Within the last few months, Covid-19 has become a global pandemic that has resulted in multiple countries entering lockdown, in order to protect the NHS and the physical health of those that are vulnerable. This consists of social distancing, everyone staying at home where possible, and only leaving the house for essentials. Whilst this is a step that is absolutely necessary in order to save lives, lockdown itself is proving to have a severe negative impact on those with preexisting mental health conditions, and is also causing mental health issues to arise for those who haven’t necessarily suffered from them before.
Personally, I have found that my own mental health has deteriorated rapidly within the last couple of days. As time goes by, the uncertainty of the future is beginning to set in and being unable to live life as usual is beginning to take its toll. In general, I manage my own battle with my mental health by doing ‘normal’ daily things, such as going to my university lectures and seeing those who are important to me. However, being in lockdown has made these standard things unobtainable. This has resulted in me suffering from feelings of intense anxiety and depression.
Having sat here for the last few days, feeling as though I’m in an all consuming bubble of helplessness and paranoia, it occurred to me that I’m not the only person experiencing these feelings. We are all experiencing the same fears and anxieties together, at the same time. I began thinking of ways I could channel the feelings myself and many others are having, whilst also starting to figure out how the current situation can be dealt with in a healthy way. After looking at many sites and going over different coping strategies that I’ve previously learnt in CBT, I compiled a list of different activities/daily tasks that can be done in order to feel better mentally, or that can be used as a distraction from negative thoughts/emotions. Below are a few that I believe to be most effective.
1. Having a ‘normal routine’
Although daily life has drastically changed due to the lockdown, keeping to a set daily routine is extremely important when it comes to having a healthy mind. This includes having a specific time to get up, shower and eat meals. Going for walks also really helps to clear the mind. All of these things give a sense of normality and give you a daily purpose to get up and do something. Depression and anxiety can make doing this seem near impossible, and it’s okay to feel that way – however if you persevere it can make you feel so much better mentally. Personally I have not kept to a routine, and ultimately my mental state has suffered for it. However, it’s never too late to get on track and slowly integrate into one.
2. Speaking to people
When feeling mentally overwhelmed, it can be hard to reach out and even have a ‘typical’ conversation with friends/family. However, shutting off from people can severely increase negative feelings and thoughts. It’s important to continue speaking to people, to ensure that you are still having interactions with others. A text here and there or a FaceTime to a friend can make the world of difference to your mental state. Even discussing how you are feeling can have a positive impact, as the chances are, they are most likely experiencing the same emotions due to the current situation. This in itself is comforting and can potentially help you come to terms with any negative feelings.
3. Turning to something you are passionate about
Everyone has something they are passionate about – whether it be music, writing or reading etc. It can be easier to distract yourself from negative thoughts when you have something you enjoy to focus on. Personally, music has been a great help to me. It often helps me escape reality, and takes me away from the heaviness of the world for a while. Life can get overwhelming, especially during these tough times. Having healthy distractions in place can help lift some of the weight that mental health issues carry.
4. Challenging negative thoughts/anxieties
Whilst looking into ways that I can challenge my own negative thoughts, I remembered that my old psychologist would regularly give me worksheets to help me pinpoint what triggers negative emotions/thoughts and how to cope with them. Upon doing some research, I came across a website full of different worksheets that can be used to cope with multiple mental health difficulties, including depression, anxiety and PTSD.
These can be found at ‘www.psychpoint.com/mental-health/worksheets’. I found and continue to find these extremely useful, especially when experiencing anxieties about the pandemic and the uncertainty of the future. I genuinely believe that acknowledging triggers and focusing on healthy coping strategies/resolutions can really help to improve your mental health.
There are many more distractions and coping mechanisms that crossed my mind throughout writing this, however I didn’t want to write too much and wanted to focus mainly on ones that I personally find most effective. Mental health can be extremely debilitating and I know that myself and many others are finding it incredibly difficult to deal with during lockdown. I hope that some or all of these suggestions help if you are struggling too.