The past few months have been challenging for all of us, and we’ve all faced unique circumstances too.
Whether the parents of young children who are at home rather than at school, on the frontline as a key worker, or simply worrying about elder relatives, we’ve all had our difficult moments.
Despite the restrictions, it can still seem as if there’s too much to do – whether it’s at work, family obligations or simply getting through the long weeks under lockdown.
That’s why it’s vitally important that we all take time to look after our mental health and well-being.
So here’s 10 things you can do to keep healthy in mind during these difficult weeks:
- Talk to your employer or your work support coach
Many mental health issues develop from worries about work and money, which have never been more acute than during this enforced stay at home period.
If you have one, it’s worth talking to your employer so you can understand your sick pay and benefits rights, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Self-employed people also have rights in this area.
- Plan practical things
Mental health worries can often come when you feel like you have too much to do, or that doing once-normal things can become difficult. So if you’re unable to do something – for instance, going to the shops if you are self-isolating, or picking up repeat prescriptions – you can take simple steps to get on top of it.
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.
- Stay connected
Over the past year, we’ve all got used to new ways of communicating. Who knew ‘zoom’ would be the word of the year for 2020?
But even though the novelty has worn off, it’s vitally important to stay in touch with friends and family, however you can. Some people have scheduled weekly catch-ups, and don’t underestimate the power of a friendly text. All of us are going through difficult times and staying in touch with people we love is a vital part of getting through to the other side.
It’s normal to feel a bit worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. It’s never been more normal to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may even help them, too.
If you can’t speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead. The NHS has recommended a few here.
- Healthy in body, healthy in mind
Keeping physically healthy is a huge part of staying mentally fit. 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 plenty of water and exercise regularly – that’s still allowed within the lockdown restrictions. Avoid smoking and drugs, and think about cutting down on how much you drink, if you do.
If you’re self-isolating or feel more comfortable at home, you could try exercising indoors, as there are lots of free online classes. Try this NHS 10-minute home workout. Getting your heart rate up for even a little while can have a hugely beneficial impact on your mental health.
- Stay on top of difficult feelings
Concern about the coronavirus outbreak and your health is 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.
- Don’t stay glued to the news or your phone
The media has never been more important in passing on information about the virus, but that doesn’t mean you should stay constantly glued to it. For better or worse, much of the last year has seen bad news – and too much of that can drag you down.
Try to limit the amount of time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak, including on social media. You can also set aside time during the day to catch up, rather than following every twist and turn.
With the rollout of the vaccine taking place, too, you can look for good news. The Government’s vaccine dashboard has a total of all the people who have been given a jab – and the good news is it goes up by a big number every day! You can find out more at www.gov.uk and www.nhs.uk
- Carry on doing things you enjoy
One of the signs of struggling a little with mental health is stopping doing things we enjoy – which can make us feel worse in the long-term.
If you’ve taken up a new hobby, it’s important to stick with it. And if not, why not try something? Perhaps crosswords or jigsaws, or even emulate Mary Berry and get baking.
Many people found new hobbies in the first lockdown that they’ve been able to stick with, so you never know – you might find a whole new side of yourself!
- Take time to relax
We all need time to think. And luckily, guides and training for mindfulness and meditation have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.
This can help with difficult emotions and worries, and improve our wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help deal with feelings of anxiety.
Good quality sleep can make a massive difference in how we feel, so it’s important you get enough. Even in these difficult times, sticking to good sleep practices can really help. The NHS has a great guide.