Maintaining a good level of mental health is important during this overwhelming time of crisis. Being stuck in the house without a set routine of going to work, going to university and even a routine of seeing the people you would usually see in your day to day life is extremely difficult. I have struggled a lot in particular with the change of being in my university house and going to my lectures and working regular shifts at my workplace to then being at home with all my family members under one roof with all my work online and no work shifts. This alteration has made me feel a lot more anxious, especially since we aren’t even allowed out of the house besides getting food, exercising and have to be at least 2m apart from everyone. A typical day in the life would be waking up and deciding what to do because the freedom of leaving whenever you please is now lost. Losing the sense of routine has made it difficult to keep up with a balanced day doing work without the distractions of using social media, binge watching TV or playing a video game constantly.
My solutions in maintaining a healthy mind set is to set myself goals at the start of the day that I would like to achieve, and then as soon as I have completed one I will spend the time doing whatever I want, whether that be playing Golf Battle religiously on my phone, baking a batch of Crème Egg brownies in the kitchen, or completing an entire season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I have also found going on at least one walk outside as part of my one hour of exercise a perfect time to wind down and cleanse my mind of any external worries. My outlook will definitely change once lockdown has finished, as I will appreciate all the time I can spend with work colleagues, friends from university as well as at home and especially family. I also want to use tools such as social media more effectively in keeping in contact with those close to me and by sustaining a powerful voice to keep up an encouraging attitude towards the lockdown and mental health in general. It has made me feel much more strongly towards sectors of work such as nurses and shopkeepers and praising all their hard work, as well as embracing the arts such as reading, writing and drawing as hobbies to endure.
Dealing with my mental health and wellbeing during the isolation period has been, hands down, one of the hardest things to do, and I am still learning new ways to deal with it. We are often told by professionals that the best thing we can do for our mental wellbeing is to go out, be social and be active, yet at this moment in time we are unable to do these things. As well as having to manage my own mental health carefully due to the services being restricted, my friends and family have begun to feel the repercussions of this pandemic, so here is a few ideas and things that I have been doing in order to keep myself and the people around me going.
For me, my friends and family play a huge part in my mental health and can often pull me out of a slump by coming over, watching movies, going to the pub or just messing about. Not being able to see my friends has been incredibly difficult, however whist I miss them every day, we still talk and make time for each other. Apps like Zoom, House Party and Facetime have been my saviour and a temporary replacement for our girly nights out, as well as making me realise how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. As well as this, I often find myself making the most of the Google Chrome add-on ‘Netflix Party’, so long-distance movie nights have become a lot easier! Other apps such as Psych are great to play long distance with friends, and I can guarantee lots of laughs with this one. As well as this, despite its backlash, social media is a great resource to be able to keep up to date and in contact with your friends and family can also give you the opportunity to be creative (ahem…Tiktok). Another thing that has kept both me and my friends positive is thinking about all the plans that we have once isolation is over. Make a list with your pals of all the things you’re going to do, like your first night out together, holidays, parties, festivals etc. This way you will all have something positive to look forward to and plan, and I can confidently say that I won’t be saying no to a night out anytime soon!
With everything that has been going on, it has been a challenging time for all of us. Social distancing and isolation are particularly difficult for extroverts and introverts alike. You cannot see your friends, your daily routine takes a hit and you can’t necessarily do everything you enjoy. If you’re not careful, this can take its toll on your mental health. In my personal experience, these past few weeks in isolation has shown some negative effects on my mood and mental wellbeing. However, there are definitely ways to overcome this.
Firstly, comes the mindset – understanding that these social distancing measures are absolutely necessary to protect our population and to be able to return to normal life as soon as possible helps you come to terms with these changes. Next, I found that not having my daily routine and being able to leave the house and go places really affected my motivation and productivity levels. This admittedly had a huge impact on my life because I have always been one of those people who thrived off of routine. I really enjoy having a busy day where I had to be somewhere such as a scheduled lecture/seminar rather than having to motivate myself to get work done. I am one of those people who works best when surrounded by people such as in a café with friends or a library. What I found was best to overcome this problem was to create a routine at home. I know it sounds pointless, but it honestly helps to get ready everyday as if you are going somewhere. Then, I would have a plan for the day and schedule times for working, taking breaks, keeping busy and chilling. Another constant struggle is not being able to go see my friends. Whenever I am home from uni, I always make it a point to see my home friends and this has been one thing I always looked forward to. Being an only child myself, there is only so much you can do to entertain yourself. I took this as an opportunity to spend more quality time with my family whether it was cooking with mum, gardening with dad, or playing board games and having film nights. Be inventive! Try things that you wouldn’t have done in the past because of being too busy with life. This can range from baking to gardening to painting. See it as an opportunity to pick up new hobbies. Although you can’t do anything with your friends, set up facetime calls with them even if it’s just for a chat about how you’re dealing with everything or a facetime pub session. I have found that facetiming home and uni friends regularly has genuinely helped me more than I thought it would. Not only do you get to see your friends but it reminds you that you aren’t the only one going through these strange times.
Lastly, try and find ways to keep active. Whether or not you are a gym-goer yourself, try new exercises. I have been going on jogs with my dad and been doing a bunch of home workouts. You can either do these with a set of dumbbells and/or bands or simple bodyweight exercises. Once you integrate exercise into your new daily routine, it will be easy to consistently keep at it. Believe me when I say that it will do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
It can be hard to disconnect when every email opens with ‘in these unprecedented times’, and the news simply screams stats at you. It’s normal to feel like you’re not doing very well while at home – it’s hard to relax when the world is changing so fast. The best advice would be to unfollow anyone posting about how you need to do something productive or learn anything new during lockdown, as that pressure will do nothing but make you feel guilty for something that shouldn’t be expected of you in the first place. I’ve struggled myself with feeling very low and depressed when having to stay inside, as we all need human interaction to function normally. If you have any other struggles, being around other people or being able to form a routine might help make it easier to not solely focus on your problems. So, what do you do when you need to relax and disconnect but you can’t rely on your usual distractions?
What I found has worked best has been to have one small goal a day. Maybe that is a cleaning task, such as hoovering on Monday, wiping the dust Tuesday, cleaning the bathroom Wednesday etc. If you have inclinations towards art try painting something small every day. Apps such as Tik-Tok and Instagram will be full of people posting videos like ‘Painting my wall everyday’ or ‘drawing cartoon characters’ everyday’, so there should be plenty of inspiration. I found I enjoyed baking a lot, and as I’m quarantined with three other people it meant I had an excuse to make that a regular habit. Baking is something you can experiment with, as changing the recipe slightly gives you a completely different result, and unlike cooking, it’s not a necessity if you do it wrong. If you’re someone that relies on routines maybe try and include a hobby in your daily routine to give yourself space to relax.
In the end, what you decide to do in lockdown is your choice, maybe you’re meditating or working out, or maybe you’re writing short stories or just becoming really good at Minecraft. Just remember that during a pandemic you shouldn’t feel pressured to do anything huge, like a start a business from home as most influencers seem to think you will, and it’s more important you keep yourself healthy and safe.