Ahsen Zafar

Ahsen Zafar

8 steps to improve Mental Health during Lockdown

Coronavirus, or commonly known as COVID-19, has affected all aspects of our lives and the constant news about the pandemic can feel never-ending. Not only is it impacting our physical health, but it is taking its toll on some people’s mental health too.

Limiting social distancing and self-isolating is one of the most crucial tools we have in stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives. Whilst highly effective, limited social contact can have severe consequences on us psychologically.

It can feel daunting to sit inside our house, anxiously reading the latest statistic on how many people have been infected. It’s easy to feel like the world is ending in these times. The key thing to remember is, stress and anxiety are a natural response to the circumstances. There are some practical steps we can take to make sure we come out of this, stronger both mentally and physically.

Below are the top steps, based on my medical experience for managing your mental health:

  1. Maintain a routine

It is surprisingly easy to let go of our natural routines as we work and study from inside the house. Especially with having no social obligations and ample screen time, you may quickly lose track of any semblance of routine.

It is crucial to maintain a routine and try to stick to it as much as possible. You can ever follow your body’s circadian clock. If you feel, you’re a night owl; Go for it. Or you may enjoy waking up early in the morning and listen to the birds chirping.

The important thing is to go to bed and wake up at round about the same time each day. Sleeping too little is well known to severely disrupts the bodies systems but sleeping too much can have adverse effects as well. Try to limit yourself to around 8 hours of sleep a day but make your sure you get at least the minimum amount.

2. Practice Self Care

Brushing your teeth, combing your hair, practicing your nightly skin routine are seemingly inconspicuous but they can make a big difference to how we feel.

Make sure you keep yourself well hydrated, and well fed. Staying home can greatly affect your appetite. Make plans to get food delivered or use the time to look at new recipes and practice, or even ask someone to get food delivered to you.

Having a clean place, getting rid of the clutter and generally making sure your place is habitable works wonders for the mental health. Try to incorporate a regular cleaning schedule in your daily routine.

3. Connect with Family and Friends

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can still remain in touch with your family and friends even while under lockdown. Use the time to get in touch with the people important to you, send them regular updates and check up on them. The internet is bursting with online communities, give them a try. Try to join an online book club, or maybe a Google hangout. While video calls don’t exactly replace the real feeling, they can come pretty close. Get in touch with those long-lost friends, or with your regular social group. Try to maintain the same social contact you had before the lockdown.

Join your local Facebook group. In times of distress, people have a wonderful ability to come together and aid one other. Track your local groups and see if you can get in touch with some of the local people.

4. Restrict the News

It is good, or even important to follow the news closely. The NHS’s advice is changing regularly and you should definitely keep an eye on it. The situation with the epidemic is changing rapidly, in these unprecedented times you will want to stay on top with the latest developments. But watch out for fake news. The internet is teeming with incorrect or even fake medical advice. Fact check your news source with a simple google search. Give yourself a break from the bleak news. It is not a good idea to keep hearing the same anxiety inducing news over and over especially during these bleak times. Try to find positive online communities like maybe Pinterest or Instagram.

5. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Just because we’re stuck inside doesn’t mean we cannot exercise. It can be daunting to force yourself to move when you’re stressed or distressed, but it can do wonders for your mental health. Physical exercise releases endorphins which can do wonders for our mental health. Find out your local government’s advice on exercising outdoors. The Prime minister has advised to limit outdoor exercise to once a day – for example, a run or a jog or cycling. Social distancing should be followed regardless.

The good news is that there are plenty of exercises you can do indoors. It can be simple to find a cardio workout for all ages, strengthening exercises and even yoga. You don’t need equipment, or a gym. Just find a workout you like and try to stick to it. Even simple stretches can be useful for your mental health.

If you’re isolating with your family, it can be fun to make this a family event. Try to get everyone involved and make it a family event.

6. Distract yourself

Don’t get overwhelmed by the urge to be productive in this lockdown. You don’t have to come out of self-isolation having learnt 5 new languages, read 30 books and mastered the flute. But you can use this time to practice skills you’ve always wanted to. Get a start on those books you have been meaning to read to. Many online bookstores have made their libraries completely free. Check them out, maybe find a nice audiobook to listen to as your chores. Try to keep your mind occupied, if you are with children use this an excuse to teach them new skills. Have achievable targets with your spouses and learn group skills. There are plenty of activities you can do from arts and crafts, to cooking, baking and painting. Writing and maintaining a journal is a good way to deal with your emotions. You can even use this time to take online courses.

7. Be kind and mindful

Remember to give yourself a break. If you don’t feel up to doing anything, though, that’s fine too. It’s important to be kind to yourself and recognise when you need a break. Try to relax, focus on positive things. Contribute to the community by becoming a volunteer to help the vulnerable, if you can. There are efforts being globally, with the world coming together, united and as one, to control the situation. It just needs time.

8. Contact your GP and your local Mental healthcare representative

The most important thing to remember is that if you are not feeling well within yourself mentally and are struggling to cope contact your GP. GP’s are available on telephone consultations and if they feel you need to be seen by some specialist all that can be arranged.

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