Friday, 10th April 2020
As many of us are being told to hunker down in our homes and limit trips outside and social contact, things are feeling pretty surreal at the moment. Aside from the general worry people may have about their physical health, there’s the larger toll this could be taking on our mental health.
Here are some tips to help with mental health during this lockdown period.
We know how important routine is, especially for children, under normal conditions. And with schools closed and many people working from home or told to stay at home, it might feel like all bets are off. But it’s much better for everyone’s mental health to try to keep a routine going as much as possible.
This means eating meals at regular times, sleeping, waking and exercising at set times and maintaining social (socially distant) contact. It’s been found that unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping.
Working out at home in these times is a good way to stay healthy and kill indoor time.
If you’re one of our Activo members, you can take advantage of the private Facebook group Activo Fitness Members, where daily videos from the instructors you’ve come to love are being posted for you to enjoy and take part in. There’s also our YouTube Channel Pendle Leisure Trust filled with some great on-demand home workout playlists for you to find quickly and easily.
But again, anything that gets your heart pumping or builds muscle is excellent for both physical and mental health.
If it’s feasible, shimmy past your neighbours and go for a walk in the park. Remember to stay two metres away from other people - this can take some manoeuvring, but it is possible.
Research shows that spending time outdoors is a boost to both mental and physical health. People who spent more time outdoors had significantly reduced risk for some chronic health issues, including reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduced levels of the stress and lower heart rate.
What’s fascinating is that it wasn’t necessarily to do with the extra activity, but the exposure to sunshine and the fresh air.
Working on your home if you have time can be a good way to feel productive. Take the opportunity of the extra time by decluttering, cleaning or organizing your home as studies say the predictability of cleaning not only offers a sense of control in the face of uncertainty, but also offers your mind body and soul a respite from stress.
Be cautious though, as you don’t want to become obsessive about cleaning, since there’s only so much you can do. But using the extra time, if you have it, to reorganise and toss or donate items you no longer use is a very good idea.
Meditation is proven to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety - and even increase the volume of certain areas of the brain.
But if meditation isn’t for you, just breathing slowly might be. Controlled breathing calms the mind. Researchers believe slow breathing is used ‘clinically to suppress excessive arousal and stress such as certain types of panic attacks’. So trying some controlled breathing work (here’s one from Lighthouse Tai Chi) may be an especially healthy idea.
We are fundamentally social creatures and during a crisis, it’s natural to want to gather. But seeing as we can’t right now, we need to be creative to maintain both psychological closeness and a sense of community.
Texting and social media are ok, but picking up the phone and talking, videoconferencing or having a safe-distance conversation on the street, is probably much better. Hearing a voice of another person is proven to help you feel less anxious. Calling someone for a chat will not only make you feel better, but could brighten up the day of the person you call.
Being of service is one of the best things we can do for society. Studies have repeatedly found that helping others has strong and immediate mental health benefits - and feeling a sense of purpose has also been shown to help people recover from negative events and build resilience.
There are organisations that are helping those affected by coronavirus on a larger scale, however, there are also more local organised efforts such as the Pendle Community Hub. Contact the hub if you want to help.
This might be the most important thing to keep in mind - don’t beat yourself up when things are not going perfectly in your household. On top of everything else, being upset with yourself is totally counterproductive.
Things are going to be hairy for a while, and if you can’t stick to your schedule or can’t fit in your home workout every day, it’s not a big deal in the long run. It’s much more valuable to everyone to cut yourself some slack, use the time to reflect on the important things - and try to keep a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’.