Mental Health Insights

Showcasing a community that’s leaving no one behind

What’s going on in Sheffield?

Shawmind moved to Sheffield in August 2023 and in 3 short months we already we have formed some fantastic partnerships with local organisations and the community here.

Working alongside some of the top sports clubs, we have been fortunate enough to be able to provide recognition to local organisations for the work that they are doing, as well as provide necessary sponsorship and support to other organisations who need it. Our most recent partnerships include Sheffield Steelers, The Steeldogs, B. Braun Sheffield Sharks and The Hatters.

In early October we were able to give a local mental health charity, MentalMate, and its members the Sheffield Steelers VIP suite in recognition of their fantastic work within the community: they are a mental health boxing club who opened their gym in April and provide free access to the training and coaching facilities for people in the community who struggle with their mental health. They are also there for those who find that boxing provides a form of relief and can also give access to mental health first aid. They work with families and children who are struggling, providing safe spaces and someone to talk to at every gym training session. They have just been nominated locally for a Health and Wellbeing Award for their work in the community, and they very kindly like and repost all our posts on social media which is helping to build our profile locally.

Recently, the Sheffield Sharks played their most formidable opponents, the London Lions. Tickets were eagerly snapped up for this, but again, Shawmind had been fortunate to be able to secure and provide 35 tickets to members of the community, and to the children in Royston Scout Troop, a small troop now looking to raise funds to build their own scout hall.

Within the next few weeks our CEO, Peter, will be delivering mental health awareness training to the Sheffield Sharks – these players are role models within the community to whom many young children look up, so having them understand, and more importantly able to interact with, children who are struggling will have big impact.

Lastly, since moving to Sheffield, we are proud to be supporting the Mi Amigo Restoration Project, a memorial that deeply resonates with our community still today. The restoration plans for the memorial are crucial in order to maintain the site and ensure that it is accessible to everyone who wishes to pay their respects to the air crew who selflessly gave their own lives to protect children and families of Sheffield.

We are working closely with RAFA and the UK Veterans Gamers Association to do a landmark fundraising event  in celebration of the unveiling of the Mi Amigo Memorial next year in Sheffield, supported by Meadowhall Shopping Centre who have allowed us an area upstairs to showcase our exhibition which will include elements from the Mi Amigo story and also that of our work with partners in pioneering mental fitness support within the online video gaming industry, as part of an educational enrichment programme.

It’s been a very busy few months but we are dedicated and excited to continue working with local communities, individuals and organisations to bring the best level of mental health awareness and fitness to Sheffield. We won’t stop striving to ensure that everyone understands the importance of mental health and wellbeing, and that everyone who needs support has access to that. We are small, but mighty organisation, building a community that will leave no one behind.

If you’re interested in the work we do and want to find out more or how we could work together, please get in touch via the contact form here and we will get back to you.

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The Impact of Technology on Children’s Mental Health: How to Limit Screen Time

As our society becomes more reliant on technology, it is important that carers and parents control the amount of time children and young people spend using screens. 

Recent studies have shown: 

  • 30% of children and teens who used the internet for over 3 hours a day were diagnosed with depression. 
  • Excess screen time inhibits young children’s ability to read faces and learn social skills, two key factors needed to develop empathy. 
  • Children with more than one hour of daily screen time were more likely to be vulnerable in all five developmental health domains: physical health and wellbeing, confidence, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development and communication skills compared to children reporting up to one hour of screen time/day.   

It is important that children’s time spent using technology is limited, and it is the responsibility of parents and carers to reinforce rules. This is to ensure that young people’s mental health is cared for to prevent mental illness and mental health problems following them from childhood to adulthood. 

Shawmind aims to support the mental health of children from an early age to equip them with the skills they need to build resilience and look after their own and others’ mental health. If you want to know more about supporting children’s mental health, read on.  

Understanding the Impact of Technology on Children’s Mental Health 

What are the positive aspects of technology for children? 

Before we address the negative aspects of technology on children and teens mental health, it is important to understand some of the positive impacts of technology and how it can be used as a tool for good. 

Technology can be used as a learning tool. With endless resources and information, any topic to want to learn about can be studied using the internet. 

Platforms such as YouTube offer various tools to encourage children to explore their creative side, including art, composing music, and designing video games. 

Also, due to the globalisation of the internet, technology allows children to foster a global awareness and cultural understanding. They can engage in virtual tours, explore other cultures and connect with people across the world.  

Finally, it is important to understand that technology is here to stay. Although many aspects of a technology-reliant future seem scary, future careers will require candidates to be proficient in today’s emerging technologies. 

What are the negative impacts of technology on children? 

Sedentary lifestyle 

Excessive screen time can lead to reduced physical activity which increases the risk of obesity and other disorders. Excessive screen time as opposed to playing outdoors, socialising with friends and partaking in activities can also hinder cognitive development.  

Sleep disturbances and fatigue 

The blue light emitted by screens and the engaging nature of technology can disrupt children’s sleep patterns, leading to difficulty falling asleep and fatigue during the day. This can impact their overall well-being and cognitive functioning. 

Impaired social skills and relationships 

Spending excessive time on screens can hinder the development of social skills, such as face-to-face communication, empathy, and emotional intelligence. It may lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining meaningful relationships with family and friends. This can negatively impact a child’s mental health.  

Unrealistic expectations 

Content on social media is specifically curated to appeal to our senses, promote an ideal lifestyle and develop insecurities to sell products. This can impact the way children and teens see their life and their bodies. Constant exposure to “perfect” content can cause self-esteem issues, which can lead to eating disorders and poor mental health. 

