How to improve your mental health and keep your spirits high during the lockdown
There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself mentally and physically well on a day-to-day basis whether it's a lockdown or not.
I have compiled a list below of the top seven things I consider to be the most important factors to consider.
People do not realise how much they miss exercise until they are on lockdown. The sheer number of comments on Facebook from people moaning and groaning about cabin fever is surprising, as exercise and getting out and about under normal conditions do not seem to be at the top of their list agendas.
But when the option is taken away from us, it’s something that we miss. Regular exercise can help to increase our self-esteem and help our concentration levels, help us to sleep better, and can promote the feel-good factor.
Exercise keeps our brains and our other vital organs healthy and it is beneficial for improving our overall mental health.
If you have a garden you can exercise in, use it as there are significant benefits attached to being outdoors. Nature has a way of boosting your sense of wellbeing. Below are five ways in which you can exercise at home:
Skip, Burpees, press-ups, crunches ( 3 x 12 reps)
Bleep test in your garden (Try for level 13)
Set up an assault course in your garden, if it’s raining, in your house (get the whole family to try it)
Take a yoga class on YouTube
Take a Tai Chi class on YouTube
Take a bodyweight workout classes on YouTube
Any form of exercise class on YouTube you can get hold of.
Learn to dance on YouTube
There are numerous ways to stay active on lockdown and technology has given us the ability to tap into free ways of finding out the information we normally would not know.
Take advantage of the free classes and the free time on your hands
Remember that saying, You are what you eat? It’s so true it’s not funny. I was surprised to see my local supermarkets full of junk food but empty of fresh fruit and vegetables. This normally doesn’t happen, it’s normally the other way around. People are aware that in a crisis they must eat healthily so why do they not apply this practice to normal every-day life? It’ baffling!
Both our brains and our bodies need a variety of micro and macro-nutrients in order to stay healthy and to function properly. A balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables is good for both your physical and mental health. To help you stay healthy during the lockdown why not get yourself into some good eating habits by learning to cook and in eating plenty of:
Nuts and seeds
Pulses and legumes
Vegetables rich in an array colour
All herbs and spices
Flaxseed, avocado, olive or coconut oils
Make everything from scratch if you can, using herbs and spices. Make your meals interesting and try something new. Go online and find new recipes with minimum ingredients. Pinterest is a great place to start. My friend Jasmine who is a great cook gets all of her recipes from Pinterest and has turned the boring, everyday task of mealtimes into a passion.
In the West, alcohol consumption is a major problem but what people don’t understand is the drinking of alcohol is not the reason people drink it’s the solution. Yes, to a degree people like to drink alcohol but when it gets to an unhealthy level it’s no longer a like-to-do but an unhealthy habit potentially life-threatening illness.
We mainly drink alcohol to change our mood and forget about our problems or worries. Some people drink to deal with fear and//or loneliness, but the happy mood effect is short-lived and is combatted by the morning after blues.
When the alcohol wears off it leaves us feeling worse because of the way alcohol affects the brain and in turn the rest of the body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings and emotions it is one of the worst due to every action having an equal and opposite reaction.
One of the best ways to deal with upset and worry, past issues and traumas is to keep a daily journal. When things bother you write it down but don’t write it down in isolation write it all down. How it makes you feel and how it impacted on your day. Then counterbalance the problems with a list of things that you are grateful for. Sounds sloppy I know but I works. I hear you saying, you don’t have anything to be grateful for? You do! Start with being alive, then write that list.
If you are wondering where to start and how to write a health journal follow the instructions below.
Left page: Write down your problems as and when they bother you
Right page: Divide the page in half vertically and on the left-hand side write down the possible solutions to the problem of that day
On the right side of the page write down the things you are grateful for. It’s good to write down your feelings as they come out so you can put closure to them, somehow, someway.
Once you've written down everything close the book and don't open it again until the next day. Reflect on the previous day and put what you learnt from the day before at the top of the left page.
Looking at the previous day's outcome continue your journal.
Repeat this daily remembering to reflect on the previous day's outcome.
Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings to people who are trained can help you stay in good mental health and help you to deal with the times when you feel troubled.
If you are talking to family or friends about your problems remember that as well-intentioned people are, they aren’t experts so they can be good listeners but often give poor advice. You wouldn’t ask an accountant to sell your house and you wouldn’t ask an estate agent to do your tax return, would you? So why ask a friend how to deal with something they are not qualified to deal with.
