This article first appeared in our March 2021 Members’ Newsletter.
Many of us found the winter lockdown harder than the first, so if you’ve been struggling, you’re not alone. Evidence shows that there are five things you can do to help improve your peace of mind. The NHS website, and the mental health charity Mind, both have suggestions for things that can help. Our ideas have the needs of visually impaired people in mind, so we hope you will find these useful. For more useful contacts, see Help during the pandemic.
Step 1: Connect with other people
Keeping in touch with family and friends on a regular basis helps your social and mental wellbeing, even if it’s just a quick chat on the phone. One effect of the pandemic is that you may now be aware of video call applications like Zoom or Teams even if you’ve never used them! There is no substitute for meeting face to face, but these apps can be easily installed on your computer or mobile device.
With face-to-face meetings, always follow the current restrictions about how many people you can meet up with and follow social distancing. You can be guided by another person if required. While the preference is for them to be from your household or support bubble, they can be someone else if this isn’t possible. Sighted guides don’t count towards the number of people meeting up.
You may want to share experiences of sight loss and the impact of the pandemic with others who also have a visual impairment, who will understand how you’re feeling.
The RNIB offer a talk and support befriending group over the phone or online. The groups meet on weekdays and sessions last up to 55 minutes.
You don’t need any special equipment to take part, all you need is access to a phone or computer in a quiet and comfortable place. The groups also support people with a dual sensory impairment / hearing impairments. For more information please call 0303 123 9999.
With the Covid restrictions you may feel isolated, upset and anxious. To help with these feelings, you may benefit from talking to professional counsellors. Telephone counselling services can offer you time and space to express these emotions in the comfort of your own home.
The RNIB offers one-to-one telephone and online counselling sessions. For more information, call 0303 123 9999.
The Macular Society offers a service to anyone who has been diagnosed with macular disease, as well as their family members. For more information, call 0300 3030 111.
Step 2: Be physically active
As well as keeping you fit, exercise releases the feel good hormone called dopamine, so you really do feel better for it!
This could be something you do from your chair by moving your legs and arms, to going out for a walk. Before engaging in any form of exercise make sure that you are safe, comfortable and feel able to do so. If unsure, contact your GP for advice. You can be more physically active by doing the following:
- Getting up every so often in the day to walk around to make yourself a drink or a snack.
- Walking up and down the staircase (see picture)
- Going for a walk in your garden
- Having a little jiggle to some music you like!
If you fancy something a little more relaxing, then the RNIB broadcast guided daily yoga sessions at 7am. Find these on RNIB Connect Radio online or on Freeview TV channel 730.
If you’re feeling energetic, British Blind Sport have started their Active at Home programme, an online library of accessible, audio-led workouts ranging from HIIT and Cardio classes to Dance and Pilates. Find out more here.
Step 3: Learn new skills
Learning a new skill also boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Now may be a good time to think about what you would like to be able to do once Covid restrictions start to ease. Perhaps you would be like to cook again, be more independent when going out, or be able to access technology.
Sight Support Derbyshire can help with information, advice, guidance and training to support you with these tasks and many others.
We can provide you with advice and guidance around aids and gadgets that can help with tasks like making yourself a drink, grating, peeling and chopping, using controls on your appliances, hob and oven safety, and organising your kitchen.
We can offer aids such as liquid level indicators, kitchen measuring scales, non-slip mats, talking labelling devices and more to help you become more independent.
Perhaps you would like to walk to the local shops independently, visit a friend or relative, or go into town by yourself when restrictions ease. If you live in Derbyshire county we can help by assessing your mobility needs and providing you with specialist rehabilitation training to achieve your goals. If you live in Derby we can refer you to the City Council’s rehabilitation officer.
The liquid level indicator in action
The national lockdown and the restrictions posed by the pandemic have highlighted how technology can be a great help with providing information, and keeping people in touch with loved ones.
If you would like to learn how to use a tablet device, personal computer, laptop or smartphone, Ability Net can help. They can help with guidance on the most suitable technology for you, and how to use it. To find out more, call them on 0800 048 7642 or email email@example.com.
RNIB Connect radio hosts discussions around technology that are accessible for blind and partially sighted people, every Tuesday at 1pm.
Accessibility functions have come a long way, and are quite advanced in newer computers and smartphones. There is a lot of information online about how to make the most of them. We’ve put some of it in our Help during the pandemic section.
Step 4: Give to others
Acts of giving and kindness can help us feel more positive about ourselves, and feel more connected to others. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It could be something like showing others what they mean to us, perhaps by getting in touch with a friend we haven’t spoken to for a while.
You could make a loved one’s day by telling them how much their support has meant throughout the pandemic. Small acts done with care and attention, like stroking and feeding a pet or watering a plant, also count.
Step 5: Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword in recent years. It’s about making yourself stop and pay attention to what is going on around you, in that moment, to try and find a calmer mind space. An example might be going outside and concentrating on what you can hear, such as the birds singing.
During such challenging times it’s sometimes difficult to keep positive and as a result our minds are likely to wander with worry and anxiety. This is normal given the circumstances, but mindfulness can help you give you focus. Try the exercise below, which helps you relax by focusing on your breath.
Find a comfortable and relaxed quiet space, which could be any part of your house where you feel at ease. You can keep your eyes open or closed and keep your arms relaxed on your lap with both your feet sitting comfortably on the floor. Bring your attention to your breath and feel the inhalation through your nostrils and how this inflates your chest as you draw air in, and how it feels as the air comes out of your mouth. Do this exercise for 1 or 2 minutes and increase the duration of the exercise as and when it feels comfortable.