10 Tips for Good Mental Health During Lockdown
The UK is now in its third week of lockdown, with another three having just been announced. While it may be nice to have some much needed downtime from our busy lifestyles, the circumstances are far from ideal. Living through a pandemic is challenge enough in itself, aside from the uncertainty and other concerns of living in quarantine that are bound to impact one’s mental health and wellbeing.
It is important to recognise that we are currently living through a situation that is far from ordinary, and it is completely normal to experience a range of emotions – or sometimes even none at all. However, being without power does not mean that we are powerless and there is still plenty that we can do to make sure that this lockdown does not overwhelm us.
Here are 10 tips to support your emotional health and wellbeing during isolation:
1. Create your own routine
Yesterday, today and tomorrow – the new days of the week! So how do we avoid falling into a rut of repeating the same day over and over again? Adding structure to your day can help ease feelings of anxiety by providing a feel of normality. It gives you a clear plan for the day, the same as if you were at work or school – only this time you are in charge.
Break your day into manageable chunks and have a plan for each part; whether that be for cleaning, work/study, or exercise, make sure that you keep time for the things that you enjoy. You are fully in control of what you do with each day, so make the most of it!
2. Ease up on the guilt!
It’s important to create a structure that suits the needs of your household, but also not feeling guilty that it doesn’t look like your old routine! Remember nothing about this situation is normal, and our lifestyles have been disrupted in a way that we have never experienced. Give yourself a break!
It’s now particularly easy to never feel like you’ve done enough for the day, but you should also allow yourself to have some downtime. Set yourself a number of tasks to work through and when you’ve finished – STOP! Even if that means you’ve only been ‘productive’ for 4 hours today, you’ll find that you’ve actually been able to get way more done than if you’d just worked aimlessly for 7 hours. By completing any tasks that you had set yourself beforehand, you can enjoy your ‘lazy’ time guilt free.
3. Stop comparing
With there being much less to do, a lot of us are turning to our devices and possibly spending a bit too much time on social media. It’s not easy to see others living their best quarantine life and baking banana bread when you have barely managed to do your dishes today. Social media was and still is only the ‘highlight reel’ of people’s lives.
Everyone’s experience of isolation will be different. Some of us will have been impacted financially, other’s may be isolating in conditions that they struggle with and it may not always be easy to see a silver lining. There are so many factors that can impact how you feel on an hourly basis – just because someone else is able to show off their best day on camera today, doesn’t make you any less resilient. Some days will be good, and some will be bad. Positive mental health does not mean being happy all the time but rather recognising when you are having a bad day and taking the steps to make sure tomorrow is better.
4. Don’t neglect your sleep
So, its 1am and Netflix has started the countdown to the next episode on the series you’ve been binging. We have nowhere to be tomorrow as we’re all in isolation – tempting right? Wrong! I’d be a hypocrite if I said I haven’t settled in for another cheeky episode when I know I’ll pay for it tomorrow, but a poor night’s sleep is the quickest way to turn one unproductive day into two! Not only is sleep important for your productivity, but it has a huge impact on your mood for the next day. While our sleep schedules may not look the same as they did before quarantine, it’s important to consider that our screen time may have also increased and our eyes will still need a break. It will also be easier to resume your normal routine when the time comes!
5. Eat well
Balance is still just as important as ever, especially because we are probably moving around a lot less than we would in our normal routines. This tip doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the quarantine snacks!
Feel free to indulge in some of your favourites, but not as a replacement for quality, nutritious meals. Excessive junk foods can affect our energy levels and it’s also really easy to mistake boredom and hunger (even on a normal day!). Try drinking a glass of water before reaching for that second chocolate bar. Staying hydrated also helps to shift that sluggish feeling that you get from sitting around all day, and encourages you to move more often with all those bathroom trips!
6. Move your body
Now that we are all indoors, it’s easy to slip into unhealthy habits such as staying inactive or not leaving the house for days at a time. Staying indoors doesn’t have to mean staying seated - factor in regular movement even if it’s just to make a cup of tea. Remember that we are no longer getting our steps in from our daily commute and other activities so partake in one form of physical activity each day during quarantine. Go for a walk, run, cycle, or take your dog out. Whatever you choose, just get moving! Every time we exercise, endorphins (‘feel good’ hormones) are released in the brain and elevate our mood and energy levels. Good mental health is boosted by good physical health!
7. Tackle your procrastination
We all have the tendency to procrastinate, even on the smallest of tasks, and finding an excuse is usually all too easy. Not right now it isn’t! There really is no better time to face those annoying little tasks head on! Finish that book you started and never picked up again, reorganise your wardrobe that you are convinced you have nothing to wear from, sort through all that post that has been piling up. You’ll be surprised how much physical clutter can have an impact on your mental health. By tidying up and organising unnecessary mess you feel a sense of achievement that makes other tasks seem much more manageable.
8. Focus on what IS in your control
As previously mentioned, being without power does not mean being powerless. Whilst the constant Coronavirus news coverage combined with the difficulties of quarantine might feel overwhelming, simply worrying about the factors that we have no control over will do nothing for your mental health. It is important to remember that yes, whilst the current situation is scary and unfamiliar, we are ALL going through this. Everyone everywhere is talking about Coronavirus which makes it even harder to differentiate the facts from fake news and advice, particularly on social media. So, take back control!
We can’t singlehandedly avoid the current pandemic, but we CAN limit our news intake and be selective with the conversations we have if they make us feel worse. We CAN ensure that we check trusted sources for guidance. We CAN ensure that we are practicing social distancing. We CAN focus on our mental and physical health during this time. We CAN choose whether or not we are defeated or made stronger by this obstacle by simply changing our perspective.
9. Stay connected
Alternative words for isolation: “loneliness”. We as humans are naturally social beings, so this process of self-isolation and quarantine is completely unnatural for us. It’s important to stay connected to others and continue to nurture the relationships that mean something to us, particularly if you are isolating at home by yourself.
Apps like Whatsapp, Zoom and Google Hangouts allow you to make video calls with numerous people at the same time, so you don’t need to reschedule that gathering you had planned! Now is also a great time to catch up with some of those friends that you have been “meaning to meet up with” for months. Remember that it is ok to not be ok during this time and it is important not to suffer through your negative emotions on your own. Even if it is just to check how someone is coping with this new way of life, make sure you stay connected to your friends and loved ones.
10. Try something new
The things you normally do for fun are probably closed as a result of this lockdown – so what now? We don’t often get the opportunity to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby, or we find an excuse to put it off until another day. You may find that something that would normally be totally out of your comfort zone is actually right up your street, and now you really have nothing to lose by trying something different! Keeping busy will help you to take on each day of isolation as it comes, whilst ensuring you do not spend the next month or so on your sofa! You could even use this time to reconnect with an old passion or set yourself a new goal to work towards daily.
Finally, remember that this is temporary. None of us know for certain when lockdown will be lifted, or when the Coronavirus epidemic will be over. What we do know for certain is that this cannot go on forever and these tips can help us fight the urge to be paralysed by our negative emotions. Stay focused on the present as you never know what tomorrow will bring. With countries such as Italy and Austria showing signs of improvement as they begin to ease their lockdown, it should give us hope that with our efforts of quarantine and social distancing, we will get through this together.