes on the phone, and it was his understanding and kindness that allowed me to open up in a way that I would not have been able to do with anyone else.

Which peer support groups do you attend and how do they help you?

I’m attending the creative arts group on a regular basis now. I find it very cathartic. I have no artistic skills, but everyone can draw or paint. It’s so good for me because there are other people like me around the table, and we don’t have to speak about our mental health. We could if we wanted, but we could speak about this or that whilst drawing, and there is no pressure. I really appreciate that, and it also helped me reconnect.

I also take part with the walking groups occasionally in Kensington Gardens and Holland Park. It has all made a hell of a difference. It’s community based, so you don’t have to travel very far. When you’re not well, the idea of travelling can be overwhelming, whereas I could walk from my place to meet the group.

You said you don’t have to talk about mental health at the sessions, but when the conversation does lead to mental health, how do you find it? Is it helpful?

Yes. After a little while and you’ve broken the ice, people start to talk about their mental health. As I got slightly better, I started to open up and tell people about my own struggles. We all have different stories, but there’s a lot I realised that is common. Some people in return would be more forthcoming.

Is it helpful then if someone mentions something that you might’ve experienced or you’ve been feeling, then you can connect on that level?

Yes, and also people have their own ways of coping and sometimes you can learn a lot from listening to other people’s stories. Or they can tell you that they got help from another organisation, they give you names of services you might never have heard of, or techniques that help them. Somebody was telling me about the creative arts group and how therapeutic it had been for them. I asked if I could join the class, and turned out that it was indeed truly beneficial, especially when you’re in a state where you’re locked in your head.

Have you seen an improvement in your situation or feelings?

Absolutely. I would say I’m well; I haven’t totally recovered. I’m very aware of the precarity of my mental health, so I tend to monitor it on a regular basis, every day.

I’ve adopted a little-step approach and set myself aims, because I would find it overwhelming. I’ve started gardening again. After the operation, all the things I loved that kept me going, suddenly I was no longer interested. I couldn’t stand to think of gardening, I couldn’t even watch gardening programmes. The love I felt for friends, it was gone! I was totally lost. It’s truly frightening. To have somebody like the peer support worker, who shared his own experience, was really important to me.

Having the regular timetable of activities also gives you a structure to your day. I found myself having nothing to do. I spent the whole day watching Netflix, just escaping or trying to escape. Every so often my mind was wandering and I was back in my head, it was terrible. So, having a bit of structure to my day, it does certainly help. You go out of the house, you have a bit of exercise.

Would you recommend Peer Support?

Oh absolutely, yes. The worst thing when it comes to depression is isolation, but you can’t help it. It’s not a matter of courage, you’re in a very dark place. You just want to hide. But by attending the peer support groups and knowing that other people are going through the same thing, it can be very helpful. You feel less alone. There’s still some stigma attached to mental health and often it’s us, the patient, who internalises this stigma and it becomes deep-rooted in our head. When I was at the height of this depression, I felt terribly ashamed. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want people to see my face because they could see that I was unwell, I was hiding.

What would you say to someone to encourage to try peer support if they are unsure?

I would say, start on the phone. You don’t have to leave your home. See how it goes. It might encourage you to go out and meet a peer support worker face-to-face, or attend one of the social gatherings and try that. Then when you feel more confident, perhaps join a peer support group, where you meet people that suffer from depression or anxiety, and who are struggling to get better on their own. I highly recommend it; the peer support team does fantastic work.

For more information…

If you are interested in peer support, you can refer yourself quickly and easily online.

This story was originally published in issue 12 of Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. You can sign-up to our mailing list to receive the magazine directly into your inbox.  

Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support
Posted on: 16th August 2023

Men’s Mental Health Research

Click image to enlarge

Can you help us?

If you are a man aged 18+ and live in Kensington & Chelsea, Queen’s Park or Paddington, we would love to hear from you.

We are looking for men of all ages and backgrounds to help us hear your thoughts on how to share information about emotional or mental health services with men.

You do not need lived experience of poor emotional or mental health to take part – we want to hear from all men.

We want this information from you because it is known that men are less likely to discuss or seek help with their wellbeing. In fact, only 36% of referrals to NHS Talking Therapies are for men.

We want to make sure that as many men as possible know about the wellbeing and mental health support that is available to them.

We are holding an online focus group to help us to gain an understanding on how men talk, think and act on the subject of their mental wellbeing.

Would you like to join our informal chat? It will held online via MS Teams.

Wednesday 23rd August @ 12pm – 2pm

For more information or to book your place, contact Stewart on 07908 265 186 or [email protected]

Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support, Talking Therapies
Posted on: 8th August 2023

Out now! Community Living Well Magazine Issue 13

We are pleased to share the latest edition of Community Living Well magazine.

As always, this issue is packed full of informative articles, useful advice and real-life stories. Articles featured include:

  • Men’s mental health
  • Boosting your self-esteem
  • Mindfulness tips for anxiety
  • Doomscrolling: what is it and how to avoid it?

