Given the period of social distancing, shielding and lockdown being experienced worldwide as a result of COVD-19, increased sensitivity to mental health has never been so crucial. The disruption to routines, coupled with isolation and general uncertainty can unsettle the equilibrium of even the most balanced individuals.
So, how can you help combat the ill-effects current circumstances may be having on your own, and others, mental health? Fortunately, there are a wide variety of recommendations...
Mental Health UK suggests small acts of kindness can go a long way in helping everyone cope with our current reality. Research shows that kindness can reduce levels of stress and anxiety (Curry et al. 2018), increase happiness and self-esteem (Tashjiian, 2018) and that in only one week, counting one’s own acts of kindness can improve happiness (Otake, 2006).
The Royal College of Psychiatrists cites exercise as an important element in helping to manage mental health; endorphins are released during aerobic activity, which are commonly known as ‘feel good hormones’, as well as the chemicals dopamine and serotonin which are related to depression and anxiety and are directly affected by exercise.
The power of the arts
It can also be agreed, particularly in our current circumstances, that the diversion offered by arts and culture has been invaluable. It has lifted spirits, provided escapism and preserved mental health and well-being for many.
Arts & Business NI are leading advocates for the power of the Arts in Northern Ireland; in fact, we passionately believe that the Arts are a fundamental part of how we function as a society. Never has this been more evident than now, when one looks at the demand for digital concerts, film, crafts and much more!
It was with this ethos in mind, that we decided to dedicate £30,000 from our Investment Programme to facilitate arts organisations and practitioners across Northern Ireland in the development of creative products specifically to support the mental health well-being of those working from home, as well as those isolating with families.
We understand the strain of trying to carry on with life or business as normal, under totally strange circumstances. The products created within the Remote Family Engagement and Remote Staff Engagement initiatives aim to ease the stresses of everyday life, by harnessing creativity and allowing opportunities to switch off, as well as fostering moments of community.
What products are on offer?
With 33 products in total, there is something to appeal to every individual and family.
Some stand out products from this project include:
REPOSE, from Tinderbox Theatre, which offers a rejuvenating soundscape where listeners can embark on a nurturing journey through five different landscapes using vocal guidance, the elements and their imagination. Each stage of the journey symbolises an important aspect to emotional well-being and gives listeners the opportunity to feel these attributes, rather than merely understand them.
Well-being through Photography, from Belfast Exposed, which embraces the NHS recommended 5 steps of well-being: Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Give to Others and Be Mindful. Staff are invited to join a programme which makes use of photography to disrupt negative thoughts, serving as a distraction, instilling a coping mechanism and strategies to manage their current living and working situations.
Mindful Movement, from Maiden Dance Voyage, which provides four somatic movement lessons taught remotely by expert instructors. The sessions involve slow meditative movements to improve physical ability in an effortless way and the effectiveness with which the brain coordinates and controls movements. Participants will find the sessions deeply relaxing, feel improvement in postural habits and gain new viewpoints on active processes and feeling within the body.
Notable products from this project include:
Comedy Academy, by Amadan, which offers five videos and interactive sessions for families to engage with one another, through a rehearsed clown routine and interactive recorded performance. The project allows kids and parents to decompress and have some fun – laughter is a proven stress reliever and helps bond people together, after all.
Still I Rise: Diversity & Inclusion Storytelling, which offers 6 sessions for audiences to choose from, to enjoy storytelling from a diverse range of performers on what it means to be a little bit different. The sessions aim to break down stigma around different topics, encouraging children to ask questions and be curious about others.
Mental Health UK website: mentalhealth-uk.org
Royal College of Psychiatrists website: rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/parents-and-young-people/young-people/exercise-and-mental-health-for-young-people
Arts & Business is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.