Maintaining our mental wellbeing under lockdown
The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced many of us out of our ordinary routines. At first glance, a break from the norm may seem like a dream: we can ignore crowded trains or buses, forget about the morning traffic, and even spend some time pursuing our passions. removing our regular morning routine can make it much easier to spend that extra half-hour in bed, or maybe we don’t feel so compelled to dress in a way that makes us feel ready for the day. Perhaps we don’t get to chat to our friends or colleagues as much as we’d like, or we don’t get in those crucial periods of exercise we used to.
Debi wrote yesterday about how difficult being under lockdown can feel. These traps can have real impacts on our mental wellbeing – our monkey brains are definitely not used to this state of affairs! If we are less productive, we may feel more stressed about getting our work over the line. If we spend less time socialising, we may feel isolated. If we don’t get exercise (or even some time outside), we may feel sluggish or struggle to maintain a positive attitude. And for many dealing with mental health issues, it can feel like a battle at the best of times. In circumstances like these, it is critical for everyone that we are aware of the traps, that we actively manage their impact on our lives, and do our best to help those in need through this.
What can I do?
There are a number of techniques and tricks we can use to keep positive while under lockdown.
- Keep a disciplined routine. Set an alarm and try to get up at the same time every day. Get dressed in clothes you’d be happy to go outside in – it’s very easy to get stuck in a loop of wearing loungewear, but we often don’t feel productive when we are in that mode of thinking. Have a plan about what you want to do with your day and stick to it!
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise once a day. Exercise is essential to ensuring that our bodies function correctly. I find that without exercise, it is difficult to maintain a positive attitude and think as clearly as I can. Therefore, I do my best to go for a run during my lunch hour or after work. Convenience is key – do an exercise you enjoy and slot this into your schedule whenever it works for you. If possible, try to get outside while you exercise. If you have lots of commitments throughout the day, then spending some time exercising in the morning before you start work may be the best way to get that hit of endorphins!
- Be disciplined about your diet. When working from home, the desire to snack is a constant. I cannot count how many times my breaks from work have been spent eyeing up the contents of my fridge. The easiest way I have found to get around this is to prepare my meals/snacks in advance, and plan when to eat them. I’ve also found staying well hydrated keeps me from feeling peckish, so I keep water or tea nearby at all times, which makes for an excellent use of my break times! Finally, I try to take supplements to account for the lower level of sun exposure (and let’s face it, nutritional food) I’m likely to currently be getting.
- Take some extra time to small-talk with your friends and colleagues. All of our colleagues are likely to be experiencing something similar to us while the COVID-19 lockdown is in effect, so they’ll probably appreciate a bit of friendly banter while they work too! Keeping in touch with friends, family, and colleagues is really important to ensuring that we stay positive and stave off feelings of isolation.
- Remember to take some time off. We might not currently be able to fly off somewhere sunny, but taking some time away from the daily grind is as important as ever. It is easy to feel boxed in when under lockdown, especially while respecting social distancing or self-isolation, but that does not mean that time off is time wasted. We can spend time off getting caught up on those pesky chores that we have been putting off, or learning a new skill, pursuing a passion or hobby, or just chilling in front of the TV! It’s vital to keep ourselves in good mental shape during such odd circumstances, and that includes making time for yourself!
- Everything in moderation, even moderation. I believe all of the above are useful tips to achieving a new balance during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, we are not robots who can be programmed with a set of rules and set to work. Sometimes we need that extra snack. Sometimes we could do with that extra 15 minutes in bed. If you are achieving much of the above on a daily basis, you are doing very well. At the end of the day, the key message is that we should be kind to ourselves, and don’t beat yourself up if you slip. And that bar of chocolate looks so tasty right now….
I hope these techniques and tips are as useful to you as I have found them. Stay safe, and stay positive!