Autumn tips from WAY members

October 2020

For World Mental Health Day, WAY members poured out some fantastic advice to help others with the night’s drawing in and getting through the Autumn nights while grieving.

Members shared practical advice about lighting on timers, radio or podcasts to ease the feeling of loneliness as well as being easy on yourself, setting projects and how yoga or exercise has helped them.

Dave shares, ‘Talk to us.’ …which members agreed was amazing advice! 

Kate shares, ‘Having passive infrared (motion activated) light in the porch gives me lots of confidence coming home plus lights on timers. Once home radio 4, world service (overnight) or audiobooks or podcasts give human voice which make the silence less loud. Heated fleecy throw very comforting when on the sofa.’

Adrian shares, ‘Beat each day as it arrives. Don’t overthink about tomorrow. Plan each week loosely with what needs to be done and have that valuable "me" time. It could be a hot bath. Bingeing on Netflix or a glass of wine, but reward yourself for the day. Keep in contact with friends and family, even if it’s to talk rubbish. Small but regular steps. This one works for me, not everybody, but try to leave your comfort zone at least once a month. Do something new or shop in a different town? Good luck.’

Irene shares, ‘Lights on timer and radio on so when you come in there is light and noise.’

Andrea shares, ‘An electric blanket so the bed is always warm when you get in at night. Also good for back pain.’

Rebecca shares,  ‘Try not to spend more time than is necessary (for example, to check on the local rules for your area) watching or reading the news - spending lots of time reading about the pandemic tends to increase anxiety levels. For your own safety and that of those around you, you need to be aware of what's happening. But not obsessed by it.

Suzanne shares, ‘Replace lightbulbs with bright LED daylight bulbs - the broad spectrum light can be good for your mood and you will save money on your electricity bills

Sophie shares, ‘Write a daily list of things to do, I aim for three on a difficult day. Get up, dressed and eat regularly, even if little and often. Go outside if you can in the morning. Treat yourself, even something small such as a drink in your favourite mug, etc. Exercise, yoga, meditation may help.’

Rebecca shares, ‘To have a buddy. Someone you can contact any time of day.’

Gina shares, ‘Just have to try and stay positive. We are safe, feed, have each other. Just focus on the day ahead. No further than that.’

Tadhg shares, ‘Leave radio or podcasts running in the house. Even if it’s in another room, the sound of another human’s voice filling the silence helped me a lot.’

Lucy shares, ‘With Tay dying in September, I knew the nights were drawing in. Helpfully, due to the WOC page (Widowed and Young without children) someone suggested WiFi lightbulbs and I’ve never looked back. I connect them to my google hub and put them on timers. It ironically makes me feel like someone’s home when they’re not.’

Natalie shares, ‘Be kind to yourself, don't beat yourself up for the things you couldn't do, congratulate yourself on making it through another day, if you wouldn't say it to a friend don't say it to yourself. Sometimes you have to forget the housework and have a bubble bath/early night/binge watch Netflix whatever works for you, it isn't doing nothing it is taking care of yourself and is important, more now than ever.

Ros shares, ‘Limit how much news you listen to or read. Take breaks from social media. Use that time instead to read a book, listen to some music or a church service - whatever it is that will give your busy mind a break and give you a few moments peace.

Barrie shares, ‘I purchased a weighted blanket. It does help.’

Erika shares, ‘Don’t have any expectations of what you think you should be doing. Go with your mood that day and if that means staying in bed all day then that’s ok. Mark died a few weeks before lockdown. I had a house full of support and it was so helpful. Lockdown happened and my world fell apart again. A friend bought me some speakers to put around the house so I could stream the radio in a couple of rooms. It brought the house alive again. Nothing is going to stop the pain of grief but the little things give that little bit of distraction.

Richard shares, ‘I find it useful to have a project to work on it keeps my mind occupied and it feels good when I finish something.’

Sarah shares, ‘Keep some background noise on, radio, TV, podcast etc. I find doing some exercise tends to lift my mood, I find if I’m feeling really lonely if I go and run I feel much better after. Also if you want to sit in bed and eat chocolate and it makes you feel it! Just be kind to yourself and accept how you’re feeling, don’t berate yourself for feeling sad or down. The most important one is to reach out people in WAY, as they understand.’

