People living in Greater Cumbernauld struggling with their mental health are being encouraged to access a range of online resources and support through visiting a new website launched by NHS Lanarkshire.
Lanarkshire Mind Matters, an innovative digital platform managed by NHS Lanarkshire’s Psychological Services, aims to connect adults aged 18 and over to evidence-based mental health information, advice and help. It is designed to assist those facing mental health challenges ranging from mild stresses right through to complex and long-term difficulties.
The website, which can be accessed by visiting www.lanarkshiremindmatters.scot.nhs.uk, includes computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and four self-referral modules, focusing on resilience, sleep, stress and the pressures of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It also contains links to self-help resources for issues such as anxiety, depression and panic, plus free online courses and information about how to maintain mental and physical wellbeing.
Initially launched in November 2020, more resources are continually being developed and added to the site. The portal will evolve and be updated as part of a wider move to provide accessible online services during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Clinical Psychologist Dr Simon Stuart, who has led the development of Lanarkshire Mind Matters, commented:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on what all services are able to offer people. Even something as simple as visiting a Health Centre has become more challenging.
“NHS Lanarkshire’s Psychological Services were already exploring ways of improving access to resources. The pandemic has brought home how important this is.
“None of this is about replacing what we already do, rather, it is about adding to it. The plan is to keep developing the website as a way of providing high quality information and self-help whenever people need it.” Dr Gary Tanner, Director of Psychological Services for NHS Lanarkshire, added:
“NHS Lanarkshire is committed to developing a range of digital services and Lanarkshire Mind Matters is a key aspect of this.
“We are working on a range of new resources and will ensure that all GPs in Lanarkshire are kept up to date with what is available.”
NHS Lanarkshire Psychological Services offers a range of provisions for a range of needs. It strives to help people with all kinds of mental health problems, seeking to improve Lanarkshire’s psychological wellbeing and to make a positive difference to people’s lives.
Whilst the Service provides one-to-one therapy, it also recognises that therapy isn’t always the most useful option and that there are lots of other tools that can help people with their mental health. The Lanarkshire Mind Matters website is just one of these facets.
Those with comments or feedback in relation to the new website can contact Lanarkshire Mind Matters by emailing email@example.com, although it is noted that referrals to NHS Lanarkshire Psychological Services cannot be submitted this way. Instead, referrals can be requested through contacting your GP.
Meanwhile, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub has compiled the below self-help tips to assist those feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
TIPS TO HELP EASE ANXIETY ARISING FROM CORONAVIRUS AND LOCKDOWN
Acknowledge Your Anxiety
People deal with anxiety in ways that range from harmless to harmful – from binge-watching television to comfort eating and alcohol. But the commonality is that these are ways of avoiding dealing with it.
One simple but sometimes challenging step that those concerned can take is to acknowledge that they are anxious rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet or pretend otherwise. A way of doing this is to keep in mind that anxiety is a normal human reaction to a perceived danger or threat, and that it is something we all experience at some time or other.
Viewing anxiety as a set of feelings, thoughts and emotions rather than something defining to you or your life can be a helpful approach for many. When feeling anxious or burdened, try to remember that feelings come and go and that they will pass.
It’s a complete untruth to think that acknowledging anxiety is a cause for shame or a sign of weakness in any way. In actual fact, the opposite is true. Recognising and admitting your anxiety is a courageous thing to do and shows real character and strength.
Schedule ‘Worry Time’
If the worry gets overwhelming, one technique that can help is giving yourself set-aside ‘worry time’, where you aim to put worry aside to just a set time of the day. To help with this, pick a time of the day where you are generally calmer and more at ease with things. For example, if you know morning is a bad time for your worry, it might be better to pick a time in the afternoon or evening.
This might seem counterintuitive, but it can actually help reduce worrying. Setting a daily half-hour ‘worry period’ often helps a person to stay in the present moment the rest of the day. During the allotted slot, it is a good idea to distinguish between worries over which you have little or no control, and worries about problems you can influence. Remember that some of the worries relating to coronavirus are ones of which we have little or no control over.
