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Looking after your mental health during Covid-19

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing during Covid-19

The current pandemic may be having some impact on your mental health and wellbeing. You might be worried and anxious about how Covid-19 will affect your life and daily routine or because you are self-isolating as you, or someone you live with, has shown symptoms. While this may be a difficult and stressful time, there are some simple things you can try and do that can help your mental health and wellbeing. It is important to remember that it is okay to feel the way that you do and that everyone reacts differently.

Find ways to fill your time

It’s easy to get bored when you’re stuck indoors so it’s important to find ways to spend your time. You could try having a clear out by sorting through your possessions and putting them away tidily or have a spring clean. You could also have a digital clear out by deleting old files, upgrading software, updating all your passwords or clearing out your inbox.

Try to keep active

If possible, build physical activity into your daily routine. It could be something as simple as cleaning your home, walking up and down the stairs or dancing to music. Mental and physical health is linked to one another and when we feel good physically, we tend to feel more positive and better about life. When we exercise, chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins are released which help to naturally stabilise and lift our mood and improve our sleep.

Get as much sunlight, fresh air and nature

Bringing nature into your everyday life can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and make you feel more relaxed. If you can, go outside for a walk and take in the sights, smells and fresh air. However, it is possible to get the positive effects of nature while staying indoors at home. You could try:

  • Spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air
  • Listening to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall
  • Spending time in your garden, if you have one, or opening your front or back door and sitting on the doorstep
  • You may be able to buy seeds, flowers or plants online for delivery, to grow indoors. If you order items for delivery, remember to ask to have them left at your doorstep, to avoid face-to-face contactIf you have safe access to a garden, you could bring home some natural materials like leaves and tree barks to decorate your living space.

Keep your mind stimulated

  • Keeping your brain occupied and active are important aspects of brain health. By challenging your brain, it increases its vitality. Here are some activities you could do daily to stimulate your mind:
  • Read books, magazines and articles
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Complete puzzles, crosswords or Sudoku
  • Learn a new language or a new skill
  • Enrol in an online course on Futurelearn or the Open University

Find ways to relax and be creative

Engaging in artistic activities helps reduce stress and anxiety and has been shown to alleviate symptoms associated with depression. There are lots of different ways that you can relax, take notice of the present moment and use your creative side.

Why not try:

  • Arts and crafts, such as drawing, painting, collage, sewing, craft kits or upcycling
  • DIY
  • Meditation
  • Playing a musical instrument, singing or listening to music
  • Writing

Get a good night’s sleep

You may find yourself struggling to get to sleep because of anxiety or worry about the current situation. However, it’s important that you get a good night’s sleep as it makes a difference to how we feel mentally and physically.

Try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern and keep up good sleep hygiene practices such as avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.

Take care with news and information

It is important to stay connected with current events but remember to be careful with where you get your news and health information from. For up-to-date health advice, see the NHS coronavirus webpage and the GOV.UK coronavirus webpages.

If news stories and social media content makes you feel anxious or confused, try limiting the amount of time you spend online.

This story was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2020 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 9th June 2020

Spring/Summer 2020 Magazine is now available!

Spring/Summer Cover

A very warm welcome to the Spring/Summer Edition 2020 of the Community Living Well magazine. We hope you’re staying safe and staying well.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways. From lockdown and not being able to see our family and friends, anxieties around whether or not we’re safe and following Government guidance to a change in the economy impacting employment. Adjusting to the ‘new normal’ is a lot to navigate.

This magazine is dedicated to providing you with useful advice, support and hyperlinks to help you through the coronavirus pandemic. We hope that you’ll find this resource useful and you’ll feel informed, inspired and uplifted.

Since the pandemic, each of our services have had to look at new ways of working so they can continue to provide our service users with support. Information on our service changes are included in the magazine.

You’ll also find information on how to look after your mental health and manage stress and anxiety. If you’ve been furloughed or need advice on what support you may be entitled to, our Navigators and Employment team have put together some helpful information.

Remember you are not alone and that it is okay to ask for help and support if you need it.


From coping with loneliness during isolation, to living well with a long-term health condition during lockdown, the Spring/Summer Edition is filled with content that aims to help you on your quest to improve your mental health and wellbeing especially during these strange times.

