In modern times, it can be easy to let self care slip to the bottom of our priority list. With career pressures, family obligations and social expectations all pulling at our attentions it can be difficult to find time and space to really be kind to ourselves. Even best laid plans for an evening of relaxation can be swiftly interrupted by the bright lights of a smartphone notification!
With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been presented with no choice other than to slow down a little. We have been plunged into an unexpected world of home quarantining and remote working. Working out how to combine our outside and inside worlds all in one space isn’t quite as easy as it might have seemed when we first started out.
So how can we boost our mental wellbeing during lockdown, to ensure we come out of this crisis with more balance than we might have had before it happened?
Here are 5 simple ways to improve your mental health during the crisis and beyond:
1. Create time to reconnect.
Human connection is vital to our wellbeing. Introvert or extrovert, we are built with a need for interaction of some kind on a regular basis. If you’re quarantining alone, then it is especially important. Taking a walk or bicycle ride at a safe distance with a neighbor is a great way to head outside and benefit from some fresh and air and friendship. Having a long chat over the phone with a loved one is also a great way to connect away from screens. Video calling can be a good option, but be mindful how often you’re in front of a screen right now. Letter writing is also a long forgotten but powerful connector!
2. Spark your sense of wanderlust.
We might be housed right now and going nowhere fast, but this isn’t a permanent situation. Fill your mind with hope for the future by giving your mind new ideas of possible adventures for post-lockdown life. Whether it’s browsing travel magazines, watching travel documentaries online or simply discussing some plans with a friend over the phone - let your mind wander to brighter, happier places.
3. Give your mind some space.
You don’t need to be an experienced yogi to benefit from a session of meditation. You don’t need any special equipment, nor any expensive online training courses. All you need is you, and a quiet space somewhere in your home where you’re unlikely to be disturbed for half an hour. Find a comfortable sitting position, and close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath, trying to make each outward breath just a little longer than your inward ones. If your mind wanders, this is very normal. Try to return to focusing on your breath, as an ongoing practice. Try to include this little slot of nurturing time for your mind (and body) once a day. You’ll be amazed at how much calmer you’ll feel within a few days of doing so.
4. Give your body the tools it needs to cope.
Worn out engines don’t tend to lend themselves well to long distance travel. Your body works in much the same way. If you run your body down to a point of total depletion, then it will not be able to take proper care of itself. Exhaustion is a key contributor to physical illness as well as poor mental health. Keep your mind and body well cared for by providing the nourishment they need. Eating well, sleeping regularly and exercising at least once a day are often overlooked in times of stress or unpredictability. Dealing with change is quite enough for your mind and body to cope with right now. Give yourself the best toolkit you can by taking care of your fundamental needs.
5. Create some playtime!
Self care doesn’t have to be serious. It can be as fun and as lighthearted as putting on some music on that makes you happy and dancing around the kitchen! Use your child’s trampoline for some outside fun, play some party games with your flatmates, or give an online pub quiz with friends a go. Whatever gets you laughing will flood your system with endorphins, making you feel vastly more capable to cope in the harder moments of the current challenges. Keep the focus on fun- the sillier the better!
The current situation is indisputably a difficult one for us all. Whether we have been personally affected by the virus, or know someone close to us who has been, or whether we are simply finding it hard to stay indoors for such a long time, these are certainly unprecedented times that we are experiencing together.
The most difficult element for many of us is the lack of control over our immediate future. We feel out of control and that we have lost our freedom of choice. This feeling has been amplified by the current circumstances, but it was actually also very present before the COVID19 pandemic arrived into our lives.
Western culture has encouraged a pressured sense of perfectionism. In the last 10 years we have been gathering pace in fighting to find a ‘picture perfect’ lifestyle, partner, income and family. This is not realistic, nor is it a healthy approach to life.
By introducing the wellbeing practices within this article into your daily experiences you will be aiding yourself in building a healthier, happier approach in the current situation and far beyond. Seize the opportunity to finally give yourself the kind of care that you deserve. The kind of treatment that you would want for someone you love - apply the same to yourself.
You’re more than worth it.
Most importantly, take your time. Life is not a race, despite what social media might be trying to tell you. Enjoy the small moments as your greatest achievements. This, more than anything, is a lesson we can all take forwards from this chapter.