We are living in very unsettling times. COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill and most of us are at various stages of government mandated lockdowns. People can’t go to their normal places of work, or meet with friends and family. The economy is a mess, nobody knows when lockdowns will end and every news outlet is full of tales of hospitals being overwhelmed, serious illness and death. As if that wasn’t enough, everyone is being forced to deal with their fears and worries in quarantine alone, without their usual support networks.
Everyone can be forgiven for feeling down.
It is important to care for your mental health during the lockdown. Staying strong is important, both to keep your mood positive and to maintain your physical health.
Here are ten ways in which you can look after your mental health during the lockdown.
1.Realize that it’s OK to feel down or sad
These are very difficult times, and everyone is being affected by both global events and the impact of the lockdown on their own lives. Recognize that feeling down or sad is completely normal; it may cliché, but everyone really is in the same position. Acknowledge your feelings, realize that it’s OK to feel this way, then move on.
- Limit the time you spend watching or reading the news, or on social media
You can’t change the things that are going on in the world. Watching the rolling news coverage on Sky is only going to make you feel worse. There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep up to date, but limit the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news to perhaps an hour a day. Likewise, be careful of the amount of time you are spending on social media. We live in a world of information overload. It is very difficult to know what is true and what is false and to verify sources. This is especially true of things posted on social media – there are a lot of trolls out there. Don’t believe everything you read on places like Facebook and Instagram, particularly the scandalous posts; they are more often than not untrue.
- Stick to your morning routine
Whether you are working from home or you are off work for the moment, stick to your morning routine. Don’t get into habits such as trying to sleep in. Get up at a normal time, go in the shower, get dressed, and so on. Sitting around in your pajamas all day will only feed a negative mindset. Getting dressed and doing your makeup (if you wear it) will keep you in the mindset that you are about to start your day.
- Have a routine set for throughout the day
If you are still working then you have something to occupy you throughout the day; you still have your daily duties and tasks to take care of. If you are not working at the moment, plan out what you are going to do during the day, even if it’s as simple as going for a run, making lunch and then doing the online shopping. Structure and routine are important, especially at the moment, and will help keep you focused and positive.
- Find worthwhile things to do with your time
Although very few of us would have chosen to live through a lockdown, it is a unique opportunity as we will never again have a chunk of time with nowhere to go or be. Also, if you are not working filling your time with something worthwhile will make you feel like you are continuing to achieve things.
Perhaps there is a course online that you would like to do? Many places have free courses available. E-learning college is one. Universities up and down the country offer Mooks, which are short online courses on everything from local history to dementia. Or perhaps you have to do some study for the conditions of membership of a professional body? This is a perfect time. Not only will you feel you are achieving something, but you will also have learned something and when the lockdown is eased you can take that knowledge and certificate from the course back into the workforce with you.
- Keep in touch with friends and family
This is massively important. Although we are unable to visit friends and family at the moment, be sure that you are keeping in touch with everyone by phone, text, or by a whole range of apps available. Not only will this improve your mood and give you support, but it is also important to check in on others and stick together at this time.
It is a bit of a cliché, but exercise does produce endorphins, which are linked to happiness.
UK citizens are allowed to leave the house for one form of exercise per day. Citizens of most countries in lockdown are still allowed to exercise. Absolutely take advantage of this. Whether you enjoy running, cycling, or even just walking, exercise makes a huge difference to physical and mental health.
- Watch your diet and cook your own meals
Healthy, nutritious foods will help to keep your mood stable, as well as being good for your physical health. Avoid things like excess caffeine and sugar, which will give you a temporary high followed by a crash. If you have more time at home, then take advantage of this – there are a seemingly infinite number of websites with recipes and cookery advice. Use the time to try different types of foods and to cook your own foods instead of ordering ready meals or processed foods.
Also, be careful of your alcohol intake – drinking due to boredom or to ‘escape’ being at home all day is a slippery slope. Don’t even start day drinking, and leave illegal substances alone. These things may help at the time, but are likely to cause much worse problems in the long run.
Many, many organizations are stretched to capacity at the moment and are looking for volunteers. Providing you are well and haven’t been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19, looking for volunteering opportunities in your local area will massively help your mental health. While some positions are remote, others will get you out of the house and out and about in the community. Helping others is a massive boost, and volunteering is a fantastic use of your time.
- Remember, this will end.
It may not always feel like it, but lockdown will end, and life will return to some kind of normal.
Staying busy and staying positive is the best way of getting through the lockdown. Do your best not to dwell on the current situation, and fill the time as best and productively as you can. While none of us would have chosen this lockdown, we are unlikely to ever have a chunk of time like this to ourselves again, so make the most of it as much as possible, while being kind to yourself at the same time.
If you experience any serious depressive thoughts or have thoughts of harming yourself, The Samaritans can be contacted free in the UK on 116 123.