Mental Health Survival Guide - Lockdown Round 2
Another lockdown and another hit of overwhelming feelings......
How long will it last this time? When will I see friends and family again? Am I someone who can work from home? Will anyone I know become unwell, or even worse, fall victim to COVID-19? Will my children be safe still attending school? How will I cope shopping and buying the essentials for my family? How will I/we survive financially? Will this lockdown be worse that before? Will it last until Christmas? How will I cope being contained within my house again? What about my mental health, who can I talk to?
If your anything like me, these are just some of the questions that have been whirling round my head since the latest government announcement, and it's only been official for less than 24 hours!
When the lockdown restrictions eased throughout the UK at the end of July, I was one of the people who was literally jumping for joy.
Having missed the interactions with friends, loved ones and even people who I didn't know, I was excited to return to some kind of normality.
Despite having to wear a mask, my days were once again filled with catch-up's with friends, work meetings, 1:1's, breakfasts, lunches, dinners out and my beloved yoga classes.
The visions of moving forward and us all working together to keep each other safe, whilst returning to the "new normal" felt like a much needed relief and profound positive moment in my life.
Whilst everything was going seemingly well for a few months, once again we have been put into a National lockdown.
Although I am super gutted to have to temporarily stop my in-person yoga classes, the first lockdown taught me to be much more adaptable to change.
This time though, I am more fearful that this lockdown will be much worse than the first. I am mainly talking about our mental health.
Before, we could be out in the garden, planting flowers, smelling flowers, watching nature, enjoying the sunshine, wandering out on a lovely daytime or evening stroll, hearing children embrace the outdoors.
This has now been replaced with a very noticeable change in the seasons. The clocks have moved back an hour, we not only seeing less hours of daylight but the evenings just feel unforgiving. The weather is dull and it feels like we are very much "in" Autumn and progressing somewhat rapidly towards Winter.
It's really important that we all take steps to ensure our mental health is as well as possible as we head towards this second lockdown.
I have put together some information on how we can try and stay mentally well over the coming weeks.
Move your body
Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.
If you are staying at home, you could try exercising indoors, joining an online class or simply putting on some music and have a good dance.
If you are working from home make sure you stretch your arms and legs regularly and don't let tension build up around the head, neck and shoulders.
Drink plenty of water
Fresh water not only keeps you well hydrated, but also helps keep your skin healthy, gets rid of toxins, prevents constipation and boosts energy.
Nourish yourself with healthy food
Try to eat well balanced meals.
Plan meals ahead so that you can make sure you have exactly what you need to make them.
Ensure you are eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Take some time to sit quietly and meditate. Meditation can help with de-cluttering your mind and allows you to sit and observe what thoughts you may be attaching yourself too.
Once you notice this, you may be able to let some of the more negative thoughts go.
Listen to positivity
Try and listen to something positive each day. This could be an inspiring podcast or some music.
Taking your mind away from stressful situations can allow you to regain clarity and promote more positive thinking.
Limit time watching the news
Try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media.
Setting yourself a specific time to read updates is a good idea. Ensure you use trustworthy sources.
Have a structured plan for your day
Whether you are working from home or not its a good idea to plan what you do throughout the day.
This gives you a feeling of purpose and means you are less likely to lounge around in your pyjamas.
Get up, freshen up and stay up!
Do things you enjoy
Make an effort to focus on a favourite hobby if it is something you can still do at home.
If not, then why not start a new hobby - read, write, do crosswords or jigsaws, or try drawing and painting. Whatever it is, find something that works for you.
If you cannot think of anything you like doing, try learning something new at home. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online.
If your working from home, take a break
Working at home can make us feel like we have to be available all of the time. Making time for breaks is important to help manage feelings of stress – try to take lunch and regular screen breaks.
Give yourself time to concentrate on something else so you feel more focused when you return. Even just 5 to 10 minutes of short breaks each hour can really help your productivity.
If possible, get further away from your desk and go for a walk, run or bike ride for some fresh air.
Check-in on friends and family
Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important. You can stay in touch with friends and family if you, or they, need to stay at home, you can do this by phone, messaging, video calls or social media.
Express your feelings
It's normal to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember, it's okay to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too.
If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead. See below for details.
Let go of what you cannot control
Concern about the coronavirus outbreak and your health or a loved ones health is perfectly normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their day-to-day life.
Try to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to and where you get information from.
Get enough sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel, so it's important to get enough.
Try to maintain a regular sleeping pattern. Simple things can have a big impact when it comes to falling asleep and staying asleep. If you are struggling to get sleep why not try playing sounds like rainfall, or gentle music to help you drift off.
Try to avoid having caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or a big meal too close to bedtime as this can stop you falling asleep and prevent deep sleep.
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As we begin to face another round of uncertainty please remember that we all deal with things in different ways. Be mindful that some people will cope better than others.
If your reading this and feel like you are struggling and need someone to reach out to, please know I am here.
Whether I know you well or not, I can be available on the end of a phone, email, text and video chat.
I am offering a free 20 minute meditation practice for everyone, in order to reduce stress and anxiety throughout the next month.
You can book online: https://bookwhen.com/youyogawithzara and enter the discount code: Take20 when prompted.
Stay safe, stay well and know that sometimes it's okay not to be okay.
Love Zara x
If you need professional support or advice contact MIND, the mental health charity www.mind.org.uk