Mental Health Awareness week is a time in the year to give pause and consider the issue of mental wellbeing, both for ourselves and within our communities . This year, the focus is on kindness – and that’s definitely something we all need right now!
The recent pandemic has been an unprecedented modern health crisis, and the lockdown measures implemented across the world have been transformative to our daily lives. Staying home and practicing social distancing has been a necessary but tough adjustment, particularly for mental health. Humans are social creatures and we don’t respond well to isolation and physical distancing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find hope and happiness during lockdown, or that you can’t help those in need.
Acts of kindness are needed now more than ever. Think of those who are ill, those who work to care for them, and those who are isolating alone without contact from family or friends. Many people’s livelihoods are under pressure, and those with mental health issues can struggle to find support. Though we must keep our distance, we must also try to make connections and perform acts of kindness to support those around us and to help our own wellbeing.
Being kind to those around you isn’t just good for the wellbeing of others. Even small, simple gestures are good for our own wellbeing . When we see someone benefit from our actions, it feels great to know we’ve made a positive impact on the world. That warm, fuzzy feeling can really thaw those lockdown blues!
You might be wondering how you can get involved by spreading acts of kindness. After all, given our current situation, it might seem difficult to help out given the distance we need to keep. Let’s take a look at how people across the country are helping those in need. It might give you some ideas for your own local community!
We should all be staying local during lockdown. This gives us a great opportunity to lend a hand to our neighbours and community services. Nationwide, people are volunteering their time and effort to help out during this pandemic. Organised acts of kindness such as local volunteering can be the most impactful of all, taking pressure away from health and social services while making sure the most vulnerable among us are supported. It’s also great for our wellbeing, as getting involved in voluntary projects increases our life satisfaction and can help fight depression . So, how have volunteers been helping out?
Back in March, the government made a call for NHS volunteers. That call was met resoundingly within hours, with over 750,000 applications flooding into the NHS Volunteer Responders app . These responders undertake a whole range of jobs, from collecting and delivering shopping and medical supplies to those in self isolation, providing transport for patients and also operating a chat service for those who are lonely during lockdown. It’s estimated that some 3 million people are involved in grassroots local volunteer groups performing similar services . Many of them are known as Mutual Aid groups, and you can search for ones in your local area using the location search tool on the Mutual Aid UK website .
Looking to volunteer, but not sure where to start or what you can offer? Volunteering Matters is an organisation that connects you to local community programmes and gives guidance on how to volunteer safely and effectively . They run over 80 volunteering programmes across the UK, so you should be able to find something that suits you.
Volunteering to help can sometimes be about taking initiative with your own acts of kindness.
Songze Chang, an international student studying at the University of East Anglia, realised that many elderly people in his community didn’t have access to face masks. So he decided to order boxes of face masks from his home country of China and distribute them to those in need. Once people heard about Songze’s generosity, they wanted to help the cause. Songze and his friends have now received over 8,000 masks sent from China, which they have not only given to people who need them on the street but have donated to local services such as the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and care homes .
Becky Wass from Falmouth, Cornwall, decided to volunteer some of her time during lockdown to design a postcard that would help self-isolating neighbours . The template allows someone to give their personal contact details and specify any help they might need while isolating, such as having somebody drop off shopping supplies or a phone call. She shared the postcard on social media sites, and since then the print-at-home postcard has been posted to neighbours nationwide as a way to ask people if they need help, whilst still practicing safe distancing.
If these acts of kindness put a smile on your face, think about how you can volunteer your time and abilities to help during lockdown, either by joining a local group or coming up with some projects of your own.
Not everybody can get out and volunteer in person, but we can make a difference by being charitable. Giving to others is one of the most powerful acts of kindness, so here are some charities you can give to during lockdown.
The Covid-19 Urgent Appeal has been launched by NHS Charities Together, and it’s a direct way to fund support for NHS staff and volunteers . Though it doesn’t directly fund PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as face masks and gloves, it helps put money toward NHS staff travel costs, pays for meals and mental health support.
Small charities such as Beauty Banks allow direct donations to fund their countrywide projects to provide hygiene products to those who need them, as relevant as ever with the stockpiling caused by the pandemic .
Food banks are always in need of supplies, so make sure to check out your local food banks and see what they need. The Trussell Trust, a UK charity fighting hunger, is a great way to get involved . They have multiple ways to give on their website, from one-off debit card donations to directly donating food and goods.
The pandemic has hit the economy hard, with many people relying on a percentage of their salary to get by. It’s no surprise then that not everybody can give much money to charity right now. But giving to charity doesn’t have to mean just cash. Look around your house for any old clothes or goods that you don’t need anymore, or spare tins of food that could go to better use. That jumper that doesn’t fit you anymore could make someone’s day!
Ever since the lockdown announcement, countless fundraising projects have been raising money to fund the vital medical services we need to fight the virus.
The now famous Captain Tom Moore raised some £32m for the NHS for his 100th birthday . A WW2 veteran, Capt Tom aimed to raise £1,000 for charity by doing 100 laps of his garden at his home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, before becoming a centenarian. The support for the fundraiser grew exponentially once the nation found out about his valiant effort to help the NHS, raising millions to give to charity within weeks!
Working for the NHS during lockdown can be stressful to say the least, with the pandemic situation stretching hospital and care home resources to the max. In order to help the mental wellbeing of medical workers and volunteers, the fundraiser Positive News For The NHS was set up . The project aims to send up to 4,000 free magazines to hospitals across the UK, full of articles aimed at lifting the spirits and showcasing the good in the world during tough times.
We’ve had a look at some of the ways you can get involved in community projects and charities, and shared some lockdown acts of kindness and charity success stories. But not all acts of kindness have to be grand, organised gestures. Not everybody has the time, know how, health or security.
Sometimes acts of kindness just mean checking up on your friends, family and neighbours. How about performing an easy and feel good act of kindness today? You could try:
• Asking your neighbours if they need help with shopping
• Calling a relative or friend in isolation
• Sending a funny or cute picture to someone on social media
• Helping housemates with chores or cooking
• Organising a virtual coffee chat with colleagues
They’ll feel better, you’ll feel better, and isolation won’t feel so…isolating! Staying connected and positive with small, daily acts of kindness improves our wellbeing all round.
There is one person you shouldn’t forget when it comes to acts of kindness – yourself! When it comes to helping others, we have to make sure we are still looking after ourselves. After all, practicing kindness is meant to improve our mental health too.
When volunteering, doing charity work or caring for others, make sure to take some time in the day to care for yourself. This could be as basic as watching a show you like, taking a luxurious bath, or going for a walk in nature. For some more ideas, check out Self Isolating? 6 Ways To Improve Your Well Being and 9 Ways To Stay Active At Home During Lockdown. If you’re wondering about how best to use social media for your mental health during lockdown, you might want to read Is Social Media Bad For Our Mental Health During Lock down?
It’s important to prioritise safety when taking trips to volunteer locally or going to help someone in need. This means always practicing social distancing, wearing a face mask when necessary, and following the 5 Steps to Hand Washing.
Here at e-Surgery, we’re aware of the hand sanitiser shortage during the pandemic. We decided to help out by providing much needed bottles of 75% + alcohol hand sanitiser to Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk Accident Rescue Service and St. John’s Ambulance. To find out more about our continued efforts to support frontline workers and local charities and how to contact us for supplies and support, check out Hand Sanitiser Shortage: What Are We Doing To Help?