A complete and utter shock to the entire Global World, since World War II, turning lives of millions of people upside down due to this deadly virus called COVID-19 (Corona Virus). From one minute to the next we are having to reinvent and adjust our lives drastically- having to find the resilience and new coping strategies to get through day by day…
More than ever, in these times of unexpected events and unexpected circumstances, we need to acknowledge that social distancing, quarantine, or self-isolation can be very daunting and difficult which can and will have profound effects on our mental health and wellbeing. Those that suffer from mental health will suffer even greater. The fear of loneliness brings about the fear of rising suicide levels. All this is a worry and even more so as we do not know for how much longer this will go on.
The key importance is to take care of your wellbeing first and to reach out to people for support. Do not be afraid as we are all in this together and yes, there is support out there but also ultimately, we need to start to take ownership of our own well-being too. You can get all the help in the world but if you are not ready to truly change and want it, then you’ll just be constantly hitting a dead-end road!
Just simply shifts in your routines and mindset can help you adapt and help you sustain and promote better wellbeing- mind, and body.
Here are just a few things you can do:
Try Keeping a Routine or Get into a Routine
In times of uncertainty and sudden change – not knowing how long we are going to be in this lockdown, the one thing that can really help is to focus on routines. If you are finding that everything has turned upside-down then try as much as possible to re-establish a new routine that works for you and all those around you.
Routines can really help so try to keep as much of your daily/weekly routines as possible as this will have a positive impact on your general wellbeing. Now more than ever it is essential to re-evaluate the situation and then see what can stay the same and what might need adjusting. Having a routine in place helps with focus, reassurance and gets us back some control and normality in our life so that we can keep sane and on track with achieving our daily goals.
Creating a plan for the day of the week is key, especially now when there you may be in each other’s company 24/7, which is not normally how life would be. Try to get up and go to bed at a reasonable time each day, to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. The correct amount of sleep is absolutely vital to your well-being. Remember, the best time that you get great sleep is generally between 10 pm-3 pm.
What is also key here, is not to have too many high expectations, have huge goals, and set too many things to do in one day. Don’t put that pressure on yourselves. Why would you want to unnecessarily pressurise yourself? Small Realistic Achievable goals are what is needed and some flexibility, especially if you have children around. Do not want to put unnecessary extra pressure on yourselves. Another key thing is that you are much more likely to achieve them if they are written down- give it a go!
Self-Care so Check-in on Yourself
Ask yourself, how am I feeling today? Acknowledge and become aware of how you are truly and honestly feeling. Absolutely, there are going to be days when we feel great, and other times that are much trickier where we might feel down and be struggling- feeling like a heap of rubbish.
The way forward is to allow yourself to acknowledge the thoughts and feelings and then try and let them pass, especially if you have no control over them, Let it go! And if you can control it write down all the ways you can and evaluate what route is best. Remember! The only true control you do have is your own thoughts and feelings. So, let this guide you to a better state and place. You have a choice of how you chose to feel.
Do, Do Check in on yourself throughout the day, making sure that you are taking breaks, and importantly, praise yourself for the good things that have happened, or you have accomplished. If you’re feeling low or anxious, especially if this lasts longer – it might be a sign- time to reach out for some support or practice some more self-care. Don’t let your glass overspill.
If you find yourself falling into a low mood, do something that lifts up your spirit, something that makes you smile or laugh, something creative would be great, or even listen to your favorite music. Start doing projects that you’ve been wanting to do such: as writing that book or learning something new. This is also a stress reliever.
One of the things that I find that works really well is mediation, mindfulness, and yoga. Find one that works for you. Meditation and yoga are really effective in combatting low mood or anxiety – as well as it gives you exercise. And boy do we need it right now at this time. As I said before, laughter is wonderful and really beneficial, as it gets those endorphins flowing around your body which is vital for raising your mood levels. Perhaps you can watch some candid camera moments or funny cat videos.
Do whatever tickles your fancy. Ever heard of ‘Laughter Yoga?” Try it! It’s nuts but soon enough you’ll find yourself in fits of laughter.
Let It Go! Beyond Your Control
I mentioned earlier about “Take Control of the Things You Can Control and Let the Things Go that You Cannot Control”
Try not to get hung up on all the changes, the uncertainties, the unknown, the difficulties, the fears – it can become totally overwhelming, and that’s when our mental health takes a nosedive straight into the deep depths of the Mariana Trench. Ask yourself, “What can I change?” and “What is outside of my control?” There is no use getting hung up on things that we can’t do anything about so why worry about it? You keep it in mind but as long as it does not cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Tip- Tell yourself that this is temporary – it will pass. Eventually, everything does pass… If there are worries and anxieties about things that you CAN do something about – that should be your focus.
Make a plan about the steps you can take towards reaching a resolution, then put that plan into action – or wait until you can but don’t wait too long. Don’t let it become procrastination or fear. If we have a plan and know what to do, it gives you more clarity and it can really start to ease the anxiety you feel.
Activate Mind & Body
You do not have to be a gym bunny! Just simply try to create a routine that includes some simple perhaps light physical exercise – this is so very important. Getting the endorphins and blood pumping around your body is key to the healthy functioning of the organs. There is an important link between physical health and mental health because the brain is connected to the body. Ask yourself: How well am I managing my physical health and how is it directly affecting my mental health”.
Keeping fit with regular exercise also improves our immune system – so it’s crucial right now. Just simple 5 to 10 minutes daily. If you start saying “I don’t’ have time” then check your schedule and see what can change. Make it work for you and not the other way round. Even if we can’t get out to exercise, there are lots of ways to get a real good workout indoors.
