Nobody is finding anything easy at the moment – the world feels very strange, unknown and uncertain.
Our routines have been thrown into disarray again, we’re once more having to stay at home and avoid social events or groups of people and all while vigilantly protecting the health of ourselves and our families. It all feels quite overwhelming.
Mental health issues can be very tricky to manage in isolation. We may rely on the support of friends, therapists and medical staff that we can’t meet for a while or have a strict routine around food and exercise that will now be compromised.
It’s certainly a distressing time for many of us but we’re not alone as thousands across the country can relate to our struggle.
It’s more important than ever to practice self-care in order to remain as calm and level-headed as possible at the moment, and here are a few practical tips on how to do it…
Maintain routines where possible
Even if your work or study pattern has changed, try and stick to your usual daily routine as best you can. By that, I mean waking up and going to bed at the same time, working, eating and drinking when you usually would and scheduling down time to relax or engage in safe distraction activities. You may be at home more than you’re used to, but it doesn’t mean you have to adapt to a completely new daily routine. If elements of your schedule change, adapt and build that into a new pattern that you can stick to whilst isolating.
Regulate media exposure
There are some scary stories out there again and the more time we spend reading them the more fearful we become. It’s key to remember that not everything you read is true, and media outlets are paid to shock and hook people in with dramatic headlines.
Whilst it’s important to be as informed as possible, exposing yourself to negative press is going to be detrimental to your mental health so set aside time to read news from a trusted source and then switch it off.
Meditate or be mindful
It’s not always easy to find the time, but whilst we’re cutting back on social activities and staying at home more – it can be really therapeutic to do a guided meditation or mindfulness session to calm your busy mind. Apps like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer do some really good ones that range from two minutes to an hour so fit nicely into your day.
Go outdoors (if safe)
I don’t know about you, but staying indoors all day makes me feel claustrophobic so just going out in my garden or around the park for a short while helps me to get a change of scenery. Yesterday I was struggling with my anxiety so went out for a walk in the winter sunshine and it reset my mind wonderfully. Just feeling the fresh air on my face and counting the trees along the way helped distract me long enough to carry on with my day.
Engage with people
I’m feeling really cut off from people at the moment so I’m making lots of effort to contact them digitally instead. That might be via message, email, FaceTime or a good old-fashioned phone call. I should have been meeting a friend this weekend but now that it’s not safe we had a good long phone chat instead and it brightened us both up a great deal. Humans are social beings and communication helps our wellbeing so it’s important to maintain contact wherever possible.
Re-frame your thinking
How many times have you found yourself saying you’re ‘stuck’ in the house? Why not try rephrasing that to being ‘safe’ in the house. When you substitute one word for another, your whole outlook can alter too.
When lockdown started last year I couldn’t see anything very positive, I believed we were all living in a state of fear and panic and my thoughts became quite negative. However, I then tried to change that and see it as a period of self-improvement, reflection and recharge instead.
I don’t mean we should all be doing online yoga or re-decorating the house in order to improve, I see this time as an opportunity to evaluate what and who is important in our lives and work to ensure we take this with us when things get back to normal.
This alters from person to person in line with how you like to unwind, relax and focus on whatever it is that makes you feel good. Now more than ever, it’s vital to set aside time each day to look after yourself and engage in something that boosts your mood and positivity.
For me this has included watching my favourite TV shows and films, listening to music, walking, writing, colouring, speaking with friends and painting my nails. It’s also good to do the little things that make you feel better – the other day I was just about to forgo washing my hair for the second time (after all, who’s going to see it?!) but I forced myself to do it and I’m so glad I did. Feeling as good about ourselves as possible is really important when you feel anxious or out of control.
I appreciate it’s really tough to still find positivity in such uncertainty but even in the trickiest times, there is still a great deal to be grateful for and focusing on the good is really key.
Whether it’s a small achievement that day, a caring message from a friend or even just relaxing your mind for a short time, it’s helpful to recognise the good in life.
If that feels too hard at the moment, why not make a list of things you will appreciate when you start to feel a little more back to normal, or something you look forward to doing again in the near future.
I hope this helps in some way – please take care of yourselves, and reach out if you need to.