Staying well while staying informed

Staying well while staying informed

Written by Catherine

Recently, everyone has been talking about the news and it can feel like not engaging with the news during a time like this is irresponsible. The truth is that although being informed is important so is your mental wellbeing and finding a balance between the two, especially during times like this, can be key. Everyone’s approach will be different but here are just some of the things that you can do to engage with the news and worldwide events on your own terms.

Know your triggers

Everyone is affected differently by different topics and being aware of this can be key to ensuring you stay informed without damaging your mental wellbeing. Not only does it allow you to distance yourself from news stories that you find particularly upsetting but it also provides you with the opportunity to explain this to others so that they can support and check on you.

Break up with breaking news

24-hour news cycles first came into being in the 1980s (1) and since then we’ve gotten used to hearing about the day’s events as and when they happen. While this can make us feel connected to the world around us it also forces us to make decisions about a subject, often before we have all the information we need. This is one of the reasons that I am a huge advocate for turning off breaking news bulletins on devices and setting limits on the amount of time spent on the news. While staying informed is important it’s also key to your mental wellbeing to do this on your own terms.

Look on the bright side

You will not see many positive stories on the news and there’s a very good reason for that. You are more likely to keep watching a rare and terrible accident than you are all the good and seemingly mundane things that happen daily. However, there are some websites and companies dedicated to good news stories which you can choose to engage with. Positive News and Good News Network are great places to look for positive news stories.



The Beginning of the 24-Hour News Cycle | Times Illustrated


Finding the Self through self-compassion

Written by Aaliyah

Two years ago, the idea of “Covid-19” seemed surreal but fast forward two years and it now seems somewhat “surreal” and difficult to recall life before Covid-19. I think its fair to say the last few years have been extremely difficult on all levels – emotionally, mentally physically and psychologically. Despite the pandemic being a universal and socially shared experience some of us have never felt so far apart. Distant from the world, from the future, from our loved ones but most importantly distant from ourselves. Even if we remove Covid-19 from the mix, life has its own events which it throws at us such as bereavement, financial difficulties, relationship struggles etc. Amongst these various events we can often feel weighed down and experience unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety, guilt, disgust and shame. It can be difficult to come to terms with or even acknowledge these emotions and before we know it, we can be left feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or in my own experience “burnt out”.

Whilst we may see this in a negative light I believe it doesn’t always have to be a “bad thing”. Not at all! If anything in these last few years I have come to change my mindset and think perhaps this is the body and minds way of protecting themselves. These defensive emotions aren’t always “bad”. Rather they can simply be triggered by our bodies as a way of dealing with all our stressors, worries and concerns. When these emotions arise to the surface we often feel sad, burdened and even ‘defeated’. However, I have started to learn if we take a step back and become more observant and understanding of our emotions we can then re-direct our thinking to focus on more helpful and happy things. During times of fear and uncertainty one way for me to navigate my emotions and gain a sense of control has been through the practice of “self-compassion”. By practicing to be kinder and less harsh on myself I have learnt to feel less anxious and more assured in my day to day life. Now of course self-compassion isn’t like a magic wand which you can remove all of life’s problems but what it can do is help you feel more safe, secure and at peace with yourself and even others.

At this point you must be thinking “So what is this “self-compassion”?”. Well it can be as simple as it sounds! I believe it can be a skill, something which you can practice and grow. It’s the act of being sensitive to your own hardship and the hardship of others but also wanting to relieve this hardship by promoting kindness, warmth and helpful emotions or thoughts. I think it is important to know being kind to yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you are weak or needy, a misconception I once had. I have come to learn being self-compassionate can actually help you establish boundaries and understand your inner self better so you are able to live in a way in which you feel more fulfilled and positive.

Now the important question… How do we actually practice self-compassion? I don’t think there is one strict formula to follow. I’m still well on my way to understanding self-compassion better myself but for me it was simply finding new hobbies in the form of painting or re-sparking an old an existing passion by getting back into baking. For me it involves doing something I like, something I enjoy and something which helps me feel relaxed and in the moment. For you it can also be as simple as tapping into little moments where you are kind, nurturing and caring to yourself. This could be anything ranging from reading, gardening, meditation to learning an instrument, starting a new sport or joining a club. Everyone has that something which helps them feel happy or brings them a sense of peace. Something you can do no matter what the weather is or what time of year it is. Once you find that private little thing which brings you joy, its important to hold onto that.

