The announcement of another national lockdown starting this Thursday was the news that we had all been dreading. The thought of a month long lockdown on top of an already incredibly difficult year, and without the warm sunny days to take the edge off, is enough to make even the most optimistic amongst us dread the month ahead.
Its tough, its really tough, let’s not pretend otherwise. It’s hard not be anxious about the future and find daily life a struggle. Lack of motivation, feeling overwhelmed, anxious thinking and struggling with difficult emotions are all completely normal under the circumstances.
That said, there are things we can do to protect our mental health and boost our well-being to get us through the month ahead.
Check your thinking
Try not to catastrophise. This is when anxious thinking gets out of control and constantly goes to the worst case scenario. It is true that the future is uncertain at the moment, but constantly thinking about worst case scenarios just makes us miserable and heightens anxiety, robbing us of any enjoyment for the present day. There is encouraging news, more treatments for COVID are being discovered and talk of a vaccine being on the way. Try to focus on the positives and limit your exposure to bad news and speculation. Catch yourself when you are going down a spiral of catastrophising and distract your mind with something else such as singing your favourite song out loud to give your brain something else to focus on.
Have a routine
Even if you are at home all day with nothing to go out for, try not to spend all day in your pyjamas. Staying up late and sleeping in will play havoc with your body clock, similarly keeping regular mealtimes and a daily routine, such as when you go out for exercise or carry out household chores, will help the days seem less daunting. Break your timetable down into hour by hour chunks, planning in mealtimes and pleasure activities too.
Plan to exercise
Planning to exercise each day can give your mental well-being a boost as well as keep your joints subtle and stop you losing muscle mass. It can also help you battle the lock-down belly we may have only just lost from last time! Walking is great, it’s free, almost everyone can do it. You can also meet up with one other person from another household and walk together so you get double value for your effort. If you can’t get outside because of the whether then try one of the many YouTube videos available or a home exercise DVD, there is something out there for everyone.
Isolation and loneliness is at an all time high with the COVID pandemic. But connecting with others is so important for our mental well being. You may be a bit ‘zoomed out’, but if this doesn’t work for you then find other ways to connect; pick up the phone, meet for walk, join a Facebook discussion group. If you feel you have the capacity, volunteer for a charity that are connecting with elderly and vulnerable people who may be isolating, this not only does something amazing to help someone else but will also boost your sense of purpose and help you feel great too.
Be mindful. Our brain cannot be thinking about the present and worrying about the future at the same time, so which are you going to pick? Being intentional about being in the moment whatever you are doing and noticing what’s going on around you; what you can see, what you can hear, what you can feel and even what you can smell, connects us to the present moment and brings our levels of stress and anxiety down by giving our brain a rest from anxious thinking that pumps your bloodstream full of stress hormones. You can go one step further and try one of the many mindfulness apps out there or a YouTube mindfulness meditation.
Remember why we are doing this. It isn’t pointless suffering. We are doing this to save lives and support the medical health professionals on the front line that have been our heroes throughout the pandemic. They are asking us to do this so they can continue to do their jobs and not be overwhelmed. Reminding yourself of this and the end game we are aiming for us can keeping us motivated and give us strength.
Above all, be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others. We are all finding this hard, being extra kind to ourselves and extra kind to those around us will make this easier on everyone make all the difference to our experience of lockdown.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you can contact the Samaritans any time, from any phone, on Call 116 123