With the UK now in its third lockdown in less than a year, having good mental health is more important than ever.
But it’s not always easy.
Many of us aren’t just worried about catching the virus, we’re also concerned for our loved ones and our finances, too.
If you’re not bored, you’re strung out, so it’s perfectly normal to find lockdown tough
Then there’s the boredom of lockdown to cope with – there is only so much TV anyone can watch – and the frustration and loneliness that comes with it.
And if you’re not bored, you’re strung out from trying to juggle work, home-schooling and home life.
Hopeful: Psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley says it IS possible to beat the lockdown blues
But don’t beat yourself up – it’s perfectly normal to find this tough, especially now the restrictions have lasted so long.
‘What gave us hope in previous lockdowns was thinking, ‘It’s got to be done, it’s for the greater good, then it will be over and done’,’ says social psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley.
‘We mentally helped ourselves by thinking it would only be the once.
With this lockdown, we don’t have that, so it’s harder.’
But it is possible to beat the lockdown blues, she says.
‘Just because we’re feeling down in the doldrums at the moment, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t adjust, and adapt how you feel.
‘Adjusting our mindset is something we have to consciously do.
Count your blessings – decide to look for the positives.
‘Say: ‘I’m OK, my family is OK. We have a lot to be thankful for. There is a vaccine. There are better days to come’. All those things sound like clichés, but they do help.’
Here are some other ways to make coping a little bit easier from the NHS’s website:
We might not be able to see our friends and loved ones, but staying in touch with people we trust is vital for good mental health.
So pick up the phone, video call or chat on social media.
TALK ABOUT IT
Feeling worried or scared is perfectly normal right now, and it’s OK to share your concerns with good friends – it might even help them, too.
If you’ve got no one to talk to, or if sharing hasn’t helped, there are plenty of helplines to try at nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
It’s not just mental health that’s important, our physical health is, too – in fact, it has a big impact on how we feel.
But at times like these, it’s easy to forget that, and start behaving in ways that might make us feel worse.
So, eat healthily, drink plenty of water and try to avoid smoking, drugs or too much alcohol. Most importantly, stay active.
It boosts your mood and is easy to do – if you can’t get out to go for a walk or run, there are plenty of free online workouts to try at home.
Getting outside in the fresh air for a walk or run boosts your mood and is easy to do
MANAGE YOUR ANXIETY
With everything so uncertain, it’s only natural to feel anxious.
But for some this becomes so intense, it affects their everyday life. So focus on what you can control – what you do every day, who you speak to and where you get your information from. And accept that there are some things you can’t control.
But if it’s all getting too much, try something practical to manage your anxiety – write down your worries or do some breathing exercises, for example.
For more ideas, search ‘Every Mind Matters’ online.
RATION THE NEWS
It’s easy to watch the news all day long, but that can spell disaster for your mental health.
So use only trusted sources and limit the amount of time you spend catching up. Always fact-check information you find on jasa social media marketing media or are told by other people.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
Often when we’re feeling anxious, lonely or low, we stop doing the things we love.
But it’s vital for our mental health that we carry on doing them as they’re great for combating stress. So focus on your favourite hobby if you can do it at home and if not, find something new you love, whether it’s baking, drawing or doing jigsaws.
Relaxing isn’t laziness, it’s an important way to improve your wellbeing as it helps you deal with difficult emotions, anxiety and worries.
Search ‘Every Mind Matters’ online for relaxation techniques if you find it difficult to unwind.
We all know how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep, so try to get enough.
Keeping regular hours and winding down before you go to bed, with no screen time and maybe a hot bath, could help.
MAKE PRACTICAL PLANS
Having a plan of action will help reduce anxiety.
So work out how you can get household and medical supplies should you fall ill, need to isolate or are shielding. You could try asking neighbours, family friends or finding a delivery service in your area. And if you care for someone you don’t live with, think about who could help them if you can’t, and make sure your local authority knows.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Money worries can cause real mental turmoil, so check your employment and benefits rights and find out what support is available for you.
LEARNING TO SEW HELPED ME BEAT THE LOCKDOWN BLUES
Archaeologist Frankie Wildmun, 27, lives near Stockton-on-Tees.
‘I was furloughed in March last year, and it soon felt like Groundhog Day. I live on my own, don’t have a garden and had only moved to County Durham a few months before, so I didn’t really know anyone. It wasn’t great.
Archaeologist Frankie Wildmun moved to County Durham just before lockdown
‘Then I saw on Facebook that a local hospital needed PPE, so I used my late granny Pat’s 1950s Singer sewing machine to make scrubs for the NHS.
I’d only ever really sewed on buttons before, and it took a lot of effort – my arm ached because of the crank handle – but it was worth it.
‘After that, with time on my hands, I found a pattern for an Air Transport Auxiliary uniform online and thought: ‘Why not?’ I wore it to a Remembrance Day event at Highclere Castle.
‘Since then, I’ve made other historical garments including an Edwardian corset and skirt and signed up for a theatre costume making course in York this summer.
Sewing has really helped me through all three lockdowns.’
LIFE WAS MONOTONOUS – SO I LEARNED THE BANJO!
Ellie Martin, 24, is a video producer who lives in Manchester.
‘Last February I was in my final year at Manchester University, studying for a degree in English and French, seeing friends and working on the student newspaper.
‘Then we were sent home.
It was surreal – I lost everything that helps you cope with stress, in my case going out, music and choir. Life was monotonous – I was upset and down.
Video producer Ellie Martin learnt to play the banjo during lockdown and it lifted her spirits
‘Then I remembered I had a banjo in the attic that I’d begged my parents to buy for me aged 11, but gave up after a week.
So I got a ladder and found it.
‘I was rubbish to begin with – I don’t think my neighbours appreciated it! – but the feeling of making a bright, happy noise lifted my spirits.
‘When lockdown lifted, practice got put by the wayside a little, but in later lockdowns I’ve played it a lot more.
‘I think if you’re struggling, you should find the silliest hobby and throw yourself into it.
You need to laugh at yourself.’