I have felt compelled to touch on this subject since our national lockdown began. At the beginning of the lockdown period, I was extremely stressed and could feel a sense of anxiety resurrecting within me that I hadn’t felt in months. What was meant to be a period of enjoyment between finishing my masters and beginning my placement, had become a period of imposed isolation. My sister and I had to cancel our trip to Barcelona, and my birthday was spent in the back garden with family. The coffee dates and cocktail nights were put on hold, and I was angry and confused as to why.. why this had to happen to us?
There is no explanation. I spent a couple of days wishing that things could go back to the way they were. That I could start working in my new job as I was supposed to, and that I could go back in time to where my life seemed almost a little bit too perfect! Something clicked in me after a couple of days. There was no going back. It was either: accept this and move on, or dwell on the past and wish for opportunities that no longer existed. I chose the former and decided to focus on the things that I did have rather than what I did not, and to work towards new goals instead.
I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful house with my family. My sister, brother-in-law and nephews live next-door to us. On top of this, we have had the most divine weather since the lockdown began. Are you in a similar situation? If you are, we are the incredibly lucky ones. There are so many individuals now who are homeless, are living in abusive households, are worried sick over the debt they are amounting or who are worried about how they will entertain their disabled children for the coming weeks. The situation for some is grim, but for the majority of us – extremely manageable. I’m going to share with you how I have been efficiently managing this time to ensure that my mental health has stayed exactly that – healthy.
Routine! Routine for me has been essential. I rarely sleep in past 9am, but with having had nowhere to go – I could opt to stay in bed for half the day. While relaxing is essential, I think that setting a time aside for this is a better option than lounging around for the day. Getting dressed to enjoy the fresh air after breakfast definitely puts me in a great mood for the rest of the day. A morning walk gets my endorphins flowing. Getting into the sunshine positively affects your circadian rhythm (response to brightness and darkness), and makes it easier to get to sleep at night (as your body then recognises a difference between night and day – so knows that it is finally bed time). When I wake, I usually make out a rough plan in my head of what I am going to get done for the day – a to do list! It usually begins with washing my face before moving on to breakfast while watching Sky News, a morning walk, a shower, laptop work, lunch, home workout/more work, dinner prep, dinner, evening walk, dessert with Netflix and bed! Try to retain a schedule which is as similar as possible to your pre-pandemic one.
Diet! While we enjoy this time at home, don’t be too hard on yourself with regards to your diet. I’m usually so busy that I don’t fall victim to constant snacking, but if you’re a die-hard snacker – so be it! We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic here, and an extra chocolate covered corn cake isn’t going to kill you. I’m happiest when I have 3 proper big meals in the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maintaining the same eating schedule that I had pre-pandemic has ensured a sense of structure within my day. It works for me, but as I said, you have to find what works for you. If you’re super hungry for snacks in the middle of the day – chances are that your meals aren’t satiating enough. Add more volume to your main meals if this is the case. Stay healthy! Healthy body = healthy mind. Be mindful of the food you are putting into your body – we have so much time now to explore with our food choices, so why not try out some foods/recipes that you have never tried before. Personally, I’m trying to introduce different types of fruit, veg, nuts and beans to my diet. During my masters, I literally ate the same food every single day (convenience), so it has been so nice to explore different tastes. Cooking alleviates any stresses I have. When I cook, my phone goes away (besides from when I’m doing a tutorial), Instagram is switched off, music is playing and I place myself into my own little world. It’s almost like I just switch off and it’s just me and the food – dramatic right!? As the food cooks, the stresses which I have been carrying with me seem to evaporate.
Exercise! Another pivotal way of maintaining your mental health during this period is to stay active! In saying this, you don’t have to go full hammy and start doing 60 minute HIIT classes every day (gross!), but a 30 minute walk or a 20 minute weight session should suffice – just anything to get the endorphins flowing. I like to walk early in the morning after my breakfast, but if not I will get a weight session in before lunch. I have also been incorporating a 15/20 minute walk after dinner, as this clears my head before bed. It can be easy to forget to exercise during these times when we are confined to our homes, but without the headspace provided by moving our bodies, you may become confined to the dangerous thoughts amounting in your head! Clean your room, paint the garden shed, water the plants – its ALL moving. Don’t compare your efforts to the exercise routines of others – you know what works for you, so stick to that. I personally can’t do high intensity workouts, I don’t enjoy them and they kill my knees. Slow and steady works better for me, and that’s okay too.