As always, this magazine is about you – your thoughts, ideas, concerns and achievements. If you have any suggestions, features or stories you think we should include, please contact me, Michelle, on [email protected].

Take care and stay safe.

Community Living Well is a mental health service for those registered with a GP in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, or the Queen’s Park and Paddington areas of Westminster. The services on offer include talking therapies, support groups, help with employment and support with debt, housing and benefits issues. Self-referrals can be made here. For more information please call 020 3317 4200.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 1st June 2020

Support during the Coronavirus outbreak

During the coronavirus outbreak we are here to provide support for those who are self-isolating or anxious about the impact of the virus on themselves and their families and loved ones.

Here are some helpful things you can do to help you manage during this difficult time.

Make a schedule

Keeping a routine can be a really useful way to stay active, and have control over your day. Think about writing up a timetable to put on the wall, and write out what activities you will do throughout the day. It’s important to include things that will be enjoyable, calming, as well as productive.

Keeping healthy

Take care of your basic needs; get rest and eat healthily. Remember, exercise is good for your physical health, and it can also boost your mood. You can still go outside for one form of exercise, just remember to practice social distancing and keep 2 metres apart.

Finding calm

It may be useful to write down all the questions you have, and look for the answers from reliable sources such as the NHS and Finding things that are comforting to us can help with being calm and relaxed. You can find free phone apps and tools such as Calm which helps with relaxation, or Chill Panda relaxation for children, MeeTwo, a safe space for teenagers to share, and Every Mind Matters for adults.

A positive note

It’s important to remember that there is hope and people are getting together at difficult times to support each other. End your day on a positive note, by spending a few minutes before bedtime to tell each other in person, by phone or even write in a journal something positive that happened in the day – or something positive you hope will happen in future.

Our Talking Therapies team are here to help with problems such as stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia, and we will continue to accept referrals and offer support. We are providing brief focused interventions to people by telephone or video call and the option of online treatments. If you would like to refer to the service, please complete the self-referral form.

This resource was originally published by Central North West London NHS. Download the resource here. This document is also available in other languages, large print, Braille, and audio format upon request. Please email [email protected]

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Talking Therapies
Posted on: 19th May 2020

New online workshops for COVID-19 support

free online workshops for COVID-19 support

We are offering free one-hour online workshops addressing a range of concerns during COVID-19.

These workshops are based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), an evidence based therapy used widely in the NHS, and there will be discussions on how to face difficulties with lockdown in a practical way. It’s an opportunity for you to meet others with similar experiences to you and discover that you are not alone and you can share as much or as little as you would like.

There are opportunities for you to ask questions throughout the online workshops and points where verbal discussion will be invited. Here are the topics that are currently available:

Living Well during COVID with a Long-Term Condition

Having a long term health condition (such as diabetes, respiratory or cardiac conditions) during this pandemic can bring extra challenges to our ability to manage our health and wellbeing. This one-hour online workshop covers a range of ideas to support you during social distancing or isolation. Here we discuss topics such as: managing worries about our health and COVID, continuing to move with a meaningful routine during isolation, how to decipher information about COVID and much more.

Dates: Every Monday from 10am to 11am and Friday from 2pm to 3pm

Managing anxiety and worry during a pandemic

We know that during COVID, we may find ourselves worrying about a range of issues coming up with the pandemic and feeling increasingly overwhelmed or anxious. This one-hour online workshop discusses tools to help support you with this including; managing worries about COVID, looking after yourselves, coping with the increased uncertainty the pandemic presents and evaluating the information you read about COVID.

Dates: Every Tuesday from 10am to 11am and Thursday from 2pm to 3pm

Maintaining wellbeing during isolation

Life in isolation presents many challenges to our wellbeing; not being able to continue with many of the activities that would be meaningful to us. It’s therefore easy to notice difficulties in motivating ourselves or a drop in mood. This one-hour online workshop covers tools to help build a meaningful routine while in isolation, problem solve specific difficulties and manage hopeless thoughts we might have about the pandemic.

Dates: Every Monday from 3pm to 4pm and Wednesday from 10am to 11am

Parenthood During COVID

Life during the pandemic is already stressful, but being a parent or going through pregnancy can add extra challenges to your wellbeing at this time. This one-hour online workshop is aimed at parents and women going though pregnancy and covers a range of topics such as: creating a well-rounded family routine, how to talk to children about COVID, managing worries about giving birth or COVID and being kind to ourselves if things don’t go to plan.

