Mental Health Awareness Week This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we at London Vision have been thinking about how blind and partially sighted people can best manage their mental health during a global pandemic. More people than usual have been struggling with their mental health because of COVID-19. The lockdown measures implemented to try and control the spread of COVID-19 have exacerbated loneliness, and social distancing measures have, in many cases, worsened social isolation. The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness, and we’ve put together a few practical tips that might help if you find yourself struggling with your mental health during this time. All involve being kind to yourself, and none of them involve leaving your own home: Practise mindfulness and meditation According to Headspace, mindfulness meditation practice is a way of truly experiencing the current moment and integrating that awareness into everyday life. Professor Mark Williams of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre also notes that “It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present more clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.” Mindfulness is an activity that you can try at home easily, and it requires no equipment. Dr Beverley Duguid has designed a mindfulness and meditation course and offers one to one sessions over Zoom. She lives with a visual impairment herself and her courses are fully accessible for blind and partially sighted people. You can find out a bit more about her practice here. Alternatively, listen to Dr Duguid talk about mindfulness, meditation and wellbeing on the VI Talk podcast here. Keep in touch with other people Self-isolation and social distancing measures mean that none of us can see our friends and family as much as we would like. Talking to other people can provide emotional support and can help you feel less lonely and isolated. Make time to check in with other people by phone or video call (if you need tips on how to set yourself up on Zoom, check out this blog), and make a date in your diary to have a group call with some friends. You can even meet new people from the comfort of your own home – campaigner Dr Amy Kavanagh is the landlady of The Staying Inn, an accessible and inclusive virtual pub. The Staying Inn is a safe and welcoming space for disabled and non-disabled people to stay connected during COVID-19. Amy and the team host a variety of events every week, from quizzes to film screenings and interviews, and they are committed to making everything as accessible as possible. Visit the website and sign up to the mailing list and get involved! Do some physical activity Doing some physical activity can cause chemical changes in the brain which can help to change your mood for the better. If you are able, try and get out of the house for a walk and enjoy some of the nice weather. If you are unable to, or don’t want to leave the house, then try doing some physical activity at home. Andy Law, London Vision’s Development Manager wrote a really informative blog in March about how he has been helping maintain his mental health by staying active at home. The blog has helpful links to guided audio workouts, ranging from High Intensity Interval Training to more gentle yoga practices. Be kind to yourself and others Remember that the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. The suggestions above might help to improve your mood during this time, but they might not, and that’s okay. We are living through worrying times and living day to day with much more stress and anxiety than usual. Even so, it is easy to feel under pressure to ‘use your time under lockdown wisely’, and emerge speaking another language, or with a clutch of new skills. Instead, you could focus on what you already know makes you feel better. Revisit a favourite audiobook, watch a film, prepare your favourite meal for dinner; and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.