Across the globe, the last year has been very uncertain for everyone, and recent news around lockdowns are only likely to make people feel more uncertain still. The risks associated with leaving the house have been frightening and anxiety-inducing for many, and the lack of social interaction, exercise and fresh air has the potential to make people feel unhappy, claustrophobic and lonely.
Professional mental health services are often in short supply, but there are lots of things that can be done immediately to support your mental health; here is a list of suggested ports of call as well as a few ideas for taking the pressure of yourself a little bit.
1.) Try switching off (literally) sometimes
Depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns can really impact the quality of and amount of sleep a person gets. Often, depressed people will sleep far too much, or nowhere near enough. But good sleep hygiene, which means a sensible sleep routine, can be really helpful. One of the biggest obstacles to a good sleep, however, can be bright lights in your face before bed, as this inhibits melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, so try no screens for an hour before bed.
2.) Think about what and how you are eating
Food is such an important part of the entire life process, it is no wonder that what we eat can effect how we feel to an extreme extent. Rather than dieting, though, try to eat regularly and to eat a wide variety of foods in terms of various nutrients, as well as various colours and textures. Alcohol isn’t a great idea for good mental health, as it is a downer and it is so high in sugar, but eating well doesn’t mean nothing fun at all, it just means being thoughtful about what is consumed.
3.) Make contact – perhaps with someone other than a family member
Lots of us have been holed up with our families over the last couple of months, and whilst family time is important, it can also exacerbate mental health issues, particularly if they originally rise from a developmental place. However, socialising in general is very helpful for support and stress management, and a friend or acquaintance can fulfil this need. If meeting in person is too tricky – which is likely with new lockdown rules – then even a phone call or a zoom meeting is better than nothing.
4.) Get some fresh air and exercise
I know, I know, this is something your mum would tell you and I know it’s so annoying. But, it is true. Fresh air is clinically proven to help with improving your mood and reduce feelings of stress and anger. When you see a doctor for feelings of depression, they will often specifically ask about your exercise routine, or lack thereof, because it relates so closely to your mental state.
The problem in the last year has been that to begin with, exercise opportunities have been really limited and after that, it is still frightening to leave the house for an activity that might seem non-essential. But still, exercise is a necessity so try introducing a half hour walk into your daily routine and see how it helps your mental state.
5.) Get creative
And again, similarly, creating things is a good way to quiet a busy mind. When you focus on a task, it will help to dissipate intrusive thoughts and it will prevent fidgeting and other nervous behaviours. When you make something, maybe cooking, sewing or woodwork, you get to see the results of your hard work which can create a great sense of satisfaction that is helpful for mental health. Got no inspiration? Just hearing about someone else’s experiences through works of art can be therapeutic – check out our reading list of books about isolation.
6.) Try Meditation
Meditation links closely with mindfulness which in turn relates to being collected and tranquil. Paired with yoga, meditation can even count towards your exercise for the day! Meanwhile, if you fear getting started, try downloading a meditation app such as Calm to help you get started.
7.) Explore therapy
Therapy can be a really helpful tool toward a better state of mind. Equally, it can be expensive and difficult to access. However, it’s possible now to access therapy online: talkspace (https://www.talkspace.com/online-therapy/) is a therapy site which makes therapy more affordable and because it is based entirely online, quarantine or lockdown won’t prevent access to the service.
8.) See your doctor
If you are really worried about your mental health, you should see your doctor. Even though surgeries are limiting intake at the moment, you must treat your mental health as seriously as your physical health, and react to anything that seems amiss. Many surgeries will see patients who are worried – it’s worth researching online or ringing up to get more information.