Men’s Health Awareness Week

Men’s Health Week is celebrated annually during the week leading up to Father’s Day. The purpose is to raise awareness of health issues that disproportionately affect men and encourage them to do something about it. As today sees the end of Mens Health Week, i would like to share my blog piece that i have written.

This year this special awareness week has focused on men’s mental health as the COVID-19 pandemic means that many of us are staying at home and this can have a negative effect on mental health.

Mental illnesses affect both men and women. However, men are less likely to have received treatment due to social expectations. The stigma that exists around mental health means men have increased difficulty addressing their health and seeking help. Suicide is the largest cause of death for men under 50 in the UK, so it is important to create awareness to try and save as many lives as possible.

Warning Signs

If you notice that you or someone that you know is experiencing multiple warning signs, then it may be time to seek help:

  • Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Social withdrawal
  • Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Suicidal thoughts

Seeking Help

If you are experiencing mental health problems or need urgent support, there are lots of places you can go to for help:

  • Talk to somebody you trust e.g. a family member or close friend
  • Visit online forums where you can read about other people’s experiences
  • Contact your GP
  • Find your local support group on the ‘Mind’ website
  • Contact a helpline e.g. Breathing Space or Samaritans’
  • If you require urgent support, please call the Samaritans on 116 123 for 24hr advice and support.

Steven Connelly.

Volunteers Week 2020

Volunteers’ Week is the annual celebration of millions of people across the UK who give their time and skills to help their communities by volunteering. It’s just one of the ways in which we can recognise and celebrate the contribution that volunteers make.

Normally marked with events up and down the country, celebrations for Volunteers’ Week looked a little different this year but it’s been incredible to see so many people getting involved.

Far from business as usual

This year is different for very obvious reasons. With many restrictions still in place, coronavirus dominates almost every aspect of our lives and the normal celebrations associated with the week were put on hold. Not least because of current constraints on our own capacity. It must have been an extremely difficult decision but the correct one due to these unprecedented times to step back from many of the things that voluntary organisations have been so used to doing around Volunteers’ Week.

One of the most encouraging things to come out of this terrible chapter has been the willingness of people to step forward to help, and much of the Volunteers’ Week activity that has taken place this year has focused on recognising the incredible contribution that volunteers make, both before and during this crisis.

Volunteers have stood alongside NHS staff at hospitals up and down the UK, volunteer ambulance crews are supporting 999 call-outs, thousands have been delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to and from hospital or making phone calls to check on people isolating at home.

It is no exaggeration to say that Volunteers are playing a critical role more now than ever alongside health and care services proving vital care and helping communities cope with coronavirus, and will continue to do so in the coming months.

Across the country, thousands of charities and volunteers have swung into action to address the wider social and economic impacts of lockdown.

The speed at which mutual aid groups came together, and at which organisations responded to the challenging circumstances, is testament to not only those willing to step forward but also the strength and depth of civil society. Charities and community groups have enabled hundreds of thousands of people to support others through this crisis.

And of course, we should not forget the enormous contribution that volunteers are making today and every day, to an incredible array of causes and community efforts.

Helping the helpers

During these challenging and difficult times I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all my fellow employees especially to all of our incredible volunteers who have shared their time and talents and have all came together in response to our current pandemic to help our most vulnerable individuals.

Hundreds of face masks have been produced thanks to my inspiring fellow coop community pioneer colleagues and volunteers to help reduce the infection rates of Covid – 19.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jessie who has made thirty face masks which have all be handed out in the West Kilbride coop store, to stop the infection rates of coronavirus.

Jessie made the face masks which could be picked up for a small donation of toiletries which have all been handed to local care homes, everyone has benefited from the voluntary work of Jessie and our outstanding sewing time.

Steven Connelly

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing whilst spreading kindness.

Looking after our mental health has never been more important. As we focus on the threats currently being posed to our physical health, we must remember the toll that this can take on us mentally, especially as we spend more time at home and our regular social activities are put on hold.

