Mental health in home lockdown
This month we hear from Stace of @psychandsquats as she talks about mental health while she tackles lockdown in Victoria, Australia. Whether you're spending more time at home - in quarantine or just because - these tips are an important read.
Happy reading - over to Stace!
In a time where protecting our community's physical health is an understandably high priority, it is important to remember that health is not one dimensional.
While we know and respect that part of the cure to slowing the spread of coronavirus is locking down, we can’t help but notice the side effects of isolation creeping into our lives. These include:
- Increased levels of depression and anxiety
- Increased occurrences of domestic violence
- Frustration and fluctuating moods
- Impacts on quality of sleep
- Changes to diet and exercise routines
- Adjustment to new work lifestyles
- Grieving the immeasurable losses from this year
- Feelings of disconnection and loneliness
Below are some tips to help manage the side effects of lockdown.
Limit social media exposure
Staying up to date on what is happening in the world is one thing, becoming oversaturated in endless headlines, conspiracy theories, and obsessively checking case numbers is another. The big (and real) headlines will find you, you won’t need to go looking for them.
- Unfollow anything (or anyone) that leaves you feeling demotivated, frustrated or anxious.
- If the news feels triggering or unsafe, put the ad breaks on mute, and avoid mainstream media until you feel ready to see it.
- Prioritise phone-free time, and limit your screen time. Using the ‘screen time’ app can be helpful for this.
Stay connected to social supports
While it may feel tempting to hide away in the isolation bubble of seclusion and safety, social connection is a basic human need. Ensure you find new and innovative ways to connect with your support system. Some ideas include:
- Face time your social circle for chats, dinners, brunches, or Friday night drinks.
- Get creative! Organise to do crafts together, or play trivia, or send each other videos completing a challenge. I highly recommend the Oreo challenge, fastest person who can get the Oreo from their forehead to their mouth without using their hands wins.
- Check in on your friends who live alone, or loved ones who have been having a rough time.
- Send care packages! The more personalised, the better. Baking some cookies and dropping them at the front door (when restrictions allow) can brighten someone’s day.
Don’t pressure yourself into being productive
It’s a pandemic, not a competition. There’s no ‘winning’ at lockdown, no matter how many workouts you do, or languages you learn, or how many loaves of sour dough bread you make from scratch (that is impressive though), you don’t win this thing, your main goal is to simply survive it.
If staying productive helps you get through, then bake away! But if there are days when your main priority shifts to wrapping yourself into a burrito blanket and binge watching Netflix, that’s ok too.
- Know your limits, and respect them.
- Set SMART goals (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timed).
- Don’t compare what you are doing to anyone else. They aren’t you, and you aren’t them.
Keep a routine
Majority of us find comfort in habits and routine. It helps us feel safe, and stable in our day. During this unprecedented time of change, keeping some consistency can be beneficial for your mental health. Some examples include:
- Maintain regular sleeping and waking times, preferably for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- If you had a morning routine pre-pandemic, try and keep it as similar as possible while in lockdown.
- If you had particular days where you went for a walk, did a workout, had brunch with friends, or dinner with the family, try and keep this routine intact, even if it's altered. For example, do a virtual workout class, or a FaceTime brunch or dinner instead.
Make movement a priority
Including movement into your day can have immediate positive effects on your mood, and also improve your quality of sleep.
- There is plenty of movement you can still do at home which require little to no equipment. Search for free apps to try something new, whether it’s a HIIT style of workout, or a meditative yoga session you will feel better afterwards.
- A lot of gyms/studios have adjusted to providing virtual classes which can help keep you connected.
- Getting outside for a walk can help relieve the monotony of living within the same four walls.
- Honour your body’s needs. Some days it will want to move a lot, other days it will want to stretch, and rest.
Find small joys
While we are all allowed to feel and acknowledge our negative emotions throughout this time, it’s important to not get stuck in that space. Your emotions are valid, but you can take the next step and focus your energies on gratitude:
- Name three things you are grateful for every day.
- Notice the small things that bring you happiness, like playing with a pet, or baking, or the way the sunlight looks coming through the clouds.
- Focus on creating your own little pocket of joy. This might be ‘me time’, putting on a face mask, watching a movie you loved as a child, or creating something.
Protect your boundaries
If you are among one of the lucky people who have been able to maintain your employment, but have shifted to working from home, establishing clear boundaries will be helpful in managing this transition. Remember, you are working from home, not living at work:
- Creating clear lines of separation is one of the keys to making this adjustment easier. Have a dedicated work space, and be strict with your work hours. Do not start earlier, or finish later. It might be tempting, but it blurs the boundaries.
- Turn off your work-related technology outside of working hours (where applicable).
- Dress professionally, and establish an ‘end of day’ routine to allow time to decompress. We no longer have the drive home for this, so get up and go for a walk, or go have a shower and get changed into your ‘home clothes’.
Boredom breeds creativity
There is only so much screen time one person can handle, and one silver lining to this pandemic is seeing more people trying different recreational activities such as:
- Knitting and crocheting.
- Cooking, baking, spending time connecting to their food.
- Painting, drawing, completing puzzles, or writing.
- Re-organising the house, or painting a bedroom, or DIY renovation projects.
Be kind to yourself
Throughout this pandemic we have all been experiencing a form of collective grief. We are grieving the loss of what this year was supposed to be, we are grieving lost plans, lost holidays, lost celebrations, lost time with loved ones, lost career goals, loss of employment, lost milestones, loss of the ability to properly grieve someone who has passed, and the list goes on.
- Allow yourself the time to heal.
- Be kind to yourself by not adding unnecessary pressure.
- When you notice that you are speaking to yourself negatively, ask this question, “Would I speak this way to my best friend?” If the answer is no, what would you say to them instead?
There’s no shame in asking for help
It is okay, to not be okay. And it is more than okay, to ask for help. If you feel like you need support to manage, there are many options available:
- Visit your GP and get a Mental Health Care Plan to talk to a health care professional.
- Visit www.headtohealth.gov.au for information on COVID-19 support options, as well as fact sheets and further information on mental health issues.
- Contact a crisis support line.
- Ask your loved ones to check in on you more regularly.
While we navigate through the side effects of lockdown, it is easy to begin to feel alone. But while we are not all sitting in the same boat (we can’t, social distancing remember), we are all weathering the same storm. And eventually, this storm will pass, as all storms do.
Thanks Stace for an insightful and inspiring blog post! Hear more from the beautiful Stace by following @psychandsquats on Instagram to tap into her uplifting and heartfelt vibes.
Working at home? Here are 5 tips for working from home.