World Mental Health Day: Looking After Your Mental Health in Lockdown
At the best of times, October can signal a dip in mood and energy as the nights draw in and a lack of sunlight can spark anything from mild winter blues to clinically diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Add local lockdowns into the mix for people who’ve already been struggling with Coronavirus restrictions for many months, and things can quickly look bleak.
The key to keeping your mental health as balanced as possible is to try not to focus on the things you can’t change or can’t do, and focus instead on what you can:
You may not feel like eating, or you may feel like eating comforting junk food. A treat now and then will do no harm but you should generally try to eat as healthily as possible. Eating a balanced diet ensures your body has all the fuel it needs to make sure you’re able to study, work and play, and all the nutrients required for a healthy immune system to fight off illnesses. It will also help to stabilise your mood.
If you feel you have an issue with food, you can get help from BEAT.
October can be very rainy and going outside can be an unappealing prospect, but if you can force yourself you’ll feel better for it. Things to do outside include walking, running, cycling, visiting parks and beauty spots, catching a sunset or sunrise, photography, gardening or meeting friends.
Exercise is now permitted again as long as it is within your county, so you can take part in classes in village halls and go back to your gym. If you need to self-isolate or shield there are plenty of workouts online. Use time you would have spent commuting on finding a fun new class.
Doing something you enjoy
Doing something you enjoy is so good for your wellbeing. If you’ve been busy working and caring for others, you may have forgotten what you enjoy! Think back to what you enjoyed in the past and have a go - be it playing an instrument, sewing, painting, writing or woodwork. If you can’t think of anything, why not learn something new? We have short courses available or try YouTube tutorials or apps like Duolingo.
We’re social creatures and Coronavirus has hit everyone hard. Working from home has eliminated much of the interaction we used to have with colleagues, and in local lockdown areas we can’t meet at each other’s homes or go for a coffee. Zoom catch ups aren’t appealing when you’ve been working at a screen all day and sitting in a wet garden doesn’t appeal. You can quickly start to feel lonely.
All I can say is when I’ve made the effort to talk to a neighbour over a wall, to phone a friend, have a Teams chat with a colleague or to have a coffee with a friend in the garden under an umbrella, it has perked me up no end. The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging us all to have a Tea and Talk to celebrate its 11th anniversary.
Working from home, being furloughed, being made redundant, home schooling, less socialising, missing friends and family, stress. These are all reasons to hit the bottle and who can blame any of us?! But while alcohol makes us feel good for a while, it will lead to poor quality sleep leaving you less able to deal with life’s challenges. At the end of the day, alcohol is a depressant, so anyone feeling low should steer well clear. Avoiding temptation is easier said than done so why not try a month off in aid of a good cause? Sober October will give you a chance to reset your drinking habits and understand the triggers behind them.
It’s important to note that for diagnosed or as yet undiagnosed mental health conditions, self-care is only part of managing them. If your existing condition has worsened or you find yourself struggling with new mental health problems, it’s vital that you see your GP as soon as possible.
Written by Laura Edwards. Laura graduated from the University of Hull and has spent 19 years working in journalism and public relations. She is a Digital Enagement Officer at Wrexham Glyndŵr University.