This week (18th – 24th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week. The UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health problems and inspire action to promote the message of good mental health for all’. The focus this year is on the power and potential of kindness a fitting theme given the current situation we face as a global society. In my opinion protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.’

Spreading kindness

Whether it’s picking up the phone to an elderly relative, choosing to shop locally, or even the efforts of Captain Tom Moore raising money for the NHS, acts of kindness have been all around us throughout the past few months.

As part of the co-op family we have all been working extremely hard at finding new ways of spreading positivity and tackling loneliness and isolation during lockdown and this week, i am hoping that kindness will spread even further.

Kindness can be something you do for another person, but it can also be doing something for yourself, whichever it is, acts of kindness are motivated by a genuine desire to make a positive difference. Research shows that kindness and our mental health are linked with altruism (helping others) being proven to have a positive impact on your own mental wellbeing by:
– Promoting physiological changes in the brain that are linked to happiness, improving our feelings of confidence and control
– Creating a sense of belonging by connecting us with our community, even if we can’t all be together at the moment
– Putting things into perspective by helping you to see the bigger picture and the things that you are grateful for in your own life.

Looking after your own mental health

But besides helping your mental health through acts of kindness, there are so many ways we can prioritise our mental wellbeing and ensure we are doing our very best to protect it throughout this time. Many of our support networks are providing fantastic tips, advice and activities to help us all to improve our mental wellbeing, whether in our working or personal lives.

Steven Connelly.

The Purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful…

During these unprecedented times personally i find its best to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference to the isolated and the lonely as-well as being honestly with yourself that you have lived and lived well. It is not the length of life, but the depth.’

If being useful is the purpose of life, and our everyday actions are, largely, about striving to lead a purposeful existence–that is what we all want isn’t it; to lead a life that has meaning–then we must look inwards at how we can be useful to ourselves before we can look outwards.

By assessing our needs first we are, it goes without saying, doing ourselves a kindness.

Kindness to you is kindness to me, and kindness to me is kindness to you

Treating ourselves with kindness is at its core a way of respecting ourselves.

What better way to be respectful of ourselves–all we have been, presently are and will be–than to do things that are of use to us now and in preparation for our futures?

Why be useful to ourselves?

When we do things that are useful to us as individuals–say by taking ten minutes in the morning to mediate or creating tomorrow’s to-do list the night before–we feel productive, practical, supportive accomplished, of value, and perhaps even successful.

All feelings that make us feel fundamentally good about ourselves.

In other words, we have listened to and respected our needs and translated those into actions that will help us achieve the desired outcome.

We get a sense of fulfillment that, in turn, makes us happy.

Usefulness = Kindness

If, then, these useful actions make us feel good about ourselves is this not one way of being kind to ourselves?

And to take this one step further, if we can be useful to ourselves with the result being of a positive change or forwards motion in our circumstances, then surely usefulness is one of the very best ways of being kind to ourselves?

Being useful to ourselves individually can actually be the antidote to procrastination and self-destruction.

Each and every act we do that is of use to us in some way, no matter how big or small, translates to positive progression in our lives.

So, being useful to ourselves is being kind to ourselves, and brings us closer to leading a meaningful and purposeful life.

Give usefulness a go and see how much lighter you’ll feel. Be kind to yourself by being useful to yourself.

Steven Connelly.

You are my Sunshine

A lovely and beautiful talented writer and gorgeous person has written an incredible and inspiring poem about strength, courage, love and rainbows to bring a smile to your faces and injecting sunshine into your everyday lives during these unprecedented time’s for my Sunshine Through Your letterbox Campaign. #coop #itswhatwedo 🌈 🌈🌈🌈

You are my Sunshine.

When I don’t have a reason to smile, you make me think of happier times,
you are my Sunshine.
When I feel alone, you remind me of all the people that love me,
you are my Sunshine.
When I feel a tear trickle down my cheek, you get me a tissue and gently smooth it away,
you are my Sunshine.
When I’m feeling Ill and drained, you lift me up and make me better again,
you are my Sunshine.
When I feel scared and vulnerable, you give me strength and assurance,
you are my Sunshine.
When I feel lost and without direction, you gently guide me to the right path,
you are my Sunshine.
When I look in the mirror and only see ugly, you remind me of my beauty,
you are my sunshine.
When I make a mistake and feel guilty, you tell me it’s a lesson learned,
you are my Sunshine.
Who is that Sunshine, that Sunshine is me.