Continual Learning! Is anyone else coming into this pandemic straight from working literally 7 days a week between college/a part-time job? No? Well, let me tell you; coming to a dead halt is not easy. For the first week of this whole thing, it almost felt like time had completely stopped. For me, taking in new information keeps my brain moving, and helps to keep the brain fog at bay on the best of days. Here’s how you can keep your brain active: Read – this doesn’t have to be 1000 page novels! Try reading a book about something that you are interested in at first, even a cookbook would be great, or why not try reading some more blogs or newspaper articles? Listen – try out some new podcasts! I have recently gotten really into business podcasts and find myself gravitating between these and motivational podcasts on the daily. Podcasts act as a great way to passively take-in information while you’re out for your evening walk, or when you are out and about in the car. It’s a nice change from the upbeat music I’d usually be listening to! Do – One of the best ways to learn is to just get stuck in. I have been enlisting myself in online marketing courses in order to improve my knowledge of social media marketing practices. Doing this ensures that I am retaining a steady learning ethic for when I do eventually start working on my work-placement report within the next few weeks (so that it doesn’t come as a complete shock to the system!). The benefit of continual learning is not limited to the benefit of intaking more knowledge, but it also acts as a way of keeping your mind occupied – something which is well-needed now, when all I seem to hear about is death tolls and worldwide turmoil.
Contact! Stay. In. contact. With. Your. Friends. I cannot emphasise this enough! While it is easy to completely disconnect from your friends while you are not able to see them and spend time with them, maintaining that virtual contact, and having someone to share your feelings and thoughts with is essential. For me, a problem shared with a trustworthy friend is a problem halved. If you’re feeling overwhelmed after watching the news, chat to a friend. Likewise, if you are feeling on top of the world – give them a text! You could aid in improving their mood too. Video-chat that friend you haven’t seen in 6 months. Call your granny and TALK to your family. Although you may be getting under each other’s skin at this point, you love each other, and no one knows you better than your own family. We will never (hopefully) live through something like this again, so make the most of all the time that you have been granted with your family. Eat dinner together, drink together, laugh together, watch movies together.
Limit Social Media Use! Social media is great. It keeps us connected during this time of isolation, and allows us to stay up to date with current events in every corner of the world. However, it is a platform for extreme comparison. Endless scrolling may leave you feeling worthless, or as if your efforts during this lockdown are not as good as others. Put the phone away – especially before bed. You are incredibly unique, therefore there is no point in comparing your life to that of others.
Keep Tidy! Essential for me – I tidy my room every morning and every night (a little bit obsessively). Having a clean room allows me to feel more relaxed when I want to work in my room. As I have recently began working from home (exciting!), having a nice and relaxing place to work from, aids in my creativity and ability to think clearly, and allows me to avoid becoming overwhelmed by small tasks. Open the windows and make sure you are able to work from a bright, airy and clean space. The clearer the space, the clearer your head in my opinion.
Journal! When I say journal, I don’t mean writing for hours on end each day. Personally, I don’t even write my thoughts down most days, I simply think about how I am feeling. I almost have a pep-talk with myself (If that makes sense?). I have becoming overwhelmed at different points throughout this situation, and voicing these feelings with myself aids in alleviating them.
As challenging as these times have been, we will miss the simplicity of them when they are gone. Enjoy the simple things in life which you may now have time for that you hadn’t before (for me, that’s cooking more than ever before, spending time with my nephews and walking my dogs). Start a new Netflix series. Start Gardening. Explore. Be in touch with yourself. Everyone is different and it is about using a process of elimination to find what makes you and your mental health the happiest. Most importantly, be easy on yourself.