HOW can we help: Children's Mental Health Week
1-7th February is Children's Mental Health Week.
This year, more than any other, we are seeing more and more children really struggling.
Uncertainty, family stresses, financial worries at home, no school - then school - then no school, not seeing friends, no play dates, no birthday parties, no sport, no clubs, no swimming, no museums, being asked to keep away from friends in the park.
What can we do to help them now and in the months ahead?
What practical steps and ground work can we do now?
1. A little bit of routine
HOW can routines help our anxiety?
As adults make lots of decisions every day but so do our kids, especially teens.
What to wear, what to eat, what to do for the day, what piece of work to finish first.
If you have too many decisions to make then that this can increase anxiety
Try having some "certainty anchors” built into your day.
These are things that make parts of our day solid, anchored and unchanged.
This is harder at the moment without our normal days.
If you take time away from the need for a decision this can reduce the anxiety.
Bring some routine into our day, a little bit.
Routinise your morning and evening and then you can be more fluid during the day to do your school work.
Decide what you are going to wear, what work you are going to do first, maybe even what you are going to have for breakfast.
When you do go back to school, a bit of routine in your school day and you will reap the rewards for the rest of the day.
Not rushing out of the door while grabbing a piece of half buttered toast.
Reducing the number of decisions that are being made at these times reduces your anxiety.
It makes sense.
Nothing to loose.
2. Dealing with Panic
Excitement and anxiety are a similar response from the body: the flight or fight responses. The responses that have evolved from us running away from a sabre toothed tiger back in the day.
Try to reframe anxiety towards something into excitement... they are only very slightly different.
If your anxiety is more severe remember that a panic attack, should you get them, can last 20-25 mins only.
It is super hard but try not to get anxious about being anxious.
This feeds into a cycle of panic and anxiety and makes things a lot worse.
Try to sit it out with the knowledge that it is going to stop.
Breathe. Slowly and deeply, distracting yourself with some music, a book or an app like Calm or Headspace... or go to your List. (see below)
3. Write a list
Write a list of things that help you when you feel anxious or uncertain.
Things that make you happy and make you feel good about yourself.
This list will look different for us all.
Write it down and stick it on your wall or in your diary
reading a book
a certain playlist
going for a walk
sitting in the garden
playing with the dog
making a TikTok
baking a cake
doing a drawing
phoning a good friend
having a bath
playing computer games with your friends
sorting out your bedroom
When you are feeling really anxious about something then go to the LIST.
Choose something from your list and do that to try and bring your anxiety level down.
4. Control your scroll
Really, really, really try to get some control back over the information coming to you from Social Media. YOU are in control of your scrolling.
Here is the blog written by Jess Strange mountain biker and social media influencer with some practical advice.
5. Covid Uncertainty
Get reliable information from accredited sources only.
NOT from your Tiktok newsfeed
Watch Newsround rather than adult News
Don’t just scroll through your Instagram newsfeed for the latest news
Online support groups with chat options if want to talk to someone other than your parents
If you are worried about school remember everyone is in the same boat
The schools are working really hard to make things safe for you when you go back
It will take a while for everyone to readjust
The teachers are feeling exactly the same about it as you are
Try to stay calm and in control
If you don’t feel calm go to your list
Ask other people how they are feeling, you will find others feel the same
Look for your information from the right places
Basic hygiene still applies more than ever
WASH your hands
DON’T touch your face
Remember we are ALL in different situations at home and under different pressures
Be tolerant of others and the decisions their families are making
This will end, this will be time we will never forget, you are living through history
**HELP FOR PEOPLE STRUGGLING**
Try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member. You could also contact Samaritans, call: 116 123 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you need someone to talk to
SHOUT is a free, text service for people not coping 24/7
Know that this will pass calming breathing exercises
Exercise can be so helpful getting out in nature, running, walking, yoga you can do online for free. Adrienne is really good on You Tube.
Sleep routine is so important, no screens in rooms, no late night tea and coffee if you're struggling to sleep
Eat a balanced healthy diet as much as you can. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks and have regular meals to keep your energy levels stable
Consider peer support, where people use their experiences to help each other. There is a whole teen section on the MIND website
Listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides
Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps from the NHS apps library. Things like Headspace and Calm can really help
This blog was written by Dr Jo Watkins, Freelance GP and Co founder of The HOW People, with the help of advice from Professor Ann Maggs, Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry at Swansea University @profannjohn
HOW Inspire from The HOW People connects teenage girls between 11-16 yrs to role models, mentors, coaching and community in a unique and exciting digital membership platform.