I work as part of the Touchstone Housing Team, and as such I tend to work with people who have a housing need as well as a mental health issue. I enjoy this because I feel it takes a holistic approach to helping people’s lives, on the understanding that without stability and security it is difficult to heal our minds, and that without our psychological needs being met it is difficult for us to meet or maintain our physical needs. With this in mind, I decided that this article about Winter Wellbeing would be a two-parter. I would like to address some of the housing-related stresses that can be common around the winter time, and I would also like to include a few tips to try and maintain our mental health through the cold and dark of this season. Although this is by no means a comprehensive list, I hope it goes some way towards helping you or someone you know through the upcoming months.

Housing-Related Issues and Tips Toward Reducing These:

  • Keep fuel bills down – You can save money on your energy bills by turning off lights when leaving a room, switching off electricals like televisions and chargers when they are not in use, and using the 30 degrees programme on your washing machine. By doing this it is easier to budget for extra heating costs.
  • Keep your house warm – You can conserve heat by covering bare floorboards with rugs, carpets or blankets (particularly if they are wooden floors), putting tin-foil behind radiators on external walls to reflect the heat back in, keeping your radiators clear, and shutting the doors to unused rooms to contain the heat in smaller spaces.
  • Keep yourself warm – Wear several thin layers made of woollen, cotton or fleece fabrics if you are cold. A lot of heat escapes your body through your head and feet, so wearing socks and a hat inside could make all the difference. You can also keep warm by eating carb-heavy hot meals such as soups, stews and porridge, and consuming hot drinks as well.
  • Keep the draughts out – Windows are one of the most vulnerable points for draughts so close your curtains when it gets dark to conserve the heat in your house and keep draughts at bay. You can buy draught excluder tape for less than £5 from most DIY shops, which can be placed around external doors. If you spend a lot of time in one room, place a long draught excluder (such as a “sausage dog”) under the door to that room.
  • Ask for help or advice – Check eligibility for the council’s Warmth for Wellbeing Service (0808 168 3547). They can conduct free heating system repairs, provide independent support and advice about grants and discounts, cheapest energy suppliers, and much more! You can also call your energy supplier to ask if you are eligible for help this Winter. Some suppliers are part of schemes such as the Warm Home Discount. These schemes usually involve putting some money towards your next payment, or putting credit on your utilities. Some do this automatically but it’s worth phoning and asking, particularly if there has been a change in your circumstances since joining your supplier – You may fit criteria which you hadn’t before!

Mental Health-Related Tips:

  • Look for the positives of the season – With each season comes specific food, events and trends, and winter is no different! Large boxes of sweet-clems are bought into the shops, ice-skating rinks popping up all over the place, or even enjoying a hot chocolate when you get in from the cold. By looking for and enjoying your simple winter-time pleasures it will be easier to stay positive through the coming months.
  • Take a walk outside – During Winter the days are shorter and there is less sunlight to go around. In some cases a Lack of light has been associated with Winter-time depression, but most everyone lacks energy when the days draw in. That being said, take in as much sunlight as you can get! Sunlight triggers the production of tryptophan which lead to an increase in serotonin; an aid to mood regulation and good quality sleep; both of which are important in maintaining our mental health.
  • Meet people – It’s easy to stay cooped up in the house in the Winter months when it’s cold outside and the weather is playing havoc. However by fighting the urge to retreat and socialising we can actually boost our mood. Meeting up for lunch with a friend, joining a group exercise class, or visiting with family are just a few of the ways we can do this.
  • Talk to someone – The holiday season is a difficult time for a lot of people for one reason or another. This difficulty is made greater when you’re worried about talking to others; Perhaps the expectation to be happy is boxing you in; Perhaps you are worried about concerning your love ones. Whatever the reason please do not suffer alone. If you are worried about your mental health please talk to a professional such as your GP or support worker, or contact a help-line for support:
    • Samaritans (emotional support service, 24/7) – 08457 909090
    • Connect Helpline (emotional support service, 6pm -10.30pm every night) -0808 800 12 12
    • Dial House (Overnight Crisis Service, open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day) – 0113 260 9328
    • Saneline (emotional support service, 1pm-11pm) – 0845 767 8000

If your housing situation is having a negative affect on your mental health, please consider referring yourself to our Touchstone Housing Service for assessment. We provide temporary accommodation in single, self-contained flats across Leeds for people with a housing and mental health issue (diagnosed or undiagnosed), and support people to move into more suitable accommodation. We can also support you in your current accommodation. To find out more or refer yourself to our Housing Service please click the following link: