how to protect your mental health in lockdown

Need a little help to protect your mental health in lockdown? You’re in the right place.

More than 70 countries around the world are currently in some kind of lockdown – something the world has never seen before.

But if you take a scroll through Facebook you’ll see a mix of reactions. Some people are loving the lockdown, while others are really struggling to cope.

There’s no denying that isolation can be really tough on your mental health no matter when you experience it. But add in the stress that COVID-19 is causing with health and financial worries, it’s no surprise that anxiety is heightened at this time. Depression and anxiety can set in and even the most mentally-robust people can start to feel the strain.

But there are some simple things you can do to protect your mental health in lockdown.

Protect your mental health with these 8 easy tips

1: Have a Routine

We all know that kids thrive on routine, but adults do too! There’s nothing worse than seeing a long expanse of nothing in your hours, days and weeks ahead.

A lack of purpose has been shown to contribute to depression, and having no structure or routine can worsen anxiety.

So whether you’re working from home or not working at all, it’s time to be proactive and put a new schedule in place.

It’s a good idea to try to stick to something similar to your usual routine. If you usually get up early and eat breakfast straight away then still do that. If you work out every morning then do that too.

If you get a little creative you’ll be amazed at how many things you can still do that will make your life feel a little more normal and a bit less out of control.

Date night? Put the kids to bed early, order a take out (or cook one yourself) and watch your favourite movie.

Coffee with the girls? Plan a video call “coffee date”, put the kettle on and have a catch-up.

Missing the gym? Find an online workout programme and exercise at home.

The more structure you can give to your week, the easier this lockdown will feel.

2: Get Up, Get Dressed & Put On Your Make-Up

When you’re not leaving the house it can be easy to let your personal care slide. As tempting as it is to spend the days in your PJs with a topknot, it’s not a good plan.

While the odd PJ day can be lovely, the way we look can really influence the way we feel.

If you think you look a hot mess, it can have a real effect on your self-confidence.

If you feel clean, refreshed and organised, then you’ll feel ready to attack the day head-on.

So get up, get dressed and put on your make-up. A sweep of mascara or a bit of lippy can do wonders to make you feel a bit brighter!

You’ll feel better about yourself, have more motivation and keep hold of just that little bit of normal that we’re all craving.

NOTE: Remember to maintain a good skincare routine too. We don’t want to be coming out of lockdown with bad skin!

3: Get Some Sunshine & Fresh Air

There’s nothing nicer than feeling the sun on your face and fresh air in your lungs. Especially when you’ve been cooped up in the house for days, weeks or months!

Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight can reduce depression and improve your mood. Not only does it increase your Vitamin D production but it can increase the serotonin (a happy hormone) in your brain too.

We don’t know what’s going to happen in future, but as it stands in the UK we’re allowed to take one form of exercise outside each day – so take advantage of this!

If you’re not super active, that’s ok. A gentle walk in the fresh air will not only help combat cabin fever but remind you that there is a world out there.

Vitamin D is essential for your immune system and your mental health, so try to get some of your skin in the sunlight too – a short-sleeved t-shirt is ideal if the weather is suitable.

If you’ve got a garden then spend time out in it. Mow the lawn, weed your flower beds or just sit out with a cuppa and a good book.

And finally, be sure to open your windows and allow your house to air. When you’re cooped up inside all day the air can quickly become stale. A quick refresh can leave your house smelling better and your mind feeling more alert.

4: Exercise & Keep Active

Exercising is one of the best things you can do to protect your mental health.

As little as 20 minutes of exercise a day can not only increase your serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain (your happy hormones), but it can reduce your cortisol levels (your stress hormone) too! Leaving you feeling calmer, more relaxed and overall happier.

If you’re new to exercising, it’s important that you don’t jump in too heavy. Start with something gentle and work your way up.

There’s no shortage of online exercise programmes out there – from HIIT sessions and muscle toning, to yoga, pilates and dance fitness classes.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

Down Dog – Free yoga app for all levels.
Sarah Beth Yoga – YouTube channel with loads of yoga videos to suit all different abilities and goals.
Beach Body on Demand – More than 90 specific workout programmes created by top fitness coaches. 14 Days free then a membership fee.
Joe Wicks, The Body Coach – Free daily live workouts on Facebook.

So, if you’re a regular gym-goer you don’t have to lose your progress or give up your routine, and if you’re a couch potato, now is the perfect opportunity to get active and improve your health!

5: Practice Meditation

Meditation has been growing in popularity for the last few years and it’s easy to see why. The benefits are enormous.

Regular meditation can help to reduce stress, depression and anxiety.

Now more than ever so we need to take care of our thoughts and minds. Meditation can help you to let go of your worries and take back a little control.

Meditation is best practised daily, in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.

There are some amazing apps out there to help you. My favourites include:

Headspace
Insight Timer
Calm

If you’re new to meditation you will probably find it difficult to calm your mind, but don’t give up! The harder it is to meditate the more you need it! So persevere and remember, it’s not about how good you do it, just to do it is enough.

6: Stay Busy

Lack of purpose and boredom is your worst enemy when you’re trying to protect your mental health in lockdown.

Idle minds have time to think, worry and wonder.

So keep yours busy!

Now is the perfect time to get up to date on your to-do list and do all those “maybe one day” things you’ve been planning.

Here are some things you can do with your day:

Learn something new –

A language and instrument or a new skill! You could use this time to train for a new career or deepen your expertise on your existing vocation.

Try out a new hobby –

Ever wanted to try crochet, papercraft or even dungeons and dragons? Now is a perfect time.

Declutter and organise –

Decluttering and cleaning is surprisingly good for the mind. Clear out the garage, give your wardrobe a culling or organise your bookshelf.

Do some DIY –

Paint your fences, spruce up your skirting boards or paint your walls a new colour.

Make a photo book –

Organise your holiday snaps and spend some time creating that photo book you’ve been meaning to make.

There’s really no shortage of things to do. Thanks to the internet we’ve got a world of resources available to us at the click of a button.

So if you want to protect your mental health in lockdown then get Googling and fill up your schedule!

7: Stay In Touch With People

If you’re struggling with your mental health in lockdown it’s important that you remember you’re not alone. You might be in your house, away from your friends, colleagues and family, but everyone is right there at the touch of a button.

Stay in contact with people every day. Send messages, have phone calls and “meet up” on face-time or video chat.

It’s the ideal opportunity to catch up with old friends too. Sometimes in life, it’s easy to let time ebb on without keeping in touch with those who are really important to us.

Call an old school friend, arrange face-time with your cousin or Whatsapp your colleagues.

We’re all in this together, so a call from a friendly face is always going to be a welcome surprise.

8: Enjoy The Now & Remember This Too Shall Pass

And finally, don’t let your mind run away with you. If you find yourself starting to worry then take a deep breath, relax your muscles and do a mental run-through of everything that’s ok right NOW in this exact moment.

Right now you are healthy.
Right now you are safe in your home.
Right now you have all the necessities you need – food, water, warmth.

Do something you enjoy that will take your mind off it. Read your favourite book. Watch reruns of Friends. Bake some cakes.

If things get too tough, ask for help. Reach out to a friend or family member, or call a helpline (Samaritans are still open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – call 116 123 for free).

And remember, we might not know exactly how long this lockdown will be, but we do know one thing for certain – it will end.

Hang in there.

 

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