How to improve your mental health during lockdown
We are facing unusual times with the country, (and the world) under what at times could feel like house arrest as part of efforts to reduce the threat of COVID-19 particularly to our most vulnerable members of society.
Depending on your individual circumstances, you may be experiencing a range of emotions which could impact on your daily life. You may be stressed with a house full of people, balancing working at home and spending time with your loved ones. Or you may be lonely, unable to connect with friends and family or concerned about your finances, job, health or business prospects.
Whatever your feelings, it’s important to remember that it is ok to feel this way and that everyone will be experiencing this situation in different was and for different reasons. However, it is equally important to remember that this situation is temporary and for many of us, these feelings will pass in time.
So, what can you do to protect your mental health during lockdown?
- Stay connected with people – emails, phone calls, video calls, social media or even old-fashioned letters can help you keep in touch with the people you miss
- Make sure that you take time to talk to someone, even if it is a stranger, if you are feeling scared or unsure where to turn. The NHS has a range of recommended helplines here
- Take time to support others be they friends, family, neighbours or local vulnerable people as this can help to benefit you at the same time – please remember to do this in line with official guidance
- Plan and prepare for the changes which you are experiencing – talk to your employer about your options including working from home, going on furlough, taking leave and make sure that you understand your rights for sick pay and benefits by visiting www.gov.uk
- Your physical health will help improve your mental health so remember to eat regular meals, keep hydrated and find a form of exercise which you can adapt either to do it in your home or as your one form of exercise outdoors each day. There are many exercise routines for ages and fitness levels available free online so seek them out
- Limit the time you spend listening or reading the news of coverage of the outbreak and make sure that your information sources are genuine such as the NHS or www.gov.uk
- Take some time out each day to switch off simply doing something that you enjoy such as playing a musical instrument, painting, reading or listening to music
- Use the spare time you have to keep your brain active such as learning a language or simply enjoy inventive new ways to do things such as an online pub quiz or live music concerts on the internet
- Focus on the present to feel more in control rather than worrying about the future – meditation or relaxation techniques can help or gentle yoga which focuses on your breathing
- A good night’s sleep is essential for our well-being generally so make sure that you take time to relax before going to bed, ditch the phones or tablets, enjoy a warm bath with your favourite bubbles and avoid caffeine or alcohol
Here is our list of top sites for information and advice on your mental health during lockdown:
- NHS Every Mind Matters
- NHS Mental Health and Wellbeing Advice
- Gov.uk – Coronavirus Guidance
- NHS 111
If you have not already, talk with your employer about working from home, and learn about your sick pay and benefits rights. Knowing the details about what the coronavirus outbreak means for you for you can reduce worry and help you feel more in control.
Work out how you can get any household supplies you need. You could try asking neighbours or family friends, or find a delivery service.
Continue accessing treatment and support for any existing physical or mental health problems where possible. Let services know you are staying at home, and discuss how to continue receiving support.
If you need regular medicine, you might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone, or online via a website or app. Contact your GP and ask if they offer this. You can also ask your pharmacy about getting your medicine delivered, or ask someone else to collect it for you.
If you support or care for others, either in your home or by visiting them regularly, think about who can help out while you are staying at home. Let your local authority know if you provide care or support someone you do not live with. Carers UK has further advice on creating a contingency plan.
Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while you are all staying at home – by phone, messaging, video calls or social media – whether it’s people you usually see often, or connecting with old friends.
Lots of people are finding the current situation difficult, so staying in touch could help them too.
It’s normal to feel a bit worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember: it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too.
If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead.
Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.
Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Avoid smoking or drugs, and try not to drink too much alcohol.
You can leave your house, alone or with members of your household, for 1 form of exercise a day – like a walk, run or bike ride. But make you keep a safe 2-metre distance from others. Or you could try one of our easy 10-minute home workouts.
Stay on top of difficult feelings
Concern about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their day-to-day life.
Try to focus on the things you can control, such as how you act, who you speak to and where you get information from.
It’s fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about the situation are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try some ideas to help manage your anxiety.
Try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone.
You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to checking a couple of times a day.
If we are feeling worried, anxious, lonely or low, we may stop doing things we usually enjoy.
Make an effort to focus on your favourite hobby if it is something you can still do at home. If not, picking something new to learn at home might help.
There are lots of free tutorials and courses online, and people are coming up with inventive ways to do things, like hosting online pub quizzes and music concerts.
This can help with difficult emotions and worries, and improve our wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help deal with feelings of anxiety.
Think about your new daily routine
Life is changing for a while and you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines and set yourself goals.
You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week. If you are working from home, try to get up and get ready in the same way as normal, keep to the same hours you would normally work and stick to the same sleeping schedule.
You could set a new time for a daily home workout, and pick a regular time to clean, read, watch a TV programme or film, or cook.
Look after your sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel, so it’s important to get enough.
Try to maintain your regular sleeping pattern and stick to good sleep practices.