Developing an online toolkit to help young people and adults looks after their mental health
Winter is the perfect time to make use of our Timeout Toolkit, an online toolkit we developed to help young people look after their mental health and wellbeing. Surprisingly, the toolkit benefits adults too — give it a try!
By Cara Robinson, Senior Supervising Clinician, Kent Young Persons’ Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Team
Whilst mental health is a topic to be discussed all year round, there is no better time to focus on looking after our mental health than in the winter. Winter blues, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects around 2 million people in the UK, according to NHS Health Scotland. It can affect people of any age, including children, and symptoms include depression, sleep problems, lethargy, overeating, irritability and feeling down and unsociable.
In addition, we’re seeing people’s mental health may be impacted by the financial pressures related to the rising cost of living, and struggling to pay gas and electricity bills to alleviate cold weather. Young people in particular recognise that their moods are affected by the seasons, and are fully aware and mentally impacted when their families are struggling financially.
The Self-Soothe Box exercise
At WithYou, we recently developed our online Timeout Toolkit, to help young people look after their mental health and wellbeing. The toolkit has been developed by the Kent Young Persons’ Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Team, whose work encourages young people to expand their ‘window of tolerance’ to anxiety and stressful trigger situations.
Our team’s work includes guidance around grounding exercises and self-soothe techniques, and the toolkit itself is an online version of our ‘Self-Soothe Box’ exercise.
A Self-Soothe Box is like having a first aid kit for your mental health. We encourage young people to find a box and fill it with items that can soothe or stimulate their senses, depending on whether the person needs comforting or distracting. This exercise has been part of WithYou’s offer to young people in the Mind and Body Services for many years, and our team were keen to offer these exercises to a wider audience.
The Timeout Toolkit offers a variety of distractions, diversions and alternative ways of coping with stressful situations. Self-soothing is a hugely individual thing and in order for it to be effective, a coping strategy needs to be tailored to the person who is going to be using it. It allows people to ‘bin’ suggestions that they don’t find useful and keep others that do. It’s about trial and error and figuring out what works best for you.
Developing the toolkit
The majority of our CBT cohort present with complex needs and often with co-occurring conditions, such as depression and a history of trauma. Therefore, much of our work has centred on Trauma-focused CBT for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In order to do this, the toolkit was developed in partnership with Hive IT, an external design consultancy, and an important part of developing it was ensuring that we involve young people in its design and content through focus groups.
We encourage the young people in our services to use the toolkit as part of the ‘home tasks’ that we set in our CBT and psychosocial interventions. We also hope that young people who are not accessing our services but are seeking self-help strategies to visit the toolkit online.
We originally created the online toolkit for young people, however a surprising benefit of the toolkit is that it seems adults are also benefiting from its use. This includes colleagues at WithYou.
Prioritising self-care for staff
In our line of work, we are often guilty of believing that self-care is a luxury, when really it should be a priority and a necessity. Our ability to care for others is compromised if we do not take good care of ourselves.
We tend to hold three common myths about ourselves: that self-care is optional, that knowing how to look after yourself is as good as doing it, and that we can magically cope with anything because our line of work helps others. This isn’t true and life events will come along that make it hard for us to function effectively or well.
So do have a look at our Timeout Toolkit, and give it a try.