Reduced attention span and cognitive abilities  

Constant exposure to fast-paced digital content can decrease children’s attention span and make it challenging for them to concentrate and focus on tasks that require sustained attention. This can impact their academic studies and their ability to find enjoyment in non-technology based activities.  

Risk of online dangers and cyberbullying 

Excessive technology and social media usage increases the exposure to online dangers. This includes inappropriate adult content, cyberbullying, and online predators. Children may become victims of harassment or engage in risky social media without proper guidance. 

Impaired academic performance 

Excessive technology usage can negatively impact academic performance as it can distract children and teens during study time.  

Dependency and addiction 

Excessive use of technology can lead to dependency and addiction-like behaviours, where children feel a compulsive need to be constantly connected to screens. This can result in withdrawal symptoms when technology use is restricted and difficulty in self-regulating screen time. 

Vision problems 

Staring at a screen for too long can negatively impact the health of our eyes, especially during the developmental stages of children and young people. Children are at risk of developing digital eye strain and short sightedness with excessive screen time.  

The Role of Parents and Caregivers in Monitoring Children’s Technology Usage 

Setting healthy boundaries for screen time 

As a parent or guardian, it is important to set healthy boundaries with technology. We encourage you to establish these boundaries as early as possible in your child’s life to get them accustomed to the healthy boundaries. However, it’s never too late! 

  • Establish age-appropriate guidelines for screen time limits. 
  • Create a technology use plan with specific rules and routines. 
  • Enforce the guidelines consistently. 
  • Encourage alternative activities beyond screens. 
  • Provide access to books, art supplies, and outdoor spaces. 
  • Be present and actively engage in quality family interactions. 
  • Regularly reassess boundaries as children grow. 
  • Maintain open communication. 

Encouraging alternative activities and hobbies 

Children get bored, so rather than waiting for them to reach out for that iPad, consider encouraging these alternative activities to technology usage. 

  • Engage in outdoor play. 
  • Encourage reading books 
  • Foster imaginative play. 
  • Encourage arts and crafts. 
  • Promote board games and puzzles for cognitive stimulation. 
  • Encourage participation in sports. 
  • Support musical activities. 
  • Engage in nature exploration and gardening. 

Leading by example 

Children model the behaviour of their parents or adults in their lives. It is also important for adults to limit their screen time, especially in front of children and teens. Show them how to have fun without technology! 

How much screen time is considered appropriate for children? 

It is important to follow expert guidelines when setting screen time limits for your child.  

  • Under 2 years old: Children under 2 should have zero screen time, except for limited video phone calls with family or friends. This is the perfect opportunity to foster interests and hobbies with your child without technology. 
  • 2-5 years old: No more than one hour per day accompanied by a parent, carer or sibling. 
  • 5-17 years old: No more than two hours per day. This doesn’t include homework.  

Are certain types of screen activities more detrimental than others? 

As mentioned earlier, technology can often be a force for good. Educational content that is age appropriate can be beneficial to cognitive development in moderation, such as YouTube educational content and education TV shows. However, some screen activities like social media can be dangerous, and should be limited.  

Parents should always monitor the amount of time children are spending on technology no matter the content being consumed. 

 

Shawmind has a mission to improve children and teen’s mental health across the nation. We want to provide early intervention to prevent a further mental health crisis. Do you want to support Headucation in schools? Please donate or choose to do one of our mental health courses. Alternatively, you can book Headucation for your school.  

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How We Can Improve Men’s Mental Health in the Workplace

Shawmind is on a mission to improve the mental health of young people across the UK. This Men’s Mental Health Week, we want to highlight the importance of men’s mental health at work.  

1 in 8 men in England will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives. Many men struggle to open up to their peers about their mental health struggles. 

If you’re an employer and are interested in providing better mental health support in your workplace, consider our workplace mental health training. If you want to learn how to improve men’s mental health in the workplace, read on.  

What are some mental health issues that can affect men at work? 

Men can experience a range of mental issues in the workplace. Some of these can be due to personal circumstances, while some can relate to circumstances in the workplace. Some of these mental health issues include: 

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Work-related stress 
  • Burnout 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Imposter syndrome 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Anger management issues 
  • Sleep disorders 
  • Social isolation and loneliness 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Relationship difficulties 
  • Emotional exhaustion 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Feelings of inadequacy 
  • Mood swings 
  • Irritability 

These feelings can be due to social pressure on men to earn more, and with the rising economic pressures in the UK, these issues could rise significantly. It is our aim to raise awareness so workplaces are well equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to provide effective mental health support for men in the workplace.  

How do you tell if a male employee is struggling mentally? 

It is commonly known that men often withhold their feelings and struggle to open up about their mental health. This can make it particularly difficult to identify which men in the workplace are struggling with mental health problems. Here are some indicators that may suggest a male employee is experiencing poor mental health: 

  • Noticeable changes in behaviour, such as increased irritability, mood swings, or withdrawal from social interactions. 
  • Decreased productivity or performance issues that are inconsistent with their usual work standards. 
  • Frequent absences or tardiness without valid explanations. 
  • Expressing feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, or lack of motivation. 
  • Increased reliance on substances like alcohol or drugs. 
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions. 
  • Noticeable changes in appearance or personal hygiene. 
  • Social isolation and a reluctance to engage in workplace activities. 
  • Expressing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness. 
  • Sudden weight loss or gain. 
  • Increased instances of unexplained physical complaints, such as headaches or stomach aches. 