Dates: Every Monday from 2pm to 3pm and Thursday from 10am to 11am


You’ll need to register to Community Living Well’s Talking Therapies and you can do so by:

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Talking Therapies
Posted on: 22nd April 2020

Service updates due to COVID-19

To align with the Government’s current guidelines, we’re temporarily changing the way we deliver our services. We will continue to process new referrals and support current service users during this difficult time.

We won’t be providing face-to-face appointments, groups and activities. Each of our services have had to look at new ways of working so they can continue to support you. You can find the different service changes below.

Talking Therapies

Talking Therapies will offer focused support to people by telephone or video call and they can offer online treatments. They are also offering support to NHS staff affected by Covid-19.

There will also be virtual groups and webinars available and our website will be updated with more information as it becomes available. Find out more about CNWL’s Talking Therapies on their website.

Peer Support

Peer Support services will be provided under one umbrella with other Kensington and Chelsea Mind services. They will be offering:

  • Regular support by phone, email or text
  • Support to assess the level of practical support you may need during this time
  • Support to create a Mind Wellbeing Plan to help you cope at home
  • Emotional support and regular tips and information on how to look after your mental health and,
  • Information and support to help you access other services

If you have any questions, please get in touch on 020 8964 1333 or email [email protected]

Primary Care Liaison Nurses

Primary Care Liaison Nurses will provide telephone consultations and face-to-face appointments using online platforms such as Zoom. You may experience a longer than usual wait time for your first contact as the team experience some disruptions to their service. Some individuals may find that they are offered support as an alternative to seeing the Community Mental Health teams, and there may be times when you are directed to other support services that can better meet your needs.

If you need more information on medication, there are reliable medication resources on the Central and North West London website.

Employment Service

The Employment Team are still accepting referrals and all of their work is being done over the phone.

They will also provide one-off advice, guidance and signposting for those who would like some information on their current employment situation.

Please note – there is a waiting list for these services.

Navigation Service

The Navigators Team are still accepting referrals and all of their work is being done over the phone.

They can also signpost people who would not be eligible for their services, but need some support with finding out the most up to date and relevant information for them.

This is not an emergency or crisis service and they operate with a waiting list. They will be in touch with you as soon as they can.


SMART are offering a food delivery service for people with primary or secondary mental health needs, who are self-isolating or unable to get to a food bank. If you require this service, please self-refer to the Navigator service and write I would like a referral to SMART food delivery in the ‘tell us about the issues you need help and support with’ box. A member of the team will contact you by phone to get more information and to check your eligibility.

Self-Care Services

Changes to the delivery of the self-care services are outlined below:

  • Clement James Wellbeing Project – Activities, groups and learning sessions will continue however they will be delivered through phone calls, video and online sessions
  • Well Read – Play reading sessions will be offered online through Zoom on Tuesdays and Fridays
  • Emotional 1:1 support in your language – This service will be provided over the phone
  • Massage and Reflexology – This service won’t be offered in the meantime however you can register to have the team call you to check in with you or your neighbour
  • Volunteering on Prescription are currently not taking more clients through this scheme but you can volunteer to help during Covid-19 by filling in a form on the Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea website
  • My Recipe My Story are supporting existing clients but you can register your interest for when things are back up and running

If you would like to register for the above services, please complete the referral form.

Helpful resources

Coronavirus and your wellbeing

Mind have put together a useful resource to help your wellbeing during this difficult time. This information is to help you cope if:

Single Point of Access

If your mental health deteriorates or if you experience any thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact the CNWL Single Point of Access Crisis Team on 0800 0234 650 or the Samaritans for free on 116 123.

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 6th April 2020

COVID-19 Information and Guidance

The West London Clinical Commissioning Group have issued the following COVID-19 information and guidance.


For up-to-date information on Coronavirus symptoms and guidance and what this means for you, your family and friends.

Key messages

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • Sign up to be an NHS Volunteer:

Keep checking the GOV.UK website as information changes

Live in Kensington and Chelsea?

