Time to Talk Day: Let’s start a conversation

This Time to Talk Day, we share the latest data from Mind that reveals the impact the rising cost of living is having on our mental health

Today is Time to Talk Day, a campaign run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in partnership with the Co-op. It is the nation’s biggest mental health conversation, which has been getting people talking about mental wellbeing since 2014.

This year, Mind is taking a look at the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on our mental health. Data from their latest poll of 5,236 people revealed that more than one in three (36%) adults in the UK aged 16 and over don’t make space in their day to discuss mental health. This reflects 19.6 million over 16s. Additionally, nearly eight in 10 (78%) of those surveyed said that the cost of living is affecting their mental wellbeing. This increases to 94% for those living with an existing mental health problem.

The data also worryingly reveals that almost one in five (18%) of those asked felt that the cost of living decreased how often they spoke about their mental health. Nearly half said the reason for this is that they didn’t want to burden others as many people are struggling right now. This, combined with the lasting effects of the pandemic, is having an impact on the nation’s mental wellness.

The current economic crisis is thought to hinder our ability to continue with the day-to-day ways we usually look after our mental health. For example, of the 18% who said that the cost of living decreased the time they spoke about mental health, one in four said that couldn’t afford social activities that help them stay mentally well. One in four also said they were having to work more hours to balance out the economic uncertainty, meaning they have less free time to socialise.

Most shockingly of all, 16% said they simply cannot afford to contact their support people to have these conversations (whether that’s over the phone, texting, or on social media) highlighting the effects of digital poverty. Mind’s data shows growing concerns that these numbers are set to get worse.

Campaigns like Time to Talk Day are helping by providing advice and resources to spark a conversation around mental health. It’s a vital way to help build supportive communities and open up more conversations about our mental wellbeing.

How can I get involved?

There are a number of ways you can support Time to Talk Day and it can be as simple as checking in with a friend or sharing resources at work.

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With three in 10 people saying they would welcome tips to start a conversation, we’re sharing our top conversation starters.

Co-op is also supporting Time to Talk Day by raising over £8 million for Mind, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), and Inspire, helping to fund mental wellbeing services in over 50 local communities across the UK. Over 22,000 people have received support from the services so far. Why not try some fundraising in your local community?

Every conversation can change a life, so we’re asking you to join in and take a few minutes out of your day to talk and listen. Remember, talking can be virtual too!

Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “It’s vital we make space in the day for a conversation about mental health. Yet so many of us are finding that looking after our mental health has taken a back seat. Worryingly we fear stigma if we speak up, we can no longer afford to access the things or places that keep us mentally well, or we don’t want to be a burden on others. We know that talking about our mental health and listening to others about their experiences can help us feel less alone, more able to cope, and encouraged to seek support if we need to. That’s why it’s time to talk and to listen this Time to Talk Day.”

What can I do next?

Signposting your friend, family member, or colleague to further support can be really helpful, whether that’s going with them to their GP, sending them links to charities/local support groups, or encouraging them to seek private therapy.

For further help, we’ve put together a list of resources for supporting others:

How to support someone (without trying to fix them)How to support your friends without sacrificing your own mental healthMental health support: Where to get helpHow to look after yourself whilst waiting for NHS supportHow to help a friend with depressionHow to help your parents talk about their mental health

For information about Time to Talk Day, including tips on starting the conversation, visit timetotalkday.co.uk and follow the conversation on social media #TimeToTalk.

If you’re worried about the current cost of living, you can find out more about how to protect your money and mental health on Happiful.

Expert insight on what to eat and how to move through your menstrual cycle

Knowing how to nourish and support your body throughout your menstrual cycle could make the world of difference. Here, expert columnist Claudine Thornhill reveals how you can go with the natural flow of yours

Many aspects of a woman’s life are defined by cycles; nothing more so than her menstrual cycle. While the menstrual cycle can range from anywhere between every 21 to 35 days, there’s also a cycle within it, which, much like the moon phases and the seasons, is split into four phases. Many people have seen and felt the benefits of living and eating in sync with the natural rhythm of their cycles – want to try for yourself? Here I’ll break down why and how to do it.

The menstrual phase

Assuming day one is the first day of your period, this phase happens on days one through five of the cycle. Many will experience low energy and a decrease in motivation around this time due low oestrogen and progesterone.

To replenish the body, mineral-rich foods such as bone broths, red meat, and seafood for iron and zinc, along with comforting foods like soups and stews, are helpful. Since ginger is antispasmodic, ginger tea can be a helpful pain reliever for those with cramps.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not like that woman in the commercials who is happily cycling through lush green fields at this time. Gentle movement such as walking, light weight training, yoga, or pilates is preferable to anything too strenuous or high energy.

