The 'New normal'
Now, more than ever, we need to look after our mental wellbeing. Coronavirus has had an impact on all our lives and taking care of our mental health can help us cope with the challenges and uncertainty of lockdown as we adapt to a ‘new normal’.
There are lots of little things you can do to support your mental wellbeing. Explore the ideas below, making sure you take things at your own pace and only do what feels comfortable for you.
Paddle in the sea. Go blackberrying. Hike through local woodland. Grow your own vegetables. Sit on a park bench and look at the flowers. Spending time in nature helps reduce anxiety and depression and being outside in natural light can be helpful if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Give yourself time to completely switch off and allow your brain and body to relax. If you struggle to relax then explore using guided meditations and gentle yoga practices such as yin yoga and restorative yoga. Listening to binaural beats can also help shift the brain into what’s known as the alpha-theta state — a state of deep relaxation and restoration.
Lockdown has meant that many of us are feeling isolated and lonely. Now is a great time to reconnect with old friends — they are probably missing you just as much as you are missing them. Reaching out to neighbours, socialising with work colleagues and joining group exercise classes are other ways to feel more connected. Scheduling weekly catch ups with family and friends online is also a great way to stay connected if you can’t be together physically.
There are some great meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm with lots of different styles of meditation to explore. Or a really simple technique is to simply find a quiet space, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Count each exhale from 1-10 and then begin again at 1. Repeat for 2-3 minutes. When you mind wanders (which it will!) and you lose count, simply begin counting your breath at 1 again.
Yoga is a great way to take care of your physical and mental health. You can go to a local yoga studio or practise at home. There are some great classes on YouTube you can access for free and you can find yoga books for all levels online and in bookshops.
Painting, drawing and writing are all beautiful ways to process what is going on in the world at the moment. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t created any kind of artwork since school — simply get a sketchbook and have a doodle.
The breath is one of the most powerful ways of calming the nervous system and stopping any anxious thoughts. A simple technique is the 3-6-9 technique. Simply inhale for a count of 3, hold your breath for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 9.
What we eat has a huge impact on our emotional wellbeing. Pay attention to how certain foods make you feel. Maybe you feel energised after eating that three bean chilli but those cookies made you feel sluggish? Or maybe the salad you had for lunch left you feeling hungry and bloated but the peanut butter toast you had for a snack felt really nourishing. Try and eat lots of wholefoods and avoid any overly restrictive diets.
10. Switch off
Make sure you give yourself lots of technology-free time each day. If you catch yourself scrolling through your phone, notice how you are feeling and what you really need. Be especially mindful of using your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night and try and steer clear of it for at least 30 minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed.
Find ways of exercising you enjoy. Movement is great for mental and physical wellbeing and includes everything from walking and hiking to weightlifting and boxing. It can be hard to motivate yourself if you’re feeling low, so begin with a something short and simple. If you don’t want to leave the house, there are lots of home workouts online you can try too.
12. Slow down
Sometimes the most urgent thing was can do is slow down. We are in the middle of a pandemic and you can’t expect yourself to operate at the same pace as before. It is okay if you need more breaks than usual.
Journaling helps us process what is going on inside us and around us. You can freestyle journal which means you simply write whatever comes to mind or use journal prompts.
Sometimes we simply need to feel our feelings fully. A mindfulness technique called RAIN can help us be with our emotions.
- Recognise — What are you feeling?
- Allow — Can you allow those feelings to be there instead of distracting yourself?
- Investigate — Where do you feel the emotion in your body? What physical sensations are you experiencing? How do those sensations change?
- Nurture — What do you need? What is the most loving thing you could do for yourself?