Lockdown life: How to give yourself an at-home mental health MOT
Lockdown 3.0 is hanging around like a bad smell and we're all at risk of tumbling head first into a spiral of anxiety and hopelessness. So now's the time to give yourself a wellbeing check with our top tips for improving your mental health from home.
I don’t think any of us truly believed back in March 2020 that we’d still be locked down in January 2021 (and thank the lord we couldn’t see into the future at that point!). Yet here we are, slap bang in the middle of Lockdown 3.0, and this time I think it’s fair to say we’re all finding it harder than ever before. Not only is it January, traditionally one of the most depressing months of the year, but most of us are at the end of our tether when it comes to not seeing family, friends and doing all the things we love. Add job uncertainty, the fear of getting Covid, home schooling and isolation on top of this and it’s a recipe for mental health disaster.
Lockdown anxiety is now officially a thing and it can rear its ugly head in a whole host of ways. Even if you think “I’m coping just fine thank you very much”, chances are that this past year has had a negative impact on your mental health. The good news is, there’s light at the end of the tunnel now we’ve got a vaccine or three, but none of us have any idea of an exact end date to this crazy situation we’re living in. That sort of endless uncertainty can play havoc with our mental health, but fortunately there’s plenty we can each do from behind our closed doors to keep our mental health in check.
We spoke to Yasmin-Kate Pattison of Y-KP Consulting, who is an expert at helping individuals and businesses navigate their way through mental health issues. Here are her top tips for giving yourself a mental health MOT and getting help during lockdown, with exercises you’ll want to continue well into life beyond Lockdown 3, 4, 5 (let’s hope not!). Over to you YKP…
Look out for the warning signs of anxiety
Life is very different to pre-pandemic times, we are all (even if we haven’t acknowledged it yet) suffering the feelings of a great loss. Times are tough – just as we thought we were emerging out of the darkness, we are once again confined in our houses, feeling isolated and we don’t have a confirmed end date in sight. Research by the Office of National Statistics shows that around 19 million adults in Great Britain report high levels of anxiety, which is more than double previous recorded cases.
It can be hard to spot the early warning signs as they are often so subtle, but awareness and understanding of mental health basics can make a difference to help ourselves and others. If you or someone close to you are more worried than normal, you may be showing signs that are out of character, such as being easily irritated, distracted, having poor concentration or being nervous and withdrawn.
You may notice other subtle changes in yourself or a loved one. Have they stayed in their PJs for many days? Has their personal appearance changed? Have they stopped looking after themselves? Have you noticed an increase in unhelpful coping strategies like drinking alcohol — has the one glass of wine a night increased to a bottle, or 2?
How to get mental health help from home
There is always professional help available. If you feel that you are struggling with your mental health, and by this, I mean overwhelmed and struggling every day for an extended period of time rather than the occasional down day, first and foremost talk to those close to you so they know you’re having a tough time. Then talk to your GP, who will be able to direct you to the right kind of help, be that talking therapies, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or these with a combination of medication.
If you feel that you are just about surviving, yet your capacity to cope with yet another lockdown will drain the last of your resources, working with someone like myself (a coach) that specialises in stress and emotional well-being can really make a difference to equip you with the skills to build up your emotional resilience and manage daily stressors better.
Daily rituals to improve your wellbeing
Recognising and understanding what you are feeling is an important start, but to really care for your own emotional and mental well-being requires a journey of self discovery and it takes work. Our emotional resilience is just like any muscle. We all know that if we want a healthy body we have to work at it, do the exercise, eat well, keep hydrated, and sleep well. And, we need to keep it up or the fat rolls will return! Looking after your mental well-being is no different.
There are some simple things you can do every day. Here are my top 5, but find what works for you:
- Do the things that you know lift you up and boost your feel-good factor. This can be as simple as listening to your favourite music and singing loudly while cooking.
- Get outside into nature every day. It’s proven that just 15 minutes of being in nature without the distraction of modern life has a positive effect on our health — our blood pressure drops, stress levels are reduced and our concentration and mental clarity improve.
- Step away from your tech. We all need a period of sensory rest every day, to get respite from background noise, including our own negative self-talk and digital devices that rule our lives. A long soak in the bath or shower alone with a large “Do not disturb” sign on the door works a treat.
- Phone a friend. Talking to someone who we know cares for us deeply, listens without wanting to fix us and has the ability to make us laugh is important.
- Journaling in the evening can help you unload your feelings, stresses and emotions. It’s a good way to dump all your worries and concerns that are on your mind before you go to bed so that you don’t spend the night ruminating on them.
For something more structured, I have developed a course on stress, anxiety and emotional resilience launching on 1 February 2021. It’s a modular course with video content, activities and self reflection work that will support you on your journey being uploaded each week over 6 weeks.
How to survive Lockdown 3.0, the toughest one yet…
Accepting what we cannot change is the first step. Stop fighting the feelings of frustration, anger and disappointment and give your brain the mental space to focus on the constructive and positive. This isn’t the first time you have done this — you are the living proof that you can get through a lockdown and that these days will pass, just as the daylight returns everyday — so will you, you have done it before!
Go easy on yourself. By nature we are often hard on ourselves (especially women) so cut yourself a bit of slack. If you woke this morning feeling like you couldn’t get up, but you did, got dressed and had your morning coffee — then that’s a win, be proud of that.
If you are feeling constantly exhausted, ask yourself what it is you are feeling? Are you feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially exhausted or is it sensory exhaustion? This is something that I am working on with my coaching clients at the moment and it is really making a difference.
Give yourself the break you need, whether you are working from home, running a household, home schooling children, on furlough or worried about your future, family and friends. Make time for yourself and work on strengthening your emotional resilience. If you are feeling isolated, pick up the phone, use zoom or FaceTime or whatever works for you to see a face that you can connect with, smile with and be seen.
Find out more information on Yasmin’s mental health and self-development courses here.