The follicular phase

This phase includes the menstrual phase through to ovulation.

Diet-wise, women can consume iron and magnesium-rich green vegetables, such as spring greens, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin C foods, such as lemons, oranges, and limes, support detoxification and increase the absorption of iron foods, while nettle tea supports hormone balance. Eggs and lean protein will support egg quality, and fermented foods such as tempeh, kimchi, yoghurt, and miso will provide gut-supporting probiotics.

Once menstruation is over, energy starts to rise and cardio, as well as weight training with heavier weights feels more doable, and since this period leads up to ovulation, a time when a woman is most fertile, it is an ideal time to connect with our creativity, whether it be singing, dancing, or trying something new to move the body in different ways.

The ovulatory phase

This is a brief period of three to five days around the middle of the cycle. Generally, your energy (and libido) will be its highest during this phase.

During both the follicular and ovulatory phases, oestrogen is rising and there may be a desire to eat lighter and leaner foods. Nutrient-dense raw fruits and veggies will provide fibre, and continuing to eat fermented foods will support gut health, which is essential for menstrual health. Avocados, salmon, and chia seeds provide the healthy fats required to balance hormones. At this phase, light grains such as quinoa and couscous are preferred over dense carbs.

Since energy is at its peak at this time, this is the moment to get those high intensity and cardio workouts in, which will also help to balance oestrogen levels.

It’s worth mentioning a study that found people were more prone to injury during the late follicular and ovulatory stages of their cycle, possibly due to ligaments being more lax in preparation for pregnancy. Mobility exercises, warming up, being mindful of form, and not overextending are key ways to avoid injury.

The luteal phase

In the phase after ovulation, and leading up to menstruation, the rise of progesterone causes an increase in appetite. Eating more regularly and including dense carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and butternut squash, alongside protein, will help to reduce PMS symptoms.

Starting to include iron and zinc-rich foods will help to replenish stores lost during the period.

Moving slowly and gently is ideal during this phase. Studies have shown that fatigue can set in quicker, and that endurance can be compromised in the luteal phase. Listening to your body and focusing on either recovery or light, low impact activity like yoga or swimming, is ideal.

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Bonus tip: try seed cycling

Seed cycling can help to promote balanced hormones, supporting the body to adjust to hormone changes during the cycle. To seed cycle, consume:

. 1–2 tablespoons of ground flax and pumpkin seeds per day during the follicular phase

. 1–2 tablespoons of ground sunflower and sesame seeds per day during the luteal phase

Add the seeds to smoothies, porridge, yoghurt, hummus, or use them to make protein balls.

Visit the Nutritionist Resource to find out more, or speak to a qualified nutritionist.

How the pursuit of wellbeing unites us all

Whatever route we explore to achieve it, and whatever unique barriers we face, there is a unifying desire that connects us all: to nurture our wellbeing

In my time doing this job, I’ve sat down with a lot of different people. I’ve chatted with global superstars, actors, singers, and models. But also, artists, activists, authors, campaigners, community leaders, volunteers, people going through incredibly tough times, ordinary people doing extraordinary things – and, one time, a troupe of burlesque dancers.

You’ve probably noticed this in your own life, but two things I’ve learnt are: 1. The experiences we’ve had, the people we’ve mixed with, the causes we care about, and the ways we live our lives come together to create very unique people with very unique thoughts, feelings, and ideas. And, 2. There is so much that unites us.

People talk about a ‘universal language’ – something that can be understood by every human being, no matter their background, or what language they speak. Some may point to music as an example of this. Dance is another one, and football might edge its way in there, too. But something that the era of silent films shows us is that so much can be conveyed by tapping into the very basics of the human experience: our emotions, our passion – our actions, and our reactions.

In issue 71, we look at how the pursuit of wellbeing connects us all. We assess the importance of queer spaces on p28, and highlight the need to bring Traveller mental health conversations into the mainstream on p57. On p16, we explore how the Victorian tradition of a ‘change of air’ could reset our minds and help us find a sense of peace. And, on p32, we meet an 85-year-old and a 31-year-old who moved in together as part of an innovative scheme that addresses some of the UK’s most pressing issues.

From the six pillars of work-life balance (p36) to mastering the ‘physiological sigh’ (p39), this issue is also overflowing with tips and ideas that you can take with you to make an immediate difference in your life.

But that’s not all. The issue 71 print edition includes:

Fascinating features on parasocial relationships, yoga for desk workers, the joy of reading aloud, and recognising when you’re being emotionally invalidated.

