Just over two weeks in lockdown has taken hold of the nation’s mental health. Every news item we see, every face we pass at the local shop, and every nervous trip to the supermarket seems to be infected with an overwhelming air of anxiety and uncertainty…
And who can blame us? The headlines at the moment constantly reaffirm the blatant fact that we are in a crisis, and I personally find it even more intimidating when everyone (including myself) adorns a facemask out in public. Of course, these are the measures that have to be taken to stop the spread of the C-word, but you can’t help but feel anxious at the sight of it.
Even under normal conditions, I have always been a keen advocate of looking after your mental health; indeed, I see it as imperative to every success in life, be it big or small. But now that we are stuck inside all day, every day, it is more important then ever to stay sound in the upstairs’ department!
Over the past fortnight, I have accrued a list of strategies to combat mood fluctuations resulting from our current lifestyle restrictions.
Also, having had a 5 year history of bouts of depression, I like to think I have a wee bit of experience in trying to dig the mind out of the depths of despair!
#1 – Have A Routine
This isn’t just for the more meticulous among us; routines are the backbone of our lifestyle, a structure to each and every day that gives us a sense of purpose and direction.
Now that most of us are working from home, and heavy restrictions have been placed on our movements beyond the household, our normal routines have been drastically altered. To say this pandemic has ‘rocked the boat’ is an understatement: life, as we know it, has become increasingly alien…
However, there is a way to restore a sense of normality to our lives: having a rough idea of what you want to achieve during the day, how you are going to achieve it, and which parts of the day you are going to allocate to achieving said bits and bobs.
It doesn’t have to be a colour-coded masterpiece that outlines exactly what you’re going to be doing every second of every mninute; just a rough idea in your head as to how the day is looking for you. There is nothing worse than waking up with not the faintest idea as to what you are getting up to!
I have been at my best mentally in the past two weeks when my daily routine looks most similar to how my normal working week would look, and I recommend keeping as many elements to your daily routine the same (or at least similar) as before the pandemic!
You don’t want to fall into the endless abyss of the Netflix binge; that’s a dangerous road, my friend. A dangerous road indeed….
#2 – Allocate Some YOU Time
At the moment, you’re juggling walking the dog, working from home, schooling the kids, cleaning the kitchen: an endless list of mundane tasks devoted to helping other people. Hard as it may be, everyone should devote at least 30 minutes every day to Number 1.
One of my clients is a prime example; she has been working tirelessly, day-in-day-out, since they closed the schools, trying to balance a tonne of different tasks so that everyone else is kept happy, healthy, and occupied. Frankly, I am trying my absolute hardest to get her to be a bit more selfish!
It could be reading a book, running a bath, doing some yoga (highly recommended, see #5!); whatever it is, make sure that you have some time to yourself every single day. Easier said than done, but at least give it the College Try!
#3 – Setting Realistic Targets
Obviously, your fitness schedule has probably gone a bit skew-whiff; races being cancelled, training cycles interrupted, and access to facilities are completely restricted. If you were well on the way towards a lifetime fitness achievement, unfortunately the outbreak of Covid-19 has probably scuppered your event/training/whatever…!
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t crack on with the fitness malarkey; hopefully your training regime is based on Bigger Picture Thinking, and the changing circumstances shouldn’t limit your ability to progress towards those goals.
Maybe it is time to re-evaluate where you are at; for example, if you’ve had a marathon cancelled, why not look for an alternative race in Autumn and create a new training programme? It won’t be wholly different than before; just a different timeframe.
However, let’s face it; now is not the time to be over-ambitious with your health and fitness goals. Setting yourself an unrealistic target for the lockdown period will probably be counterproductive, serving to de-motivate you at a time when motivation is few and far between. For most of us, this tricky period is going to be more about damage limitation; look at it as an opportunity to dip into a different method of training, such as bodyweight HIIT. It may be the alternative stimulus your body has been craving if you were beginning to plateau in the gym! Try my creation, the Deconstructed Burpee, for a real challenge!
Whether fitness-related or not, I would recommend writing down 3 things you want to achieve out of each and every day; no more, no less. I’ve found this to be the most optimal number of things on a to-do list; enough to give you direction, but not to the extent that you feel daunted. Anything extra you get done can then be seen as additional gain that will help enhance your self-confidence and motivate you towards another day of winning at life 🙂
If you need a hand adapting your previous health and fitness targets to the lockdown scenario, go ahead and drop us an email at email@example.com .
#4 – Break Up The Day With “Snaxercise”
As the gyms are closed, people (including myself) have turned to home workouts for their fix, be it with resistance bands, dusty old dumbbells, or (amusingly) tins of tuna.
Home workouts tend to be slightly shorter than your typical gym session, with the most effective sessions lasting between 20-60 minutes (or maybe even shorter if you are caning it with a YouTube HIIT workout). If your sessions typically lie at the shorter end of this range, it could be viable to workout multiple times in the day, taking breaks from work or schooling the kids with little “snacks” of exercise.
