The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on all our lives, and with so much change and uncertainty, it is understandable if we start to feel anxious,stressed or worried. Staying home to help stop the spread of Covid-19 is the right thing to do, but it brings with it its own challenges and can generate feelings of isolation, frustration and boredom - so it has never been more important to look after our mental well-being. Here are 8 simple ways to look after your mental health and well-being whilst we remain in lockdown.
1. Stay connected
Maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family is a human need and is really important for our mental well-being. Living in lockdown and with social distancing measures in place for the foreseeable future means we need to stay in touch through telephone calls, social media and video chat services like Zoom or House Party. Why not reach out and check in on an old school-friend through social media?
2. Keep talking
It's normal to feel a bit worried, scared or even helpless at times about the current situation. As the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ so talking about how you are feeling with someone you trust can help discharge any negative feelings you may be experiencing. If you cannot or don’t want to speak to someone you know, there are plenty of helplines available including those from the mental health charities MIND - 0300 123 3393 and CALM - 0800 58 58 58.
3. Support others
Helping others during this worrying time can be a win-win situation – they benefit from your help and it will make you feel good as well. Do you have an elderly neighbour or relative who is living on their own? They might really appreciate a call, or ideally, some regular contact to see how they are coping. If you have got the time, are there any community groups you could join to support vulnerable people local to you?
4. Look after your body
During lockdown it is easy to get into unhealthy habits of slouching on the sofa and grazing on unhealthy snacks and sweets. Too much indulgence and inactivity can end up making us feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and try not to drink too much alcohol. Exercise is proven to lift our mood and to make us feel better so try to keep active - whether this is by using one of the many online workout videos or leave your house for the permitted one form of exercise a day, of course maintaining 2m between you and anyone else outside.
5. Ration your Coronavirus news
Coronavirus is in the news 24/7 and whilst it is important to stay up-to-date with Government safety advice it is easy to get overwhelmed by the constant drip-feed of worrying news from a variety of media sources. You might also want to consider limiting the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone. Maybe limit yourself to one or two Coronavirus news updates each day.
6. Do things you enjoy
If we are feeling worried, anxious or low, we might stop doing things we usually enjoy.Focusing on your favourite hobby, relaxing indoors or connecting with others can help with anxious thoughts and feelings.
If you cannot do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with inventive new ways to do things, like hosting online pub quizzes and music concerts.
7. Be mindful
Focusing on the present, rather than worrying about the future, can help with difficult emotions and improve our well-being. Relaxation techniques can also help some people deal with feelings of anxiety, or you could try one of the many mindfulness apps which are available such as Headspace or Calm. As Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace explains:“Meditation can’t change what’s happening around us, or to us, but what it can do is profoundly change our relationship with the experience.” Take a look at this wonderfully relaxing mindful breathing exercise on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfDTp2GogaQ&app=desktop
8. Look after your sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it is important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. Also try to get up at a decent time each morning even if you are not working so you can maintain a regular pattern of rest and activity.
Stay safe and look after yourself and others!