Right now, there is much we cannot control, but the way we talk to ourselves can either serve as a powerful buffer to challenging times or aggravate our distress or lead to more serious mental health problems. Moments of feeling overwhelmed often come with big thoughts, such as “I cannot do this,” or “This is too hard ” are commonplace. This all can take its toll on our emotional well-being.
This pandemic will cause a lot of stress for many of us, and we cannot be our best selves all the time. But we can ask for help or reach out when help is asked of us. A vital part of keeping fit and healthy is to look after your own mental health. There are plenty of activities you can do to help make sure you keep yourself mentally healthy. Here are our top tips:
Get into a routine
It helps to manage anxiety and will help you to adapt more quickly to this current reality. So having a consistent routine helps. Try stick to as normal a schedule as you can. With more of us working at home, it’s important that we create clear distinctions between work and non-work time, ideally in both your physical workspace and your headspace. Find something to do that is not worked or pandemic related that brings you joy. Working in short bursts with clear breaks will help to maintain your clarity of thought. (nature.com)
Get enough sleep
Sleep is vital for our physical and mental health. Sleep helps to regulate the chemicals in our brain that transmit information. These chemicals are essential in managing our moods and emotions. If we don’t get enough sleep, we can start to feel depressed or anxious. Try set a regular time to go to bed, and avoid using your devices an hour before bedtime. Blue light from phones, tablets etc. interferes with our sleep quality and can lead to our minds being stimulated and active instead of winding down.
Eating right is not only crucial for our bodies, but also for our minds. Certain mineral deficiencies, like iron and vitamin B12 deficiency, can cause low mood. Try to eat a balanced diet. If you find yourself feeling incredibly stressed or anxious, you should try cutting out caffeine.
Stress is often unavoidable, but knowing what triggers your anxiety and learning how to cope is vital in maintaining good mental health. Try to manage your responsibilities and worries by making a list or a schedule to resolve each issue. Often, if you break down your fears and stressors and write them down, you realise they are manageable. Try to avoid burying your head in the sand, and tackle problems face on.
If you find you are having trouble sleeping, or are waking up thinking about all of the things that are stressing you out, write them down and reassure yourself that you can deal with them in the morning.
A tough one in Scotland! Sunlight is an excellent way of getting the right amount of vitamin D that we need. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for our bodies and brains. It helps our brains to release chemicals which improve our mood, like endorphins and serotonin.
Try to go out in the sun when you can, but make sure you keep your skin and eyes safe. 30 minutes to two hours a day of sunlight is ideal. During the winter, some people become depressed because they aren’t getting enough sunlight – this is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some people find using a light-therapy lamp helps to alleviate the symptoms.
Get enough exercise
Physical activity and exercise are essential in maintaining good mental health. Being active not only gives you a sense of achievement, but it boosts the chemicals in your brain that help put you in a good mood. Exercising can help eliminate low mood, anxiety, stress and feeling tired and lazy. It is also linked to living a longer life. You don’t need to run a marathon or play 90 minutes of football; a short walk or some another gentle activity might do the trick.
Screen time breaks
If you find that being on your phone or computer frequently makes you feel busier and stressed, try to take a break. This could be for just an hour or two. If you find this difficult, try putting your phone in another room or setting the alarm to time yourself that a break is due.
Connect with friends and family
Even the most introverted of us need some sense of connection to others for our mental and physical health. We are in social isolation, but we need not feel alone. Reach out to those who might be incredibly isolated.
Talk about how your feeling and make sure you make a point of asking others how they are doing.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment, using meditation, breathing exercises and yoga. (mind.org.uk).
Apps like Headspace and Calm can help you form habits that focus on the present and get into a routine, but you don’t need one to meditate.
Manage your news and social media consumption
Watching the news and reviewing the COVID-19 situation can be overwhelming. However, despite the importance of staying informed, you should not obsess about the news or your social media feed. Consider checking for updates once in the morning and once at night instead of watching these all day. Even medical and economic experts are still trying to wrap their minds around all the factors and considerations brought about by the pandemic.
It is often more helpful to stop, take a deep breath, turn off your device, and remember that we are all in this together than to try to sort through everyone’s opinions or add your own opinion to the mix, which is why we recommend practicing positivity and gratitude.
Do Something You Enjoy
For me, it’s watching Star Wars or some other guilty pleasure on TV! But do something that YOU enjoy and helps you relax. Meet regularly with friends and family – whether through zoom, WhatsApp, face-to-face, or even for a walk.
Spend time on hobbies you enjoy, read or watch things that make you laugh, and build into your daily routine proven stress-busting activities such as yoga, meditation or exercises that involve deep breathing