It has been almost three months now since the UK went into lockdown, and the “normal” way of life that we were all used to was flipped upside down. The effects of the virus on physical health is known and exhaustively documented in the news, however the strain of the pandemic on mental health is also of huge concern. Three months in, everyone has found various coping mechanisms as a way of relieving mental stress during the pandemic; so here are a few ideas of ways to look after your mental health, and resources that can also be of help during these times.
Being aware of triggers can be helpful in relieving mental stress or anxiety; for example, excessive consumption of the news and spending a lot of time on social media can trigger anxiety. The constant barrage of bad news in the media, with little documentation of positive events, can add to feelings of stress. Being kind to yourself, recognising where you need to take a break, and trying to relax and focus on knowing that every effort is being made globally to bring this situation to a close, can be comforting.
Keeping connected to others is a fantastic way of reminding yourself that you are not alone. Making plans with others, and checking in with loved ones either online or by phone to offer support can combat feelings of loneliness and depression. Even just sending daily updates can help us to feel more connected and less alone. Planning to watch a film over video call with a friend, or organising a socially-distanced meetup with others in a park or garden can boost serotonin levels. However, also it’s important to be kind to yourself if the sudden prospect of facing social contact seems daunting or intimidating; taking your time to readjust, and not putting too much pressure on yourself if you feel strange, is really important.
Setting a routine is another way of creating a sense of “normality”. Practicing self-care and continuing with simple tasks, such as washing your face, can feel difficult but can make a big mental difference. Exercising is also proven to reduce anxiety and low feelings, and can give a massive boost to your serotonin levels, and is great for your mental and physical wellbeing. Staying hydrated is also really important, especially during these warm summer days!
Finally, it’s important to not be too hard on ourselves, and to recognise the fact that we have managed to cope through three months of lockdown, an incredible achievement! Recognising that not every day is going to be a good day, and being comfortable with focusing on small achievements and successes, is a great coping mechanism. Not dwelling too much on life before lockdown, or “what could have been”, can also be important; instead try focusing on what you’re looking forward to for life after lockdown, because every day that passes is another day closer to being able to do more “normal” things, to reunite with friends, family and loved-ones, and to enjoy pre-lockdown activities again. As horrible as the virus has been, we’ve been given time to reset, realise what is important to us, and to appreciate the small things in everyday life; shifting to this perspective can really help to find light in these difficult times.
Below are some resources that offer mental health support.
Mind - mental health charity. Has some very useful advice on self-isolating and your mental health. Offer an information line to answer questions about: types of mental health problems; where to get help etc. Call the Mind info line on 0300 123 3393.
For support with grief, anxiety, or mental well-being, you can call or text an organisation like the Samaritans. They offer emotional support 24 hours a day- in full confidence. Call 116 123. It’s a free service. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shout crisis text line- if you’re experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support- shout can help with urgent issues such as suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying, relationship challenges. Text Shout to 85258.
Nightline- we are still here for you throughout this time. Check out the wellbeing pack available, social media, and also make the most of our email service.
We have also put together a list of resources, websites and charities which aim to help people struggling with their mental well-being. Some offer general support and some are more specific. Check out the list here.