As we all go through these unprecedented times there are many ways in which we can care for ourselves and for others physically, but we also need to be aware of how we can help and care for our mental health too. Over the course of the lockdown it is expected that we will have exceptional highs, but we will also have lows and it is how we choose to cope with those low points, or indeed prepare to minimise these, which may help to shape the experience over the coming months.
A recognised and more traditional approach to care for one’s mental health would be to invest in meditation, and whilst for some this is a perfect solution, for others it takes time to master and therefore does not suit all people.
So, we have to be aware of other alternatives which are easier to succeed in but also help to combat the mental chattering which we find our minds doing during these lower points.
Some alternative yet more mindful ways of managing ourselves through or indeed preparing to avoid those low points are:
Colouring/Painting by numbers
Whilst you can readily pick up these from supermarkets you can purchase more challenging designs online. Having something to focus on and watch something come to life in itself brings joy – think back to why we did this in childhood. Be careful not to invest in pieces which are overly complex and therefore something you won’t end up doing. Before you rule out those from the supermarket, which will be designed around children ask yourself, do you want to just escape without complexity?
Don’t be afraid to embrace a little Disney magic!
For some this is pure escapism and for others, being able to focus on a book is a real challenge. Try to turn off and embrace a favourite book from your childhood perhaps, there are no rules around what you should or shouldn’t read. You may find that picking up your old Enid Blyton sparks an enormous amount of joy as you read it through the eyes of an adult.
Taking time away from your phone/computer/social media will help to calm your mind. If you are not someone who has a lot of books, enroll with the local Library online as there are many eBooks available. You should also keep in mind that there are many talking books if that is something which you would prefer. These are an excellent way to escape whilst doing a rather mundane household task.
To encourage yourself, set up a book group with friends/family. This is a great way to build social connection time into your week too.
Through these past and coming weeks, many individuals and families are looking at alternatives to the usual distractions and returning to more traditional methods. Jigsaws don’t have to be completed in one sitting, (if you don’t have the space, pop it on a board, and slide under a sofa) rather they can be left out and during the day take five minutes to look for that awkward piece – time away from a task can help to focus the mind and that problem which you couldn’t do suddenly becomes more manageable. Invest time in board games, blow the dust and cobwebs off that Monopoly game in the loft, you will be surprised how families will enjoy the time together.
If you have the facility, why not consider swapping games with neighbours so you don’t become bored and have that new challenge.
Escape to the outdoors
In the light of the global restrictions we no longer have the levels of pollution (of all types) around us; this makes being outside so much more enjoyable. Whilst it can be lovely to listen to a podcast whilst out running/walking, also consider leaving your mobile device at home so that you take in the beautiful surroundings. If you have a garden just sit, look and listen, you will be amazed at what is happening in nature, many birds and creatures are returning to what was their natural habitat. If you are not fortunate to have a garden try and set the alarm earlier and just open the window and listen to the birds, or alternatively if you are not an ‘early bird’ yourself do this at dusk.
Whilst highlighting alternatives to using your phone/tablet, for some who want to take a step beyond more traditional methods, consider new techniques to help to calm the chattering we all encounter at some point. Apps such as Headspace and Calm are now widely advertised, spoken about and recognised to have noticeable benefits. As mentioned they do take time to master, but as with anything, practice will help you to master the technique.
With all the stresses that we find ourselves under, it is understandable that for some it will have an impact on our sleep. There are many suggestions as to how you can improve this, be it through diet, exercise or meditation. Don’t be afraid to try different things as we now have the time to invest in ourselves. Sleeping aids online such as listening to wind, rain or white noise can help you to focus on something other than that “to do” list, or general worries, and consequently help you to drift off. If you are able to get a better quality of sleep, this in itself will help to calm your anxieties during the day and see things as they really are.
Finally, whilst we have spoken about how we can help ourselves and our families in many ways, we also need to acknowledge, that during these challenging times it has never been more important to ensure that, where possible, we stay in contact with friends and family. Whilst we can no longer physically see each other, scheduling time to phone each other is so beneficial, even more so if you have the technology and ability to make use of the many applications which enable us to see each other such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime, House Party and many others.
Remember looking after you and your family’s mental wellbeing is just as important as your physical health.