With the extension of the enforced lockdown measures and many people self-isolating, the coronavirus outbreak is affecting the way most of us live our lives. Any combination of stress, depression and anxiety can be triggered as a result. This article covers tips to help manage mental health during the lockdown and can be applied by anyone not just BJJ practitioners.
NHS England believe that as many as one in four adults and one in ten children experience mental illness. In addition to this are the many others who know and care for people who do. Every news and social media channel has non-stop coverage of the huge global surge in the number of cases and deaths. They also cover the increasing burden on the NHS such as shortage of ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Naturally such an unprecedented pandemic can cause crippling anxiety and depression, not just within the emotionally vulnerable.
So what can we as individuals do to manage mental health during the lockdown? Here are 10 tips which I hope you and the people you care about may find useful.
Understanding the situation can help you manage your mental health during lockdown
Get the facts to educate yourself on the potential health risks of Coronavirus and take measures to protect yourself and your mental health. Having a clearer picture from a trusted source of information (for example NHS England and UK Government websites) can put your mind at rest. Knowing that you have taken all necessary precautions can lead to a more peaceful mind and mood. This can do wonders to help manage your mental health during lockdown.
Remember that it is normal to feel anxiety, stress, or fear during a crisis
These are without a doubt unprecedented times for many of us. It is perfectly okay to have such feelings of uncertainty and a fear for the future. Accept your feelings as a natural response to the situation and take positive steps to reassure yourself.
Utilise established coping mechanisms to manage your mental health during lockdown
Draw on skills you have used in the past that have helped you to manage challenging periods of time. Think back to past experiences and recall how you pulled yourself through them. Use those skills to help nurture positive emotions during these difficult times.
Look after your body for a healthy mind
Organise your day to ensure that you can prioritise regular exercise (Check out my article on free home workouts). Go outdoors if it is safe to do so, and get some fresh air at the same time. Maintain a proper balanced diet and regular sleeping hours.
Do something every day that will boost your mood and helps you relax. It could be yoga, cooking, playing with your pets, learning new skills. Keep yourself occupied with activities you enjoy during the lockdown and your mental health will reap the benefits.
Don’t turn to drink or drugs to deal with depression
Depression is a debilitating mental illness which regularly co-occurs with substance use. The two disorders have a relationship which is bi-directional. This means that people who abuse substances are far more likely to suffer from depression. Conversely people who suffer from depression are more likely to develop substance reliance.
One of the main reasons people turn to drink or abuse drugs is to lift their mood or escape from feelings of guilt or despair. However alcohol is a depressant and can increase feelings of sadness or fatigue. Whereas most recreational drugs have addictive properties and withdrawal symptoms which can trigger mental health issues.
Stay connected during lockdown
Maintain contact with loved ones and friends and work colleagues. There are plenty of ways to keep in touch when physical interaction is not permitted. You could agree to Facetime, Zoom, telephone call or IM chat. There are no strict rules for this, just a case of finding out what works best for both of you. Don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be a long call. Even a short frequent check ins can be equally effective.
Regular contact can be a big help to gain insight into someone’s mental health. Try not to worry about the frequency of making contact either. It is much better to be contacting someone too many times than not enough.
Be kind to others and to yourself
There are plenty of clinical studies which show the physical and psychological benefits of taking time to think kind thoughts about yourself and loved ones.
Taking part in self-compassion exercises can calm the heart rate and switch off the body’s threat response. Previous studies have shown that this threat response can cause damage to the immune system. Being able to switch off or lower the severity of this response may result in a lowered the risk of disease.
Spend some time each day thinking positive and encouraging thoughts about yourself. You can include other people in this exercise too. Think about what you are thankful for and what you have achieved today or this week. Look ahead positively and build an optimistic and compassionate frame of mind.
Watch or listen to media coverage less often
Spend less time watching or listening to media coverage that you perceive as upsetting. Once you have understood the risks and ensured the safety of yourself and loved ones, there is no need to obsess over every article.
Limit the amount of bad news exposure and focus your attention on more positive topics. This will contribute towards helping you manage your mental health during lockdown. Especially when your movement and social interaction is limited.
Structure your day realistically
Depression and anxiety can often prevent you from feeling in control of your day. This can play havoc with managing your mental health during lockdown. Just because it is recommended that you stay at home, this does not mean that you should stop living your life.
Try creating a daily planner to map out your day and get on a schedule. It can also work like a journal to help keep track of your mood and mental health. In addition to this you can compare what you planned against what you actually did.
After a period of time, you could see patterns which you had not noticed before. For example you may find that you feel worse when carrying out a certain type of activity or at specific times of the day. It could also show you things that contribute towards triggering your depression or anxiety.
When you have become accustomed to these techniques you can be better prepared for the times when you might feel depressed. When you feel these thoughts beginning to manifest you can make a plan to deal with them or actually completely avoid them.
Seek advice you can trust
As mentioned earlier, a key aspect of managing mental health is to get your information from a reliable source. Especially in this day and age of social media trending, it can be very easy to treat everything you see on the internet as truth. When in actual fact the opposite can apply. Some unnamed news sites and channels have their own political agendas and often engage in propoganda wars.
Your health advice during the lockdown should always come from NHS England. Things like coronavirus symptoms and precautions to prevent infection and transmissions. Keep an eye on updates from the NHS on these issues to ensure that you have the most up to date impartial information.
Updates on the lockdown and rules and regulations should always come from the official government website and daily live updates from the Prime Minister. Or delegate of the Prime Minister until he returns to work.
Need more help managing your mental health during lockdown?
A tremendously effective source of help which I can recommend is The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). CALM’s agenda is “leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and the cause of 18 deaths every day. Join the campaign to take a stand against suicide.”. Their website offers various ways of reaching out for anonymous and confidential help, such as live chat and telephone hotline. They operate 7 days per week from 5pm to midnight.
I hope this information was useful. Please let me know what you think in the comments section. You can also Contact Me here, I would love to hear from you.
Also please share this article on social media and amongst your friends and family. You will never know who might need to use it as a gentle last push towards seeking help.