 

Mental health training and education for managers and leaders 

It’s important to approach these observations with empathy and sensitivity. If you suspect a male employee may be struggling, a mental-health trained member of staff should approach the individual on a 1-1 basis, and support should be given if possible. Remember, an employee cannot be forced to disclose their mental health to the organisation, so if the person is unwilling to open up, don’t force the issue. 

If you want to improve mental health in the workplace, it is important to have a mental health trained staff member on site. Check out our workplace mental health training courses. 

Create a supportive workplace environment 

Workplaces should make a conscious effort to create an inclusive environment and tackle the mental health stigma. It is important to encourage open communication and for staff members to support each other and look out for each other’s mental wellbeing.  

These positive workplace relationships can be developed through fun workplace do’s and activities that foster and develop friendships, so men feel more comfortable opening up to their peers.  

Employees should also undergo workplace mental health awareness courses to understand signs of poor mental health in themselves and their colleagues, and know the workplace’s roadmap of who to share their concerns with if they are worried about their own or a colleague’s wellbeing.  

Senior team should lead by example  

When it comes to male mental health, destigmatising is key. Men may often feel weak if they open up about their mental health, however, if they see other men doing it, our experience suggests that they are then more likely to confide in someone about their own mental health struggles. 

This is why it is important for leaders and managers to openly prioritise mental health and well-being, demonstrating that it is valued within the organisation. This encourages employees to follow suit and take their mental health seriously. In fact, mental wellbeing should be baked into the organisation’s strategy, so that it flows into everything the organisation does. 

Offer flexible working arrangements 

Since its rise in popularity due to the pandemic, it has been reported that hybrid working improved the mental health of some employees. Not only is this beneficial to employees, who get to stay at home with their families, exercise, practice self-care and get efficient sleep, it also benefits companies due to increased productivity as mental wellbeing increases. 

Encourage a good work-life balance  

A toxic attitude to work-life balance can severely negatively impact the mental health of employees. Male employees are particularly susceptible to being overworked due to social attitudes towards male work ethic and the pressures of men to be successful breadwinners, which can lead to intense stress. 

It is essential for companies to promote a healthy work life balance and ensure employees aren’t working too much. It is important to foster positive attitudes towards hobbies and personal commitments, so employees can look after their mental health.  

Be inclusive and reject toxic masculinity  

It is important for companies to recognise that men come in different shapes and sizes, with varying interests and hobbies! Narrow attitudes towards men can often constrict their personality and can lead to mental ill health conditions. 

Part of men’s mental health week is to raise awareness around toxic standards of masculinity and how this can impact the mental health of men. Here are some examples of toxic masculinity in the workplace that can negatively impact men: 

  • Suppression of emotions 
  • Hyper-competitiveness 
  • Male “banter” which can border on bullying 
  • Stigmatisation of seeking help 
  • Workaholic culture 
  • Narrow definitions of success 
  • Dismissal of work-life balance 
  • Macho culture 
  • Lack of support for work-family integration 
  • Sexual / gender, racial, religious, intellectual, socio-economic or cultural discrimination 
  • Strong drinking culture / substance abuse 

Workplaces should tackle aspects of toxic masculinity and ensure that all men feel included in the workplace. If a guy doesn’t want to go for a beer after work, or prioritises his family commitments over staying late, he should not feel ashamed or demasculinised.  

It is important to consider all aspects of masculinity and ensure everyone feels included and valued.  

Provide male mental health resources  

Employers can consistently forward male mental health resources to all employees that may be educational and informative, and useful to break down stigma.  These can help improve male mental health and wellbeing at work and make men feel that their mental wellbeing is valued in the workplace. 

Ensuring the conversation around mental health is consistent and ongoing fosters an environment that is mental health positive, which allows men to feel more comfortable to speak about their mental health issues.  

Recognise their achievements and efforts  

Everyone likes to feel valued in the workplace. We encourage workplaces to celebrate employee’s accomplishments and acknowledge their efforts to promote a positive work atmosphere. Recognising their value and contributions can boost morale and well-being. 

 

If you want to support mental health across the UK, please donate. If you want to improve mental health in your workplace, consider our workplace mental health training courses.  

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10 Ways to Support a Young Carer in Your School This Carers Week

Shawmind is on a mission to raise the levels of mental health awareness and understanding in schools. This Carers Week, we want to raise awareness and highlight the challenges young carers may experience, and how schools can offer effective support. 

Reports estimate that there are around 800,000 young carers in the UK. We want to help schools provide effective support for the mental health, wellbeing and education of children and especially young carers across the UK. 

If you want to support the mental health of young carers in your school, find out more about Headucation. 

Identifying young carers in the school  

Before implementing practices to support young carers in your school, it’s important to identify who they are. Your school should have a system in place to identify who the young carers are so they can be offered the proper support they need.  

Some signs someone may have caring responsibilities to look out for include:  

  • Regular lateness 
  • Change in hygiene/appearance  
  • Change in behaviour – becoming aggressive or angry, withdrawn or quieter 
  • Tiredness 
  • Low attention span  
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Low attendance  
  • Not completing homework 
  • Feelings of anxiety 
  • Parent/guardian uses disabled parking space  
  • Lack of parent/guardian attendance to parents evening/other school events  
  • On pupil premium/free school meals  
  • Low mood/mental ill-health  

If teachers or staff notice the above signs, it is an indication that the child needs to have a meeting with the young person to get to the bottom of the issue.  