Steven shares, ‘To give myself a break from my thoughts and worries I take time to practice mindfulness and do a daily body scan

Sarah shares, ‘Make soup - you can bung a ton of veg in, whichever herbs and spices you like, stock - it's cheap but gets healthy food in you without having to think about it, even if you don't always feel like eating - nothing like comfort food that's not total crap (even if to balance out the total crap in my case!). Also if you are COVID -comfortable and able to, I found a massage really helped. I missed touch after Steve died (a 6 year old poking me for attention doesn't count) and I was carrying more tension than I realised. Not physically hurting as well as emotionally hurting made such a difference and taking an hour out of the life I didn't choose to be present in a moment was a gift to myself.

Karen shares, ‘I’m a big advocate of gratitude. Even in the darkest depths of grief just finding one little thing to be grateful for can make a positive impact on your day. Be it the sunshine or the rain, a meal you can eat, a child’s smile or just getting through the day. It is a fantastic habit to adopt and something to cling to when everything else seems to be so negative.’

Sabine shares, ‘Gratitude appears to reduce stress. I find it very helpful, too, before going to sleep.’

Chic shares, ‘Very daft and basic thing but look at a weather app for your location every night before bed and get to know when sun down and sunrise is. You can’t control the dark, but you can get out in the daylight.’

Lucy shares, ‘Buy an electric blanket so both sides of your bed is nice and warm.’

Suzanne shares, ‘Have lights on timers so they are on when you get home. Have the radio on a timer as well if you don't want to come back to a quiet house.’

Jess shares, ‘I would like to line up some little projects for the longer evenings. eg, sewing, drawing, making a memory box, learning how to quilt. Also Andrew and I used to like running under the cold cover of winter darkness so we didn’t get recognised all red faced and out of breath, I’m not likely to do this one but it’s has it benefits, some may enjoy it. I also find a hot water bottle is essential through the Autumn and winter.’

Ruth shares, ‘Try to leave the house every day, even if it’s just for a walk around the block.’

Elizabeth shares, ‘If you can't eat proper meals, a cup of hot chocolate (made with milk) and a banana is a good substitute.’

Furzana shares, ‘Stock up on things like Lemsip ; it is totally miserable when you’re a bit unwell and no one to help so having these things in the house is a real bonus if you ever need them. Also = Brighten your space - good lighting and cheerful things to look at even if you feel shit inside, these thing do help.

Try to go out but if you don't want to or cannot, find little things that will keep you distracted, drawing, TV, radio, books , sewing etc.

Try to get some exercise in even if that is jogging on the spot indoor for 5 mins - little goals make you feel good and more positive when you achieve them.

Plan things but don't do them, pick a time sometime in the future e.g. Next year I will try to do X (things you can look forward to).

Most importantly - Reach Out - talk to fellow WAY members and use the helpline when you feel confused, alone, or need practical help.’

Sabine shares, ‘Reduce stress in any way you can - for example by doing 10 deep breaths when getting up and again before every meal.

Get as much variety into your meals as possible for adequate fibre intake - for example by 'Eating a rainbow' - as in blended soups, stews, stir-fries, omelette, curries, risotto, quiches.

Have an Epsom salt (foot) bath 3-4 x week for extra magnesium to help relax your whole body.

Drink enough (6-8 glasses of warm fluids, nothing cold). Don't overdrink, either. Watch out for signs of dryness to check fluid levels.

Make sure you connect with at least 1 person every day.

Check your vitamin D levels (optimum levels are between 100-150nmol/l): important to prevent depression and reduce anxiety (just like magnesium, omega-3 and fibre) and many more things.

Sarah shares, ‘Start a notebook. Brain dump your anxieties. Write to yourself. Divide it up, 4 sections per page... One page a day, start with 4 sentences, if this is all you can manage:

1) Can control

2) Can't control

3) Must do to make tomorrow safe/easier

4) Something definite which is new/ to plan towards, to look forward to, to grow... to do today as a reward, to acknowledge your future self.

Dispense with thoughts beginning 'could, should, perhaps, might and maybe'... They will resurface if needed and when the time is right. Action those 'musts' and 'will dos'… Ignore the can't controls or action removing them.

If you begin today, no matter COVID, no matter grief, no matter the surreal, you'll be looking back at the positive things you have achieved, you'll be thinking "by this time next year..." in a more favourable way.

If you don't manage this at first (and keep the notebook for progress) keep going... You'll be proud of the progress you make.

Dave shares, ‘Hot chocolate and cake. Lots of cake!’