Dr Colin Patterson.jpgWinter can be a difficult time for both managing physical conditions with the cold weather conditions and also for our mental health with the darker nights.

There are lots of free online resources available which will help you to manage your health better over this festive season and beyond.

I know people often start to think about their New Year’s resolutions at this time and perhaps a greater focus on their self-care would be a perfect place to start.

The Sound Doctor

‘The Sound Doctor’ offers a huge range of award-winning, bite-sized health advice films and structured education courses. In particular it features some excellent content around dealing with physical symptoms and explains the most effective ways of managing long-term conditions

‘The Sound Doctor’ is available to access through: www.northcumbriaccg.nhs.uk/thesounddoctor
The films bring practical, effective and credible information together featuring advice from leading national and international experts, as well as patients living well with their conditions.

They are broken up into accessible, easy to watch sections, so that you and your families can absorb the information at your own pace. It covers a wide range of conditions and topics including:

•    Back Pain
•    COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
•    Heart Failure
•    Diabetes
•    Keeping well at work including stress and anxiety
•    Dementia
•    Ageing well at home
•    Lifestyle choices
•    And more…

The resources also include nationally accredited online courses that people can complete at home to help them understand a new diagnosis. This can be particularly helpful for family and carers to understand the issues which a patient may be facing.

One of the courses focuses on sleep, which might be particularly relevant if you are struggling with inconsistent sleep patterns especially during these unsettled and often uncertain times.

They are also short, easy to understand and aim to help you to improve your health and wellbeing and basically get the most out of life. You can also refer back to the resources whenever you want to re-visit the relevant information to help further understand and manage chronic health problems.

Mental Health Resources

Christmas and New Year can be a wonderful time, however, it can also be a particularly difficult time for some, intensifying isolation and loneliness.

There is help and resources available so you don’t need to suffer, especially if you are on your own.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) host an annual Winter Wellness campaign, which focuses on distributing information about where to seek mental health support.

Part of their campaign includes self-help guides, which cover a wide range of topics from anxiety to alcohol, sleeping problems and stress. They contain information about identifying problems, exercises based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help explore and cope with difficulties, as well as information on where you can seek further help.

They are available for free online, in a range of formats, at www.cntw.nhs.uk/selfhelp 

Some people struggling with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks may need support from a mental health professional to get through this. First Step is the NHS Psychological Wellbeing service, providing a range of ‘talking therapies’ for adults in north Cumbria with common mental health problems. You can access the service via their GP or by self-referring themselves (visit www.cntw.nhs.uk/firststep or call 0300 123 9122).

Togetherall is a further resource which is also available to people in north Cumbria at: www.togetherall.com

The 24/7 web platform offers a safe, online community where people support each other anonymously to improve their mental health and wellbeing. It provides a platform to share your story to people who might be going through the same experience themselves.

The site provides people access to an anonymous community with online peer-peer support, lots of information, as well as courses and resources covering a range of mental health and wellbeing topics. The range of resources also includes really useful courses to help you better understand your feelings and how you can manage them better.

Anyone aged 16 and over who lives in north Cumbria can register for free and it can be accessed by entering their postcode into the website as part of the registration process.

Kooth is also available at: www.kooth.com for young people aged 11-18 and provides an online wellbeing community with free, safe and anonymous support. Features include a magazine, blogs and tips from young people as well as a forum, journals and live chat.

Don’t be afraid to seek support

Sometimes the hardest step to take on your self-care journey is the first one, but I would encourage everyone to click the links, explore the resources and take a look at the support available to you.

There are always people and resources who can help if you are in a negative place, never feel too scared or isolated to ask for support if you need it. Things can always get better.

Remember when you’re working on those resolutions that there are resources at hand to help you reach all your health goals.

By Dr Colin Patterson – North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group