Building awareness and understanding 

Supporting young carers starts by building awareness and understanding of their circumstances. It is important to highlight what a young carer is, what their responsibilities are and how this may have an impact on their education and mental health.  

This way, staff and teachers are fully equipped with the knowledge of what a young carer is so they can provide the necessary support. Students should also be aware of what a young carer is so they can provide support to their peers. 

Providing emotional support 

Being a young carer can be an emotionally difficult and isolating experience. Many young people across the country are juggling being a carer with their social lives and educational responsibilities. This can have a significant impact on their mental health, and it is important to consider their wellbeing from a holistic lens.  

Schools should implement support and counselling services like Headucation, or groups for the young carers in their school. They should have at least one trusted, dedicated staff member who they can confide in and express themselves to.  

It is also worth setting up a club for the young carers in the school to meet up regularly, so they can find solace in individuals who are experiencing the same struggles as them and avoid being lonely. This is important for them, as many young carers often neglect their social lives, which can impact their mental health. Also, they can support each other emotionally and develop meaningful friendships, develop resilience and learn new skills.  

Academic support and flexible learning 

Young carers may often neglect their education due to their carer responsibilities. If teachers notice a decline or plateau in academic performance, it is important to provide academic support to help them through their challenges. This could include:  

  • Flexible deadlines and homework extensions 
  • Individualised learning plans 
  • Regular communication and check-ins 
  • Additional academic support and resources 
  • Homework clubs and study groups 
  • Academic mentoring 
  • Time management skills 
  • In-class support and accommodations 
  • Liaising with support services 
  • Celebrating achievements 

This can significantly help a young carer with their academic responsibilities. It is also important to have regular check-ins to keep up-to-date with their lives and tailor the support accordingly.  

Collaboration with carer support organisations 

It is important to recognise when your institution needs professional advice and guidance when it comes to supporting your carers. There are many organisations and charities that can support you and provide advice so you can take the right steps when providing a young carer with support.  

You could speak to your local council to find any local carer support organisations, and remain in consistent contact so they can keep up to date with your school, and you can keep your school’s wellbeing policy up to date.  

Providing respite and relaxation opportunities 

It is important to highlight the challenges young carers face and recognise their struggles. Where most young people finish school and go home to a place of relaxation, young carers may have a long list of duties that are waiting for them when they come home. Being constantly mentally and physically active can impact their mental wellbeing, leading to fatigue and exhaustion, compounded by the demands made of them emotionally by the adults in their care.  

It is important for schools to support the mental health and wellbeing of young carers, and provide the opportunity for respite and relaxation if they feel they are physically or mentally exhausted. Teachers should be trained to recognise signs of exhaustion and offer relaxation opportunities and mental health days.  

Young carers who need a break could be taken out of non-compulsory classes or provided with time to relax with a book in the library or take a peaceful walk on the playground with the supervision of a staff member. This can help them unwind and recuperate in time for their more important lessons.  

Young carers should also be taught how to practise self-care, prioritise their wellbeing and stress management techniques such as mindfulness practices, so that they can use it when they are at home. This ensures that they are looking after themselves and building resilience.  

Engaging with parents and guardians 

Schools should be in regular contact with the parents or guardians of young carers, and understand any home circumstances that could impact them, or raise a safeguarding concern if warranted. Regular contact allows for schools to tailor the support and care they offer each young carer to ensure they are making their lives as easy as possible.  

Schools should also regularly update parents or guardians on the support they are providing, and offer any resources or information to parents that can support the young carer.  

Addressing attendance and punctuality issues 

Young carers can often have a hard time being punctual or attending school. This can be due to their carer responsibilities overtaking their time, or their exhaustion from an irregular sleep schedule due to nights of caring. 

Schools should implement strategies to address attendance and punctuality challenges some young carers may have. They should also do welfare checks on any absences to ensure the child is okay, and offer any support, or raise a safeguarding concern if appropriate. If a child is absent frequently, entice them to come to school by offering relaxed learning techniques, as they may not realise they need a break from being at home.  

Evaluation and continuous improvement 

Schools should regularly reflect on the effectiveness of their support strategies and implement any necessary changes or alterations if aspects of the strategies aren’t working as effectively as they should. 

Collecting feedback from young carers within the school will allow schools to adapt accordingly and implement necessary changes, ultimately supporting the wellbeing and educational needs of the young carers.  

Celebrating and recognising young carers 

This carers week, celebrate and recognise the achievements, resilience and challenges young carers face. It is important to recognise their contributions and selflessness as they care for their families and communities.  

Recognition of the contributions they make can uplift their spirits, boost their self-esteem and make them feel valued by their community.  

  

Shawmind has a mission to improve children and teen’s mental health across the nation. We provide early intervention to prevent a further mental health crisis in the next generation. If you want to support Headucation, please donate or choose to do one of our mental health courses. Alternatively, you can book Headucation for your school.  

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Step into Mental Fitness: Celebrating National Walking Month

It’s National Walking Month! As part of mental health awareness to boost the mental health of people across the nation, we want to highlight the mental health benefits of walking, 

Did you know? Studies show that there is an 18% reduction in depression amongst adults who get just HALF of the daily recommended physical activity.  

 

This blogpost will discuss: 

  • The benefits of walking for mental wellbeing 
  • How to fit walking into your routine 
  • How to get kids involved in walking 
  • How to practise mindfulness when walking  

 

Benefits of walking for mental health 

You might know walking as good for your physical health, but did you know it has many mental health benefits too? Here are some of the mental health benefits of walking you can benefit from this National Walking Month: 

Reduced risk of depression and anxiety 

Many studies have shown that there is a strong link between exercise, walking and a reduction in anxiety and depression. It is important that we get regular fresh air exercise on a daily basis to prevent depression and anxiety.  

