How to look after your mental health during the lockdown
Being stuck at home either alone or with your family/friends can soon start to feel quite stressful. On top of this you may be experiencing working from home for the first time; homeschooling; trying to do your grocery shop online; maintaining social distancing or self-isolation or struggling to find ways to fill your days.
If you live alone, you may feel isolated and cut off from other people. If you find yourself living with people, (whose company you wouldn’t normally choose to be in for a long period of time), you might feel trapped and overwhelmed.
The pressures of self-isolation and social distancing will be affecting many of us. If you feel that you are struggling, here are four top tips to looking after your wellbeing.
Try to keep to a routine
It might be useful to write a list, before going to bed, of 3 things that you want to achieve tomorrow. Maybe include a task that you have been putting off doing. Working to your list will give your day some structure; a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Completing the tasks on the list will give you a sense of achievement.
Keep in contact with friends, family and neighbours
Whilst we cannot physically maintain contact it is important to reach out to each other. Contact with other people is important and helps to protect our emotional wellbeing. There are many ways to keep in touch including telephone, video calls, emails and social media. Try to talk to three people a day where possible. This will not only help your mental health but will also boost the wellbeing of the people you connect with.
Exercise is also important for our mental health
Obviously, during the lockdown, you may need to think of new ways to keep fit. The government has issued guidelines regarding exercising outdoors. However, you don’t need to leave the house to exercise. There are many classes online which are suitable for adults or children to join in with. Housework and gardening are also good forms of exercise. Or why not put on some music and dance!
I know everybody breathes but learning to focus on your breaths can help to reduce anxiety. Try putting one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Take a slow deep breath in and out and notice which hand is moving. If the hand on your chest moves, your breathing is shallow.
Try to focus more on filling your tummy with air as you inhale and empty it as you exhale. It can be helpful to imagine filling a balloon with air as you breathe in, blowing bubbles as you breath out. Keep trying, sometimes it takes practice.
We are all living through changes to our daily lives and trying to adapt to isolation or social distancing. We may also have health concerns about ourselves or our loved ones. Sadly, you may have experienced bereavement or be fearful over the possibility of losing people that you cherish.
Many people will feel anxious about the situation we all find ourselves in and this is normal. Accepting that it is okay to feel anxious can be the first step in reducing anxiety. Also, try using some of the self-help tips and see how you get on.
If you still feel as if you are still struggling to cope, or you were already struggling with anxiety prior to the lockdown, you might find that your thoughts are spiralling out of control and you have trouble relaxing. There are many mental health apps which you can download onto your mobile or tablet, some of which are free. You will also find an abundance of mindfulness and relaxation videos on the internet which can help.
Talking to people about how you are feeling can help to reduce anxiety. Where possible try talking to friends or family. You might want to make an appointment to talk to your GP who may be able to help. You might feel that you need more support and arrange to speak to a counsellor.
Many counsellors are currently working online and over the telephone with clients. If you decide to contact a counsellor, make sure that you check out their credentials. Counsellors who belong to professional bodies such as BACP or NCS will have undertaken relevant training and work to the code of ethics of their governing body.
If you are thinking about online or telephone counselling sessions, remember that you will need to consider whether you have a place in your home where you can speak freely without fear of being overheard or interrupted by other members of the household.
Remember, looking after your emotional wellbeing is just as important as looking after your physical health. Talk to loves ones, communicate how you are all feeling and support each other. We'll get through this.