The rapid changes of the last week are challenging, and we need to actively support our mental health during the lockdown. Both the threat from the virus and the changes in how we live are stressful, so you really have to look after yourself right now. Many of the things you regularly do to support your mental health, like going out places or getting together with friends, are not available. However, there’s a lot you can do.
• Reduce your use of social media and news feeds, as they are a major cause of anxiety while providing little information of direct value to you. While it’s natural to want to know what’s going on, stick to government sites or your favourite paper. Turn off the live news feed. With social media, obviously you want to stay connected with your friends, but it’s best to limit it to them and avoid sites or feeds that are speculating. Try to keep your usage to your normal times or less, rather than letting it take over your day.
• Keep your daily structure as much as possible. If you’re working from home, go to work and keep that work area free of personal stuff. When you stop working clear away your work stuff. If you’re not working, then give yourself a routine of things you’d do if only you had the time, as now you do.
• Exercise and getting out are crucial. The stress related to change and the threat of the virus activates our fight/flight, and that extra adrenalin needs to go somewhere. Going for a long walk (keeping social distance) is really good. If you can’t get out, get some exercise in your home, perhaps using online exercise classes. Keep active.
• Be as social as you can within the structure of your week. This means using chat, video calls, or even the telephone. Video is especially good if you can use it, as a lot of our communication is non-verbal.
• Share how you feel with those you trust, and let them share how they feel with you. We often worry about upsetting others with “negative” feelings, or have learnt to hold down the feelings that are not seen as ok. Mutual sharing really helps.
• Respect each other’s space and privacy at home. Chances are you’re going to be inside with your family or the people you live with a lot more than you are used to. You’re likely to get on each other’s nerves. Time alone without other people, even the ones we love the most, is something most of us require. Find a way to be alone for some time each day.
• Eat healthy and stay hydrated. I know the gin may look tempting and will help deal with stress in the moment, but when it wears off you will feel more anxious and depressed because that’s the effect alcohol has. Other substances have different effects, but can be equally damaging. So, keep an eye on how much you are using alcohol and other substances, and if it is more than usual then try to cut down.
Keep yourself safe and well in the coming weeks.