The importance of self-care


Awardees on this year’s London Writers Awards will be benefitting from a self-care package of support from clinical psychologist Dr Su Yin Yap. Here she talks about the importance  of fostering positive self-care skills and resilience so that writers are better equipped to be able to pursue their creative practice and get the most out of the programme.  

“Many people are struggling to maintain their mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. An ongoing UK wide study of the mental health impact of coronavirus shows that the impact of the pandemic is felt by different groups of society in different ways, and is dependent on people’s social and/or economic context.  We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.

Research shows that those who are impacted by socioeconomic inequalities have been more likely to experience anxiety, panic, hopelessness, and loneliness. They are also more likely to report that they are not coping well with the stress of the pandemic.

The picture is complex, and socioeconomic inequalities includes not only economic status, but also experiences of prejudice and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, residency status, sexual orientation, or ability — all factors which can also contribute to mental distress.

As Spread the Word London Writers Awards is aimed at writers who identify as coming from a background currently underrepresented in publishing including disabled, LGBTQIA+, working class and writers of colour, this complex picture of the impact of the coronavirus on mental health is particularly relevant.

In light of these current challenges to mental health and well-being, the 2021 programme will include an integrated module designed and delivered by a clinical psychologist. A key component of this module is a focus on self-care and boosting well-being. Based on the principles of self-management and adult learning, the module has been created in consultation with Spread the Word. It draws on behaviour change theory, psychological research on exhaustion and burnout, positive psychology, and clinical and cognitive psychology.

In addition to this focus on self-care and well-being, the overarching aim of this module is help the awardees to thrive as writers and to equip awardees with the knowledge and skills to build and nourish a creative practice.

The arts, including music, dance, theatre, visual arts and writing, are increasingly recognised as having the potential to support health and wellbeing.  The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing has undertaken a major inquiry into the role of the arts in health and wellbeing and their latest report contains compelling evidence of ways in which arts engagement can improve the public’s health. This includes helping with self-management, improving mental health, and tackling health inequalities. Arts-on-prescription programmes have been shown to contribute to significant reductions in anxiety, depression and stress.

By supporting awardees in boosting their well-being and resilience, and equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to gain the most benefit from their creativity, it is hoped that this new module and the wider programme will be a nourishing and sustaining opportunity for awardees during these challenging times.”

Dr Su Yin Yap has worked as a psychologist in the NHS for 14 years. Her role involves working therapeutically with adult clients, but also working with staff groups to develop their psychological skills and build their own resilience. During 2020, she played a particular role in supporting hospital staff with self-care skills, delivering workshops for health professionals and developing resources.  

Published 18 January 2021