We’ve all sadly spent the first full week of a new year in lockdown – hardly the way we all hoped to start 2021.
This third, and what could be the most difficult lockdown yet, is proving to be extremely challenging for many, with the added pressure of home-schooling, dark nights and the cold weather snap. Cheshire East Council is advising residents of the importance of looking after their mental health during this difficult time.
There has been growing concern about rising infection rates, a new, more contagious strain of the virus and mounting pressures on our local NHS services. All these pressures and concerns have been realised as we face lockdown restrictions once again.
Many people may be feeling burned-out and tired with the ongoing restrictions, with the added gloom that January can bring due to the anti-climax and financial fall out of Christmas, so it’s more important than ever to look after your mental health during a challenging time for many people and their families.
Dr Matt Tyrer, director of public health for Cheshire East Council, said: “Winter is the time of year that many of us experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – this is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Symptoms can include a persistent low mood, irritability, feelings of despair and worthlessness and lacking energy.
“This winter has the added challenge of Covid-19 restrictions, which for many people, may add to experiences of SAD or result in some people experiencing this winter depression for the first time.
“Last year taught us all that mental health is so important and has enabled many people to reach out to others, whichever way they have been affected by the pandemic – such as losing a loved one, losing their job, financial concerns and feelings of loneliness and isolation.
“We must all continue to speak to others and seek help from specialist organisations if we need to. There are a range of support groups and organisations, which will be open and running throughout the national lockdown. For details, visit: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/livewell/health-matters/health-conditions/mental-health/mental-health.aspx.”
Councillor Jill Rhodes, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for public health and corporates services, said: “Now more than ever we must take care of ourselves and each other. Let’s not forget the sense of togetherness that the first lockdown last year brought and go back to the virtual ways of communicating that we learnt.
“Take time to check in on friends and loved ones via a phone or video call, write and post a letter or card to brighten someone’s day and show that you’re thinking of them.”
Cheshire East Council appointed two mental health champions, Councillor Sally Handley and Councillor Jonathan Parry last year, to help combat the distress and anxiety many people are feeling during this uncertain time.
Councillor Sally Handley said: “We know many residents enjoyed spending time with family or friends during the Christmas day measures relaxation.
“Sadly, this was short-lived, and we must now adhere to the strictest restrictions of not mixing with other households and staying at home. This is difficult for many of us, who enjoy and thrive on the company of others.”
Councillor Jonathan Parry said: “We all need to stay indoors, work from home where possible, not mix with another household apart from a support or childcare bubble and only shop for essentials such as food and medicines.
“It’s important that we all take care of our mental wellbeing during this time and check-in on friends and relatives, who may need our support.”
Ideas to protect and support mental health are:
● Have a routine and set short-term goals – plan regular calls/video calls with friends and relatives and make time for regular breaks if working from home and/or home-schooling;
● Plan leisure time and exercise for you and the family – wrap up warm and head outside for a winter walk, discover online exercise classes, compile a reading list and set yourself a challenge, plan themed movie nights in and learn a new skill or rediscover an old one, such as baking;
● Look at your sleeping habits – sleep is essential for our mental health, so keep track of how many hours sleep you get and practice good habits before bedtime to help you relax and unwind such as having a hot bath and a warm milky drink;
● Look at your eating habits – dark winter nights call for comfort food but excessing can leave you feeling sluggish and affect your mental health. Enjoy a balanced diet packed with plenty of energy and mood-boosting foods such as fruit and foods rich in vitamin C and;
● Reach out for help as early as possible – seek help with things like debt, finances or practical support with shopping for food or medicines. Worrying about these will have a negative effect on your mental health.
Children and young people may be finding home-schooling and online learning away from their friends particularly difficult or be struggling with the work set. For help and support with this, please contact your child’s school or college.
If any children or young people are feeling low, they are urged to speak to their parents, carers, teacher or support worker. There are also a whole host of ways that the council can support them.
Places to access help are also available on the children’s pages on the council’s live well section of their website, https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/livewell/livewell.aspx
For further help and advice on mental wellbeing, including information on local support services, visit: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/livewell/health-matters/health-conditions/mental-health/mental-health.aspx
For details on how Cheshire East Council can help with money worries or for information on debt charities such as the National Debt Line and Age UK, visit: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/housing/housing_options/housing_options_advice/money_matters.aspx
If you or someone you know need support from our People Helping People scheme, please visit: https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/council_information/coronavirus/cheshire-east-people-helping-people.aspx
Residents can help friends and neighbours, who do not have internet access, by downloading and printing off information from the website and giving it to them.
For more advice and information follow the council’s social media pages, visit their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/cheshireeastcouncil and Twitter at: @CheshireEast