Plus, interviews with a CBT therapist from NHS Talking Therapies and a Young Adult Navigator.

There’s also book reviews, information on peer support groups, and a directory of other local resources.

We hope you enjoy reading this issue. If you have any suggestions or feedback about the magazine, please contact [email protected]

To sign-up to receive the Community Living Well magazine direct to your inbox, complete this form

Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 17th July 2023

Supporting the LGBTQIA+ community

Although June is known as Pride Month, our support for the LGBTQIA+ community continues all year round.

LGBTQIA+ people are 2 or 3 times more likely to experience a problem with their mental health, and this has got to change.

If you identify as LGBTIQ+ and are looking for mental health support, Community Living Well can help.

Our Peer Support service, provided by Kensington & Chelsea Mind, runs a regular LGBTQIA+ mental health peer support group, where you can connect with others who may share similar experiences. See our events calendar for all the details.

The NHS Talking Therapies service can help if you are struggling with anxiety, stress or low mood.

You can refer yourself to Community Living Well by completing this online form or speak to your GP.



Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support, Talking Therapies
Posted on: 21st June 2023

New! Living Well Workshops

man sitting and using laptop computerWe are pleased to share that our Living Well Workshops are running again from this month.

Living Well Workshops provide a safe and supportive space to develop skills and knowledge to manage the stresses and difficulties in your life as well as to improve different aspects of your life.

Each session is different, covering a variety of subjects related to your wellbeing. Learn alongside peers who may be experiencing similar difficulties.

Living Well Workshops are facilitated by Kensington and Chelsea Mind Peer Support and other staff, all of whom have lived experience. A small number of them are facilitated by NHS Talking Therapies staff.

Living Well Workshops have been developed from the award-winning Mind booklets for Mental Health series covering topics such as: Getting a better night’s sleep, Self-care for anxiety, Food and mood, Dealing with Stress and Five Ways to Wellbeing. Additional topics have been created based on feedback from individuals using our services about what you want. As a result, we have added topics which aim to enable you to:

  • build and maintain relationships
  • maintain personal boundaries
  • combat negative thinking
  • manage rollercoaster feelings
  • and more.

The workshops are limited to 15 people per session to ensure time for group and individual discussion and active participation, including learning from each other. They are available to anyone who might be struggling with their mental health and to those from community organisations in the borough.

The latest course of workshops has now finished. The next course will begin in December, so check back for further information.

If you would like to find out more, contact Sonja on 07932 452 463 or [email protected]

See all upcoming groups and activities on our events calendar.

Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support, Talking Therapies
Posted on: 8th June 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week logo by the Mental Health FoundationThis year’s Mental Health Awareness Week runs from Monday 15 to Sunday 21 May and the theme is ‘anxiety’.

Anxiety is a natural emotion that all of us experience at different times throughout our lives. But sometimes our anxiety can get out of control and become a mental health problem.

Signs of anxiety

You may be experiencing anxiety if you are feeling or showing some of these symptoms:

  • Butterflies or churning in your stomach
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Pins and needles
  • Feeling restless or unable to sit still
  • Headaches, backache or other aches and pains
  • Faster breathing
  • Fast or thumping heartbeat
  • Sweating or hot flushes
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth
  • Feeling sick
  • Having panic attacks.

(Source: Mind)

The Five Ways to Wellbeing

If you struggle with anxiety, there are some simple things that you can do to help manage it. The 5 Ways to Wellbeing can help you to look after your mental wellbeing and boost your resilience, which can improve your ability to cope with life’s challenges, your self-confidence and performance.

The 5 Ways to Wellbeing are:


Connecting is important because we are social beings. Connect by spending time with your friends, your family, your colleagues, your community, and take time to develop those relationships.

Be active

To be active doesn’t have to be hard; it doesn’t have to be going to the gym. It can be going for a walk, it can be dancing, it can be cycling. Whatever it is, make it something that you enjoy and something you can incorporate in your day-to-day.

Keep learning

To keep learning can be beneficial in a number of ways. It can offer us a sense of achievement, it can build confidence, and it can be enjoyable to do with others.


Even the smallest act can count. Whether it’s a smile, a ‘thank you’ or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve your mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.

Take notice

To take notice allows us to slow down and to balance the pressures that we face in our hectic lives. Being aware of your surroundings, your thoughts and feelings, can positively change the way you feel about life; it’s about being present in the moment.


Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, we will be sharing examples of how to fit the 5 Ways to Wellbeing into your daily life. We would love to hear how you maintain your wellbeing too! Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and be sure to tag us in your responses along with the hashtag #ToHelpMyAnxiety or you can email [email protected] along with any photos or videos.

If you need support with your mental health, you can refer yourself to Community Living Well quickly and easily by completing this online form.


Author: Stewart Gillespie
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 10th May 2023

SMART St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training
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