Improved sleep 

Studies have shown how there is a strong link between sleep and exercise. Those who exercise on a daily basis tend to get better quality sleep throughout the night. This has a positive impact on both physical and mental health by reducing negative moods and promoting overall well-being. 

Stress reduction  

Exercise and walking releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals, which can help reduce stress. Also, walking in nature can be relaxing and calming, especially if you practise mindfulness, which can reduce stress and make you feel energised.  

Increased self esteem 

Walking can make you feel really good about yourself! When you set a goal to walk every day, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement, which can boost your self-esteem. Also, walking is the perfect opportunity to self-reflect and practice gratitude.  

Improved cognitive function 

Walking is good for the brain! Studies show that those who walk regularly have improved memory and a reduced risk of cognitive decline such as dementia. John D. Omura a et al conducted a study which found that cognitive decline is almost twice as common among adults who are inactive compared to those who are active. 

 

How to fit walking into your routine 

Start small 

Some people can walk marathons, and some can just walk around the park. Either way, it’s best to start with what you feel comfortable with. Stick with what you can do, if you push yourself too much you might give up! 

Set realistic goals 

It’s good to set goals, but make sure they’re realistic. If you struggle making time for walking, start by setting a goal of only walking on weekends, or only walking to work on warm days! This way, you won’t get put-off by your goals. Whatever your goals are, make sure they work for you and your lifestyle.  

Incorporate walking into your daily routine 

We all have busy lives and packed schedules, so rather than working your routine around walking, try working walking into your routine. Rather than driving to the shops, you could walk. You could walk to pick the kids up from school, walk the dog, walk during your lunch break or even walk to work.  

Walk with a friend or group 

If you’re dealing with loneliness, walking with a group, friends or family can be a great way to combat loneliness and boost your mental health and wellbeing. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to people you know and ask if they want to go on a walk. Alternatively, find walking groups in your community, you could ask your local Facebook group if anyone wants to start one! 

Listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks 

Walking can be the perfect time to get some ‘me time’. We all like a little bit of time to ourselves, so be sure to listen to your favourite music, podcasts or audiobooks. This can make you feel more motivated to walk and enjoy the time you spend on your walks.  

Explore New Areas 

Walking the same route can get a tad boring! Make sure to switch it up by exploring new neighbourhoods and parks in your area. Remember to be safe and take a friend with you! 

 

How to get kids involved with walking 

Set a good example 

Parenting starts with setting a good example! If you show your child that you enjoy walking and walk regularly, they will see it as a fun activity. This way, they will want to incorporate it in their lives, even when they are older. 

Establish walking in their routine 

Whether you want to walk to school, walk after school or walk after dinner, it is important to make walking a normal part of your child’s routine.  

Music or dance walk 

Pick a safe and suitable location, such as a forest trail or a park, and put some of yours and your child’s favourite dance songs. Now it’s time to have a little boogie along your walk! This can make walking more fun and enjoyable.  

Walking challenges 

Children love a little bit of competition. If you give them a walking challenge, they will feel motivated to hit their targets. You can set them a goal of 2000 steps a day to start with. 

Mindful walks  

Mindfulness is a great practice for children, and what better time to practise mindfulness than on a pleasant walk. There are so many sensory experiences to soak in, and walking is the perfect time to reflect and be in tune with your body.  

Make walking fun! 

Here are a few things you can do with your kids to make walking more fun: 

  • Play ‘I Spy’ or a scavenger hunt 
  • Play follow the leader 
  • Bring friends along 
  • Get them to photograph their surroundings 
  • Bring snacks 
  • Find an item from each colour of the rainbow 
  • Stop at local monument to learn about local history 
  • Teach them about nature 

 

How to practise mindfulness on walks 

Mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, improve cognitive function and increase our overall mental health. Here are a few ways you can practise mindfulness on your walks: 

  • Pay attention to your senses, focus on what you can see, feel, smell, touch and hear. 
  • Take slow, deep breaths. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. 
  • Walk slow and deliberately, paying attention to each step you take. 
  • Focus on the present moment. 
  • Practice gratitude. 

 

Shawmind has a mission to improve mental health across the nation. We want to provide early intervention to prevent a further mental health crisis. If you want to support our mission, please donate or choose to do one of our mental health courses 

 

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How Stress Impacts Your Overall Wellbeing

We all experience stress at some point in our lives. Although some stressful periods can come and go, it is important to consider that excessive stress can have an impact on our overall well-being.

In 2018, 74% of adults in the UK felt ‘unable to cope’ from high levels of stress. During this Stress Awareness Month, as part of our mental health awareness aim, we want to raise awareness about the impacts of stress.

We’ll be discussing the long term and short-term effects of stress, as well as some signs you should consider which indicate you are experiencing stress.

What are the short-term effects of stress?

Body aches

Excessive tension in our body can lead to stress headaches, also known as tension headaches. Some individuals experiencing stress may also get stomach aches and muscle aches.

Although painkillers can relieve the discomfort, the only way to properly cure these issues is to destress.

Poor sleep quality

During periods of stress, our brains are overworked and we may be constantly thinking about the stressors in our lives. Unfortunately, this can negatively impact the quality of sleep that we get. We may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Quality sleep is one of the most important things for our physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can lead to a number of complications.