I hear Joe Wicks is pretty popular and catchy??? If he is not your cup of tea then the internet is full of super alternative workouts. So, find videos that are appropriate to your ability and that get you motivated. Always remember to exercise within your capacity and safely. The last thing you want is to end up in A&E and be totally in lockdown!
A Breath of Fresh Air
Try to get exposure to the outside world as much as possible within the limits of your self-isolation. Ideally, get out into the garden or on a balcony if you have one.
If you can’t physically get outside, spend a portion of your day looking outside, open your windows to get some fresh air, or tend to your house plants.
Now is also a great time to plant some seeds, flowers, or vegetables. (Everything you need is still available online, lots of local suppliers still need your support and are delivering.)
A time of stress and not getting out causes many to start over-eating and indulging in comfort foods or eat for the sake of it just because there’s nothing else to do. WRONG! Don’t let that be an excuse. No, No, No!
I know it’s hard because I do it myself and I have to really stop and think about it. To help me I have a post-it note stuck on the fridge that says “Are you really truly hungry right now?” This is a great reminder that works for me.
Yes, when you’re at home all day- really close to the kitchen, this can be tempting to grab and lounge on the sofa without moving, eating unbalanced unhealthy meals, and snacking all day as a way to entertain and comfort yourself. Only to leave you feeling worse once the effects have worn off. What do you then do? You repeat, repeat, repeat! When feeling low and bored it is so easy to reach for the vino, crisps, and chocolates and some may be having far too much caffeine, which in fact affects your sleep and it can contribute to feeling more anxious.
Drinking lots of water and keeping hydrated is crucial as it really helps your overall wellbeing (mind and body function), stops you from feeling so tired, and also aids concentration and physical health.
It is recommended that we should drink at least 4 to 6 glasses a day and that doesn’t mean downing a glass of water. Gentle easy drinking throughout the day. With that, ensure that you eat well with a mixture of fruit and vegetables.
Whether you are stuck on the screen for work or pleasure you still must have downtime. I’m super bad for this to be honest that now I have to set myself an alarm that goes off in another room, so I have to get up.
Don’t just sit in front of a screen all day. It’s not the best way to spend long periods of time and it can also not be very productive. Remind yourself that it is also unhealthy due to the blue light from devices.
Research shows that prolonged exposure to devices is disruptive to your sleep and overall mental and physical wellbeing. Remember to switch off from any screen devices at least an hour before bedtime. Try doing some stretching, jumping up and down in between; a creative task like mindfulness coloring; listening to music, reading a book, or trying learning something new… The possibilities are endless!
Limit your News Intake
To keep yourself sane, limit news intake. The constant 24/7 coverage of coronavirus, particularly on social media, can easily impact your mental health. Yes, they have to remind and warn you but also you need to use your common sense. Know when it has got too much for you that it affects your mood.
Tips: Try to opt-out and try not to listen to the constant stream of news reports, which can cause anyone to feel anxious. Don’t believe everything you hear on social media especially the constant newsfeeds on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc…
Listen only to qualified health professionals and visit the WHO or Government websites for up-to-date and reliable information. And as I always say and so do many other health professionals, try to avoid reading the news or scrolling through social media just before bedtime! Stop all technology intake/digest at least an hour before.
Focus on The Positive
Right now there are so many things that can be causing you to worry and bring you down at this moment. However, you always have a choice. You can choose to focus on the good things that are happening and going on in your lives, as this will really uplift your spirits. If you look deep enough, you will find things for which you can be grateful, whatever problems you may have.
Tips! Every day, I try to make a conscious effort to write down at least two-three things that I am thankful for or things that have gone well for me in my special notebook. This can be from anything – people, accomplishments, experiences… By doing so you are giving yourself focus to what is good, which in turn energies all the wonderful chemicals in your brain, pumping around.
When you are feeling a bit low in mood and spirit, just by taking a look at the things that you are grateful for and the things that ignite you will be reminded of all the wonderful ad positive things you have in your life. Positive thinking often gets thrown around but if you are not taught, given, or guided how to do positive thinking it can be trickier.
Sometimes all we need is a little reminder and then to keep practicing the concept of gratitude and positive thinking. Positive doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. It simply means that you take a different approach to the unpleasantries in a much more open and productive way. It, therefore, makes you a lot more optimistic and better able to cope than you would have initially been. This is also a fantastic way of managing anxiety and stress.
As humans, we are built for human contact. There is a need for it regardless of your past experiences. At some point in your life, you will crave it.
Thinking about now, the unfortunate situation of full or part lockdown doesn’t mean that you stop connecting, cut yourself off altogether, just because you are self-isolating or social distancing. In fact, it’s more important now than ever to try and keep connected with people regularly. We are so fortunate to have such great technology that can keep us connected and in touch with friends and family via email, social media, video calls, messenger, or telephone.
Connection contributes highly to maintaining your well-being and happiness. If you are struggling with tough decisions or emotions, then reach out and talk to people that you feel comfortable with. Talking through thoughts and feelings is scientifically proved to reduce and relieve stress hormones, enabling you to think with more clarity. You can reach out to someone you trust to share how you’re feeling – and that could be a game-changer.
Schedule in with friends and family some screen time on laptops/tablets/mobile phones – and chat and play games together. If you think about it, this is the time when actually you will be getting that opportunity for quality time because actually in reality you do have more time. These things can be something to look forward to and lift your spirits up, but importantly reassuring because you know you are not alone in this. Believe me, when this is over, and you are back to normality you will miss the things that you could have done more of.