Having a couple of 15-20 minute workouts scheduled throughout the day will help break the monotony of working from home, and help keep your mind on whatever tasks you are trying to get done; studies show that exercising at regular intervals throughout the day has a significant benefit on productivity, concentration, and happiness.
It might be helpful to look at your home workouts as ‘snacks’, hence the genius mashup used in the subheading…
#5 – Try Some Yoga or Meditation
It’s not for everyone, and no-one should feel ‘guilty’ about not being a fan of yoga. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve tried it and its not your cup of ‘cha!
That said, I personally have found so much solace in practicing yoga on a daily basis over the past fortnight. I love the fact that, with the right routine/music/instructor, you are able to zone out and focus on what’s going on inside your mind. Furthermore, with so much negative news floating about and pervading my facebook newsfeed, I find nothing more soothing than zoning out from the goings-on in the Covid-crisis for a half-hour at least.
At a time when headlines about coronavirus seem to be infecting every area of our lives, yoga has been my escape from it all. Highly, highly recommend it!
#6 – Stay Connected
Self-isolation shouldn’t mean complete isolation; we may not be able to see each other physically, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology we are more than capable of staying in close touch with our nearest and dearest beyond the home.
I have been making a concious effort to stay in the loop with all of my friends, and it has been an absolute gamechanger for the noggin. Whether it’s a savage meme in the work group chat, a chat with my closest mates from school, or a cheeky quiz via Zoom with my lovely clients, all of the methods of communication available have made isolation all the more bearable (sorry, Mum & Dad; I love your company, but I need the odd bit of non-Gripper chats…).
Don’t fully isolate yourself in self-isolation; we are all in this together. As one of my readers, YOU are definitely not alone; I am always available for a chat, a vent, or a decent meme. Just crack us a DM; I don’t bite 🙂
#7 – Keep Yourself Occupied
Even before Covid, I could have testified to how detrimental to mental health idleness is. Certainly, I’ve been at my absolute worst upstairs when I’ve had the least going on in my life; I guess I’m just one of those dudes that needs a toy to play with….
The best thing to do in times like this is keep your mind busy. If you have, unfortunately, been furloughed/are currently stumped with what to do with your days, it might be time to try something new or dust off the archives and revive an old pasttime. Either way, becoming an idle bystander in the pandemic might do you more harm than good with regards to your mental health.
If you want a bit of inspiration, take note from my beloved parents, who have already cracked out the Scrabble…
There have been a fair few memes cropping up that preach how “failing to come out of quarantine with a new skill means you lack discipline” . THIS IS HORSESH*T!!!
Everyone is struggling. If you’re anything like me, this whole thing has kind of hit me for 6. It is okay to feel a wee bit of a lemon; I have found myself on more occasions than one feeling guilty about not doing a lot.
JUST DON’T ; WE ARE ALLOWED TO BE UNPRODUCTIVE!
So yeh, rant over. Muchos apologies….
#8 – Switch Off
Sleep has a profound impact on mental health. Getting enough sleep is imperative for general health and wellbeing, is also more important now than ever.
Learning to get into good habits before bed has massively improved my mood; known as good sleep hygiene, practices such as switching off screens 30 minutes prior to going to sleep, reading before bed, and disabling phone notifications after 9:00pm have all had an awesome effect on my sleep. Having always struggled with sleeping problems, these are the first methods I have come across that actually work.
Yoga and meditation also can play a part in this, too; switching off also applies to your brain. It’s very easy to press the Off switch of your phone, but turning your mind off is a bit harder; there ain’t no big red button to put that bad boy to sleep. For me, the most effective way to do this is a full body scan and diaphragmatic (deep) breathing, which helps me to slowly unwind to a point at which I can drift off uninterrupted by crappy thoughts.
Again, it is easier said than done, particularly given the anxieties and constant worries this crisis seems to be throwing up. But as with anything, practice makes perfect: the more you try it, the easier it’ll become, and the more benefits you will start seeing on the quality of your sleep.
Finally, i’m not going to bore you with the science lecture on blue light and the impact it has on sleep (highly recommend: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep); but you should definitely prioritise sleep.
The Final Word
The physical consequences of this global pandemic have been devastating on populations across the world, and we are seeing the adverse effects on our society here in the UK resulting from the spread of Covid-19.
The mental consequences deriving from this virus should not be underestimated; with family members falling ill, people being furloughed, and excessive financial strain being placed on many households, we as a collective face incredibly challenging times ahead. Never has there been more of a need for us to nurture our mental health.
These are just 8 tips that I myself have found the most effective for managing coron-anxiety, and hopefully at least one of the techniques above may prove helpful for you in the coming weeks of uncertainty and abnormality.
Stay safe; stay home; and stay happy 🙂