Well being expert Heather Beach gives her tips for protecting your mental health during lockdown.
As the coronavirus pandemic sees a shift in every element of our lives, the need to protect and support our mental health has arguably never been more important.
An ongoing study by the University of Sheffield and Ulster University showed that on Tuesday 24 March, the day after Boris Johnson placed Britain under lockdown, 38% of study participants reported significant depression and 36% reported significant anxiety. This compared with 16% reporting significant depression and 17% reporting significant anxiety the day before the announcement.
Research from the science of positive psychology about how to support our mental can offer help. We are guided by the fact that we are all different – a five-mile run every day may make you happy but doesn’t do it for me. This is a period in which we will really get face to face with who we are and what works for us.
Here are some of the ways we currently look after ourselves, and ideas on how to adapt them in these times of isolation.
Sleep – this can be impacted by worry, but ensure you practise good sleep practices and focus on this. Exercise – you may be limited to the back garden, front room, or a short walk, but regularly get up and move, and get fresh air daily. Nutrition – ensure you’re eating a balanced diet, but allow yourself treats. Rest – allocated time to relaxation each day.
Thinking patterns are habits. That negative thought is not the truth, it’s just a perspective. Write negative thoughts down, then return to them and deconstruct their validity.
We may not be able to hug the people we love until the end of this period, but social media really comes into its own here, as does video conferencing. We’ve got virtual book clubs running, gigs from people’s sitting rooms, quizzes. Get involved if you’re missing the social aspect of life.
Limit yourself to official news channels and just once a day. If you have people who are constantly catastrophising in this period, mute them for a while – they don’t need to know!
Perfect for the self-improvers. Learning allows us to expand ourselves and puts our situation into perspective. Enrolling in an online course could change your whole life direction post-corona.
We all feel good if we help the elderly lady next door by getting her milk in, it’s much easier than being kind to our partner whose very tapping on the keyboard grates on every nerve. But be kind to them too.
We are here, we are alive, we have roofs over our heads. Focusing on what to be grateful for is the easiest route to happiness.
We have lived mad busy lives. We rarely get the chance to really take in that smell and
taste of coffee, the bird singing, or even going through precious memories of previous times in our photo albums. Take a minute to stop, and savour.
If you haven’t had time to try mindfulness before, now is the time. Just five minutes each day has proven health benefits.
Often the happiest people are those who work really hard for something outside themselves and in service of others. Can you offer online support to someone, or donate funds or supplies? Many charitable acts can be done without leaving the house. Search online for information on how you can help anyone struggling during this crisis.
Isolation can induce self-reflection. Understand things in your life you would like to change, and set goals in place to do that.
The fact that we are all in the same boat is incredibly helpful here. But, in all aspects of life, railing against things we can’t change is not only detrimental to us but also to those around us. Concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl said: “When we can’t change our circumstances, we are challenged to change ourselves.” If you haven’t read his book Man’s Search for Meaning, then now is the time.
The most important thing to remember is that this time will pass. Almost every one of us will come out of this poorer financially, but equip yourself with the tools to come out of it stronger.
*Heather Beach is the founder and director of The Healthy Work Company. Unique in its model – THWC offers tailored training solutions in line with office culture and support employers’ wellbeing strategies. Heather is a positive psychologist and a leader in her field in health and safety and HR. She is currently working with ITV, London Luton Airport, Mace and The Telegraph delivering courses to enable managers to spot signs and symptoms of distress, have the confidence to start better conversations, and empower them with the tools to have teams which thrive.