Minding your Mental Health in Challenging Times

Uncertainty is a part of human existence, one which we all must grapple with daily. At times of heightened uncertainty, such as the current Covid-19 virus situation, our mental health can suffer. However, we can all put some simple strategies into action which can help us mind our mental health. These may not be groundbreaking psychological and behavioural concepts, but they are ideas we can all engage with easily and they can make a difference.

Firstly, it is important to maintain some form of basic routine. As humans we are creatures of habit and work best when we have a routine. Trying to instigate a regular sleep pattern is a first step. Staying up late or sleeping in too much when we’re not used to this can be disorientating for the body. Including some form of exercise in our daily schedule while observing social distancing measures will also help. This could simply be to walk, jog or run. Just find some nature, fresh air and stay active. For those of us more ambitious there are all manner of fun and challenging workouts online. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol at this time might offer a temporary respite but in the long run it will add to the feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty. Now is a time to nourish the mind and body with healthy food and lots of water.

At a time of stay at home, self-isolation and social distance the importance of interaction and connection have never been more important. At the tap of a button or the click of a key we’re only moments away from one another even though we might be miles apart. With the instructions on physical distancing it’s surely never been more important to be emotionally present to one another. Thankfully, we can still operate face to face. The platforms are there. Whether it be a Whatsapp video call, a FaceTime or a Skype session we can transport ourselves into the kitchens and living rooms of our family and friends. Make use of this. Don’t be shy, reach out. Make a cup of tea and switch on the camera.

Set some boundaries when it comes to our consumption of social media and news around the virus. When events such as these occur it’s so easy to feel like we must stay up to date on an almost minute by minute basis. This is not healthy. In fact, it is the opposite of healthy. Our bodies internal nervous system is being constantly switched on by this drip…drip…drip of constant information, most of which is worrisome and disconcerting. Our mind and body are then in a near constant low-level state of anxiety. So set some limits, check in once or twice a day with the latest news and updates on the situation at home and abroad. Don’t go beyond 15 or 20 minutes, set an alarm if needs be. Sticking to trusted news sources is vital. Falling deep down the rabbit holes of Twitter and Facebook conversations where personal opinions and thoughts are peddled with unwarranted authority isn’t helpful. Try and self-regulate.

Our minds, as always, are full of thoughts and feelings. It’s key that we talk about how we are finding this strange situation. Talk about our worries and fears with someone that we trust. Instead of ruminating and turning things over in our mind and keeping it to ourselves, we need to express. We’ve heard it so many times before, but it rings true now more than ever, it’s OK not to feel OK. Talking about our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings with the right person can help us to process what’s going on emotionally, easing some of our anxiety. You are not in this alone, we are all in this together so let’s be there for one another and have conversations.

Finally let’s all practice the forms of relaxation that work for us. Set aside a little bit of time each day, even 10 minutes. If you’re not sure what works for you then experiment, there’s loads! You might like listening to music or playing it, reading a book or writing some, drawing or colouring, cooking or knitting, yoga or meditation, there are heaps online. For me, keeping it simple, finding a quiet corner and just getting in touch with your breath and body is enough. Close your eyes and breath in for 4 seconds, hold the breath in for 4 seconds and breath out deeply for 6 seconds. Repeat this over and over staying present to the calming rhythm of breath.

In time this crisis shall pass, and we will regain the lives we had before this all began. We hear daily that we must work together to fight the virus, but we must also work individually to take care of ourselves and others when it comes to mental health. By keeping a basic routine, staying distant but connected, managing our media consumption, talking about our thoughts and feelings and practicing relaxation techniques we can keep our mind and body healthy through this and future challenges.

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