Your mental health in the pandemic
We’re living in strange times right now. Unless you come under the category of being a key or essential worker, chances are that you’re now stuck at home all day and every day for the foreseeable future. Your education and your social life have been put on hold as a result of the ongoing worldwide Coronavirus pandemic and you’re probably feeling pretty fed up. Am I right?
For me personally
I was in the middle of studying to retake my Maths and English GCSE’s (at the ripe old age of 40!) in order to secure my place on a university access course in September. My eventual plan is to study for a degree in creative writing and publishing. Yes, it’s taken me until now to finally work out what I want to do with my life. So, if you feel like you’re still unsure of what direction you want your own life to go in, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Something that has had a significant impact on my life up until now is my mental health. That phrase. Those two words. “Mental health.” They’re thrown around a lot, lately, aren’t they? It’s as if having mental health issues is the latest trend or something. We see a lot of campaigns in the mainstream media encouraging us to talk to each other about our own mental health issues – ITV, in particular, have been quite proactive with their “Britain Get Talking” campaign, that aims to get family members to discuss how they’re feeling with each other. It’s a nice idea, but for those of us who have been suffering in silence for the longest time, it could be seen as being far too little, far too late.
That’s the thing though.
If you’re a long-term sufferer of a mental health condition – depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc… – you’re probably fed up of the implication that simply talking about what you’re going through is going to be enough to make it all better. I know first-hand that It doesn’t work like that. Having a chat with a mate or a family member doesn’t make it all magically disappear. It just makes them aware of how you’re feeling. The issue with that though is that unless they’ve been through something similar themselves, they’re not really going to understand, and even if they do understand, they’re probably not in a situation to get you the help that you need.
With the ongoing situation
Gaining access to professional help has become just that little bit more difficult. Charities such as Samaritans and C.A.L.M are fantastic of course, and, having called them myself on several occasions I cannot recommend them highly enough. But those aside, what can you do on a personal level to help take care of your mental health during this crisis?
The first thing I recommend
is to set yourself a routine and stick to it. As much as it might be tempting to stay in bed all morning when you don’t have to go anywhere, it’s going to do absolutely nothing for your own self-esteem. Instead, try and get up at the same time every morning. Set an alarm on your phone if you need to. Once you’re up, allow yourself an hour or so for breakfast and your morning ablutions and then try to spend the two or three hours up until lunchtime doing something productive. If you’ve still got a load of school or college work to complete then crack on with that. If not, why not try doing some creative writing? A blog is an obvious place to start and can be a good way of expressing those troublesome thoughts from your mind. But writing a short story or even some poetry is equally as good. Anything that gets your brain working really.
Once you’ve completed your morning’s work you should hopefully feel a bit more awake and like you’ve achieved something. So, grab some lunch and then settle down for the rest of the day, making sure to keep yourself busy with activities that you enjoy. For me, gaming is good escapism and can be quite a social experience depending on which titles you’re playing. If that doesn’t float your boat then losing yourself in a good book or a boxset can be just as effective. The worst thing that you can do – pandemic or not – is to just sit around and dwell on things that you have no control over.
With that in mind
I suggest limiting both your news and your social media intake. As much as it might be tempting to keep up to date with the daily figures and updates from the government, too much bad news can have a negative effect on your own mental wellbeing. Similarly, the amount of negativity that can be found floating around in your social feeds – Twitter especially – can contribute significantly to the way you feel. Something that I’ve started doing recently is having a day each week where I don’t even keep my phone with me, removing the temptation to sit and scroll through my Twitter and news feeds during my downtime. Not only does this stop an influx of uncontrollable negativity, but it allows you to appreciate the world around you, away from the confines of a small screen. I recommend trying it at least once. You’d be surprised how much more relaxed you end up feeling.
I think the main thing to remember during this whole unfortunate situation, is that no matter what’s happening in the wider world, your own personal health and happiness is the most important thing to focus on. Be there for others – as much as you realistically can – but remember it’s equally important to be kind to yourself too.
Samaritans: 116 123
C.A.L.M: 0800 58 58 58