Mood fluctuations

Stress can impact our mood. We may experience a range of negative emotions along with stress. This includes anxiety, sadness, irritability, anger and even depression.

Difficulty thinking straight

Stress can negatively impact our cognitive function. When we’re stressed, a large portion of our thinking capacity is focused on our stressors. During periods of high stress levels, we can find it difficult to remember things, concentrate or make decisions.

Decreased immunity

Stress can impact our immunity, meaning we are more likely to contract viruses and infections. Fighting off any illness may take longer than usual due to the low immunity.

What are the long term effects of stress?

Cardiovascular diseases

Stress can increase blood pressure which can cause an individual’s heart to work overtime. Over a long period of time, this can have detrimental impacts to a person’s cardiovascular health, leading to complications such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

Digestive issues

Stress releases hormones in the body that can cause our organs to function differently. Chronic stress can lead to issues such as IBS, stomach ulcers, acid reflux and more.

Reproductive complications

Stress can interfere with reproductive health through hormonal imbalances. An individual experiencing chronic stress can deal with fertility issues and menstrual irregularities.

Serious mental health issues

If left untreated, stress over long periods of time can lead to serious mental illnesses that can be more difficult to treat. Examples of this are depression, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders and more.

Obesity

Stress can increase the level of cortisol in the body, which can increase insulin resistance, which leads to high blood sugar levels and fat storage. Furthermore, many stressed people may overeat and under exercise which can lead to obesity.

Alezheimers

Prolonged stress can lead to cognitive decline which puts individuals at risk of developing Alezheimers.

What are two warning signs of stress?

It is important to pay attention to the warning signs of stress so you can address the issue before it becomes serious. If you spot these signs in your behaviour or someone else’s, it is time for a stress management intervention to improve mental health.

  • Body Pains
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgement.
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Isolating oneself
  • Procrastinating
  • Neglecting responsibilities.
  • Substance Abuse
  • Changes in social interaction

How to reduce stress

If you’re feeling stressed, it is important to tackle the issue and deal with the stress before it becomes too late and you experience some of the long term side effects. It is important to relieve stress early, so if you spot any of the above signs, it is time to prioritise your mental and physical health and get to the root of the problem.

A few things you can do to manage stress and boost your emotional health is to stay physically active, indulge in hobbies, socialise with friends and family and practice mindfulness.

Shawmind is an early intervention charity. We’re on a mission to improve mental health awareness. Our ‘Understanding Stress’ course can give you the skills and knowledge you need to manage stress.

As a charity, we rely on your donations to provide schools with mental health education. Please consider donating here.

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Why Stress Management is so Important

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and we will all experience it at some point. Although some forms of stress can work as healthy motivation, excessive and constant stress can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

In 2018, 74% of adults in the UK felt ‘unable to cope’ from high levels of stress. During this Stress Awareness Month, as part of our mental health awareness aim, we want to promote stress management as a method of improving your mental health.

If you’re experiencing stress, it can be difficult to understand how to manage it. We’ll be discussing stress management techniques and why stress management is important for a happier, healthier life.

How is stress defined?

Stress can be described as a psychophysiological response to both internal and external pressures, which negatively impacts the mental health of an individual. Stress can be an innate reaction to external factors, from relationship issues, financial complications, job-related pressures or an unstable home environment.

During stress, the body can undergo hormonal changes and have an increase in blood pressure, which can have physiological impacts. Stress can impact our health in many ways. While some forms of stress can act as a healthy form of motivation, excessive stress can be damaging to our mental and physical wellbeing.

The emotional impact of stress

Stress can impact our emotional wellbeing in many ways. Here are some side effects of stress:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Moody
  • Frustrated
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Demotivation
  • Panic
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Lack interest in activities once enjoyed

What are the benefits of stress management?

Improved physical health

Stress can cause physiological changes to the body. We may suffer from fatigue or break out in a rash because our bodies are telling us we need to take a break. Controlling stress levels can lead to an improved hormonal balance and better physical health.

Better mental health

Stress rarely comes alone. In fact, it typically brings a whole bunch of other mental health issues with it! Handling stress levels can improve your mood, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms and bring back your motivation.

Quality sleep

Stress can decrease the quality of our sleep significantly. Not only can we find it difficult to switch off when we feel stressed, but the sleep we do get can often be broken sleep. When you’re stressed, it can feel like no amount of sleep is ever enough. Stress management can decrease our stress levels and can improve the quality of sleep we get which is better for our overall mental and physical health.

Increased productivity

Stress can make us feel overwhelmed and can distract us from focusing on our daily duties. When you decrease stress levels, you will have a clearer mind and will possess more motivation to do things throughout the day.

Successful relationships

When we’re experiencing high levels of stress, we typically lack motivation to foster and maintain positive relationships with friends, family and partners. We can also become more withdrawn and less social.

Decreasing stress levels can make us approach relationships with a positive outlook and can increase our social motivation.

Better coping skills

Stress management can provide individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to manage stressful situations in the future and manage their emotions throughout their lives.

What are some stress management techniques

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a meditation practice that involves the individual being present in the moment and paying attention to their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgement. This includes techniques such as body scanning, mindful deep breathing and mindful eating.

Mindfulness can be incorporated into almost all daily activities, from mindful driving commutes to breathing.

Regular exercise

Exercising is essential for our overall wellbeing; however, the mental benefits of exercise are often overlooked. When we are physically active, we release endorphins into the body which can make you feel good and improve your mental health.

