Whether you’re living alone or with friends or family, looking after your mental health during lockdown can be a seriously challenging. Long days stuck indoors, isolation and worries about the world falling apart around you? Yes, I’ve had days like that too.
Looking after your mental health during lockdown
And I know from all my social media feeds that a lot of people are finding this tough. Even though the restrictions have eased a bit, we’re still living in a world where it’s easy to start feeling isolated and down if you’re not careful. Here are my tips for staying mentally fit and well during these strange days.
Try and stick to your normal routine
We keep hearing that this is ‘the new normal’. I seriously hope it isn’t – I miss going out and meeting friends and family too much! But until we can all be together again, it’s important to try and keep things as normal as we can.
By that, I mean just remembering what your daily home routine used to be like before lockdown and trying to keep that going as far as you can.
So, get up at the same time as you used to. If you’re working from home, have a wash, get dressed and have breakfast before you get your laptop out. And whether you’re working or not, get outside – at least we’re allowed to exercise as many times as we want now! Routine is super important to mental health and is a good way to help us feel grounded while everything else is so crazy.
- Don’t overload on the news
I don’t know how much you keep up with the news, but for the sake of your mental health it’s important to limit your intake a bit. There’s not a lot of good news around at the moment, and between social media and the 24-hour news cycle it’s easy to overdo it. Just stick to keeping up with what you need to know from sources you trust.
Another quick tip here is to put your phone away an hour or so before bed. It’s easy to lie in bed scrolling, but the blue light (and the Covid-19 conspiracy theories on social) will serious affect the quality of your sleep if you do. Proper sleep is essential for good mental health, so make sure you get your eight hours. The mental health charity Mind have some great tips for doing that here.
- Stay in touch with loved ones
Clearly, one of the hardest aspects of lockdown is not being in touch with other people.
Whether it’s getting a hug from a parent or just meeting your friends for a drink, we all have people we miss. I’m lucky as I have great flatmates. We all do our best to look out for each other as much as we can. But I know a lot of people live alone and so it’s important to make the effort to get some (socially distanced) human contact.
Of course, tech makes it easy to stay in touch. I know a lot of people have weekly Zoom quiz nights or parties, or play games together on Houseparty. They’re easy-to-use apps and a great way to stay in touch. But as we’re talking mental health, I’d also say it’s also important you don’t overdo it on the screen time.
- Keep it real
Technology, like video conferencing or multiplayer gaming, is a great way to break up the lockdown isolation. But it can also be draining – and not always so good for your mental health.
For example, being on video isn’t the same as chatting to someone face-to-face in real life (even though it feels like it). Our brains have to work a lot harder as we’re hunched over that fuzzy Zoom screen. Why? Because when we’re with someone in real life, they’re also using their bodies to tell us a lot non-verbally. Trying to fill in these communication gaps when we’re on video can be exhausting.
So, take advantage of the new lockdown laws to get some real-life human interaction. We’re now allowed to people meet and sit down with one other person at a time from outside your household (it just has to be outdoors, and you need to stay two metres apart). In terms of our mental wellbeing, this kind of genuine face-to-face meeting is much healthier than screen time.
- Get your blood pumping
One of the weird things about lockdown is just how much more exercise everyone seems to be doing now – apparently sales of gym equipment at John Lewis have gone up by 496%! And it’s no surprise. Getting your blood pumping, the endorphins flowing and your heart rate up is the perfect way to bust the lockdown blues.
We don’t all have the room (or the cash) for our own home gyms, but there are so many free workouts online it’s easy to get active at home. Fitness First have daily workouts on their Facebook page. If you’ve got kids (or even if you haven’t), then PE with Joe Wicks’ daily 9am workout is the perfect start to the day. I’d also recommend the yoga, bodyweight, ballet barre, AMRAP, dance, combat and boxing on GYMBOX – take a look at their Instagram Live for more.
- Remember that it’s okay to admit you’re struggling
Finally, it’s worth saying that there is always someone you can talk to if you’re struggling with your mental health and wellbeing. If you’re lucky enough to have supportive housemates or family that you live with, make sure you try to talk about how you’re feeling with them (if you’re comfortable with that). If you don’t, or if you feel like you need more professional support, then there are also lots of places you can turn to.
The NHS has an excellent guide here to the various mental health helplines and support groups. Just get in touch with them if you need help or you’re worried about someone else.
To read more tips on how to stay healthy, happy and entertained during lockdown, check out my blog.