One way of switching off out with your ‘worry period’ can be to use worry strips. This involves getting a pen and paper, and when a worrying thought enters your mind write down what you’re worrying about. Then remind yourself that you don’t need to worry about this now as you have set aside time later or the next day to think about that.
If sleep is a problem, it can be particularly helpful to keep some worry strips on a bedside cabinet at night. If a worrying thought is keeping you awake, write it down and then rest in the knowledge that you have recorded the thought and will deal with it the next day.
Limiting daily news consumption may be also wise. If you’re concerned over what’s happening or you’re unable to concentrate on anything other than the risk of coronavirus, you should probably consider lowering your dose of media to once a day. Reducing your time looking at social media posts can help too.
Reframe the Situation
It can be understandable for many in lockdown and self-isolation to view the current situation as being ‘stuck inside’. Thinking this way, however true it may seem, can be an unhelpful mindset though and affect your mood.
Instead, how about thinking of this time as an indulgence in a long-awaited opportunity to slow down and focus on yourself and your home? For those who are employed with little holidays and high stress at work, this can be a time to disconnect and recharge your batteries.
Doing one productive thing per day can lead to a more positive attitude. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks, such as reorganising, being creative, meditating, practicing mindfulness or something else worthwhile that you enjoy at home but don’t normally get a chance to do.
Try New Things and Maintain Routine
With all the additional time spent not commuting or getting to places, a period of being home-based could be a time to do something special with new rituals. This could entail a walk first thing in the morning, starting a journal, or speaking to a family member every morning on the phone or FaceTime.
Having something focussed during this time will help you look forward to each new day. Also try to keep some form of positive routine if possible. On work and school days, you may find it purposeful to go to bed and get up at a similar time to when you normally would, for example.
Exercise is a classic anxiety reduction strategy. Lockdown can be very hard if you are someone who is used to being outdoors, taking part in sports or fitness, going to the gym or something else which gets you moving.
So how can you exercise when you are at home a lot? Instead of going to a fitness class, what about watching and following a fitness class on YouTube every other day? If you enjoy dancing, why not practice a little in the living room?!
Even tidying up, doing the housework or having a clear-out can involve quite a bit of movement and exercise without realising it. Keeping moving, even in a lesser way than normal, can undoubtedly release endorphins and help you feel better during times when you are able to go out much.
Small Acts of Altruism and Informal Volunteering
Helping others can give you a sense of purpose and control. Do you have an elderly or sick neighbour you can offer your services to? Maybe someone you know is unable to make it to the shops or to pick up a prescription under current restrictions. Perhaps you could offer to help out if you are physically well and in a position to?
The idea is to get out of the helpless zone if you can. Remember, all the people in your house, street and neighbourhood are in this daunting situation together, so try to be kind and understanding to others. You might not realise it, but by helping someone else in need, you will be helping yourself to feel good and to be able to cope better too.
Remember Physical Distancing is Not Isolation from People
It goes without saying, but loneliness is bad for humans. Self-isolation does not mean cutting yourself off from speaking with or contacting others for long periods at a time.
You might want to call your parents, kids or a friend every day. If you’re more of a techie, the digital age can be highly advantageous in such circumstances. Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp are all good ways of keeping in touch with others. If you’re not too good with technology, maybe there is a friend or family member you could ask to help you with this.
For example, if church is part of your weekly life, a number of churches in the Cumbernauld area, including Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, are providing regular contact and Sunday services via online streaming.
Access a Free Helpline or Support Service for Further Help
If you are finding that feelings of stress, anxiety and worry are overwhelming you or someone you know at this time, there are plenty of free telephone and online support services still operating during the coronavirus pandemic which can be accessed by people living in Cumbernauld.
For example, The Cumbernauld CHaT (Community Help and Talk) Service, which was launched in 2020 by Cornerstone House Centre to provide a range of free practical supports, interventions, advice giving and chat options for Cumbernauld citizens during the pandemic, is still fully operational at this time.
A telephone helpline, open from 9.00am-9.00pm every day, and email support service can be accessed free of charge through Cumbernauld CHaT. Independent of statutory agencies, the service aims to act as a first stop shop for advice, guidance, signposting, social contact and practical assistance for local people in need of help at this challenging time.