Life-changing hacks on dealing with information overload, navigating unwanted diet advice, and helping kids develop healthy gaming habits.

Expert advice on topics such as how to be more open-minded, dealing with intergenerational trauma, and an exploration of OCD.

Other people are endlessly fascinating. We can gain so much from their knowledge, their interests, and their purpose, and we can give so much back by listening.

Happy reading!

Kathryn Wheeler
Guest Editor

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Our driving force is, and always has been, to ensure that everyone who needs it has access to mental health and wellbeing support – with no financial or geographical barriers. That’s why we offer several ways for people to access our award-winning content for free, including our website, app, podcast, and digital magazine.

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Intergenerational living: what is it and how can it improve our social relationships?

A closer connection between those across the spectrum of life could hold some magnificent opportunities for all involved. Let’s explore the power of intergenerational living…

How many people do you regularly interact with who are of a different age to you, another generation? Now take away your close friends and family, does that change things?

In reality, apart from maybe someone we work with, or say hello to in the supermarket, many of us only have fleeting moments, rather than deep connections, with people of differing ages and stages of life.

But, why is this so important? Diversity is critical to our wellbeing, offering new perspectives, insight, and even improving our creativity! And intergenerational relationships contribute greatly to this. They go far beyond befriending and volunteering, both of which are still beneficial, but encompass learning, laughing, teaching, supporting, and really experiencing life together.

With so many wide-ranging benefits of intergenerational relationships – socially, mentally, and emotionally – I’d like to celebrate and share some of the ways that they can help you to thrive, and invite you to get involved, too.

A new age

One of the best ways to connect more deeply with other generations is by getting involved in your community – and learning from the range of characters you’ll meet there. Some incredible initiatives have launched over the years, including Food for Life which hosts local events, from cook-a-longs to teaching people how to grow their own food, for people of all ages and backgrounds. Plus, the Eden Project organises a ‘month of community’ in June, inviting people to get together to celebrate friendship, food, and fun with their neighbours.

It doesn’t stop there though. We constantly hear about the care needs of older adults and issues of social isolation. But it’s become apparent, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, that despite young people having access to large social media channels, they suffer social isolation as much as older adults. Depression and anxiety are not confined to the young either.

The Office of National Statistics estimates that approximately 67 million people live in the UK, and that 18.6% are over the age of 65. By 2041, that figure is set to increase to 26%. At the same time, the increasing cost of living, and various other challenges, means that larger numbers of young people are still living at home. Could there be a way for these parties to support one another, and address the issues of loneliness at the same time?

If we see age merely as a differentiator, we’re pigeon-holing ourselves. It doesn’t fit the 70-year-old motorcyclist or gig-goer, or the teenage baking or cross-stitch enthusiast. It simply gets us trapped in stereotypes, and limits our opportunities to connect – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Breaking the mould

Drawing together different groups in society has a wealth of benefits, which initiatives like Care Home FaNs are making the most of. This social action project provides opportunities for youngsters and school-aged children to spend quality time with older people living in care homes, engaging in activities such as storytelling, digital media, and horticulture. With 4,000 people currently taking part, and each project lasting up to 18 months to establish deeper links, it certainly seems that everyone is appreciating the benefits of these new connections.

But intergenerational relationships aren’t exclusive to projects – they can truly be found anywhere. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Angela, who is in her 70s, who has enjoyed a close friendship with her former colleague Eve, which has spanned more than 20 years. Despite Eve being 15 years her junior, and life taking them in different directions, during these latter years, their friendship has really deepened.

Where once work or children bonded the pair, Angela and Eve now provide a listening ear for one another, enjoy dog walking, and even share sourdough bread. In some ways, Angela provides a mothering presence for her friend whose extended family are not close geographically, and Angela’s younger friend is always there for her.

Eve also reveals that she volunteers as a befriender for two women in their 90s, and gains as much as she gives with these experiences. She enjoys hearing about the women’s lives, their shared interests in singing, music, food, animals, and gardening, but the beauty is in simply having a chit-chat.

What stands out from these accounts is the commonality of life and an interest in another human being, which goes far beyond the age differentiator.

The future of friendships

Professors Timothy Brubaker and Ellie Brubaker conducted a study on intergenerational relationships which reiterates the similarities in values of human experience, above the things that differentiate us, such as age. They found that intergenerational relationships are enhanced when they exhibit the four Rs: respect, responsibility, reciprocity, and resilience.

While, initially, it might feel as though the young and older generations don’t have that much in common, it’s believed that through spending time together, the young will come to value the elder’s life experience, and as relationships evolve there’s a lesser sense of obligation or caregiving. Instead, responsibility becomes an appreciative, shared value. This strengthens relationships at all levels, and through the changing dynamics and stages of life.

