Taking Care of Your mental Health During Lockdown
The key to a healthy lifestyle is not just about looking after your body and your heart, but also your mind. Various studies have shown that those falling into mentally vulnerable groups are at higher risk of being diagnosed with, or having more severe symptoms of physical health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes (1).
Various mental health organisations and charities have already made clear the possibility that time in lockdown can be damaging to many people’s mental health, so what can we do for ourselves and each other to maintain healthy minds as well as healthy bodies during this difficult time?
Try to maintain a routine
Having a routine can help to ensure you feel in control during a time when nothing is certain. Stable routines also help to maintain a regular sleep pattern which can reduce anxiety and stress levels as well as boost mental and physical performance levels (2). Having a healthy routine does not mean having to regiment every hour of your day, however maintaining a regular sleep pattern and similar meal times throughout the day will help maintain order in your day and mind.
Keep your brain active
Now could be the perfect opportunity for you to do something that requires focus and concentration, that you would never normally have the time or energy for. It’s very easy for us to sit and binge Netflix series and whatever day time TV we can find, however keeping our minds active by challenging ourselves can help to retain brain cells and connections, which it has been suggested may reduce the rate of symptoms of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimers (3). So, use this time to read more, learn a new language, or perhaps discover an unknown talent for puzzles, mazes, baking or short story writing!
Social isolation is known to trigger or worsen mental illness. Of course, we’re not all avid socialites but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way for us to socialise in a way that works for us. Whilst some of us may enjoy large, extroverted social events, others may prefer to enjoy a quiet drink with friends, attending a book club or going to an exercise class that’s become more of a social gathering. Regardless of how you choose to interact with others, maintaining social relationships is important to our mental health as it allows for social development; the sharing of ideas, opinions and good old friendly debates improve our social skills and contribute to our overall happiness and satisfaction levels. Of course, during these difficult times, a much-wanted drink at the pub with friends is not possible, but this is where we should be embracing the technology that we have today; video chatting is now crisper and faster than ever, social media allows us to connect with people all over the world with ease, and all kinds of events have gone virtual; exercise classes, concerts and meet and greets!
Lockdown has seen communities come together in so many ways, with neighbour checking on neighbour, and shopping being dropped on door steps of those unable to leave their homes, so whilst we focus on our physical health and keeping ourselves and our communities safe from harm, let’s also make sure we’re maintaining our mental health and checking up on others’ so that when we can one day meet again, we’ll all be ready.