According to research by the University of Sheffield and Ulster University, there was a significant spike in depression and anxiety following the lockdown announcement.
The above statement comes as no surprise. Mental health is a continuum, experiencing varying levels of good and poor mental fitness throughout our lives, even experiencing this change moment by moment. As we all try to re-calibrate into the rhythm of the 'new normal' of now during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is only natural to experience low mood, anxiety and a tide of emotions, but left unchecked those feelings may become more prolonged, increasing the risk of depression and other mental health illnesses.
Sadly, I am seeing a lot of judgement about how people 'should' be feeling right now, but it is important to note that although we are all experiencing a global pandemic together, our experiences will be very different, as we all navigate our own personal ships during this turbulent time. Whether you are on the frontline, unemployed, self-employed, retired or furloughed or continuing to try to work; you are in complete isolation or isolating with others - everyone is susceptible to mental ill-health and now more than ever, we need to support our own mental wellbeing and those around us as best we can.
Honouring Mental Health Awareness Week on the 18th-24th May, read on for my tips on how we can support our own mental health whilst still on lockdown:
Have a routine
Try to keep a routine that works for you, which includes regular meals, work or a project, and break time to build some structure into the day to focus on.
Have a purpose
A great motivator to get out of bed in the morning is to have a reason to do so. Practice a minute of mindfulness by focussing on your breathing and setting yourself an achievable intention for the day. Celebrate your wins and let go of the things you didn't get round to. We have a great tool, F.O.F.B.O.C mindfulness practice which can help with this if you need some help to get started.
Avoid or limit alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant and it can exacerbate your already low mood, as well as making you feel anxious. Try to limit or avoid alcohol together to promote and support positive mental health.
Practice mindful eating
Eat well for a healthy mind and body. Awaken the mind and the senses to mindfully prepare colourful, nutritious food and then practice mindful eating to help you savour your meal and find joy in doing so.
Exercise helps to physically disperse nervous energy and lift our mood. The tiredness from depression does not need rest but action to help waken and energise the mind. This is no easy task when depressed, as depression robs the person of motivation. It is important to remember not to wait until you feel like doing exercise, as that time may not come, but to just do it as best you can, because you know it will help you to recover. Start small and build up, be creative, it doesn't have to be a grueling HITT session and could simply mean a daily walk or putting the music on full blast and dancing in the kitchen!
Aim for a better quality of sleep
Lack of sleep has a massive impact on mental wellbeing and unsurprisingly recent events are having an impact on the quality of sleep right for many of us right now. Try my Mindfulness for Sleep audio to see if it helps promote better sleep.
The IES’Working at Home Wellbeing Survey Interim Findings Report, in response to COVID-19, found 64% of respondents have lost sleep from worry, 40% are not waking up feeling fresh and rested and 60% are experiencing fatigue in addition to a range of musculoskeletal complaints, physical and emotional health concerns that might impact our sleep and mental health.https://www.employment-studies.co.uk/resource/ies-working-home-wellbeing-survey
Check-in and stay connected
Take a mindfulness pause regularly to check-in with how you are doing, physically and mentally. Doing this with mindful awareness helps you to help yourself much sooner. Try this Breathing Space audio to check-in and ground yourself.
Check-in regularly with your friends and colleagues to talk to them about your feelings and to ask them how they are, helping you to stay connected during these disconnected times.
Contact your Mental Health First Aider
If you are lucky enough to have MHFA's at work, they will be waiting to take your call and can still support you with a friendly, non-judgemental ear, offering you practical and emotional support whilst working remotely.
Engage with mental health services
Check if your company has an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) as they can usually help you with a free range of services including: mental and physical health; financial and legal advice.
If you do not have access to an EAP, there is still a wealth of resource for you to access:
Talking Therapies - a free NHS service offering CBT and counselling. Self refer via: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/types-of-therapy/
Mind - Mental Health charity providing support and information. https://www.mind.org.uk/
Anxiety UK - Anxiety charity providing support and informaton. https://www.mind.org.uk/
Samaritans - Support service available 24/7. Contact them on 116 123
Mindfulness has been shown to support mental wellbeing and reduce the impact of depression, stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is simply about paying attention to our present moment experiences as opposed to floating around on 'autopilot'. It is only natural to occasionally brood and worry, but the more time we spend doing that the more it will negatively impact our mood. Mindful awareness helps us to recognise unhelpful thought cycles sooner and our mood state so we can skillfully choose a better course of action. Head to the Mindfulness page on the website to get you started in mindfulness practice.