With the effects of the Covid 19 outbreak plaguing everyone’s mental health for years to come, Getintothis’ Jane Davies takes a look at what we can do to keep our minds gainfully occupied.
These extraordinary, unprecedented times that we are experiencing will leave no mind unscathed even those who think they can “take it on the chin”.
Those of us living with mental health issues prior to the outbreak could be pushed to crisis point.
For people not previously living with mental health issues, some will subsequently develop conditions attributed to loss of freedoms, livelihoods and enforced isolation. At worst, suicides will rise.
Home itself is the most dangerous place in the world for those experiencing domestic violence and abuse. We have already seen alleged domestic murders announced in the press within days of lockdown. This is just the start.
Whilst confined to home 24/7, unhealthy life style choices could spiral out of control; eating disorders, increased alcohol, tobacco or drug consumption leading to dependency issues.
Obsessive compulsive disorders could escalate post outbreak from relentless hand washing and sanitising the home.
Financial worries are on everyone’s mind. The economy is mothballed, but this cannot be sustained indefinitely, the wheels will turn again eventually. Maybe in another way, but they will turn.
It is easy to say do not worry about things you cannot control, but there are some things we can be in control of. We must grasps those things and maintain routine and order in our lives.
So what can we do about the enforced time indoors? We can use a combination of mindfulness and a degree of positivity and creativity.
I recently completed a condensed course in mindfulness and have learnt to live in the moment, rather than look at what has gone before or what lies ahead. It is not a case of burying one’s head in the sand but a possible coping strategy for present times.
Mindfulness is not a passive process; it is about slowing down the thousands of thoughts that bombard you every day. It is about developing a curiosity and appreciation about everyday things about you, especially the little things that go often unnoticed.
Our fast paced normal lives can involve functioning on autopilot; we barely notice what is right under our nose at times, in our haste to get from A to B.
If you are feeling anxious, mindfulness will literally teach you to ground yourself; feel feet firmly on the floor and make you breathe slow breaths and progress to meditation.
Go outside once a day to exercise, when safe to do so, maximise this opportunity to expose yourself to serotonin and Vitamin D.
Use your senses more, witness the clearer skies devoid of aeroplane trails, and listen to the ensuing silence and the occasional birdsong. We feel we have lost our spring holiday, but reassuringly nature carries on and seeing the landscape begin to flower is a tonic.
Wake and go to bed as per your regular routine, obviously easier for people still working from home, but vitally important for those who have stopped work.
Do not fall into a spiral of neglecting your health and welfare.
For people with primary school age children, keep to a timetable that focuses on core subject such as English and Maths tasks in the morning and then creative and ICT based learning games and reading in the afternoon when concentration levels have dropped.
Secondary education students will be working independently via online learning materials, which can be stressful in itself. Independent learning does not come naturally to the fore in compulsory schooling, so these students should be made to feel proud of themselves for negotiating their way around this new way of learning.
Creativity is your friend. Search out materials in your home that you may have forgotten about. Get to work creating sketches and if you have some paints, use them. Colouring books for adults are incredibly calming as well.
Dust down the old cookery book and have a go at baking a cake, that’s if you can find flour of course. It’s virtually impossible to make a mess of a sponge cake.
Have a go at growing some flowers in a pot, for your garden or your balcony. It is one of the most satisfying things you can do, to see something beautiful appear out of nothing.
Write down how you are feeling in a diary or a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is a simplified diary that focuses on what you want to get out of a day, how you are feeling and what were the best three things that happened that day.
Write lists. Just because you are at home, does not mean that you have nothing to do. Now is the time to tick off jobs you have been putting off.
Check your personal administration; keep an eye on your online banking, reply promptly to your postal correspondence and emails.
Keep your home tidy and clean. You don’t have to become Mrs Hinch, but a well ordered home emanates calm; it is very satisfying to put some music on and see the results of your labour a few hours later.
Have a fresh look at your belongings. You won’t be able to take bags to the charity shop, but you can make a start at deciding what you really need and what is redundant and taking up vital space.
Tune into online gigs and listening parties by your favourite bands, especially the grass roots bands. If you can, buy their music or merchandise.
Limit time looking at the news. We can never fully believe the media at the best of times and it will only cause undue stress and over thinking.
Telephone and video message family and friends as often as you can, particularly the more vulnerable. Talk about how you are feeling. They will probably be thinking the same things.
If safe to do so, and you do not have an underlying health conditions or live with someone who does, volunteer in the community. You will be providing a vital service and getting to know, from a safe distance, new people in the community.
Back up your computer systems, digitise printed photos so that they are saved and shareable. Write down all the details of contacts in your mobile phone. You never know when the SIM may stop working.
Learn a new skill online from a new language to playing the guitar.
Watch all your favourite box sets and read all those books you never got round to reading.
Research your family tree, make that call to your older relatives and fill in those information gaps, and put names to unfamiliar faces in old photographs.
No one knows how long this will last and if ultimately how our lives will be permanently changed, but it will have made us truly resilient people at the end of it. We can do this.
If you need to talk to somebody about any of the issues raised here, please use the links below:
Mind, the mental health charity (Call 0300 123 3393). We won’t give up until everyone experienceing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.
The Samaritans (Call 116 123). We’re waiting for your call. Whatever you’re going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. We’re here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Childline (Call 0800 1111). Help and advice about a wide range of issues, call , talk to a counsellor online, send an email or post on the message boards.
Papyrus (Call 0800 068 41 41). An organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
Students Against Depression provides you with a calm environment and the resources to help you find a way forward – a website offering advice, information and guidance to those affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking.
Hub of Hope: A national mental health database which brings together organisations and charities, large and small, from across the country who offer mental health advice and support, together in one place.