It was only a few weeks ago that we posted on this blog about the effects of social isolation on mental health. Little could we have imagined then how the world would change in such a short space of time, with isolation becoming the temporary new normal for people across the world.
The current situation can feel overwhelming for us all, with worries about health, money, our families, and just a sense of general anxiety about how things will progress and when we can get back to normal.
It´s important to prioritise our mental health more than ever during these unprecedented times, even if we don´t usually suffer with poor mental health, and especially if we do. It´s a time to look out for each other and to reach out. To give help, and receive it.
We´ve put together a list of some of the ways you can help yourself get through these next few weeks or months.
Keep in touch
We´re all going to miss that vital personal interaction with our friends and family over the coming weeks, but there are still ways of keeping in touch and in many ways, we´re very lucky with the technology we have at our fingertips. Video calling a friend or relative is more personal than phoning or texting and is really simple to do these days from our mobile phones.
There are even apps and programmes which let us video call as a group and play games.
It´s really important that children maintain contact with their friends too while they´re not attending school. This is probably going to mean more screen time than they would perhaps usually be allowed, but these are unusual times.
Having children video call grandparents can be really beneficial for both generations.
Exercise can help boost your mood, see our blog about that here. Making it a part of our day can help to maintain a routine, which many people find important to their mental health. If you´re only leaving the house for an hour a day, try to make it meaningful. Perhaps set some targets along with a friend, or factor in some mindfulness or relaxation.
There are loads of online fitness programmes which are free and suitable for all abilities. Or on social media, some of your favourite dancers or sports personalities may be using their social distancing time to offer free lessons.
Maintain a routine
Whether you´re working from home or not, have kids at home, or are home alone, making sure you stick to some kind of routine or daily schedule can really help with your mental health during this time. We´re all in a situation we have no control over, and that can be scary, but we can control how we chose to spend our days.
You might think about setting an early alarm through the week and saving lie-ins for Saturdays and Sundays, to make sure the weekend still feels like a weekend. Things like exercise time, meal times and work time can all be scheduled to help give the days some structure.
Take up a new hobby
You might feel like you´re busier than ever now, but if you´re finding that you have alot of free time on your hands, it could be the perfect time to take up a new hobby. Being involved in something can while away the hours and take our minds off other worries, and learning something new can give a huge sense of achievement. There´s not alot that you can´t learn to do on YouTube these days, and you may find groups on social media to help and encourage you in your new pastime.
Find an escape
Being engrossed in a great book or film can provide an escape from reality. Look out for offers like free audio books or reduced movie subscriptions. You could even start a book or film club with some friends or arrange to start watching a box set at the same time, then get together online to chat about it.
Remember the phrase ´this too shall pass´? Well, it will. This situation won´t last forever. You could use this time to make plans. What will you do when life gets back to normal? Who will you visit? Where will you go? It´s always healthy to have things to look forward to, and never more so than now. Having those plans will act as a reminder that this new way of life is only temporary.
Acts of kindness
Doing nice things for people can help us to feel good and take us out of ourselves. Even stuck at home, there are things you can do to help people. Could you offer a phone call to someone who is living alone? Or help someone out who is learning a new hobby if it´s something you have experience with? Could you offer help and advice to people who are struggling with something in particular? Helping each other fosters a strong sense of community which helps us all to feel better.
Limit your exposure to the news
We have news at our fingertips, 24/7. It´s all too easy to spend hours scrolling through the latest updates, but it´s not healthy. If you´re feeling overwhelmed by it, perhaps you could try to check in just once a day. Remember that stories which grab the headlines aren´t always typical of what´s happening so be selective with what you give your attention to. Try to find a news source you trust and limit how much you check it.
Look for the positives
However bad a situation seems, there are always positives and stories of hope, if you look for them. Try making a list of all the positive things you can think of about the current situation. It will be different for everyone, but think about things like, more time at home with family, a greater appreciation of small things or a sense of community. You can even look for the good news stories and share them with others.
There are going to be ups and downs as we move through this pandemic. On the up days, try and reach out to someone who may not be feeling so good - positivity spreads. On the down days, reach out to someone for yourself.
You can search www.youinmind.org for other sources of support.
As always, we´d love to hear from you. Why not get in touch and tell us about your own experiences of ´life in lockdown´? You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram - or email us at [email protected]