Free ‘MyCreativeLife’ online sessions launched to help people with long-term conditions cope with lockdown

A Teesside University health psychologist has responded to the ongoing implications of lockdown by launching a series of free online sessions to help people with long-term conditions cope with social distancing, and manage related stress and anxiety, through creative activities.

Dr Stephanie Kilinç, who is based in the University’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law, is running three initial live MyCreativeLife sessions in May for individuals with any type of long-term health condition, including anxiety, asthma, chronic pain, diabetes, dystonia, epilepsy, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, with the objective of supporting their adjustment to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The sessions are also available to family members, friends and carers, as long as they are over the age of 18.

“I wanted to do something to help people with long-term health conditions during this extremely challenging time,” said Dr Kilinç, a senior lecturer in Psychology.

“During the sessions, individuals will be supported to reflect upon their self-management and wellbeing by taking part in some simple creative activities. You do not have to be a great artist to get involved in these sessions.

“Instructions and templates will be provided and joiners will not need any special materials – paper and pens or pencils will be enough.

“The sessions themselves will be supported by people with long-term conditions, who know first-hand what it is like to live with a condition like those who join our discussions.”

The programme can be used alongside Dr Kilinç’s MyLifeTool, a self-management tool for people with long-term health conditions, which launched last year and commenced as a pilot research project prior to Covid-19.

“MyLifeTool sees self-management as a journey towards finding or maintaining meaning and purpose in life,” she said.

“It is an ongoing process that you approach from your own perspective, to fit with your life, aims and needs, and reflecting on what does and does not work for you is a large part of this. There is no end point to this tool and it can be used as and when you need it.

“We ran a face-to-face version of this programme from January to March, with very positive feedback from clients.

“They told us that taking part in the programme helped to improve their goal setting, encouraged them to be kinder and less critical of themselves, and gave them the chance to share their experiences with others who understand what it is like to live with a long-term condition.

“The creative activities in each session helped clients to reflect on a specific issue, such as how they see themselves and how they interact with others, so our response to Covid-19 is directly informed by this pilot project.”

The MyCreativeLife sessions, which will run on Microsoft Teams and last one hour each, are:

• Thursday 7th May, 3pm: What is important to me?
• Thursday 14th May, 3pm: Goal setting
• Thursday 21st May, 3pm: Connecting with others

Dr Kilinç added: “Attendees do not need a Microsoft Teams account and can just follow the web link for the sessions. Individuals can join the session anonymously and choose if they want people to see or just hear them in the group. They can even join the group with no video or sound and just watch and listen to the others in the group. It is a chance for people to socialise with others who understand what it is like to live with a long-term condition, whilst doing something fun and creative. The sessions may help improve goal setting, encourage individuals to be kinder to themselves, and give them a chance to share experiences with people who may have had similar experiences to them.”

More information and links to join the MyCreativeLife sessions can be found at www.mylifetool.co.uk/mycreativelife.

Dr Kilinç can be contacted before or after any session via s.kilinc@tees.ac.uk and is available to discuss the sessions or provide more information about organisations that can give further support.