Stay at Home Tips – Part 5

Stay at Home Tips - Part 5

While social isolation is vital to help preserve our physical health and save lives, the loneliness it brings could be presenting a challenge for our mental wellbeing.

As social beings, the reality of having to isolate from others while being bombarded with a seemingly never-ending stream of worrying news can naturally have a negative impact on mental wellbeing.

The first thing to remember, is that not everyone is the same. Jumping into being super productive may be a coping mechanism for some people, but it won’t be the case for others.

With the UK lockdown now having been extended for a further 3 weeks and no prediction yet possible of when these restrictions can safely be modified or lifted, it’s okay not to feel normal. Whilst we might not be able to change the situation, we can change the way we look at the situation.

While the external factors are far from ideal, it’s important to take steps to keep your mind and body in good shape to help you navigate the stress a crisis, like this pandemic, can often bring.

Below are our top tips to help you manage your mental health, whilst staying indoors during the lockdown.  Remember, #weareinthistogether.

 

You don’t necessarily have to get up at the exact same time as you would have done if you were commuting into work, but you should aim to wake up and go to bed at approximately the same time each day.

Sleeping too much or too little can both disrupt mental wellbeing.

Have your meals at a similar time each day. Make the effort to cook (to the extent that the supermarket shelves allow). Don’t end up being the guy who’s eating cereal in his pyjamas at two in the afternoon.

Tips to help ensure you sleep well:

Shut down the gadgets. Turn down the lights. Turn off the noise. Take a nice warm bath or enjoy a hot cup of tea. Spend about 20 minutes stretching your muscles. Read a book and let your world quieten down before you ask your body to sleep.

You may think you don’t have time for these activities, but if you don’t get the sleep you need, both your physical and mental health will suffer. Take the time to take care of yourself and you’ll be more productive during the day.

 

While we’re currently allowed to leave the house once daily for a walk or run, the danger is that we become more sedentary when we are confined to the house. Physical activity has been shown to be as effective in combatting mild to moderate symptoms of depression as medication, so it’s important to take the opportunity to be active when we can.

Many online influencers are creating workouts you can follow at home, but if you’re really short of space then doing some simple stretches is a quick way to release feel-good endorphins.

Useful online fitness links:

The situation with Covid-19 changes daily and we naturally want to stay on top of the latest developments and advice.

Unfortunately, even if the news you’re accessing is from a reputable source, hearing it over and over again is going to increase your anxiety. Pick an outlet you trust and check in once or twice per day.

Try to limit your time reading the news or scrolling through social media and try replacing that time with an activity such as talking to friends, reading a book or starting that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to binge.

The first place to start when looking to manage your stress levels is ensuring you are only sourcing your information from reputable sources. Here in the UK these would include the government website and the NHS website.

Social media posts and even some of our best news outlets have a tendency to sensationalise the information we are seeing.

Do you really need to keep checking your phone every half an hour to find out which event has been cancelled, which supermarket has run out of milk or which celebrity has self-isolated today!?

This can be seen as addictive behaviour and is not good for your mental health.

Reputable news sources:

  • https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Whether it’s calling to check in on an elderly relative or texting your neighbour to ask if they want something when you venture out to the food shop, contributing positively to the community not only has a positive impact on others, but has also been shown in numerous studies to increase our own wellbeing. Win/win.

Here’s something not a lot of people know about the nature of anxiety: one of the reasons our brains invent catastrophic future scenarios is not only to help us prepare for if the worst should happen, but also because when we seek assurance that it probably won’t happen, it’s comforting.

Therefore, the more you speculate, the more comfort you give your brain when you tell yourself everything will be OK.

Unfortunately, the brain’s fear/anxiety mechanism happens in the amygdala, which is not particularly sophisticated and doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined dangers. So the more you do this, the more anxious you’ll feel, the more reassurance you’ll seek and the whole thing will quickly end up being a vicious circle.

Instead, remind yourself that the past is unchangeable, the future unknowable and the only thing we can control is the present…

Mindfulness can help you to achieve the goal of staying in the moment. The app Headspace is a great introduction to the practice for beginners and is currently offering some free resources called ‘Weathering the Storm’.

 

Belonging is absolutely crucial to mental health so thank goodness for FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom.

Try to create digital versions of your usual social activities – at first it’s a bit odd looking at a screen whilst drinking a cup of coffee and remembering that the person you’re taking to is incapable of passing you the sugar, but you soon get used to it. Being able to see your friends’ faces as you chat will increase your sense of community and genuine connection.

Virtual Activity Suggestions:

Pub quiz:

Scavenger hunt:

 

Most of all, schedule some form of mentally stimulating task. This could be learning a language or instrument, reading a challenging book, or just solving a few crossword puzzles.

Remember that the enforced closing of sports fixtures, cinemas, schools, pubs, restaurants and shops, etc, are preventative measures to keep us all safe.  By changing your perspective, you will see the positive side of the lockdown restrictions; that they are preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Changing the way you see things will help you respond well to the new reality and help protect your mental wellbeing. Search for positive news stories like the significant reduction in pollution in big cities around the world. 

If you or loved ones are, however struggling with the mental impact of this virus don’t hesitate to contact professionals such as your GP or organisations like: