11 ways to improve your mental health during lockdown
2020 - What a year! It’s safe to say not one of us has had the year we expected to, and any plans we may have had in January have either been postponed or disappeared totally. For those of us in Victoria it has continued to be particularly tough, and we’re all struggling. After numerous announcements delivering the disappointment of longer lockdowns and our case numbers not where we would hope they are, we are totally and utterly drained. For months we’ve been trying to keep our spirits high, but the longer we spend away from our friends, families and social life, and the more strain this puts on our financial and living arrangements, the harder that becomes.
After our latest announcement I myself have been particularly flat. Even with a roadmap it seems never ending and the light at the end of the tunnel seems dim. But the show must go on, it’s at this time that we most lean on each other, and where we can come together (virtually) and enjoy the small things in life. Here’s a few things I’ve done this week that have really helped me after a very hard beginning to the week!
Pick up your phone and call/facetime/zoom a friend. Don’t just text, call. We are all lacking in conversations and interactions with people (other than those we may live with), and the simple act of talking is so important. For those of us who are extroverts, it is particularly challenging, as we recharge when we’re around groups of people. We have not had the chance to properly recharge for months. So grab your phone and call your friends, have a laugh, have a rant, or just get some new Netflix recommendations! For whatever reason, pick up the phone and enjoy the friendly voice at the other end. Reminisce on the good times and laugh it out.
Allow yourself to feel all the feelings that are coming up. Name the emotions and acknowledge the feelings and why you’re feeling that way. For example this week I have felt particularly angry and frustrated and it’s because of the recent announcement on Sunday. It is totally ok to feel this way and I have acknowledged those feelings, so now I can do things that I know help me when I’m feeling frustrated and angry. Which takes me to my next point.
Exercise has always been a big thing for me - it is one of my biggest weapons to help me with my mental health. This week I have been using boxing to release my frustration! It has been amazing to help release my pent up feelings, plus I feel 1000 times better afterwards. I highly recommend trying to exercise next time you’re having a particularly bad day, even if it’s just a gentle yoga flow, get the blood moving and shift that negative energy through your body.
Create a playlist of all your favourite songs and then play them loud. Music has an amazing way of changing your mood. Recently I have been playing heaps of old songs that I used to listen to when I was hanging out with my friends & family or just songs that make me happy.
I’m not a huge TV watcher - it actually tends to drain me, but in I have been watching some classic shows recently as a comfort, and just a way to switch off and not think. I think it’s really important to do what makes you feel good at the moment and also give yourself time to switch off from everything that’s going on. We have basically been in constant fight or flight since March, so it is important to allow yourself some time to just switch off from work and the news and put on some trashy TV.
This is another thing I've been doing heaps of lately. It’s a great mental escape when we can’t physically go anywhere. I’ve been going to bed early and losing myself in a good book. It’s also an amazing book end to the day, and allows you to get away from the screen before you sleep, often helping to get a better night!
Wear your favourite outfits. Just because we can’t go out at the moment doesn’t mean you can’t dress up. Put some makeup on, do your hair, put your favourite outfits on - whatever it is that makes you feel good, do it! I’ve been trying to dress up properly once a week, as if I was going out to dinner. It has done wonders for my self esteem and just makes me feel so much better about myself. Give it a try this weekend!
This is something I am not great at, but my psychologist has pushed me to do more of it. Celebrate how far you have come, acknowledge all your wins, both small and big! It’s easy to achieve something or do something and then just move on to the next thing you feel like you need to do without actually celebrating it. This has been a big one for me - especially in business - and I rarely sit back and look at how far we’ve come. I think especially at the moment it’s really important to acknowledge all the great things you’ve done. For example, did you make it out of bed, shower & get dressed this morning? CELEBRATE THAT. It’s bloody hard, especially at the moment when every day feels like groundhog day, to do the simplest things.
We are all doing the best we can right now. We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to achieve things as if life was normal. Every day is going to be different and I think we need to honour how we’re feeling each and every day, and plan our days accordingly. I know for myself some days I just wake up and really struggle, lacking motivation to get up and go and that’s ok, I try to pick easier tasks for that day and do the more strenuous tasks when I am feeling more up and about.
This one I have found harder lately considering it’s the only way we can be connected with people right now, but I have still been trying to put my phone away at least 3 nights a week, and I feel amazing for it. I feel so much more present and relaxed. It’s easy to get stuck mindlessly scrolling on social media for hours but this has often left me feeling more annoyed and angry. Not only is Instagram everybody’s highlight reel, but I am also really struggling seeing friends and family in other states and countries back to living a pretty ‘normal life’, enjoying being out with friends etc. As well as the negative posts coming from angry frustrated Victorians (don’t get me wrong I totally get it, but it can really affect my own mood). So I highly recommend disconnecting from your social media accounts and phone all together for a few hours/days a week just to be present and not be influenced by some of the things being posted.
This was another piece of advice I received from my psychologist. I find I get really bad anxiety when I forward think too far and this has been made even worse with the current pandemic. Try to stay present and live in each hour of each day. Don’t think about how much longer we have in lockdown, just live in the present moment. Be grateful for the small things and before we know it this will all be coming to an end and we will be able to be back together.
I just wanted to say lastly, it has been a really tough year for all of us and we’re all struggling. If you are finding this time particularly difficult please know that you are not alone. There are so many people that love you and want to help you. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety differently so don’t be too hard on yourself, friends and/or family. I highly recommend to everyone, if you feel like it could help, to go and speak to your GP and get a referral to speak with a professional. It is hands down the best thing I did for my mental health last year and having the practices in place now to help me deal with my anxiety and depression has been so helpful to get through this really tough time. The first step towards this is difficult, but the journey must start somewhere.
There is also immediate help out there for anyone who needs it through
I hope you are all ok, please continuously check in with your mates today and every other day! Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of.