8 Ways To Stay On Top Of Your Mental Health In Lockdown 2.0

8 Ways To Stay On Top Of Your Mental Health In Lockdown 2.0

As the country prepares to enter another four-week lockdown, you’re not alone if you’re feeling apprehensive. In fact, recent statistics show 94% of British workers claim isolation has negatively impacted them and their mental health. From rising anxiety to lack of sleep, here are the expert-approved ways to keep yours in check this time round.

Stick To A Routine & Maintain Balance

Maybe you’ve been forced to work from home, or perhaps your employer is still making you come into the office. Both are riddled with potential red flags when it comes to your mental health, which is why the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) advises sticking to a routine, and setting small goals if things start to feel overwhelming. “Try planning for today, tomorrow, the next week,” their experts suggest. “If you have big, difficult tasks on your plate, try breaking them up into chains of smaller, more manageable jobs.” This way, they add, you’ll know if it’s time to reach out for help before it’s too late. It’s also crucial, says the MHF, to maintain balance where possible. “We’re juggling life, work and family at the moment,” they explain. “There’s a real risk that if we lose the balance of the different strands we can end up in trouble. Try and find a balance between work, home and personal needs and stick to it. You may also want to think about screen time – making sure that you ration video calls if working from home, and tear yourself away from your phone.”

Build In Breaks & Time Outside

It should go without saying, but when we’re working from home it’s easy to get lulled into poor habits – especially when it comes to burning the midnight oil. Even if you’re still in the office, it’s important to schedule breaks in your day and use any annual leave you might be rightly entitled to. “Research has told us that walking and time in nature were the two things that most helped the nation cope with the stresses of the pandemic,” says the MHF. “Sleep is essential for our mental health and if you are having trouble because of worry, there are things you can do to improve your sleep, from relaxation to not watching TV in bed,” they add. 

Think Warm & Cosy, Not Dark & Cold

If there’s one major difference between this lockdown and the last, it’s that the days are only getting shorter and darker. According to the MHF, it’s all a question of mindset to avoid feeling depressed by that fact. “If you think of winter as one of the regular seasons, perhaps it could be a time for reflection and doing more things like reading, relaxing, getting warm and cosy and recharging our batteries,” it says. “When the days are darker and we can’t take our energy boosts from socialising in the sun, it may make sense to replace this with another energy-boosting activity like exercise or cooking. Going out when it’s dark and cold might seem unappealing, but taking a break from our screens, and getting some natural light during the day can really help our mood, too.”

Stop Watching The News

It’s a skill many of us have learned to fine-tune this year, but switching off the news and unplugging your social media could do your mental health the world of good this time around. “There’s a lot of speculation about the virus – where it came from, if it is real, what the government is thinking,” explains the MHF. “Try not to get dragged into debate. Don’t speculate and post material that criticises or blames people or can’t be verified.” On a similar note, they add: “Too much news coverage can make us all anxious and the pandemic isn’t the only tricky news story in the media this winter. Unless you have to, perhaps look at one bulletin a day.”

Going out when it’s dark and cold might seem unappealing, but taking a break from our screens, and getting some natural light during the day can really help our mood, too.

Anticipate Distress

Remember, it’s okay to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed, especially if you’ve experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you are shielding, have a long-term physical health condition or fall into one of the other groups that makes you more vulnerable. “It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health,” agrees the MHF. “We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking, drinking and overeating. Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.”

Keep Up With Friends & Family

“Whether that’s work colleagues, friends or family – stay connected with your family and friends even if you can’t see them,” urges the MHF. “Make a special effort to keep in touch with people you know are on their own and who may be struggling themselves, or who might be shielding.” However, that said, it’s still important to build in time for ourselves, which doesn’t depend on being present for work or other people. “It can be easy to serve other people at work or at home, or to fill our diaries with commitments and activities that crowd out our own needs,” agrees the MHF. “Whether it’s booking leave from work, shutting the bathroom door for a shower or bath away from the kids, or getting out for a run alone – find something that works for you and make it happen.”

Try A Relaxation Technique

Experts will tell you that relaxing and focusing on the present can help improve your mental health and lighten negative feelings – although it’s far easier said than done. “Try some different meditation or breathing exercises to see what helps,” suggests the MHF. “For example, sometimes we can be so tense that we don’t even remember what being relaxed feels like. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you to recognise when you are starting to get tense and how to relax.” To help, a range of relaxation techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation, are available from the NHS website.

Finally, Try To Find The Positives

If at all possible, it’s worth trying to think about the positives that come out of lockdown as a means of protecting your mental health. “It could be things you did, or challenges you overcame,” suggests the MHF. “Ask yourself what was helpful then, and what you can take from that for now. If you can’t go out or feel isolated, perhaps it’s a good time to find an online book group, exercise class or even choir. If you can volunteer in your community, you can boost your mental health as well as helping others.”

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Visit MentalHealth.org.uk for more information and resources. In England, Public Health England has developed explicit guidance on mental health during the pandemic. If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can visit Every Mind Matters, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.

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