Laura Mac

If you enjoyed Laura’s poems, please check out her brilliant blog. Details are below.

Anxiety and Self Isolating

Many of us have lots of coping strategies, such as going to the gym, meeting up with friends or keeping busy with hobbies and work. In such uncertain and worrying times, many of these coping strategies have been taken away and the thought of spending so much time at home can be frightening.

Firstly, remember you are not alone. It’s okay to feel anxious and many others will be feeling the same way too. It’s still important to talk about how you’re feeling and to reach out if you need support.

Practise your usual coping strategies where possible – breathing techniques, grounding, focusing on the present. If you usually go to the gym – go for a walk or run (if you can) or try following a home workout video on you tube.

Limiting your exposure to the news is important too. While it is necessary to be aware of what is happening, there is no need to overexpose. This will only feed your fears. Allocate a set time of day where you will check the news, for example, after breakfast or during the government’s daily update. Then avoid or limit your exposure throughout the rest of the day.

Keep yourself busy and try not to allow your mind time to overthink and catastrophise. Creating a new routine is a great way to look after your mental health. Stay active and eat as well as you can.

Most importantly, be sure to make time for yourself every day. Self-care is crucial, whether that means taking a long bath, getting an early night, reading a book, calling or Face-timing, friends and family, watching a movie or two or baking a cake. Do something for you. Mental downtime is important too. Try practicing mindfulness with apps such as Headspace, this will help you sleep.

Remember that like everything else, this situation is temporary. There is lots of support available if you’re feeling particularly anxious or struggling to cope. Keep in touch with others and try to take one day at a time, focusing on the right now, rather than worrying about the ‘what ifs.’

Steven Connelly

Sending positivity and encouragement during this overwhelming period

As many people in our community’s right now, maybe feeling anxious, isolated, and lonely due to our current circumstances. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to brighten someone’s day with an uplifting message, poem, drawing, song or story which could go a long way.

I am employed by the coop as a community pioneer, i want to make people smile, laugh and spread joy during this difficult period.

I want To show people they have not been forgotten. Lets get creative folks! Whilst the kids are at home let’s get them to work positively and brighten up someone’s day. Send a message of support, draw pictures, write stories, take pictures on your phone and email them to myself.

We will forward them on and maybe be able to display them in coopuk stores sending positivity during this challenging time.

If you are also aware of someone that could benefit from receiving some positivity and sunshine, please email me.

My email address is:

I will look forward to hearing from you, #keepsmiling #ItsWhatWeDo #thecoopway.

Steven Connelly

Directory of supermarkets and shops in Irvine and Dreghorn

Coop – Irvine
46 Caldon Road
01294 278 636

Coop – Dreghorn
96 Townfoot
KA11 4EZ
01294 222 300

Riverview Retail ParkKA12 8AY
East Road IrvineKA12 0AF
Asda Irvine Superstore
5 Fullarton Street Irvine KA12 8EJ
01294 313 036
Thorn-house Stores
37 Thorn – House Avenue
01294 279 908
Anne’s Store
22 Burns Street
KA12 8RP
01294 274 379
80/106 High Street
KA12 0AX
01294 313 938
Ayr Road
KA12 8BH
01294 843 150

The effects of self isolation, loneliness and mental health.

The feeling of loneliness is a subjective one. It can come from the lifestyle and conditions in which someone lives. It can come from a person’s inner landscape and the state of their mental and emotional health. The recent health pandemic we find ourselves in causes extreme loneliness, isolation, panic and anxiety.

In either of these cases, loneliness can be especially distressing and a very slippery slope if a person doesn’t have supportive people in their life who can help them reconnect and find the care they need. Even when someone chooses a life of social isolation and seems to thrive under these conditions, it’s a lifestyle which can alter their mental, emotional, and social functioning over time.