So, how do we take the next steps and make intergenerational living a common practice in modern life? Well, actually, many cultures around the world already do. Often grandparents might live on one floor, or in an annex, or next door to their children and grandchildren. But there are also initiatives to help those unable, or without family, to live in close quarters. Share My Home matches older people with a room to spare with “compatible companions”, who pledge time each week to help around the home, and enjoy each others’ company – improving the quality of life for all.

A social step forward

Intergenerational living is now recognised as a successful strategy for developing effective communities, and addressing society’s wider health agendas. Some local authorities, supported by innovative designers, community groups, and the public, are making inventive responses to the way our societies are actually built in the first place.

The Tullkammarkajen project in Halmstad, Sweden, was specifically designed to consider shared living for people of different stages of life. Providing access for both disabled and non-disabled people, their designs incorporate areas for communal eating, sharing social activities, and taking part in horticulture. They even integrate a kindergarten in the midst of the housing projects.

Closer to home, Matter Architecture, a London based firm, are working with partners to establish housing that “supports and enables participation and sharing amongst residents of all ages”. Their designs show integrated housing with open spaces and wheelchair accessible platforms, among green spaces for people of all ages to enjoy.

These schemes greatly support young parents struggling with childcare. They also give hope to young adults juggling jobs, and struggling to get into the housing market, as well as isolated elders wanting to be more involved in the community. They break down stereotypes and deepen understanding between people.

Interested in getting involved?

United for all Ages is a social enterprise supporting centres around the UK where people of all ages can meet to chat, as well as take part in activities and sports together.

Reengage holds regular tea parties for which they often need hosts.

The Together Project holds singing classes called ‘songs and smiles’.

Whether your curiosity is piqued by one of these projects, or you have your own creative ideas in mind, know that simply reaching out and speaking to someone of a different age or stage is a great place to start. As Gertrude Stein said: “We are always the same age inside.”

5 powerful tips for managing conflict in social situations

Whether it’s a meeting at work or a family dynamic that conjures up concern around the possibility of clashes, here are five effective ways you can proactively manage tough conversations and situations

1. Assume the best

It’s easy to talk ourselves into fearing a situation, and expecting the worst, even when we have no evidence that things will play out as we imagine. However, by catastrophising and anticipating conflict we’re telling ourselves that we’re about to be in danger, and our mind and body will then react as if that is true.

Intercept anticipatory negative thoughts as they enter your mind by asking yourself: ‘Do I know this to be true?’ If the answer is no, ask yourself how you would like the conversation or event to play out instead.

2. Set intentions

You can’t manage how other people will communicate or react, but you can present yourself in a way that you are proud of. By writing down how you will behave and communicate, you’re setting positive intentions that will help you manage your interactions. Read through your intentions again before your meet-up, so they’re fresh in your mind.

3. Put in a pause

If you believe that the situation is going south, you don’t have to passively slide down the slippery route to conflict! Putting a pause in the middle of proceedings can really help.

This is situation dependent, but if things feel like they’re escalating into unproductive territory, simply say: “I really want to continue this conversation. I just need to go to the bathroom/grab some water/blow my nose, and when I get back, let’s talk about this further.”

While you’re away from the discussion, slow your breathing down, making each exhale longer than the inhale, and remember the intentions you’ve set for yourself. When you re-enter the discussion, thank the person for waiting for you – hopefully, tension will have dissipated and tempers will calm.

4. Stay grounded

If verbal conflict should arise, physically ground yourself by placing both feet flat on the floor, and by keeping your breathing steady. Avoid interrupting the other person, and take a breath before you speak, both of which can help to prevent the conversation from escalating into a rally of positional points.

If you believe that the situation cannot be rectified at that moment, say so, and be clear about how you wish to be treated and proceed. This doesn’t have to be combative. You could try: “It seems that we disagree on this. I respect you, and I think it would be great for us both to have some time to think about what we’ve shared. Shall we give each other a bit of time and space to process the discussion, and chat again in a couple of days?”

5. You’re safe and loved

Conflict, or even the anticipation of conflict, can make us feel shaky and off-centre. Take some time to ‘come down’ after your interaction. If you can, take a walk outdoors and use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method – focus on five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Take some time to meditate, or use an online breathwork session to calm your overall state. Know that you are safe and loved.

