Lockdown has been a tough time for us all. The first few months of the new year is never a good time in terms of mental health. With January lockdown there have been reports that 1 in 4 young people are not coping with current circumstances. Alongside seasonal depression, this lockdown has amplified the mental health crisis in all ages and backgrounds.
During these times, it is important to take out time to focus on your wellbeing and mental health. Here are my 9 tips for maintaining a healthy and happy state of mind during the lockdown.
- Make the most out of the outdoors (when you can).
Going outside can be difficult, or even anxiety-inducing, with current lockdown restrictions. But taking the opportunity to go outside for your daily walk or exercise is essential to maintain your physical and mental health. I know from personal experience it is easy to get into a slump of spending the whole day sitting in your dressing gown and doing nothing. Going outside can help break this cycle and get you into the habit of leaving the house.
Even ten minutes of walking will increase your mental alertness; a great way to start your day if you are work from home or a lunchtime break. In terms of wellbeing, walking has been proven to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and improve your mood. If you have a local park or green space, be sure to make use of these on your daily walks.
- Create spaces to relax and wind down.
It is important to give yourself a time out of your day away from work responsibilities. Whether that is on the job hunt, remote working, or childminding. It is easy in lockdown to bog down when the separation between home and workspaces are blurred.
It is important to avoid attempting to do the activities you love on top of the space where you commit to your 9-5. This could be reading, drawing, even just taking time off to binge the latest Netflix series. Whatever helps you to relax and switch off, create a space for it.
- Weekly exercise is good for the mind and body.
The Harvard T.H Chan School of public found that regular exercise decreases the chance of getting depression by approximately 20%-30%. Exercise has been found the relieve stress, help you sleep better, improve memory and your overall mood. A weekly workout will put you in the right direction to keeping a healthy body and mind during the lockdown.
It does not have to be an intensive boot camp workout; you can start small and build your way up. There are plenty of free workout routines available online if you need guidance. When you need to keep sharp when working remotely, taking the time out to do regular exercise is key to improving your wellbeing, and help you perform to the best of your ability.
- Volunteer at a charity or non-profit organisation.
When everything around can appear negative and hopeless with oversaturation on scaremongering media stories. The best way to tackle this is by doing something positive during the lockdown. Even if it is just a few hours, or a day a week, volunteering for a local charity or non-profit organisation can be an excellent way to improve your happiness and wellbeing.
It is a rewarding experience to know that what you are doing is giving back and creating positive changes. For those who are struggling to find work, especially recent graduates like myself, it is also an excellent way to develop skills and build up experience. A sense of personal progression and assisting those in need is a perfect way to build self-esteem, confidence, and happiness.
- Cut down on bad habits like smoking, drinking, and high caffeine intake. (Easier said than done, I know)
It is easy to get into the habit of drinking coffee after coffee when working at home. Or having numerous cigarette breaks, or a bottle of wine to help you go to sleep in the evening. But these are short term solutions in lockdown, and in life even.
Substances like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol make you crash when you abstain and can heighten anxiety and depression. With time on your hands, why not try to kick these bad habits? It may be difficult for the first few weeks, but alongside these other lockdown tips, you could come out of it a happier and healthier individual.
- Be sure to switch off electronics occasionally.
Doom scrolling is one recurring term coined last year. In a lockdown, it replaces the fear of missing out (FOMO) as the main cause of mental health triggers on digital platforms. Doom scrolling is where you get into the trap of reading through numerous negative news stories on your social media.
Taking time away from your electronic devices is a great way to focus on yourself and avoid feeling overwhelmed by current events. Over usage of electronic devices and social media can cause heightened senses of loneliness and anxiety. Apps like Cold Turkey can help you cut down on phone usage and re-allocate your time toward more fulfilling tasks.
Why not replace an hour of your day mindlessly scrolling with reading, painting, or other hobbies?
- Get creative.
With all this free time on our hands, returning to the creative hobbies you love, or picking up a new one is a perfect way to keep a healthy mind. This can be painting, journaling, knitting, poetry, short stories, model building; whatever gets your mind working creatively.
The British Journal of Psychology has found journaling can be a therapeutic method to improve your mental health. Art therapy is also used in many fields of psychology to treat mental health conditions and forms of psychological distress. Furthermore, online art classes help you feel an engagement within the community.
- Make sure you have a routine.
It is easy to get into a slump when you are stuck in your home all day doing your work, school, etc. When you are not seeing anyone, it’s easy to fall into the trap of bad sleeping patterns, wearing your pyjamas all day, and being unproductive. With little social responsibility in lockdown, it is easy for our structured lives to quickly fall apart.
Routines can range from small tasks such as showering and getting dressed ready for the day, to planning out your weekly tasks. Keeping up a structure to your days will help pass the time during the lockdown and ensure you have a good life balance. This will also go a long way in creating time for recreation and mindful activities after-work responsibilities.
- Stay in contact with friends and family.
It can be the odd message, sending a funny meme, or a weekly video call. Loneliness is a big obstacle in lockdown, and it is easy to feel isolated from the outside world. But if you push yourself to maintain contact with your friends and family, it can help you feel better.
We are naturally social creatures, and we need that engagement to maintain happiness and be active. Only having social interactions through remote working and with your household is one way to develop severe cabin fever. It can be awkward communication exclusively through digital platforms, I know I struggle with it at the best of times. Your friends and peers will appreciate you making the effort to keep in touch, and maintaining a social network is a great way to avoid loneliness.