Ultimately, the direct and indirect impacts of isolation pose serious risks to one’s mental health. In a direct sense, the experience of social isolation stimulates negative perspective and behaviors, which can intensify over time. In an indirect sense, a lack of support—whether real or perceived—can prevent or undermine treatment outcomes. The effects of social isolation on severe mental health urge our awareness and responsiveness when we know that people are suffering.

How Do We Experience the Effects of Social Isolation?

When we look closely, isolation isn’t necessarily a measure of how many hours a person spends alone or how many friends and other connections they have. The phenomenon of social isolation just isn’t as simple as being alone. In fact, it’s possible for someone to be and feel isolated even when they are in the presence of other people. Let’s look at some of the ways that isolation can manifest for different people:

  • Physical isolation can happen when someone lives in a remote area or otherwise has limited interactions with other people in their home life and throughout their days.
  • Emotional isolation can but doesn’t necessarily depend on the actual state of being alone. Emotional isolation could be imposed upon someone—as in the case of an emotionally abusive, psychologically abusive, or neglectful relationship. It could also be self-imposed, intentionally or unintentionally, if someone is unwilling or unable to invest energy into emotional connections.
  • Psychological isolation can be a complicated situation if someone is mentally disconnected from their own identity and personality or from their reality and the people around them.
  • Rejection or ostracization are acts that purposely isolate a person. The experience of social isolation imposed by others likely comes with additional feelings of shame, pain, and other emotional trauma.
  • A virtual lifestyle is becoming more and more common as people depend on Internet socialization over in-person relationships. A consistent psychological effect of all-virtual interactions is debatable, but there are certainly important aspects of human communication and relationships that are missing from purely virtual interactions.

How Does Social Isolation Have an Effect on Severe Mental Health?

It’s true that loneliness itself is not considered a clinical mental health disorder. But its close connection with our well-being makes it very worthy of our attention. To put it simply, isolation breeds more isolation. Researchers have observedthat persistent loneliness can inspire:

  • A self-preservation mentality and behaviors
  • Fixation on negative thoughts and outcomes
  • Hyper-vigilance toward social threats whether they are present or not
  • Heightened stress and anxiety responses
  • Poor sleep quality if hypervigilance continues

These effects of social isolation can weigh heavily on one’s mood, their perspective, their ability to cope with stress, and perhaps their very sense of self. In the context of social isolation, it is not always a simple and straightforward path of mental health decline. But it does tend to be progressive, especially as mental health disorders develop.

And the effect of social isolation and severe mental health disorders also significantly impairs treatment access and recovery outcomes. The absence of caring and supportive relationships makes it less likely that someone will connect with treatment options. in the first place or that they will be able to maintain recovery progress following treatment. And those who live in social isolation due to personal withdrawal may be less likely to seek or accept treatment. These limitations, on top of the detrimental negative effects of loneliness, can lead to severe and often unaddressed psychological distress.

What Does This Assessment of Isolation and Mental Health Mean for Treatment Outcomes?

The primary concern surrounding mental health disorders that advance in social isolation is that the individuals will not receive the treatment they urgently need. It is often the case for people in psychological distress that a family member or friend helps them to access the best treatment. If the nature of someone’s isolation prevents this access, they could be in danger of further mental health decline and intense suffering.

Another concern is that people who do enter treatment may not have the social support especially on the other side of a treatment stay. It could be detrimental to leave a treatment program and return to a life of isolation. Hence, treatment is as much about developing a context for recovery as it is about applying therapeutic methods.

Comprehensive treatment centers are often designed around a welcoming and understanding community environment. Clients can work with clinicians at their own pace, developing a trusting relationship over time. Peer groups and activities allow clients space and time to discover ways in which they can relate to each other. Ultimately, these peer relationships become a very powerful part of the recovery journey. People who have been isolated in the past begin to break down walls of loneliness and rigid self-preservation. At the same time, structured programs invite family and friends to get involved in the treatment process. Through education and the development of coping strategies and positive relationship dynamics, a lasting support system is built.