Participating in hobbies

When experiencing high levels of stress, we can often become demotivated to participate in any of our hobbies. However, taking time to experience the things we enjoy can lift our spirits, improve our emotional health and relieve stress.

Here are some ideas for stress relieving hobbies:

  • Yoga or meditation
  • Reading
  • Colouring or drawing
  • Knitting or crochet
  • Gardening
  • Cooking or baking
  • Walking or hiking
  • Listening to music
  • Writing
  • Playing a musical instrument

Time management

When we manage our time efficiently, we feel more confident in our day going to plan. We can tackle tasks in due time and find time for ourselves. We recommend creating a schedule and sticking to it so you stay organised and find time for rest and hobbies that you enjoy.

Social time

Spending time with friends and family members can help us feel more connected and supported. If you’re struggling with stress, it is important to speak to a trusted person in your life who could give you some personalised advice.

Take regular breaks

Overworking our minds and bodies can lead to increased stress levels. Taking regular breaks can give our minds a rest and decrease stress. Whether that break is a holiday, a walk in the park or time for a quick doodle, it will be sure to decrease stress levels.

Shawmind is an early intervention charity. We’re on a mission to improve mental health awareness. Our ‘Understanding Stress’ course can give you the skills and knowledge you need to manage stress.

As a charity, we rely on your donations to provide schools with mental health education. Please consider donating here.

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Breaking the Stigma: Menopause and Mental Health

Women’s mental health is a topic that deserves attention and support.

Mental health problems are common in society, with women being particularly vulnerable to certain mental health conditions due to genetics, hormones, anatomy, neurology and psychosocial structures.

Women go through various stages of life that can affect their mental health, and menopause is a major one of them that until now has received very little attention.

What is the Impact of Menopause on Women’s Mental Health?

Menopause is caused by hormonal changes which arise as a woman gets older – typically occurring between the ages of 44 and 55. The menopausal transition, known as the perimenopause stage, is marked by various physical and psychological changes. These changes place women at a greater risk of developing poor mental health.

Hormonal changes during menopause can cause a decrease in serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. This can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Mental disorders can also greatly affect women’s health as they approach menopause, and for those who already had mental health issues, menopause can exacerbate these conditions.

What are common mental health issues faced by women going through menopause?

1. Suicide

The onset age of the menopausal stage has been associated with increased suicide rates. Among women, death by suicide is most common among those in the 45-49 age demographic, with the second highest rate in females being between the ages of 50-54 years.

2. Perimenopausal Depression

A common mental health problem among women approaching menopause is perimenopausal depression, which has a broad range of symptoms that can impact mental health.

Symptoms of perimenopausal depression include:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Low energy
  • Irritability
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Issues with memory and concentration
  • Weight gain
  • A decrease in sexual interest
  • Paranoia

How can I improve my mental health during menopause?

Firstly, by reducing the stigma around menopause and women’s mental health in general, we can open up the conversation and make women feel less alone and more supported during this challenging time in their lives.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet, doing mindfulness exercises and exercising regularly can help to ease some menopausal symptoms.

There are also various medical and therapeutic treatments that you can talk to your doctor about if you feel these will help relieve some of the mental health impacts of menopause.

Everyone is different so always choose what is right for you.

The Women’s Mental Health Info Guide, provided for free by Shawmind, is an excellent resource for women seeking information on mental health.

The guide provides a wealth of information on the physical and psychological changes that women may experience during menopause and offers practical advice on how to manage mental health as a woman. Shawmind also provides tips for improving mental wellbeing through a variety of useful information guides, workshops and training courses.

Women’s Mental Health Support Services – Useful Contacts & Websites

Menopause Support Services

British Menopause Society https://thebms.org.uk

The Menopause Charity www.themenopausecharity.org

Women’s Mental Health Support Services

Wellbeing of Women www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk

Wish www.womenatwish.org.uk

Women’s Aid – Until Women and Children are Safe www.womensaid.org.uk

Agenda – Alliance for Women and Girls at Risk https://weareagenda.org/peer-support-programme

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How Sleep Can Improve Your Mental Health and Well-being

Although sleep is an often-overlooked aspect of maintaining good mental health, its importance is undeniable. Research shows around 75% of people with depression also show signs of insomnia. A lack of regular healthy sleep can have negative impacts on your mental health and well-being.

As part of our aim to increase mental health awareness, we want to discuss how sleep can improve your mental health, and what you can do if you feel you aren’t getting enough sleep.

How does mental health affect sleep?

Poor mental health can negatively impact your quality of sleep, and a lack of quality sleep can cause further mental health problems and worsen any existing mental health conditions.

These are a few mental health disorders that can impact sleep:

How does lack of sleep affect the brain?

Our brain needs sleep daily, and without regular, consistent, healthy sleep, we risk developing short-term and long-term negative effects that can impact our mental health and cognitive function.

Common short-term effects of lack of sleep include::

  • Memory difficulties
  • Concentration issues
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Anxiety
  • Weak immune system
  • Irritability

Over time you can develop long-term issues from lack of sleep. Studies show that prolonged lack of sleep can lead to changes in the brain, making you at risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and chronic depression.

Our bodies are in a state of healing as we sleep, our immune system needs sleep to work properly. With lack of sleep, your immune system is weakened, and you are at increased risk of developing physical illness. Sleep is responsible for regulating hormone balances in the body. A lack of sleep can lead to an imbalance of hormones in the brain which can impact our mood and cognitive function.

How can quality sleep improve mental health?

