Supporting Your Mental Health During Lockdown With Catri Barrett.
There’s nothing like a pandemic to make us all appreciate our health but the impacts of this invisible enemy are not only physical. A recent poll commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation showed that two-thirds of UK adults have been experiencing anxiety, panic and worries surrounding Coronavirus.
For this reason, it’s so important that we are all taking actions individually and collectively that prevents and supports mental health issues during the outbreak.
Mental health is something that we all have and it shouldn’t be seen as any different to physical wellbeing. No one is immune but some people are more vulnerable to experiencing psychological disturbances, just like with physical health.
We all have varying capacities of how much stress we can cope with. Now, on top of all our usual worries, we all now have the added pressures and concerns that have come with the Coronavirus crisis: worries about job security, loved ones getting ill, and the tensions of lockdown and working from home with children and partners.
In this blogpost I am going to explore the different ways that you can best support your mental health during lockdown:
1. Manage your thoughts: It’s natural to feel afraid during an epidemic like this. Our brains have evolved to seek out danger, so having fearful thoughts is to be expected during times of uncertainty such as these.
However, as our minds are on the lookout for threats to help keep us safe, it puts them on high alert for anything that feeds this ‘danger alert’ belief. For this reason, it’s important to be mindful of your thoughts and be sure to separate the ‘stories’ from the facts of the situation.
See below for some common fear based thoughts surrounding the Coronavirus epidemic:
“All my loved ones are going to get sick and die”
“The economy is going to crash and I might loose my job”
“There’s going to be a food shortage and I’m not going to be able to feed my family”
It’s important to acknowledge what thoughts are feeding your fear. Start disputing them and instead replacing the stories for more neutral and fact based statements such as:
“In this moment my loved ones and myself are healthy and safe”
“The economy has overcome and bounced back from challenges like this before”
“There is usually enough food to go around for everyone and right now is no different”
2. Set boundaries: Boundaries are guidelines that you have in place for yourself and others to define and understand your individual needs. Defining and communicating these parameters to your colleagues, loved ones, and children are a vital part of your self-care, especially during these times of isolation and lockdown.
When we don’t have boundaries in place we can end up feeling depleted as individuals because we’re giving too much of our time and energy to others or end up doing things that aren’t aligned with our personal values.
Whilst experiencing self-isolation and lockdown, your needs and others are likely to be slightly different than usual. Start by getting clear on what these are. Do you need 30minutes alone time to read, meditate or get outside before your working day or homeschooling begins? Perhaps restricting your consumption of the media or how often people are discussing it in whatsapp groups. If interruptions whilst you’re working from home are a challenge, then perhaps setting some guidelines around when you will be available for chats and phonecalls etc.
We can’t expect others to be able to know what we need unless we clearly communicate our boundaries to them. I’d recommend calling a house or family meeting and creating a safe space where everyone can express what they need and there own boundaries over the coming weeks.
3. Allow yourself to feel:
Often, what we resist or ignore becomes stronger when it comes to emotions, or ends up causing more of the same, snapping at loved ones for example. Whatever you’re feeling, you are justified in doing so and it’s important to allow whatever comes up for you. When we ignore, avoid or resist uncomfortable emotions it can often lead to escapism behaviours such as over drinking and comfort eating or can cause use to react in unhelpful ways.
If you’re feeling panicked, afraid or worried take time out to allow yourself space and time to acknowledge and process these emotions. Start by labelling the frustration, fear, or hurt for what it is before asking yourself what you need in order to feel better?
4. Develop helpful coping strategies to manage stress: On top of everything else you had going on in your life before Coronavirus reared it’s ugly head - financial worries, tension in your relationship, and a difficult teenager etc. - you now have the added stress of being concerned about the health of your family, lockdown, and what this will mean for your future.
Whilst we cannot control the input of stressors that we are all exposed to, and right now there might be a lot of them, we do have autonomy over the way we deal with them. Ensuring you have helpful coping strategies are paramount during times where you are faced with a lot of stress.
Identifying your unhelpful coping mechanisms for when you feel overwhelmed or strained can be a good starting point. Common habits tend to be over drinking, sleeping, online shopping or taking drugs.
What allows you to release the tensions you’re feeling in a more beneficial way? Yoga, walking, calling that particular friend, taking 10 breathes in the garden.
5. Stay Connected: A sense of community is a fundamental human need. Whilst the government may be calling is ‘social distancing’, I think it’s better to think of it as physical distancing. Prioritise catching up with loved ones, friends you haven’t spoken to in a while, or using this unique shared experience to connect with your neighbours by starting a Whatsapp group for your street where you can offer support and uplifting stories.
If you’re self-employed and missing your usual coffee shop conversations could you set up an online networking group where other soloprenuers could share tips and support to help eachother?
6. Keep moving: Not only is staying active a vital part of your physical health, but exercising helps release stress reducing and mood boosting brain chemicals that can help support your mental wellbeing and boost self-esteem.
Even 5 minutes of moderate movement a day can help boost your mood.
If you can, getting outside for your allotted daily exercise with a walk in nature, or even your garden, can generate feelings of happiness and peace.
Interested in finding out more about Catri's work and how you could work with her, click here