Top five ways to beat the winter blues

January 18, 2016 at 9:39 am

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – or more commonly known as the “winter blues” – affects around two million people a year in the UK. It’s no surprise when the days become shorter, nights appear darker, and the weather gets much colder. So, to help us through this often dreaded time of year, BIMHN has come up with five ways to help lift spirits and beat those troublesome winter blues.

1. Stay organised

Top five ways to beat winter bluesLarge amounts of stress and anxiety can be caused when things start piling on top of us. So, by keeping organised, we can attempt to alleviate any of this unnecessary strain on our lives. If you’re balancing a number of different jobs or have various tasks building up, we’d recommend creating a timetable of your week. Allocate days and time slots to certain jobs – this allows you to focus on one task at a time, and helps banish any feelings of work overload. Keep track of any plans you make in a trusty diary and for those busy days, make a ‘to do list’ – there’s nothing more satisfying than ticking off those dreaded tasks!

2. Allow yourself to have ‘off’ days

We can often give ourselves a hard time for having bad days, and not being able to get out of bed at a reasonable hour. “I shouldn’t be feeling like this” or “Why can’t I just feel normal?” can be some of the troubling thoughts running through our minds. But what if we were just to accept that it’s a bad day, and allow ourselves to feel ‘off’ish? Laze on the sofa, put on a cheery film, eat comfort food – it is okay to feel this way, and the feeling WILL pass!

3. Keep in touch with friends and family

Top five ways to beat winter bluesAs studies indicate, maintaining good social connections with friends and family can reap many benefits for mental health. Keeping in touch with friends and family reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation, and helps lift mood. Call a family member you haven’t spoken to in a while, or invite a friend over for a cup of tea – these gestures (no matter how small or large) can help you feel a whole lot better about yourself, and do wonders for your self-esteem.

4. Don’t expect too much from yourself

As human beings, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves, whether it’s in our work or social lives. We constantly expect ourselves to be performing at our best – at ALL times! Pressure is particularly high after Christmas, when we feel that we have to adhere to ‘New Year, New You’. But when we don’t live up to the sky-high standards we have set, it can leave us feeling disappointed and judging ourselves harshly, which certainly does no favours for our mental health! Try to lower your expectations, and anything positive that comes your way will be a pleasant and lovely surprise.

5. Do something, every day, for YOU

Top five ways to beat the winter bluesWhen life gets hectic, we often forget about someone very important… ourselves! Put some time aside each day – whether it’s just a few minutes, or a couple of hours – to focus on that number one person in your life. Run yourself a bath, cook a healthy dinner, do some exercise, read a book, meditate – all of these things have nourishing qualities… It will be like giving yourself that nice, big hug you truly deserve!

January 18, 2016 at 9:39 am | Blog | No comment

How Bristol Active Life Project helped pull my life back together

November 7, 2015 at 10:48 pm

By Peter Hale, member of BIMHN and mental health blogger


After Christmas 2008 I was critically injured and in a coma due to an incident which also had considerable impact on my life, leading me to also be at the centre of press attention. At the same time I was also made redundant. A knock-on effect of these events was for me to be evicted my accommodation. At that time I was also near the end of a Computing and Engineering PhD.

I was discriminated against by many public authorities who showed little understanding or care for mental health, nor knowledge of the related disability and human rights laws. I have reactive anxiety and depression due to all of the above. I also have a mild trait of Asperger syndrome.

All of the above events and my personality and ability/disability traits led to a perfect storm of conflict where I sued (usually successfully) every agency that harmed me. I also had great support from Rethink to cope through all this. This help, combined with legal successes created some space and time in my life to get involved in more constructive activities.

Bristol Active Life Project (BALP)

These constructive activities involved a mixture of completing my PhD, volunteering, mental health campaigning, temporary work and research, and BALP activities. I’ve also completed many vocational and academic web, programming, computing, business and admin courses.

The BALP activities have been the most enjoyable. This has greatly helped my mental health and physical health, which both needed constructive activities to improve. I have asthma and diabetes, but this doesn’t stop me exercising, this makes exercise more important, but only in combination with the appropriate medical treatment and advice.

Before this I had been putting on weight because of lack of exercise due to PhD work, and court cases etc that needed mental not physical effort.

I first took up walking with BALP, and was a regular for this. We used to get together at MIND in Old Market, to meet before and have tea and coffee after. Whilst there, I saw a poster for BALP football training at St Pauls. I have played football on and off, all through my adult life. So I took part in BALP football training and playing on Tuesdays at St Pauls. What I hadn’t known was that there was professional coaching, other training and football days, and a football team.

As I got used to the Tuesday football and got fitter, I realised that I was ready to train on Fridays at South Bristol, where there is a large weather proof Astroturf pitch. This is also the training place for the BALP football team. Before long I was also ready to play for this team, and now I’m a regular in this team. Our BALP team also won a tournament last summer.

I’ve only missed one BALP football games day and this was because the Bristol Half Marathon clashed with the football that Sunday. BALP had supported me by paying the fees and giving advice so I could run. I was able to run this Half Marathon because I had been training at a gym and outdoors with the help of an exercise on prescription scheme.

I’ve also played in a BALP badminton tournament and still go on the walks also. These walks are now with Rethink and Walking for Health.

The main organisations that have been supportive of me are BALP, Rethink, and the NHS. My physical and mental health is not perfect because the reactive depression is as a result of the balance between the good effects from these organisations such as BALP easing the depression, and other organisations that have harmed my health. This balance leaves me able to control though not eradicate my depression. But I hope with BALP, Rethink, and NHS help I can put the reactive depression behind me.

I wouldn’t have got involved in football outside BALP. BALP provides a supportive environment, and their mental health knowledge prevents me becoming stressed as I would by playing in regular league team.

I’m a BALP member, Rethink member, and part of a highly effective campaign against mental health stigma and discrimination that combines activities of many charities and groups. Also I’ve passed my PhD, published my research, I’m well published and connected over the web, and I’m involved in further research on computing, and on mental health and activities.

The reason BALP has been so effective is because it has worked out WITH me what I can and can’t do and what I want, not decided this FOR me.

So with BALPs’ help, things are looking up!

This is from a talk that Peter gave back in January 2013.


November 7, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Blog | No comment

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