Check your local Council’s website and search Coronavirus for the latest information on what’s happening in the borough.

If you’re a resident and would like to help support a community response, visit for more information and to register as a volunteer.

Local voluntary sector organisations can visit for further support and guidance.

Live in Westminster?

Check your local Council’s website for regular updates on what’s happening in your area.

Visit to find out about local volunteer opportunities and the support available for voluntary sector organisations.

Helpful resources




Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 26th March 2020

Food and Mood: how diet affects your mental health

Woman grabbing food from the fridge

We often link our diet and what we eat to our physical health, but did you know that it also affects your mental health and wellbeing?

Having a healthy, balanced diet rich in protein, nutrients and vegetables could be the key to raising energy levels, improving your ability to concentrate and focus, bettering digestion and releasing amino acids, the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings.

By incorporating some or all of these tips into your diet, you may find an improvement to your mood, mental health and wellbeing.

Eating regularly

If you’re not eating regularly, you may find your blood sugar level drops. This can cause you to feel tired, irritable and depressed. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly, such as pasta, rice and oats, will help to keep your sugar levels steady.

Staying hydrated

If you don’t drink enoiugh fluids, you may find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly. This may also affect your bowels, which puts no one in a good mood. Drink the recommended six to eight glasses of fluids a day. Water is the best option but tea, coffee and smoothies also count as an intake. Be mindful though that these contain caffeine and sugar!

Looking after your gut

Research has shown that your gut reflects how you are feeling emotionally. Your gut slows down or speeds up if you’re stressed or anxious. For healthy digestion, you need to have plenty of fiber and fluid and you need to exercise regularly. Healthy gut foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Managing caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant which means it will give you a big burst of energy but it may make you feel anxious and depressed, disturb your sleep (especially if you have it before bed), or give you withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. Try limiting the amount of caffeine you have a day or avoid it altogether and you might find you feel noticeably better.

Getting your five-a-day

Vegetables and fruit contain a lot of the minerals, vitamins and fibre we need to keep us physically and mentally healthy. Eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day means you’ll get a good range of nutrients. Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced (one glass) fruits and vegetables all count towards your five-a-day.

Getting enough protein

Protein is important as it contains amino acids which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. You can find protein in lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese and legumes (peas, beans and lentils).

Eating the right fats

Rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the rights ones. Your brain needs fatty acids such as omega-3 or -6 to keep it working well. You can find healthy fats in oily fish, poultry, avocados and eggs.

There are many ways that foods can affect how we feel, just as how we feel has an influence on what foods we choose. Some of the food/mood effects are due to nutrient content, but a lot of effects are due to existing associations of foods with pleasure and reward (chocolate) or diet and deprivation (plain foods).

This story was originally published in the Winter 2020 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Primary Care Liaison Nurses
Posted on: 12th March 2020

Help us shape your mental health services

Happy group discussion on shaping mental health services

Want to help review and shape your mental health services in your community of Kensington & Chelsea and Queen’s Park & Paddington?

We are committed to collaborating on shaping the future of mental health services in our community and would value your involvement.

You’ll be compensated for the time that you can contribute to this project.

What is it?

West London Clinical Commissioning Group, Central North West London NHS Trust and The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Local Authority are looking for service users, carers, friends and family to get involved in collaboratively working together to re-shape your mental health services in our local community of Kensington & Chelsea and Queens Park and Paddington. This covers health and social care services that are in your local area.

A workshop and refreshment session to introduce people who are interested to the Integration Programme will be held next week. Here are the details:

Date: Friday 20 March 2020

Time: 1.30pm to 4.00pm

Venue: Bay 20, 71 St Marks Road, London W10 6JG

How can I help?

Groups are scheduled to take place and will meet on a regular basis at a place that is local in Kensington & Chelsea and the Queen’s Park & Paddington area.

How do I get involved?

