• 14 January 2019

    Exercise and Mental Health

    There’s good evidence that being active is associated with improved mental health. People with mental health problems are more likely to experience physical health problems such as being overweight or being more prone to diseases such as heart and respiratory diseases. So, if you have a mental health problem, the health benefits of becoming more physically active are even more important.

    • When you exercise, your brain chemistry changes through the release of endorphins (sometimes called ‘feel good’ hormones), which can calm anxiety and lift your mood.

    • Your body is better able to control cortisol levels so you may feel less stressed

    • Exercise can helps to break up racing thoughts, leaving you calmer and better able to think clearly.

    • Taking time out to exercise can give you space to think things over and help your mind feel calmer.

    • When you start to see your fitness levels increase and your body improve, it can give your self-esteem a big boost.

    And there are also social and emotional benefits for your mental health, which include:

    • Being around other people is good for our mental health and can help you to build social networks which may be just as important to you as the physical benefits.

    • Lots of us enjoy being active because it’s fun. Researchers have shown that there’s a link between the things we enjoy doing and improvements in our wellbeing overall. If you enjoy an activity you’re also more likely to keep doing it.

    If you would like some support to get more active in 2019, why not sign up for RED January? Find out more here.

    We also have a weekly Peer Run Physical Activity group. If you would like to find out more about joining, just give us a call on 0191 477 4545.

  • 18 December 2018

    Coping at Christmas

    What a mixed bag this time of year can be!

    It is all too easy to imagine that everyone apart from us is having a wonderful chocolate box Christmas with cherished friends and family, who all get on and enjoy each other’s company. We see these pictures all over our TV’s and social media.
    The reality is that most people suffer from a level of stress and anxiety over the festive period. In most households across the country people are worrying about how family members will get on, how they will afford the christmas presents on their children’s Christmas list, and how they will pay for all the excess in January. There is so much pressure to have the perfect experience. And the reality is, life is not perfect for any of us. Try to remember that there is often a story behind the façade. And that TV adverts and films are just a made-up fantasy.

    Finding ways to take care of yourself is always important, but particularly so around this time of year. By thinking about coping strategies and planning in advance you are taking a pro-active approach to looking after yourself.

    1: Dealing with loneliness

    Firstly, remember you are not alone in feeling this. It is estimated that there will be over 1 million people in the UK spending Christmas on their own.

    • Work out a plan of people you can spend some time with this Christmas and who you could call or text or contact online over the festive period.
    • Accept invitations without feeling guilty that you are taking up someone else’s family time.
    • Talk to people, it could be a friend, a family member, a person in the supermarket queue. Making connections with people is good for our mental and emotional health.
    • Know what social support there is in your area. Perhaps there is a Day or Community Centre offering Christmas dinners.

    2: Create boundaries

    It maybe that your anxiety about Christmas comes, not from being alone, but from having to spend time with certain people. Think about what you can do to create boundaries to protect yourself.

    • Can you limit the amount of time you spend with them? Could you factor in some ‘Timeout’ time in case you begin to feel overwhelmed?
    • Think about your ‘red flags’, which tell you that you have had enough and need a break.

    3: Stay connected to what matters most to you

    It’s all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of end-of-year functions, shopping, food and logistics as we prepare for Christmas Day. As you work your way through your to-do-list consider ways that you can stay connected to the bigger picture. Take time to reflect on what really matters to you. Being with people you love and care about? Slowing down and really giving yourself a proper break? Sharing delicious food with your family or friends? Having a laugh and letting go a bit? Easing up on yourself?

    4: Create space and time for yourself

    Try creating a ‘Me Time’ plan. Are you the kind of person who needs to recuperate by having some time on your own, or are you the kind of person who over-commits, putting other people above your own needs. If so, try to create some time and space for yourself. Think about what you enjoy doing and decide to build this into any Christmas plans. Maybe you enjoy getting outside for a healthy dose of fresh air and nature, or perhaps curling up with a novel, listening to your favorite music or having and afternoon nap.

    5: Use your five senses to bring yourself into the present moment

    During hectic periods like Christmas we tend to spend a large portion of our time up in our heads worrying about the future and rehashing the past. When we get swept up by our minds we miss the beauty and simplicity of everyday things like having a good chat or spending time in the sunshine.
    One of the most effective ways to anchor yourself in the here-and-now is to tune into your five senses. So when you notice yourself getting carried off by thoughts, bring yourself back to the present moment by deliberately focusing your attention on what you can see, hear, taste, smell and touch. For example, as you’re eating lunch try to notice all the colours in the room around you, the smell of the food on your plate, the texture and taste of the food as you eat it, the feeling of your body making contact with the chair, the sounds of conversations around you. Soak it all up.
    At first, the idea of tuning into your five sense might seem a little strange. Give it a shot though. It’s surprisingly satisfying. You’ll experience the world around you in a different way. Plus, there’s the added bonus of getting a break from the chatter of your mind - and who doesn’t want that?

    6: Calm your mind by calming your breathing

    If you notice your buttons being pushed by a particular situation or person, or you just need to pause for a moment, one of the most effective ways to put the ‘brakes on’ is to focusing on your breathing.
    When you become overwhelmed by strong thoughts or emotions your breathing changes. Typically, your breathing becomes shallow (you breath from your chest rather than your stomach) and more rapid. Some people even hold their breath slightly. These changes disrupt the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. This imbalance then fuels the fight-flight response and can leave you feeling dizzy, light-headed, confused, tingly, breathless, tense, flushed and nauseous. It becomes hard to think in a rational way – because the part of your brain responsible for thinking clearly has effectively frozen.