Before progress can be made, people who need mental health treatment must get connected. Each one of us can expand our awareness to have a care for those who suffer in social isolation. The conditions of loneliness and isolation themselves are stigmatizing, but only through a close-minded view. We all share a need for human care and connection, and we can open our minds and hearts to those who need to rediscover that path.

Steven Connelly

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety is now the number one mental health condition in the UK and with all the new stresses in our daily lives, especially during our current health crisis it has become somewhat of an epidemic. But contrary to what a lot of people think it is a very treatable condition and a lot of people do overcome it with the right help and advice.

When we first seek help in recovering we usually just find ways to manage anxiety and although this was part of my approach, it was more important to me to find the underlying cause of my condition. I wanted to truly understand what was creating it and so as to cut out the root.  I did not want to spend a lifetime treating the symptoms of anxiety, I wanted to be fully free of the condition.

Below are some helpful tips that helped me calm and move on from my anxiety.

Tips to help with anxiety

  • Get plenty of sleep and rest – When our mind and body is overworked it is even more vital to get the rest we need to recuperate.
  • Take up a new hobby – Rather than sit around brooding try and fill your day with something you enjoy. Relaxing or outdoor hobbies serve the most benefit.
  • Get involved in volunteering – Doing something positive can change your mindset and helps you mix with new people.
  • Take up meditation – This can help you let go of that busy mind and mentally switch off. I often meditate to this day and find it hugely beneficial.
  • Stop blaming yourself for how you feel and avoid conflict – When we feel anxious we can sometimes take how we feel on those around us, which only tends to create more drama and toxic feeling in our life. The result of this is just more stress and an increase in our anxiety levels.
  • Talk to others about how you are feeling – Opening up to others can have huge benefits, from being able to drop the act of being O.K to lightening the burden you feel. You will also find that people are far more understanding than you think and in many cases find out that they are going through their private struggle too.
  • Don’t use food or Alcohol to suppress how you are feeling – No one is perfect, and I am not saying don’t have the odd drink or always eat correctly. It is more about not using junk food or alcohol to suppress how you feel. Both will have the opposite effect and will most likely increase your anxiety, make you lethargic and reduce self-esteem.
  • Cut down on the worry. Worry and stress are the most significant contributors to anxiety, indulging in either only hurts you, it doesn’t solve anything. This period of your life is a warning and time to take stock of your life and make some real inner changes.
  • Have some downtime – In this busy day and age of smartphones, computers and 101 channels to chose from, many people now find that their brain is always stimulated. It is so routine now that some even feel uncomfortable if they aren’t watching T.V or staring at a phone, is it any wonder that peoples minds are busier than ever? If you can find half an hour each day to switch everything off and just be with yourself with no distractions, you will see considerable benefits in the long term for doing so.
  • Be loving and patient towards yourself – Don’t have any guilt for the way you feel or fall into any self-pity mode. Also, don’t expect or want to be better yesterday, give the mind and body all the time they need to heal while at the same time being patient and kind to yourself.
  • Don’t fill your day with the subject of anxiety – Filling your day with the subject can end up with the thoughts about anxiety becoming sub-conscious and with this habit, you find you are unable to think of anything else. Firstly there is no reason to go over the subject continuously; it does you no good. You also can’t stop thinking about the subject by trying not to; you do so by adding other things into your day and letting it happen naturally.
  • Don’t avoid life or triggers – Don’t fall into avoidance behaviours because you don’t wish to feel anxiety. This avoidance only creates new problems and ends up giving you a very narrow existence. The truth is recovery lies in these places; it lies in allowing yourself to feel anxious. Regaining your life and former you will never come through avoidance.
  • Do the best you can – Recovery can take time and progress can be slow at first so just do the best you can for now and don’t expect too much too soon. In time you will look back at be amazed at how far you have come.
  • Lose the negative people in your life – If there are people around you who tend to bring you down or pull you into their drama for whatever reason, then it may be time to think of having a spring clean and give yourself some distance for a while.

Steven Connelly