How to look after your mental health while waiting for NHS support

With nearly a quarter of us having to wait to start treatment for our mental health, we share eight ways you can look after yourself while waiting to access support

The Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed that two in five (43%) adults with a mental illness feel that long waits for treatment have led to their mental health getting worse. With almost one in four (23%) of us waiting more than 12 weeks to start treatment – and many areas having limited types of support and numbers of sessions available – it’s no wonder so many of us feel like we’re not only struggling with our mental health, but aren’t getting the help that we need when we need it.

Non-urgent referrals for consultant-led treatments in England are legally entitled to be seen within 18 weeks, from the day the service or hospital receives your referral letter or the day your appointment is booked through the NHS e-Referral Service. But that can feel like a long time when you are struggling and feel like you need help now.

Taking that step and seeking a referral is huge. But it’s not always the instant fix we hope for – especially when faced with delays in receiving support. It’s natural to feel disappointed, overwhelmed, or unsure of what you can do while waiting to access help and support. So, what can you do to look after yourself until support becomes available?

If you’re worried you may be in crisis, seek help immediately

If you think you may have reached a crisis point, or are in immediate danger of harming yourself or others, seek help immediately. Call 999 or go to your nearest A&E department.

If you need to talk to someone now without worrying about being judged, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 anytime, any day, or get in contact with them another way.

Reach out to friends and family

Asking for help from those we love when we’re struggling can feel impossible. When you’re struggling with your mental health, you may worry about opening up to friends or family, as you may fear you are being an inconvenience, adding extra stress to their lives, or may be seen as ‘over-reacting’.

You may worry about being judged or rejected, yet reaching out can help you to feel a deeper sense of connection with others, gain valuable outside perspective, and help to feel unstuck.

Try these tips on how to ask friends and family for help when you’re struggling.

Have a conversation with your boss

Talking about mental health in the workplace has become much more commonplace in recent years. Yet many of us may hesitate to let our employers know when we are struggling. It’s important to remember that your employer is legally obligated to make reasonable adjustments to help accommodate you – but in order to do so, they need to know that you need help.

If you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly with your boss, you can always speak with HR confidentially. HR can also signpost any additional information or services your employer may provide, such as free-of-charge counselling services, or access to a reduced cost or employer-funded employee assistance programme (EAP).

Find out more about how to talk about mental health at work.

Look after your physical health and mental wellbeing

Maintaining or creating a supportive, healthy routine to look after your mental and physical health can be challenging at the best of times. Yet when you’re struggling, it can act as a crucial extra form of support.

Regular exercise – whether that’s getting outdoors for walks, doing something mindful but physical like yoga, or taking part in a class or regular gym sessions – can boost your mood, releasing feel-good hormones that give you energy and help you to feel better in yourself. Exercise can help you to better manage stress, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts.

Ensuring you get enough sleep can help to break unhelpful cycles. For example, feelings of anxiety, stress or worry may lead to you having trouble falling, getting, or staying asleep. This can lead to tiredness, trouble focusing during the day, lower mood, and further feelings of stress, anxiety and worry.

If you find yourself struggling to switch off or wind down, practising mindfulness techniques or meditation can help you to feel more relaxed, grounded, and in control.

Happiful’s Hannah guides you through a simple meditation for complete relaxation

Try other free resources and alternative support

There are many different types of free support and resources you can access while waiting for therapy. Some people find self-help books can offer good basic advice and guidance. Check out your local library to see if they are taking part in the Reading Well scheme. Designed to help offer support and better understanding of mental health and wellbeing, books within this scheme have been recommended by health experts and those with lived experiences, to help with mental health, long-term conditions, and a variety of other issues.

The NHS’s Better Health: Every mind matters site offers advice and support, access to a free mind plan (with tips on boosting your mood, sleeping better, and dealing with stress, as well as access to sign up for anxiety-easing emails). You can also get free access to self-help CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) techniques and video guides.

Local and national mental health charities may also be able to offer help and support. Different charities may offer different support in different areas, so it’s always good to check out their websites to see what telephone, online, text, or in-person support may be available.

Some charities like Beat, the eating disorder charity, offer special programmes to support and motivate those waiting for treatment to start. Beat’s Motivate programme offers weekly calls for those waiting to start anorexia or bulimia treatment, as well as monthly moderated peer support groups, for up to three months.  

If reaching out and speaking with someone in person feels overwhelming right now, there are many free, helpful apps that can also help you to track your mood, offer helpful suggestions, and even provide guided audio exercises to help reduce stress, assist with sleep, and decrease anxiety.

Learn more and prepare for your first session

The idea of therapy can be daunting if you haven’t tried it before. Preparing yourself for what to expect, and learning more about what counselling can entail can offer reassurance and create a sense of calm and control.

