Be kind to yourself and get active throughout 2021
2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on us all, and continues to take a toll on everyone's mental health.
Perhaps the cruellest feature of the pandemic is that, while causing a surge in what was already deemed a mental health crisis, restrictions meant that support for those suffering was less accessible.
Local charities that support mental wellbeing, have taken a hit during the pandemic.
"Physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your mental health as it has benefits on sleep, routine, concentration and mood"
National organisation Sports in Mind, which uses sport and physical activity to improve the lives of people experiencing mental health problems, is no exception.
Sport in Mind development officer Calum Pettitt spoke about the continuing impact 2020 has had on the charity.
"The Coronavirus has had a major impact on Sport in Mind's and many other charities ability to deliver sessions and services to people in the local community." he said.
"The Coronavirus has had a major impact on Sport in Mind's and many other charities ability to deliver sessions and services to people in the local community," he said.
"Many charities have moved their services online and drastically reduced face-to-face sessions."
Speaking about the effect lockdown and Covid-19, in general, is likely to have had, and to continue having, on the population's mental health, Callum said. "Issues such as isolation and loneliness are on the rise and this has been well-documented in the news.
"The need to reduce face-to-face meetings/appointments will also be likely to have a negative impact on people's long-term mental health. "It is unclear quite how far this negative impact will stretch but we are anticipating that the need for services such as Sport in Mind and other charities/organisations will be needed more than ever."
Once restrictions are able to be decreased, the charity is hoping to support those who have suffered throughout 2020.
"Sport in Mind is hoping to do more to engage people who are experiencing long periods of social isolation by sending out activity packs to help encourage these individuals to get active and start taking steps to improve their physical health and in turn, their mental health," Callum added.
One small positive of the pandemic is that more people have been encouraged to get active and spend more time outdoors - but this hasn't been possible for everyone.
Callum reflected on this: "When the lockdown was first introduced and many people lost access to gyms and sports clubs, there was a large increase in people getting out and about and using their one hour slot for exercise.
"In terms of using safe, outdoor spaces it was good timing as the weather was good and it was very easy to visit a local park etc.
"However, for many people, the pandemic has caused heightened stress and for those who feel they need to shield have found it much more difficult to get involved in outdoor exercise."
The pandemic has also taken a toll on volunteers and staff, with many being furloughed.
"Our staff, coaches and volunteers are all incredibly passionate about the work that they do with us - so it has been very tricky for them to be away from our sessions as they not only beneficial for our attendees but for anyone who attends too," Callum added.
When asked what advice he would give to those struggling, Callum said: "Sport in Mind would recommend that everyone still tries to find the time to be active and get involved in physical activity.
"Physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your mental health as it has benefits on sleep, routine, concentration and mood."
"It doesn't need to anything too strenuous and many exercises can be adapted to be done sitting down and around pre-existing conditions - you could try yoga, tai chi, gardening, walking - anything you can think of that involves getting up and about!
"Sport in Mind is encouraging everyone to sign up to RED January too, which encourages you to be active every day throughout the month, and be just the motivation you need and is free to sign up too.
"2020 has been a challenging year for all our mental health, so this is a great way to kick start the year and beat those January blues." 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on us all and continues to take a toll on everyone's mental health.
RED January encourages everyone, of all abilities, to get active every day during the month of January and raise funds for Sport in Mind. It can provide people with a goal and focus to help them through a characteristically tough month. During RED January 2020, more than 50 per cent of RED participants experienced less stress and reduced signs of depressive symptoms.
RED January can empower, educate and support you to start the year as you mean to go on, forming health habits to continue throughout January and beyond.
Sport in Mind's innovative programmes is delivered in partnership with the NHS and co-designed by people with personal experience of mental health problems and healthcare professionals. The charity delivers sessions to support the recovery of people living with mental health problems in the community and also inpatient care, as the charity believes that everyone should have the opportunity to take part in sport and physical activity, irrespective of how unwell they are.
For more information on Sport in. Mind, visit the website - www.sportinmind.org
To sign up and find out more about RED January, visit www.joinredjan.co.uk or @REDJanuary.uk