5 ways to wellbeing: How Norfolk and Waveney residents are looking after their mental health

Audrey Harnden, from Drayton has been using Zoo to keep up with her activities Picture: Norfolk an

Audrey Harnden, from Drayton has been using Zoo to keep up with her activities Picture: Norfolk and Waveney Mind - Credit: Archant

To help people look after their mental health, Norfolk County Council has come up with ‘5 ways to wellbeing’. Clarissa Place speaks to some local residents who have been putting them into practice.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council Picture: Norfolk County Counci

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council Picture: Norfolk County Council - Credit: Archant

The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our home and work lives. Many of us have had to juggle our work responsibilities alongside home schooling, and many are struggling with financial difficulties resulting from job losses, furlough or other loss of income.

In addition, the lockdown has seen a rise in people experiencing loneliness and social isolation, especially the elderly, vulnerable and those living alone.

Norfolk County Council’s “5 Ways to Wellbeing” is a great place to find inspiration on ways to improve your mental health and wellbeing. The suggested five ways are:

*Limit news and social media


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*Look after your body

*Regular routines and goals

Emma Edgington, from Norwich, has limited watching the news to help with her mental health Picture

Emma Edgington, from Norwich, has limited watching the news to help with her mental health Picture: Norfolk and Waveney Mind - Credit: Archant

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*Talk about your worries

*Try something new

“Now more than ever, it is vital we learn how to look after our mental health and that of our family and friends,” said Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council. “Over the last three years, the council has invested around £1.5 million into mental health and suicide prevention. This funding has been used to develop and deliver a range of projects and services which aim to support people to look after their mental health and prevent them from developing mental illness.”

“As winter approaches and the days grow shorter, it’s important to find positive ways of looking after ourselves. Eating well, spending time in nature, taking up a new hobby and getting enough sleep can all help to nurture our wellbeing.”

Across Norfolk, many living alone, caring for loved ones, or with anxiety or depression have spoken about the help they have received from organisations and the steps they have taken to look after their wellbeing.

Emma Edgington, from Norwich, said living on her own meant there was a danger her mental health could spiral, so she decided to reduce how much she watched the news.

Soul Phoenix has taken up mindfulness through Norfolk and Waveney Mind Picture: Norfolk and Wavene

Soul Phoenix has taken up mindfulness through Norfolk and Waveney Mind Picture: Norfolk and Waveney Mind - Credit: Archant

The 50-year-old said: “At the start of the pandemic I was spending all day watching the news and becoming very worried about the virus.

“I decided to stop watching the news so much, as it was just making me full of fear. I also made a daily routine for myself and wrote it on my calendar, to make sure I did it. I signed up for a weekly online wellbeing group where I can talk about how I’m feeling and any worries I have, and every Sunday I do a ‘laughter yoga’ session on Zoom. I also try to take myself out for a walk every day.”

Over lockdown, Emma also started singing on Zoom with friends, a hobby she was reluctant to do at first.

Soul Phoenix, 48, from North Creake is a life and sports coach and cares for his wife. He decided to take an eight-week mindfulness course by Norfolk and Waveney Mind to learn a range of techniques which have benefited him beyond his expectations.

Soul said: “Mindfulness really helps to free you from stresses and anxieties and deal with mental health challenges. Now I start every day with a half-hour mindfulness routine incorporating tai chi and meditation. It really puts me in the right frame of mind for the day.”

Neil Collins, 51, organises Run Bunwell, which hosts socially distanced 10k races in the village.

Neil Collins has been organising a virtual run in Bunwell Picture: Active Norfolk

Neil Collins has been organising a virtual run in Bunwell Picture: Active Norfolk - Credit: Archant

The Bunwell resident got into sport through the 2012 Village Games after “unfitness crept up on him”. Over the last eight years he has taken up running, badminton and cycling as well as making new friends.

Neil said: “It was obvious that people were taking up running to get exercise during lockdown. I formed a small running group in the village off the back of that, and a few were doing the Run Norwich virtual run.

“Put in a bit of effort to create something for yourself and your community that does work.”

Mum of six Sarah Pearson, 41, has found that going for a run is the most reliable way of keeping herself sane. Over the last few years she’s even taken to sharing her runs on her private Instagram account, using the hashtag #runningtokeepthecrazyaway.

Sarah is involved with Active Norfolk and Mind’s “Pace of Mind” running project and helped setup the new Lea Bridges junior parkrun in Lakenham and Tuckswood, Norwich, for which she’s the run director.

During lockdown, with five kids at home and no regular running groups, her need to get out and go for a run to escape the pressures of home became more acute. She decided to take on the RED (Run Every Day) challenge in July, and she’s kept up running every day since then.

Sarah Pearson says running makes her a better parent and a good active role model for her kids Pi

Sarah Pearson says running makes her a better parent and a good active role model for her kids Picture: Active Norfolk - Credit: Archant

“People asked me how I find the time,” Sarah said, “but I say that I have to do it, it’s the only way I can calm my mind. And I think it makes me a better parent, it makes me more patient with the kids and I think it’s good to role model being active for them.”

Audrey Harnden, 86, taught herself to use Zoom to keep up activities as well as continue online classes to help keep her mobile.

The Drayton resident said: “Normally my life is filled with activities and classes, so lockdown forced me to slow down and have a little bit of a break. I’m lucky to live in a wonderful community – neighbours that I used to just wave to have become friends.

“I’m proud that I’ve learned how to use Zoom – I joined an online meeting with local MPs arranged by AgeUK, and I’ve just started doing virtual Dance To Health classes.

“I also FaceTimed my grandson, although that was by accident! Life’s still full of surprises and challenges and you have to stay positive, don’t worry about things and just live in today.”

Jordan Stokes, 22, from Dersingham, has been able to attend a drop-in music group in Heacham run by Norfolk and Waveney Mind to listen and chat.

Jordan Stokes has taken up cycling during lockdown, and also attends a music drop in session Pictu

Jordan Stokes has taken up cycling during lockdown, and also attends a music drop in session Picture: Norfolk and Waveney Mind - Credit: Archant

The 22-year-old has depression and anxiety and over the summer was diagnosed with autism and has spent much of the time outdoors.

Jordan said: “I’ve found lockdown surprisingly relaxing – everything was calmer, it was nice that there weren’t cars rushing by. I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors cycling, which really helps with my mental health.

“As well as cycling, I look after my wellbeing with my two other passions – photography and birdwatching. I usually take my camera to Snettisham where you can see lots of geese, birds of prey, all sorts. It’s so relaxing – I can sit for hours and not see another person.”

Norfolk County Council Public Health has partnered with Archant to create a “Not Alone” supplement which raises awareness of the help and support on offer across the county. Click here to view the supplement.

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