While things can vary depending on what type of therapy you are offered, as well as between individual therapists, there are certain things you can expect from your first therapy session. You are likely to be encouraged to talk about how you are feeling, specific issues you may be struggling with, and any particular goals or changes you may like to make.

CBT is one of the most common forms of therapy offered for a wide variety of issues. We explain more about what to expect when receiving CBT for anxiety.

Keep a journal

While journaling isn’t a substitute for mental health support, keeping a journal can be a therapeutic experience in and of itself. As therapist Deborah Holder, MBACP Reg Accred, explains, “A journal can help you to notice patterns in your behaviour and emotional responses. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your experiences, feelings, thoughts and behaviour. It can be a way of thinking about what you would like to change, what is missing, or what you would like to do more. It can be empowering, a release, or an alternative to destructive behaviour.”

Journaling can also help you to work through what is worrying you, help you to find the words to express those worries, and keep them all in one place, ready to reference when needed.

Take a break or curate your social media feeds

Taking a break from social media can have a positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing. With so many different platforms out there, between the constant barrage of messages, adverts, and inevitable doomscrolling. Being more mindful of how and when you access social media can help you to reduce how much time you spend scrolling and avoiding other things. Ensuring you follow positive, helpful accounts can also be helpful if you find constant news or world event updates are affecting your mood.

We share more about how to find positivity on social media.

Consider private therapy

Private therapy sessions can offer an alternative or temporary stop-gap until you can access NHS support. Working with a private therapist or counsellor can provide quicker access to mental health support and guidance, as well as greater choice over the type of therapy and type of therapist you wish to explore and work with.

Some private practitioners offer low-cost therapy for everyone, while others may offer special concessions or rates for those on benefits, low income, or on a case-by-case basis. Discover more about the benefits of private therapy.

Psychotherapist and counsellor Disree Shaw explains more about the benefits of counselling

Looking for private support? Connect with a professional using Counselling Directory.

6 good news stories not to miss

Find some light in the dark with these positive news stories

Social enterprise cooks up tasty support for kinship families

According to the charity Family Rights Group, more than 180,000 children across the UK are being cared for by their kin – a grandparent, other relative, or family friend – due to their parents being unable to care for them. And while it’s an instinctive choice to make, it is a life-altering role that can come with many unique challenges.

Social worker Anna-Lou Manca has witnessed many kinship carers face financial and emotional difficulties over the course of her career, and it was for this reason that she founded Kinship Carers Hub in 2020 – a social enterprise on a mission to help kinship carers get the support they need to fulfil such a rewarding role.

The hub runs many projects – from employment opportunities to webinar training – which are all designed to provide guidance and support to kinship families, but their main project, Kinship Carers Cooking Club, is one combating social isolation through the power of food.

Each week, kinship families come together to cook and eat a meal, provided by the hub. Aside from the practical support provided through receiving groceries on a weekly basis, and learning about healthy, budget-friendly recipes, it also offers the opportunity to bond and access peer-to-peer support. One carer says: “It has allowed the children to see there are other children in the same situation as themselves, to show them that they aren’t alone.”

If you would like support as a kinship carer, visit kinshipcarershub.org

Anna-Lou, founder of Kinship-Hub. Photography | Urszula Soltys

Workplace bullying survivor launches campaign for new UK law

The effects of workplace bullying can last a lifetime, chipping away at our confidence and undermining our self-esteem. But Skevi Constantinou, one woman who has been there herself, has come out the other side, and is ready to call for major change to protect others.

The former executive assistant was targeted at work over her chronic autoimmune condition, to the point where she eventually felt afraid to go into the workplace. And, sadly, she’s not alone. But despite Trades Union Congress (TUC) figures that found nearly a third of people have been bullied at work, with more than one in three people going on to leave their job because of it, workplace bullying is not currently recognised as a crime by UK law, leaving the door open for the perpetrators to get away with this behaviour.

“This affects millions of people, not just in the UK but globally,” Skevi says. “It’s so important that these people are represented and not made to feel that this is normal – to go to work and be treated that way. Bullies need to be stopped in the workplace.”

She points to Sweden as an example of a country that already has laws that specifically prohibit bullying in the workplace.

“We all deserve to go to work and be respected in a safe environment,” she says. “Whilst my own experiences have shaped me in many ways, I want to help others as best as possible.”

Sign Skevi’s petition by visiting petition.parliament.uk

Sound asleep?

Is there a moment you wish you could forget? Well, scientists might just have found the secret. A team from the University of York explored the impact on our memory of playing sounds as we sleep, so whether it’s an embarrasing moment, a bad breakup, or an intrusive thought, we might find certain sounds help us let go in the future.