If you’d like to get involved, or if you want more information about the work we’re doing, then we would love to hear from you. Get in touch to find out more:

Phone: 020 3317 4328

Email: [email protected]

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 10th March 2020

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

When the days get shorter, darker and colder, you may feel a dip in your mood. It’s common to feel affected by changes in the weather and seasons – we all have certain times of year that we enjoy more or less than others, for a variety of reasons. You might find your mood changes when the weather gets colder or warmer, or notice changes in your energy levels, sleeping patterns or eating habits. If these feelings are interfering with your day-to-day life, it could be a sign that you have depression. And if they keep coming back at the same time of the year, it might be a sign that you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) otherwise known as ‘seasonal depression’.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ or ‘winter blues’ because the symptoms are usually more apparent and severe during the winter. Some people with SAD may have symptoms during the summer and feel better during the winter.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of SAD can include:

• a persistent low mood

• a loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities

• irritability

• feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness

• feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day

• sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning

• craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

For some people, these symptoms can have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

How can I treat the symptoms?

There are some things you can do yourself to improve your mood during winter SAD.

Get natural sunlight. Get outside in the natural light as much as possible as it can help boost your mood or sit next to the window to let sunlight in.

Stay active. Regular exercise can help with symptoms of low mood and depression as it releases serotonin and endorphins.

Connect with others. Winter can make us feel more isolated than usual so make time to connect with others through a phone call, email, text or meet up face-to-face.

Have things to look forward to. Whether it’s a coffee with a friend, or the thought of spring coming, try to keep positive by having something to look forward to.

Pick up a new hobby. If winter means you tend to stay indoors more, keeping busy with new hobbies can help keep your mind active. Why not pick up a book and read or learn how to knit?

Get cosy. Embrace the cold by getting into warm, comfy PJs and enjoying a hot cuppa and take in the warmth. Remember, the cold won’t last forever!

What causes SAD?

Causes of SAD isn’t fully understood however it’s often linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. There is some evidence to suggest the following:

• increase in the body’s level of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleepwake cycle. This makes people feel sleepier and more lethargic.

• irregular production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that influences mood and,

• less production of Vitamin D, which is needed for the production of serotonin.

If it doesn’t get better…

You should consider seeing your GP if you’re struggling to cope. Your GP will carry out an assessment by asking you questions about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any changes in your thoughts and behaviours. After the assessment, your GP will recommend the most suitable treatment programme for you.

The main types of treatments are:

Lifestyle measures – including getting as much natural sunlight as possible such as a brief lunchtime walk, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels

Light therapy – using a special lamp called a light box, which gives off a strong white or blue light, this simulates exposure to sunlight.

Antidepressant medication

Talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2020 Community Living Well magazine. It has been edited for website purposes. Subscribe today to receive mental health and wellbeing tips straight to your inbox, four times a year!

Refer to the Community Living Well service here.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well
Posted on: 3rd March 2020

March Peer Support Calendar

March Peer Support Calendar

Welcome to the March Peer Support Calendar!

We have a wide range of activities and groups on offer for our members. Highlights include a Storytelling Workshop at the Queen’s Gallery, a weekend visit to Kensington Palace and exploring the British Museum.

We’re also pleased to offer a Living Well Workshop on Self-Compassion. If you’ve ever criticised yourself or felt inadequate, this workshop will explore how it can easily happen for many people and the impact it has on our emotional wellbeing. You will also practice some skills and strategies that you can use to develop kinder ways of relating to yourself. Find out more and how you can reserve your place in the calendar.

As always, all our groups are underpinned by the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Active, Connect, Give, Learn and Notice.

Download the March Peer Support calendar here.

New Members

Are you new to Peer Support and looking for company this winter? Join a friendly Peer Support group and connect with like-minded individuals in an enriching and positive wellbeing environment.

If you are just starting to find your feet in the service, we understanding that joining new people at our groups can feel daunting. To help joining be less stressful and reduce your worries, we can offer you a one-to-one introductory meeting on a Monday Afternoon at the Community Hub at St. Peter’s Church, Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN.

Afterwards, you will also have the opportunity to experience our weekly hub. This Monday group is a place for laughter, music, companionship, light snacks and a warming cuppa. If having a slot with a Peer Support coordinator could help you to try out our service, please email us at [email protected].

We hope you enjoy our March Peer Support Calendar. To attend a Peer Support group or book a one-to-one introductory meeting you must be registered with Peer Support. To refer yourself please complete this quick online form or call 020 3317 4200.

Find out more about Peer Support.

Author: Michelle Jackson
Category: Community Living Well, Peer Support
Posted on: 25th February 2020

SMART St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training