Apart from having a physical aspect, self-compassion can also come in other forms. It can involve being more in touch with your emotions. We often find ourselves focusing on our physical bodily needs which is a great form of self-compassion but it is also important that we don’t ignore our mental, emotional and psychological needs. It’s good to have a balance as we often find our mental needs come hand in hand with our physical needs. By taking the time to observe and pay attention to how you feel and what that feeling means to you, you can come to understand your personal needs and how to cater to them. For me when I’m having a bad day I now try to notice warning signs such as my mood slipping and acknowledge this rather than brushing it off. I find it is important to try to step back and say “I don’t feel too good right now and that’s okay. I need some time to myself to do something I enjoy and to work on this so I can understand why I feel like this”. You can also try to practice this positive talk through mindfulness techniques or compassionate exercises (these can be found through the references below). Rather than being harsh on yourself you can learn to have a more compassionate space for any unpleasant feelings. Of course, this isn’t always easy and is something which will come with time, patience and encouragement. Remember you are allowed to be a ‘masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.’

For decades, research and psychologists have suggested practicing simple self-compassion techniques in our daily lives can help increase our wellbeing, resilience, motivation and drive while reducing self-criticism, self-doubt and worry. I am a big advocate for self-compassion. By learning to be kinder to myself, understand my thoughts, feelings and behaviour I have learnt to nourish, flourish and ground myself in these difficult times – and so can you! Learning to understand your mind, body and soul is not an easy journey but it is a meaningful one. Try to take a step back from time to time to focus on the journey and not the destination.

As this comes to an end it doesn’t have to be the end! Please know that this is just my own reflection of self-compassion and the meaning I have extracted from my personal research. However, if you are interested in exploring self-compassion some more, below are some useful sources to help you get started:

Useful References:

The Compassionate Mind (by Paul Gilbert)


The Link Between Diet and Wellbeing

The Link Between Diet and Wellbeing

By Ken, Haven

Like many of us, I’ve tried various diets to help improve my energy levels, maintain physical health and shed a few pounds, yet it’s only more recently that I’ve started paying attention to nutrition and its potential impact on my mental health and wellbeing.

Much research is focused on the gut microbiome, which is a term for the trillions of micro-organisms that dwell in the murky depths of our digestive systems – we are truly never alone! It’s thought that over a thousand different types of bacteria, many beneficial to our systems, live in the gut but scientists are only beginning to understand their effects on our mental and physical health. If you also consider that every person potentially reacts differently to them, it becomes a hugely complex puzzle.

According to microbial ecologist, Professor Ley: “One person’s healthy microbiome might not be healthy in another context – it’s a tricky concept”. Research is in its infancy and while some 15,000 people have provided microbiome samples for study, this pales into insignificance compared to the 30 million who have had their human genomes sequenced. Some research suggests stressors such as psychological issues, disturbed sleep patterns and environmental factors can all have a negative impact on the microbiome.

An article in the British Medical Journal suggests that the classic Mediterranean diet can have a positive effect on wellbeing, especially when compared to our unhealthy Western diet, which tends to be high in sugar, salt and refined carbs. Good gut ‘flora’ can be boosted by probiotic yogurt drinks, available in most supermarkets and by regular use of probiotic supplements, available online (I’m always sure to check customer reviews) and in health shops. The good guys of the bacteria world help expel the bad, break down fibre and produce vitamins. They’ve also been shown to increase our ability to fight off infections and other ailments.

Personally, maintaining my physical and mental health has been a case of figuring out through trial-and-error what works best for me. While I’m not keen on a large breakfast, others in the office simply can’t function without one. Some don’t bother with lunch or prefer to snack throughout the day. One thing I’ve noticed for sure, is that if I wolf down an unhealthy snack for lunch (e.g. crisps and sandwich) I often feel my energy and mood crash shortly after. The same goes for chocolate, which offers a quick high followed by the inevitable crash. But everyone’s different and what works for me might not work for you.

For me, a daily routine of meditation, reading self-help books, listening to YouTube talks by positive people, plus being mindful of my diet, work most of the time. After all – we are what we eat!

**Please note that any radical changes in diet need to be discussed with medical professionals, particularly if you have underlying medical conditions.