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Let's talk: Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness week (18-24th May 2020).

It couldn't have come at a more significant time, with Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown having a knock on effect on the mindfulness of many.

While many of us are able to go for long walks and safely connect with friends and loved ones through social media or in person, there are sadly too many people for whom this just isn't possible. This can lead to people feeling incredibly isolated and lonely. For those living in rural areas, this is something all too common.

The everyday activities many of us carry out, which help to keep our heads clear & focused like working in the office, going shopping, heading to a social club or visiting the local pub are now not an option. For those struggling with mental health, this barrier and not knowing when we'll be able to return to normal, can be difficult to come to terms with.

The Prime Minister's most recent announcement offered a ray of hope when he confirmed we would now be able to do as much outside exercise as we wanted and that it would now be possible to meet with friends on walks, providing social distancing measures are followed. Find out more about what the latest guidance means for countryside activities here, via our Covid-19 hub.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, our Head of Press, talks about mental health following the Covid-19 lockdown

"The sudden restrictions to our everyday lives have been difficult for all of us. Every one of us is different and we will each be dealing with the lockdown in our own way. The aim of Mental Health Awareness Week is to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all.

I have been following a few really useful tips from the Mental Health Foundation, which have helped me greatly. I'm keen to share these with anyone interested. They have certainly gone a good way to getting me through these uncertain and often difficult times.

  1. Planning the day

I am so fortunate to be working in a job I love. However, I am used to working in an office with a team of people. With this comes comradery and friendships. It also provides routine and gets me out of bed at a decent hour. Showering, putting on freshly clean clothes, as well as walking to the office to get in for 9am, form such a crucial collection of activities which I failed to appreciate at the time. With the office closing, there have been mornings when I just don't want to get up. Or when I do, I haven't wanted to get out of my pyjamas, hoping instead to lounge about all day. In reality though, this is not productive and can leave me feeling low. Sure, it's ok every now and then after a busy week of work, but it shouldn't form part of a daily cycle. Instead, I've been setting a daily alarm for 7:30 am, doing a 20-30 minute workout ( I seriously recommend Joe Wicks) then freshening up and sitting at my desk. At lunch, I knock up a healthy salad, go for a walk around the block and then come back to continue working.

When the day ends I do a really quick yoga session (I was a big sceptic for a long time, but the benefits of taking just 20 minutes to reflect and calm down before bed are overwhelmingly positive). After cooking a dinner and eating at the same time roughly every night, I switch on the TV and watch something before heading to bed at a reasonable time. I also turn my phone off, to ensure I'm not distracted. The weekends are less routine focused and involve much more walking, relaxing and reading. Conducting video calls with friends and family has also been such a relief.

  1. Moving more every day

I am one of those people that doesn't like exercise. Before lockdown, I'd just started to get into fencing but sadly this was stopped. So that, along with my walk to and from work on a daily basis meant I was left with nothing. After some nudging, I took up fitness videos in the front room. The benefits of even the smallest bit of exercise have amazing results for the mind, let alone the waistline. After 20 minutes of shouting at the television and groaning during one of the hundreds of workouts on Youtube, I feel like I'm ready to take on the world again. Walks around the neighbourhood, sometimes twice a day, are also a major stress reliever and help me mentally manage any concerns I am having.

  1. Connect with others

While I am enjoying relative peace, I would be lying if I said I'm not struggling with the lack of human contact. I love my friends and probably took our precious time together for granted, before the lockdown. Setting up video conferencing programmes like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or just facebook or phone calls has meant friends and family never feel so far away. Sometimes there's a purpose for the calls (like a group quiz) while at other times, it's just to check in on one another. The benefits of just talking about every day basics, however mundane, are great.

While, this is how I cope, I can totally appreciate it can't be undertaken by everyone.

The Government has launched a major effort to tackle loneliness during the coronavirus outbreak and period of social distancing. The plan will aim to ensure that, for people of all ages and backgrounds, staying at home does not need to lead to loneliness.

The excellent team at the Campaign to End Loneliness has a massive range of helpful tools, for those struggling with isolation. Please click here to find out more.

Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress and struggling to cope. The Samaritans' new free helpline number is 116 123.

Last year, I had the opportunity to speak with Tir Dewi, a Welsh based mental health charity that are working on the front-line to help farmers that are suffering from mental health related problems. They are predominantly made up of volunteers.

Bovine TB; financial pressure; uncertainty around Brexit; excess paperwork and administration and farm inspections are just some of the issues facing Farmers daily. When these all add up, it can all become too much.

Check out my interview with Gareth Davies of Tir Dewi here for the Farmers Guardian. "

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