The mental health benefits of quality sleep are undeniable.

Here are some of the benefits you can experience by improving your sleep.:

1. Improved mood

Sleep deprivation can make you feel tired, moody, anxious, and irritable constantly. Improved sleep leads to improved mood, which improves your general mental health.

2. Improved cognitive function

Our brain relies on sleep for optimal performance. Getting enough healthy sleep can lead to increased cognitive function, improved memory, attention, and a better hormone balance, which means our bodies can function like they should!

3. Reduce risk of mental disorders

Improved sleep can lead to a decrease in risk of disorders such as anxiety and depression, which leads to a better quality of life.

4. Improved overall physical health

Our physical bodies rely on sleep to heal and function effectively. Without proper sleep, we can become unhealthy and reliant on unhealthy foods like energy drinks and sugary foods to function throughout the day. This can lead to a cycle of unhealthy behaviours.

Improved sleep can lead to an improvement in physical health, which can make us feel more positive and mentally healthy.

What are the causes of sleep problems and how can we improve them?

If you’re experiencing sleep issues, it is important to get to the root of the problem so you can understand what you need to do to rectify the issue.

Here are a few things that can cause problems with sleep:

Stress and anxiety

If you’re going through a stressful period in your life, perhaps from work or your personal life, you may find it difficult to fall asleep.

Tips: Try unwinding before bed, practice relaxation techniques and limit your screen time before bed. This can reduce anxiety levels.

If you want to learn more about anxiety and how to treat it, find out more with our anxiety course.

Poor sleep habits

Unhealthy sleep habits include:

  • Staying up late
  • Inconsistent sleep schedules
  • Consuming caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol before bed
  • Eating heavy or spicy meals before bedtime
  • Using electronic devices and social media before bed
  • Lack of bedtime routine

Tips: If your sleep routine involves any of the above, it may be the reason why you suffer from a lack of healthy sleep. Eliminate any poor habits and watch your sleep and mental health improve.

Medical conditions and medications

Some medical conditions such as allergies, chronic pain or sleep disorders can make it difficult to sleep. Similarly, certain medications can cause sleep problems.

Tip: Speak to your doctor about your sleep issues and for any advice they can give you.

Caffeine, alcohol, and poor diet

Your diet plays an important role for your mental health and your sleep. If you have a bad diet, it could be the cause of your sleep problems and this can in turn be impacting your mental health.

Tips: Keep a balanced diet by reducing your junk food, caffeine and alcohol intake to improve your sleep, physical health and mental health.

How much sleep is important for mental health?

The amount of sleep we need changes throughout our lives. It is important that all ages get the sleep they need to maintain good mental health.

Here are the amount of hours of sleep recommended for each year of age:

  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
  • 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
  • 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
  • 65+ years: 7-8 hours

If you want to learn more about mental health, enrol on one of our mental health courses today.

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We Need to Pay Attention to Women’s Mental Health

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges that women face in terms of their mental health.

Women’s mental health is an issue that needs to be talked about more openly and addressed with more care. Societal expectations, gender discrimination, and various forms of violence against women, including sexual assault and domestic violence, can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Women generally react very differently to men in such circumstances, and that’s why it’s crucial to have an honest conversation about women’s mental health and find ways to support and empower women in addressing these challenges.

Why is Women’s Mental Health Important?

Mental health issues affect everyone, but women are three times more likely than men to experience common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, self harm and suicidal ideation.

This is partly due to the social and economic factors that disproportionately affect women, such as gender discrimination, gender-based violence, and poverty. Women are also more likely to experience some types of traumas, such as sexual and physical assault and repeated domestic violence, which can lead to mental health problems.

There is still a stigma surrounding mental health that prevents many women from seeking help. By paying attention to women’s mental health, increasing mental health awareness and normalising conversation about mental health and wellness, we can break down these barriers and ensure that all women have access to the information, support and care they need.

What Are Signs of Mental Ill health in Women?

Mental ill health can manifest in many different ways, but there are some common signs and symptoms that women should look out for.

Signs of potential mental ill health in women are:

  1. Changes in mood: Women with poor or deteriorating mental health may experience sudden and extreme changes in their mood, such as feeling sad or irritable for no apparent reason.
  2. Changes in behaviour: They may also exhibit changes in their behaviour, such as withdrawing from friends and family, engaging in risky behaviours, or neglecting personal hygiene.
  3. Physical symptoms: Some mental health conditions can also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and stomach problems.
  4. Difficulty coping with daily life: They may find it difficult to perform everyday tasks, such as going to work or caring for their families.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.

How We Can Increase Mental Health Awareness Among Women?

Here are some ways we can do this:

  1. Encourage open conversation: By talking openly about mental health, we can reduce the stigma surrounding it and encourage women to seek help when they need it.
  2. Educate women about mental health: Providing women with information about mental health and how to recognize the signs of mental ill health can help them identify problems early and seek treatment. If you want to learn more about a couple of the most common mental health challenges, we recommend starting with our Understanding Depression and Understanding Anxiety courses.
  3. Increase access to mental health services: Governments and healthcare providers should work to make mental health services more accessible and affordable for all women.
  4. Advocate for policy change: We need to advocate for policies that address the root causes of mental illness in women, such as gender discrimination and poverty.

What Can You Do To Support Women’s Mental Health?

This Women’s History Month, let’s start the conversation and raise awareness of women’s mental health. By doing so, we can ensure that all women have access to the care they need and reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health. Let’s work together to support women’s mental health and create a world where everyone can thrive.

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