If you need help and assistance with more than talking to a family member or friend, you should contact:
A local Counsellor
A local Life Coach
A local Hypnotist
These people are trained to deal with issues on a professional level and will guide you and give you expert support where you need it. I often find that people find it difficult to talk about their issues in a clinical setting but once they do open up they make major progress.
Keep in touch with Family and Friends
Unlike airing your problems to anyone who will listen there’s nothing better than catching up with family and friends, face to face VIA SKYPE (it’s a lockdown remember). If you don’t have Skype, WhatsApp or Facetime you can use the good old-fashioned methods such as calling people or writing to them via letter or email.
Make sure you keep the lines of communication open as it’s good for your mental health, helps you to avoid cabin fever and keeps you up to date and connected with your family and friends! There’s nothing like being kept in the dark to make you feel alone, isolated and paranoid so stay connected.
Keeping in touch with others is one of the better skills that you can have. It not only helps to build your self-esteem, but it also helps you to help others. At times of instability and obviously the current lockdown sticking together and helping people will dramatically help improve your mental health. It will give you a sense of purpose and worth in the world. You don’t have to do much for this to happen, a simple smile at a stranger, a caring post on Facebook or an offer to walk someone’s dogs can go a long way. As long as you carry out tasks that focus on other people rather than yourself your sense of worth will rise.
Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing when you were younger?
Research suggests that what you liked to do around the age of nine signifies what your innate interests are. Recently I undertook some meditation/hypnosis classes which helped me to focus on myself and who I really am. During those sessions I remembered that as a child I used to spend most of my time, day and night outdoors and the rest of that time sewing.
I haven’t sewn for a very long time and I realised that I enjoyed sewing a lot and miss it. It was something that I did with my grandma but haven't done a lot since the late eighties.
I still go outdoors even if it is in the garden. It was something that I used to do with my grandad at the allotment and in his garden. Often we lose touch of the things that made us happy as a child and those things usually are part of who we really are.
There’s nothing better than listening to the birds chirp or children play to brighten up your day. Even though we are currently in lockdown we can still go outside, even if it’s just on the balcony to read a book. Connecting with nature really helps to beat bouts of loneliness and depression. If you are able to take advantage of your one walk a day and use it to interact with nature in a positive way.
Enjoying yourself can help beat stress to a pulp as it helps you to forget your troubles in the moment. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means that you’re good at it, and the sense of achievement from doing something your good at will help to boost your self-esteem.
Accept who you are
We’re all different and difference is what makes the world work. Admittedly sometimes the wold doesn’t work too well but generally speaking, it does. Difference is the key factor in human progress. Look at the technological advancements we’ve made over the last seventy years. the biomedical advancements we’ve made, the space voyages we’ve taken and the fact that there is a space station flying over our heads as we read shouts volumes. None of this happened through sameness it happened because a group of people who are different from everyone else made it happen.
Psychologists and sociologists tell us that we have an innate need to be part of the pack. Sameness and social proofing are what keep us alive and working together as a community. Those that aren't the same are cast out, bullied and in some societies often killed.
To a degree this is true but within this remit, there is a need for some of us to be different. Thankfully we are civilized people and we won't be bullying anyone because we realise that when people are different change and reform happen, advancements happen and great things occur and not just for the gifted. People like Steve Jobs, Mary Seacole, the real hero behind the Florence Nightingale story and Katherine Johnson who helped NASA work out the actual coordinates needed to send a man to the moon were outsiders, they were different but they made big changes for the advancement of humanity and civilization.
It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to try and fit in with the masses. If you find you are constantly wishing you were more like someone else then you are going to be unhappy. Envy is a long downward spiral that leads to low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and depression. Don't go there! Instead, write it all down. What is it about that person you want to be more like? I think you’ll find you admire their traits rather than envy them as a person.
The good news is you can learn to be like other people. If you admire their courage, you can learn to be courageous. If you like the way they can speak in public, you can learn that. If you like the way they dress, you can learn that too. Feeling good about yourself boosts your self-confidence which can help you to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends.
Good self-esteem can help you to cope better with life when life takes you in a difficult direction.
So there you are, my top ten seven things to improve your mental health and keep your spirits high during the lockdown.
Wait before you go, there is one other thing that is important, but not essential to good health and that is reading. Reading can help you in so many ways. It can help you to boost your vocabulary, improve your spelling and develop your imagination act as an escape route and most importantly provide a release from stress.
Some of my favourites are:
These points do not just apply to lockdown but should be applied to everyday normal life once normal life, that is, resumes.
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