As we begin the lockdown period and as uncertainty continues, it's easy to feel out of control, and our mental health can suffer comments Kirsty Lilley, CABA Mental Health Specialist
The outbreak and rapid acceleration of the coronavirus will impact everybody’s life in some shape or form. For many of us, this will present a challenge unlike any we’ve ever experienced before. We now face severe restrictions on our movements, our social interactions, and even the food available to us – in levels that haven’t been seen since the Second World War.
This is undoubtedly going to be a difficult time for each and every one of us. The current societal changes are likely to feel overwhelming and require significant adjustment. It’s therefore completely natural to feel anxious or stressed during this time.
There are many aspects to the anxieties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There’s a sense of crisis following the practical changes we have been asked to make, such as having to work from home, and the schools closing. On top of this, we are having to contend with the curtailment of our regular social support channels, such as seeing friends, hobbies, and sports, leaving us with fewer options to manage our emotional wellbeing. There is also a huge increase in financial uncertainty and a lack of clarity for the future.
Juggling all of this, it’s never been more important to try and keep our minds and bodies active. Below are a few ways to keep your mental wellbeing in check during this uncertain and unprecedented time.
It’s been bandied around a lot, but it truly is vital to maintain or establish a routine as we begin to spend more time in our homes. Without one, it becomes easy for us to slip into bad habits, such as dwelling on our anxiety and negative thinking.
Make sure you get out of bed every morning at a reasonable time, which will mean you’re more likely to be tired at bedtime. Try and eat at regular times so you don’t graze throughout the day.
Try and move around as much as possible. If you’re unable to leave your house, dig out workout videos or follow online workouts, although, it’s important to remember to exercise safely and within the limits of your own body. There are a huge number of routines available for all levels of fitness. If you have a garden, incorporate time in your daily routine where you can be free to move around, breathe in some fresh air and look at the sky.
As well as exercise, nutrition is vital. Ensure you eat well and keep hydrated during this time, looking after your body will go a long way in maintaining your mental health. Moderate your caffeine intake and avoid consuming too much alcohol.
Learn something new
When has there been a better opportunity to finally write that book you’ve meaning to, or learn a new language?
Look at online resources and see what is available to you, or simply work through the wider reading you might have been collecting for a few years. Spend some time cooking or baking, drawing or finally tackling that DIY project you’ve been putting off. Use this time with fewer distractions to achieve things you have always been too busy for and aim to use this time to slow down, a luxury in our usual busy lives.
Maintaining some control
It may feel as though you have no control over any aspect of your life during this time. However, it’s important to remember that there are areas that you can control, and this is what you might focus on. You are able to influence and control many things within your own home and how you act outside of your home, so try not to lose sight of that.
We can’t control how long this is going to go on for, and we can’t control other people’s reactions to the pandemic. Although we may not be able to wholly prevent ourselves from contracting the coronavirus, we can choose wise actions to minimise the risk and follow government advice. Recognising and accepting this will help to alleviate some of the anxieties brought on by the pandemic.
In whatever way is possible, try to speak to your friends and family as often as you can. Share with others your feelings and fears – as it's likely that you won’t be alone in them. Also consider offering yourself up as a listening ear to your loved ones. It will provide you with a sense of purpose and give your day some meaning.
Try to find opportunities to laugh and indulge in shared humour. It will not only calm you down and restore happy endorphins – but allows for bursts of escapism.
It’s so important to give yourself permission to distract from the current events, if or when you feel as though your emotions are becoming overwhelming. Stick to watching the news just once a day and limit your exposure to rolling news channels. Whilst there are many stories on the news that are anxiety provoking, there are also opportunities to focus on the huge amount of kindness and community spirit which is rallying at this time. This will help bring you some perspective and remind us all that there are many people trying to help.
This will pass, and the future – which may feel uncertain at the minute – will bring with it some clarity and hopefully a renewed sense of normality.
For more advice, visit CABA’s dedicated coronavirus support page, which has more information on how they can help, including emotional support and financial assistance. This will be updated regularly, as the worldwide situation progresses.