    There are a number of different techniques you can use to calm your breathing. Why not try the simple 7/11 breathing exercise below:

    • Place your hand on your upper abdomen near your waist
    • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Your abdomen should rise rather than your chest.
    • Count to 7 as you breath in
    • Exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to 11 
    • As you are exhaling purse your lips slightly and relax your jaw – you should hear a whooshing noise
    • Repeat as often as you need to

    7: Most of all, be Kind and Compassionate to yourself this Christmas

    • Be kinder to yourself. Try to be your own best friend. 
    • Recognise that everyone feels some stress at this time of year you are not alone
    • Be mindful, enjoy simple pleasures and try not to feel guilty for enjoying Christmas in your own unique way
    • Seek help if you need it. Have some emergency numbers by your phone, these can be support services or trusted friends
  • We’ve partnered with AMV Live Music in a Christmas Social Media Campaign raising awareness for Mental Health, and every day throughout Advent in December we’re publishing a different video featuring a different AMV artist performing their own take on a classic Christmas Song from their Gosforth Studios Live Lounge.

    A selection of talented musicians will be involved in this project, from pianists and strings to vocalists and solo guitarists to an 8 piece band, who’ve all filmed their own unique interpretations of classic Christmas songs to be showcased daily on our and AMV’s Social Media.

    The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of being open and talking about Mental Health; especially at a time of year that can be difficult for many of us.

    In addition, alongside each advent video AMV will be posting links to the JustGiving Campaign that they have set up for us. We hope that those enjoying the daily Christmas videos will donate to the campaign if they are able and help support us to continue providing services in the local area.

    Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues affect millions of people in the UK and around the world every year and there are many close to us all who have and continue to suffer from these illnesses.

    It’s been fantastic to see this community of artists rally around something really special and positive this Christmas time and we really can’t wait to share all the performances with you from December 1st all the way up ’til Christmas Eve.
    Keep an eye on our social media channels from the start of December for your daily dose of Christmas cheer, courtesy of AMV’s fantastic artists.

    If you would like to find out more about AMV, or any of the featured artists, you can visit their website here.

  • Do you want to write creatively but you don't know where to start? Get advice on journal keeping, play with rhymes and build poems with people who appreciate your point of view, or simply find the sparks to light up your life stories.
    Come and try our two-hour sessions hosted by poet and diarist Steve Urwin, a versatile published performer who is passionate about wordplay as a tool for personal wellbeing.

    We’ve successfully delivered our first session on 3rd October.

    “A huge thank you to Steve Urwin for coming along to our Open Door session on 3rd October for our first Ways with Words session. I think I can safely say, not all of us thought we could write, but some real talent was unleashed and we’re really looking forward to the next 5 sessions.”

    We'll deliver 5 other Creative Writing sessions in our Open Door group in Jarrow in October.

    If you’re a South Tyneside resident why not join us on World Mental Health Day on 10th October, or for one of the future sessions to explore your inner talents and have a few laughs in relaxed company. The session takes place at Jarrow Hub at 1.30-3.30pm.

    Just pop in, or contact Lisa Taylor for more information on 0191 4774545, or email

    No referral is required, you just need to complete a Registration Form when you attend.

  • Kris McGough and his family at the Great North Run 2018
    Caption: Kris McGough and his family at the Great North Run 2018
    Kris McGough Desert Island Challenge T-shirt
    Caption: Kris McGough Desert Island Challenge T-shirt

    On the 1st of October 2018, 6 men will be travelling to Sirobate, a remote Indonesian island, to complete an 8-day challenge in an adventurous attempt to collect funds and raise awareness on mental health called the desert Island Breakthrough Adventure. Kris McGough, a family man with 3 kids aged 3-20 and happily married, will be leaving his family for this time to participate and face his fears in support to Tyneside and Northumberland Mind.

    The journey there consists of three planes, a car and a boat. The first flight takes the men to Dubai where they will catch their second flight from to Jakarta. From Jakarta they will then fly to Sulewesi where a car will take them to a boat which will sail them to the unknown. Each man has had their fair share of mental health issues which has qualified them to go on this trip abroad where they will fend for themselves the whole time. One of these men has shared his story with us.

    Kris McGough, a family man with 3 kids aged 3-20 and happily married, will be leaving his family for this time to participate and face his fears. Kris has lived with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety brought on by physical health issues. Due to a bad back he was put on antibiotics to help the pain. These antibiotics have brought on a diagnosis of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) which has impacted his life greatly.

    Kris is now anxious about basic everyday situations that the average person deals with just fine. Things like getting a bus or a trip to the park with the family could become stressful for Kris due to not knowing whether his IBS will take its toll.

    Kris’ family has a history of mental health issues bringing this challenge even closer to home for him. Not only does he experience struggles of his own revolving around poor mental health, but his brother and dad also are sufferers with his brother having depression and his dad having bipolar.

    With kids, a wife, a brother and his dad all looking to him for support the time away completing this challenge will not only be a great achievement and chance to face his mental health issues head on but it could also be a chance to get away and relax, well once he’s caught his tea each night and built his shelter for the week.

    The people who will be completing the challenge alongside Kris are also sufferers of poor mental health, so it is an opportunity to meet people who he can relate to. Men tend to not seek help for mental health issues more so than women for various reasons. Sometimes being because of pride and dignity or in fear of losing their manhood and feeling like a liability on their wives and kids.

    The stigma around men and mental health issues can be a real problem in a lot of cases and sharing his story is a step to breaking this stigma. A problem shared is a problem halved.

    You can support Kris by donating on his Justgiving page:

    Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving - they'll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they'll send your money directly to the charity. So it's the most efficient way to donate - saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

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Registered office: Tyneside Mind, Wellbeing Centre, Dunsmuir Grove, Bensham, Gatheshead NE8 4QL. Company Number: 7552434. Charity Number: 1140856.