How to stay mentally well in a challenging new era
Updated: Jan 3
If someone had told you in January that in a couple of months' time, we’d all be working from home, limiting contact with loved ones and queuing two metres apart at supermarkets, you’d not have believed them and may have even questioned their sanity. Now, our sanity is being challenged as we face isolation and uncertain times ahead.
While lockdown and social distancing has varied from country to country, we’re all facing similar restrictions and amendments to our everyday lives.
In such challenging times, it’s more important than ever to stay physically and mentally healthy. There are several ways to maintain a balanced lifestyle, even in this current climate; we’ve broken down the best ways to stay sane in this unprecedented era of uncertainty.
As obvious as it sounds, exercise is the best way to keep your body and brain active and healthy. This has never been so important as it is right now. If you’re limited to staying indoors, there are a multitude of exercises that can be done from your living room. Whether you’re a bodybuilder being forced to improvise, a stay at home parent, a retiree or a complete gym-avoider, exercise gurus such as Joe Wicks have put together free programmes to help you keep active while staying safe indoors.
If you are lucky enough to have access to outside space, you can walk, run or cycle to maintain a healthy body and mind. If you need some inspiration, why not try using apps such as Nike’s 50K a month running challenge, ‘Couch to 5K’, or tracking runs or walks virtually with friends to encourage each other.
Top tip: Check out Joe Wicks’ free youtube workouts. There are workouts for children, the elderly, quiet workouts for those in apartments and hard-hitting workouts to get your heart rate up. https://www.youtube.com/user/thebodycoach1/videos?app=desktop
Meditation and Mindfulness
“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Meditation and mindfulness have become hot topics in recent years. The concept of mindfulness and meditation can be off-putting and overwhelming, but it’s actually very simple. One of the best ways to stay calm and collected in such an anxious time is to focus on the current moment, truly enjoy what you’re doing whether that’s eating, walking, resting, or simply being, and appreciate your surroundings. There is positivity and pleasure to be found in most everyday activities if you’re willing to let it in. A great place to start is with ‘Mindfulness for Dummies’ (don’t be put off by the title!) which gives a down-to-earth explanation of the key concepts and provides guided meditations that you can use to focus your mind.
One of the key components of mindfulness is to be kinder to yourself. When you’re feeling anxious, stressed, worried or angry about the world around you, let those emotions out. It is ok to have negative emotions about recent events and recognising and accepting them makes them pass quicker than if you try to stunt them. It’s easy to be self-critical and tell yourself to get some perspective: there are people worse off than me, so what am I worried about? Actually, all problems are relative, your feelings are valid - it is ok not to be positive all the time.
Takeaway: You can not meditate incorrectly. You can not fail at trying to practice mindfulness. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by giving it a go. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-Dummies-Shamash-Alidina-ebook/dp/B00PK4JRVO/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=mindfulness+for+dummies&qid=1587210483&sr=8-1
While it’s important not to spend our days glued to the screens that surround us, there’s evidence to suggest that escapism via TV programmes/Films can be a great way to press pause on life and just for a moment, enter a virtual reality in which we can relax and not think about all the chaos that surrounds us.
If you’re using social media, why not begin following some more positive-lead people and pages, we’ve listed some below to get you started. While it’s a very challenging time, there are some inspirational acts of kindness and positivity occurring and being a part of that can be uplifting.
Staying in touch
None of us are truly alone. While physical contact is limited, there are several ways to connect to the outside world. We really are all in this together.
New apps such as House Party are being used so friends can stay connected and have group video calls. WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom are good options for 1-2-1 video calls. Routine and structure help us feel more in control so make these calls at regular slots in your week, building a new routine can help us cope with change and uncertainty.
While it may sound old fashioned, if you have time on your hands, why not try writing a letter to a relative or friend? Postcards are also being sent as a way to send messages to loved ones afar; now is the time to get creative with how we stay connected.
If you’re coping with feelings of loneliness, there are charities and groups that can help. It’s important that no one feels alone during this pandemic.
You could even play an online scavenger hunt game with your friends and family over a video call. This is a fun activity where you can celebrate spending time together and forget about any distances between loved ones.
While it’s great to stay connected to those around us, there will be times when external help is required. For instance, those who already struggle with anxiety or depression may feel very overwhelmed by current events. Not everyone has a big support network that they can reach out to. Some of us may be grieving. If for any reason you feel you have no one to talk to, online counselling can be a good way to reach out.
A confidential chat with a professional counsellor can be reassuring and a productive outlet for your internal dialogue. No problem is too small. Talking through your emotions can help you see through the problem to a solution. It can also allow you to see the problem or feeling in a different or new way. Talking is the best way to release built up tension and ensure it is released in a productive and safe way. Studies show that bottling up negative emotions is not only bad for our mental health but can actually impact our immune system and physical well-being.
As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Click HERE to see how one of our professional counsellors can assist you.
Stay safe, stay well, stay connected.