Try six sleep sounds to listen to tonight

Community nest built in time for winter

With the colder weather and longer nights finally here, it’s time to huddle together and embrace local community spirit. And a new, large, interactive art project in Cornwall looks set to do just that.

Arts Well, a social enterprise that advocates for the importance of creativity in health and wellbeing, unveiled its latest project at Jubilee Wharf in Penryn. A giant nest has been built with the help of neighbouring businesses and local organisations. Part of the national Fun Places initiative, designed to celebrate creativity and promote wellbeing throughout the year, the project puts playfulness at the heart of what it does.

Made using willow and hazel branches, along with the helping hands of plenty of locals, people were invited to hop in and experience the sense of calm and wellbeing created through being within the nest.

As programme coordinator Vicki Bampfield-Hammond explains, “A nest is a symbol of creativity and nurture, perfect to bring our working and residential communities together. We felt a giant nest was really appropriate, as everyone who wanted to get involved could, nurturing creativity, inclusivity, and community spirit.”

While it remained nestled in Jubilee Wharf throughout the holiday season, the nest will be moved to its permanent home in the new year. Watch this space!

Vicki and Jayne

Can our canine friends sniff out stress?

When we’re struggling, dogs just seem to know. Whether they jump on our laps for a cuddle or smother us with licks, our companions have a knack for cheering us up. And it turns out, there’s science behind it.

A new study from Queen’s University Belfast has found that dogs can smell stress in humans. When we get stressed, compounds change in our sweat and breath, and this is what our pets are sniffing out.

In the study, samples were gathered from participants before and after completing a difficult maths exercise. Dogs were able to detect which samples came before and after the activity. Ranging from 90% to 96.88%, the accuracy rate was even better than the researchers anticipated.

“While it is likely that in a real-life context dogs are picking up on our stress from a variety of context cues, we have shown, using a laboratory study, that there is a confirmed odour component that is likely contributing to dogs’ ability to sense when we are stressed,” says animal psychologist and study author Clara Wilson.

What we don’t know yet, is whether dogs understand that what they’re smelling is stress, or if they care. While their behaviour suggests they do, which is why they make great therapy animals, more research is needed.
Until then, we’ll conduct our own research with plenty of pet snuggles. For science.

Write on time

Letter writing seems to be a dying art in the digital age, despite 84% of kids saying they’d be excited to receive post. The survey, from The Diana Award and Nationwide, revealed that one in three children have never penned a letter, and a fifth haven’t received one in the past three months. In response, the organisations launched The Positivity Postbox, a scheme to encourage schoolkids to pen letters to children in partnering schools around the country. Sounds like a writing revival.

Sweet tooth or sugar addiction? Here’s everything you need to know

What if your appetite for sweet treats is actually a sign of something more? We share the signs and symptoms of sugar addiction, and how to break the cycle

When is being ‘too sweet’ a bad thing? Well, despite conjuring up imagery of kind and loving people, or a nostalgic treat for yourself to enjoy, the truth is, when it comes to nutrition, sugar can be a sly substance. It’s probably in more foods than you realise, from breakfast cereals and packaged fruits, to salad dressing and pasta sauce. And while a lot of us enjoy something sweet now and again, like many things in life, too much of a good thing is not always healthy. In fact, too much sugar can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, tooth decay, and even certain types of cancer.

What is sugar addiction?

First things first, there is no shame in enjoying sweet flavours. And there is a big difference between liking a sugary snack now and then, and actually finding yourself with a sugar addiction. With the latter, sugar addiction can be behavioural (when you eat despite not being hungry, or snack compulsively) or chemical (when your body experiences negative effects or physical cravings if you try to cut down or stop eating sugar). Essentially, the stage where it becomes a problem is when the sugar reliance is affecting you mentally and/or physically, and you feel as though you can’t do without it. For many people, the main draw of eating sugary foods or drinks is that they can give you a short-term energy boost. When we feel stressed, tired, or anxious, we may turn to sugar-filled foods or snacks to try to experience this quick energy release we need – even though it is a short-term solution to what is often a long-term problem.

In turn, this can lead to associating certain foods that are high in sugar with feeling happier and filled with energy, thanks to the release of endorphins. When we do this too often, a one-off comfort can become an unhealthy way of trying to cope with other feelings we are trying to avoid.

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Signs, symptoms and effects

Studies have revealed that eating too much sugar can lead to:

. Cravings, sugar tolerance, and higher consumption
. Binge-eating
. Withdrawal symptoms
. Emotional or psychological dependence
. Unhealthy coping mechanisms

How do I know if I’m addicted to sugar?

