Let’s face it, if we’d been told 12 months ago that we’d be spending our lives quarantined in our own homes to help combat a pandemic flu which originated in bats, many of us would have shook our heads and said ‘I could never do that, I just wouldn’t cope’. And yet here we are coping, as well we can, with a total lockdown on our movements and our freedom so that we can all help save lives.
For so many people fear, uncertainty and loss of control are triggers for mental health issues. A poll by the charity Young Minds found that 83% of those with a history of mental health needs reported a worsening in their mental health since the crisis started. Whilst The Guardian reported that, the day after Boris ordered people in Britain to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, 38% of study participants reported significant depression and 36% reported significant anxiety, compared with 16% and 17% the day before the announcement. (Whilst we’re on stats, here’s another one for you – You have survived 100% of your bad days. 100%. All of the bad days. All. Of. Them)
Here are ten tips to help you if your mental health is getting the better of you:
Know that it’s okay to feel the way you feel
It’s okay to be worried, these are worrying times. It’s okay to want to talk about it, and it’s okay not to want to talk about it. It’s okay to feel frustrated that you’ve been unproductive today – you don’t always have to spend your time wisely and productively by baking the perfect Sourdough (just order it from Ross Bakery) or learning how to code. These are not normal times so we don’t need to have normal expectations of ourselves. Sometimes it’s just about getting out of bed and surviving the day. And that is more than enough.
Stick to a routine
Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time. Get dressed – you wouldn’t wear your jim-jams to work would you? Plan how you’ll spend time, and if you’re looking after your children as well as working from home – try and divide your day into blocks to keep them in a routine too. Eat regular meals and take breaks (and don’t use the breaks to catch up on news either!). A routine helps give you structure which our brains quite enjoy.
Know that this, like everything else in life, will eventually pass
In Buddhism they call it impermanence; every situation in life is temporary. So when life is good, make sure you enjoy it. And when life is not so good, remember that it can’t last forever and better days will return. This too shall pass.
Use your daily exercise pass to get some fresh air and check in with nature
We already known that exercise produces endorphins which gives us all a mood boost (we know this because scientists told us and they are the best people to listen to right now). If you’re not self-isolating, it’s easy to find a place nearby where there’s not too many people about and you can check in with Spring. And if you are self-isolating, you can connect with nature by opening your windows, listening to the birds or just binge some David Attenborough box sets on BBC iPlayer.
Breathe, stretch and come back to the present
Right now, if you are reading this in your home, you are safe. You’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home. Breathe. Come back from those thoughts and engage with the now. If it’s night time, look at the stars – look how much exists outside of us and our thoughts. If it’s day time, look out of your window, what can you see? What can you hear? We are so used to distracting ourselves with our daily lives we have forgotten how to be with ourselves and for some people, that’s scary.
Speak to someone on the phone or video every day
Especially your techno-phobe mum who spends the entire conversation trying to figure out how to switch the video on and then gives you a 20 minute close up of her ear. Zoom, Facetime, Messenger video, Google Hangouts, House Party – so many new ways to connect with people who make you happy.
Find ways to be creative and keep your brain stimulated
Whether you like to write, read, do crafty things with your kids, do yoga, meditate, bake or listen to podcasts and watch Netflix (just avoid Black Mirror cause it’s too much like real life right now) – keep your brain active and engaged. Futurelearn offer free online courses (I’ve done a few of them and loved them) and our own Isle of Man Job Centre is offering free online courses in Business & Management, Digital Marketing, Emotional Intelligence, Childcare and Health and Social Care.
Practise gratitude for the small things
Gratitude is such a great tool for drawing attention on what’s going right instead of what could go wrong. It helps bring balance. But you don’t have to use it to mask challenging emotions. The two can exist together – things can be tough but also good and conflicting emotions can work in tandem. Try running through the things you’re thankful for before you go to sleep. It can give you sweet dreams.
Imagine a future when this is behind us
All the little things we used to take for granted, popping out and having brunch at The Alpine, nipping into T K Maxx for some discounted bakeware that we clearly don’t need but will still buy – the most mundane things which we simply can’t do right now will be within our reach when this is all over. What are you looking forward to most? Picture it. It will happen because you will make it so. And we will all be so much more grateful for it.
Do something nice for someone else(And by someone else, I also mean you too.)
Help a vulnerable neighbour out, buy a work colleague who you’ve not seen for ages a snack box from Gourmet Snacks and Shakes. Buy a takeaway for someone you love. So many random acts of kindness have appeared since this crisis began, this has become a wonderful moment of national solidarity – focussing on these stories on social can restore your faith and feed you hope bit by bit.
There’s no doubt that this is tough, but so are you.
“Sometimes all you can do is accept there’s not much you can do, and all you control is how well you can let go of control”
Keep going. This will pass and you will be all the stronger for it.
*If you are really struggling with your mental health, please talk to someone about it. Your friends, your family, your GP (over the phone or by video) or you can find professional help through Kooth (for people aged 11-17) or Qwell (18+).