Five Easy Things You Can Do To Protect Your Mental Health During Lockdown

24 June, 2020

Article By Fiona Willmott

We’re now entering the thirteenth week of lockdown in the UK, and for a lot of us, it’s beginning to drag even more than it was before. The beautiful weather isn’t making it any easier to enjoy staying at home all the time, and chances are, you’re pretty over the whole thing.

It’s not unusual for our mental health to take a bit of a battering at a time like this – not only is there the general, overarching anxiety of a global pandemic, but being deprived of most of the things that help us feel normal and happy (seeing friends and family in a normal way, having a change of scene) can leave us feeling understimulated, bored to frustration and even lonely.

So we’ve put together a short list of things you can incorporate into your day-to-day to help you feel a bit more in-control, and to break up the endless days a little. Check them out below:

Set yourself a routine

A problem a lot of us have been experiencing during lockdown is the feeling that everyone else is being super productive, starting businesses and redecorating their houses, while we’re struggling to do anything beyond telling Netflix that yes, we are still watching. It’s important to remember that a) everyone fakes it online, so they’re probably spending a substantial amount of time laid out covered in biscuit crumbs too, and that b) you’re literally living through a pandemic, so being a bit too distracted to make it to Forbes 30 Under 30 is actually very fair.

However, if you are feeling like you need a push to get off the sofa, then try putting together a daily routine to add a bit more structure to your time. Fill it as much (or as little) as you like, and include a mixture of leisure and work activities to make you feel like you’ve earnt your downtime. Do you need to clean your car? Are you on the job hunt? Try putting these ‘work’ tasks earlier on so you start the day doing something productive (and won’t spend all day dreading them), and so that when you come to doing your more leisurely to-do’s you can enjoy them without anything hanging over you. And don’t forget to schedule in downtime – it’ll help establish more of a divide between daytime and evening, which means you can dive right into those box sets without feeling like you’re wasting your time.

1. Take time to exercise

You’re probably sick to death of everyone banging on about ‘daily exercise’ and Joe Wicks, but there’s a reason fitness has become such a big deal during lockdown – it does genuinely make you feel better to get up and move.

Whether you just feel up for going for a walk around the local park, or if you’re looking for something to help you get a bit of a sweat on, moving your body will help release some positive, anxiety-softening endorphins, and getting some fresh air never hurt anyone. Classpass has a great selection of free online classes that you can live stream, and a quick Google will bring up anything from relaxing yoga to cobweb-blasting plyometrics that you can do at home if you don’t feel like venturing out. There’s truly a type of exercise for everyone, so why not use all this free time to try different things and work out what your body enjoys best?

2. Tidy your space

It goes without saying that we’re spending a lot of time in our homes at the moment, and although we’re not all lucky enough to be quarantining in Buckingham Palace, it’s been proven that taking the time to tidy your immediate surroundings can have a calming and even a motivating effect on your mental health. Perhaps as part of your daily routine, allocate some time to giving your home or bedroom a quick spruce up – tackle that scary pile of paperwork on your desk once-and-for-all, fold up that washing that’s been sitting in the laundry basket for two weeks, and make your bed. Walking into a room that’s clean and tidy is guaranteed to make you feel a bit lighter, and there’s a huge amount of satisfaction that can be achieved from Marie Kodo-ing your space, especially since you’re bound to be spending so much time there.

3. Speak to friends and family

If you’re someone who isn’t sick of Zoom calls and pub quizzes yet, then very well done, but as tedious as it can be having to stare into a screen just to see our loved ones, seeing some familiar faces is undoubtedly an instant pick-me-up.

Obviously, too much screen-time is never a good thing, but there’s a real difference between scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, and having an interactive conversation with someone you actually know. It’s not as good as the real thing, and it can be tempting to turn down a Zoom catchup if you’re (understandably) not feeling at your most lively, but making the effort to connect with people who make you smile will go some way to getting you out of that rut. If nothing else, you’ve killed at least 20 minutes of yet another day in lockdown.

4. Put down the phone and try something creative

It’s no secret that social media, for all it’s plusses, can be quite detrimental to our mental health, and no more so than at a time like this. The combination of scary, depressing news, and everyone on Insta seeming to be living their best lockdown lives can make us feel anxious and inadequate. Try putting a time limit on apps that you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through, and use this new spare time to learn a new skill or do something creative.

Skillshare is currently offering a massive range of online classes, from illustration to business, so you’re bound to come across something that you’ll find absorbing. If not, why not grab a pencil and paper and just start drawing things that pop into your head – not being Leonardo Da Vinci is part of the fun – it’s all about the learning process. Alternatively, if drawing isn’t for you, why not try cooking something new and figuring out what food makes you feel good.

Even if you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of stuffing your days full of activities, at a time like this it’s important to focus on doing things which make your body and mind feel good. Remember to be kind to yourself and not feel too much pressure to achieve every goal you’ve ever set – after all, you’re living through a pandemic, so if you’re surviving, you’re doing pretty well.

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