Let’s face it, it’s not easy to welcome with open arms the changes we’re currently experiencing in our lives – we’re unnaturally cooped-up indoors for prolonged periods, without our usual dose of varied social contact throughout the day (aside from the virtual kind).
I’ll be completely candid – I suffer from depression and anxiety, and have, like millions (if not billions) of people across the world I’m sure, found this unparalleled time mentally challenging. But I’ve equally found many silver linings amongst all the gloom (often from the simplest of things, and from the smallest acts of kindness). I’ve also managed to use the time (and the lack of life’s usual go-go-go mentality) to focus on the things that encourage good wellbeing.
So what can we do to keep on top of our mental health during lockdown? I’m in no way a life-hack guru and, trust me, often don’t practise what I preach – but I’ve found the following tips (from online and from experience) to be really handy:
Learn to switch off. Just as you should when you physically leave the office, detach from your phone and laptop at the end of the working day, and start afresh in the morning. Don’t let the timezone-less (and airport-style) rules of home derail your routine – a Burger King and a pint is acceptable at 6am, right? Similarly, learn to switch of from the news 24/7 – I’ve tried to limit my intake of Huw Edwards and Fiona Bruce to one update briefing in the morning, afternoon and evening. Meditation is also a very effective tool for many people in zoning out from their thoughts – give it a go, even if you’re a sceptic or newbie.
Take a break. In the office, it can be easier to take a break from your desk (by going into the office canteen, by walking into town or by meeting a client or customer) – but it’s sometimes more difficult at home. So make sure you take several chunks of time away from your set-up during the day – heck, you could even make the treacherous and lengthy journey from the dining room to the kitchen!
Pick up a hobby. It could be an abandoned hobby from the past, or trying something fresh – from learning a new language to mastering the art of yoga. I find reading a few chapters of a book at the end of the night particularly great for the soul and a form of escape.
Stay active. Even with the restrictions in place, we can all manage to do some form of exercise (be it walking or cycling) and get some well-needed fresh air. My tonic (the non-gin type, at least) is running, and the post-jog endorphin kick really is second-to-none.
Stay connected. Make sure you connect regularly with friends, family and colleagues – even if you’re feeling great, others might not be so lucky, so do check in on them now and then. Some potential ideas are: virtual coffee catch-ups, group video sessions (through Zoom or Houseparty), sharing endless GIFs and memes, hosting a work team quiz, and sharing positive photos and stories of how your new way of living is going.
If you are ever in need of a little guidance, there are plenty of great links out there, including:
Above all, remember that it’s just as vital (if not more in times like these) to look after your mental health as it is your physical health – and there’s never any shame in asking for help, or in admitting that you’re struggling.
Gethin BennettSolicitor, Capital Law
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