If you’re worried you might have an unhealthy relationship with sugar, there are many common signs you can keep an eye out for. Ask yourself:

Do I feel guilty when eating?
Do I hide what, when, or how much I am eating from family, friends or colleagues?
Do I make excuses about what I’m eating? (I’ll eat healthier tomorrow; I had a hard day, I deserve a treat)
Are my portions getting bigger?
Am I hungry when I eat?
Do I eat when I’m feeling emotional? (Sad, upset, stressed, to celebrate, for comfort)
Is the food I eat really sugary
or salty?
Do I often feel sleepy, low energy, or lethargic after eating or snacking?
Do I feel in control when I’m eating?

Frequent headaches, skin breakouts, increased feelings of anxiety or depression, nausea, fatigue, and trouble sleeping can all also be common physical and psychological side-effects. As with any health concerns though, it is always important to speak to your GP as soon as possible to rule out any other issues.

Why do some people develop a sugar addiction?

Research published in 2017 revealed that sugar is actually more addictive than opioid drugs such as cocaine. And the problem is that when trying to cut it out, it can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Eating sugar can actually alter your mood in the same way drugs can, inducing a sense of reward and pleasure. As many of us consume up to three times our recommended daily sugar intake, this can put us at risk of becoming reliant on the way that sugary foods make us feel, so it’s even harder to reduce our intake.

How can I break my addiction to sugar?

The good news is we don’t have to feel like we’re held hostage by sugar cravings. Try these six effective tips to get started:

1. Get in the right mindset

As with all addictions, you need to be ready to accept that you have a problem, and want to make changes, in order to set yourself up for the best chance of success.

2. Ensure you’re getting enough nutrients

According to a 2019 study, almost half of Brits have no idea how much protein, carbs, sugar, fruit, and veg, they should eat in a day.

Eating enough protein and healthy fats can provide a slow, steady release of energy – the opposite of the instant rush sugar provides. Protein helps us to feel satiated, reducing feelings of cravings and hunger. And when moving away from a high-sugar diet, you may need to replenish vitamin B levels, which can become depleted due to sugar and high-stress levels.

A nutritionist could help you learn more about healthy eating, and what you really need to ensure you have a balanced diet.

3. Identify (and tackle) lifestyle red flags

We can inadvertently form unhealthy habits without even realising it. Not getting enough sleep, or having poor quality sleep, can trigger excessive eating, as you try to combat fatigue and lethargy, while high levels of stress can lead to emotional eating and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

When we feel overwhelmed, it’s easier to turn to fast food, takeaways, ready meals, and pre-prepared options that are often highly processed and filled with sugar. Recognising unhelpful habits can help you to identify areas which may be inadvertently leading to higher sugar consumption.

4. Head off your cravings

Start your day off right with a high-protein breakfast to reduce cravings. Plan ahead for meals and snacks to avoid temptations when picking up lunch at work, or trying to cook while tired and stressed. Swap in healthy veg options, like carrots and sweet potatoes, as well as naturally sweet fruits like bananas and dates, to help satisfy your sweet tooth.

5. Avoid artificial substitutions

Research suggests that artificial sweeteners can leave you craving sugar more, while continuing to appease your taste for overly sweet foods. If you can, cut down or avoid these.

6. Try hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy can help you to address your unhealthy relationship with food, change unhelpful eating habits and behaviours, while introducing you to new ways to cope with stress and overwhelm by tapping into your subconscious thoughts.

The sweet relief

It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between enjoying something sweet now and then, and feeling addicted to sugar. This is about the point where a habit is negatively impacting your health and lifestyle, and addressing it would be beneficial.

It’s also worth remembering that a lot of unhelpful habits take years to form, so it’s not surprising that undoing them isn’t an overnight process either. It can take anywhere from two to four weeks for your body and brain to stop craving sweets, so if you decide to address your relationship with sugar, try to stick with it and give yourself time to adapt.

Without help and support, it can be easy to fall back into negative patterns. No matter how tough things feel, with the right support and mindset, you can make healthy, sustainable changes to overcome your sugar addiction.

To detox, or not to detox?

Cutting out sugar completely can sometimes lead you to feel awful in the short-term.While some people swear going cold turkey is the best way to break a habit, for others, it can set them up for failure. Making drastic changes to your diet without looking at underlying issues that lead to your poor diet means you are at higher risk of falling back on old habits, while also feeling like you’ve failed. Overcoming a sugar addiction isn’t just mind over matter; it’s making a series of sustainable lifestyle and mindset choices to last you a lifetime.

To find out about healthy eating, visit the Nutritionist Resource or speak to qualified nutritionist.