These are challenging times for our mental health. The Coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty around our health, our loved ones, a change to our routine and job insecurity has left many of us feeling anxious. Last week, health experts at the United Nations warned there could be a mental illness crisis on the horizon.
Paradoxically, being in lockdown has also given us the chance to face our mental health head-on, with some of us reaching out for professional help, perhaps for the first time. Mental health services have largely shifted to online. Current figures show that the number of therapists offering online services has grown, perhaps in response to lockdown.
It is natural for our emotions to feel up and down in the uncertain times we are living in. You will most probably be worried about the long term affects too, so practical tips to look after yourself could be an essential way forward.
In Mental Health Awareness Week, I have compiled 5 ways that YOU can boost your wellbeing while staying indoors:
1: Connect with others. By design, we are social creatures and relationships are key to our mental health. There are obvious ways to connect with others such as phone, social media, WhatApp etc. However, it can be worth thinking about other sources such as a Netflix Watch Party, Bingo evenings on Zoom. There are also e-walking and online catch ups with the group.
You can use your imagination and make things happen for you. Some clients have told me that they have set up a Facebook live session and teach people to knit or draw. If you, or someone you know, don’t like using social media, make an agreement to write a letter or email to each other once a week.
2. Be physically active. Our physical and mental health and undeniably linked, so it is important to stay active – even if we do not feel like it! Now the government are advising that we can still go out to exercise once per day. If you do this, please remember to still practice social distancing. If you are lucky enough to have outdoor space, you can use it as a gym. There are lots of YouTube videos that you can use to help you exercise either in the home or in your garden. Many yoga and fitness classes are now being run online; you could go to a ‘virtual class’ with your friends. This has the added benefit of keeping connected with people. Maybe spend this time learning about a new form of exercise, like Pilates or Tai Chi. There are many options to choose from. Why not make a start today and see how YOU can improve your overall health.
3. Be mentally active. The current situation can make us feel quite anxious and stressed, and it is easy to allow our thoughts to spiral into thinking about ‘what if’s’. Physical exercise can certainly help take our minds off these thoughts. But it is important to keep mentally active as well. Board games are a good way of keeping mentally active. Many of us have family favourites, which can be used to keep children entertained. But there has been an explosion in board games for adults over recent years. Games like Scrabble etc are making a comeback! Many of these games are also good for children. And there are lots of websites which teach you how to play games too. If you have children at home, you can also help them with their work for your own benefit too. There are lots of resources being posted online to help parents. Many parents would be grateful for a bit of help and this can always be done via apps like Skype or WhatsApp.
4. Learn a new skill. There are lots of skills you can learn online. Crafts such as knitting and crochet, drawing and painting all help us to be more focused on the moment. Which has been shown to help with our mental wellbeing. Talk to your friends. Do any of them have a skill that you would like to learn? By getting a group of you to learn together this can be a brilliant way of connecting. Not only will you learn a new skill, but you will have lots of fun! Or think about all those DIY jobs you have in the house but do not know how to tackle. There is a YouTube video online that will show you!
5. Mindfulness. Research shows that paying more attention to the present moment can improve our mental wellbeing. The NHS are using mindfulness more and more in their approach to things like stress, anxiety, and depression. Here are some short starter choices:
• 1 minute Breathing Space (Breathworks)
• 90 Second Mini meditation (Finding Peace in a Frantic World)
• 3 Minute Breathing Space audio or video (MiSP/Oxford Mindfulness Centre)
• 3 Minute Coping with Difficulties (Bangor Centre for Mindfulness Research & Practice)
• 4 Minute Breathing Practice (Oxford Mindfulness Centre)
• 4 Minutes Feeling as Safe as You Reasonably Can (Dr Rick Hanson)
• 5 Minute Tension Release & other meditations (Breathworks)
• 5 Minute Chocolate Meditation (BBC Mind Set Meditations)
• 9 Minute Befriending and Compassion for Self and Others (Finding Peace in a Frantic World)
• 7 Minute Mountain Meditation, 15 Minute Body Scan & other meditations (Free Mindfulness)
COVID-19 specific videos and podcasts
Dr Jud Brewer daily videos on Corona Virus Anxiety & why short mindfulness practices create our mental health hygiene.
I hope that my 5 tips have been helpful to you. If you need additional help, please just contact me through my website form.