The British public is approaching the end of week 8 of lockdown.
In many respects, the time has flown by, as March morphed into April and now May, and suddenly Summer seems to have arrived.
8 weeks is a long time to be in isolation, and although the Government looks as if it is going to start easing the lockdown, the gradual opening of the economy means that there are likely to be many more days at home to come.
It’s been widely reported the Government has been surprised at how law abiding the public has been, obediently adhering to the order to ‘Stay Home, Save Lives, Protect The NHS’. A key part of the Government's messaging has been that we need a community-wide effort, to each do our bit to stop the spread of the virus.
However, the impact of the lockdown has not been shared equally, and has taken a mental toll on a lot of people. For families in city suburbia with a large garden, the slower pace of life and the good weather may have been enjoyable. It’s a different story for the singleton, living in a tower block, furloughed or made redundant.
Being in isolation for so long, especially with the backdrop of the coronavirus, can be mentally challenging, making us feel lonely and increasing our levels of anxiety. The good news is that there are many steps that we can take to pro-actively improve our mental wellbeing.
Try to avoid speculation
Covid-19 generates a significant number of negative headlines which can be over-bearing. In many cases, coronavirus reports focus on death rates and the negative economic impact. If you listen to some news outlets, it can appear that we are in the midst of Armageddon.
Try to limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren't making you happy. Stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as government and NHS websites. If you're looking to keep up to date on the development of Covid-19, try tuning into the Government’s daily press conference which takes place at 5pm and is shown on the BBC.
Try to stay connected
Some people won’t have had a proper face-to-face chat with someone else for 8 weeks. Indeed, the closest to interaction, or intimacy, may have been the trip to the supermarket or outdoor exercise.
Staying in touch with those you care about will help to maintain good mental health during long periods of self-isolation. Aim to agree regular check-in times and feel connected to the people around you. Use apps such as HouseParty to keep connected with friends and family online.
Keep busy and try to avoid boredom
Sheer boredom is sufficient to lower mood. It allows the mind to wonder and can induce a feeling of loneliness and anxiety. Try to keep yourself busy, whether this is mentally or physically, as this will help avoid negative thoughts as well as pass time quicker.
Tasks that can stifle boredom include reading a good book, becoming engrossed in a TV series (Normal People is a good start), exercising, and, taking up a hobby such as writing.
Use your exercise allowance
It’s long been known that any exercise has positive effects on mood and helps to fight depression. There are biological explanations which include the pituitary gland releasing more endorphins (‘natural painkillers’) which are mood lifters and a reduction of immune system chemicals that can make depression worse. There are also secondary effects such as improving your quality of sleep.
Try to take your daily exercise allowance, even if it is a light walk. It's a great chance to get out of the house, and see other people in the flesh, albeit whilst adhering to the two-metre social distancing rule.
Manage your use of social media
Even before the lockdown, social media had become an integral (and to a large extent, unavoidable) part of our lives. While social media platforms can have their benefits, using them too frequently can amplify the fear of missing out (FOMO), which is associated with lower mood and life satisfaction.
Try to stick to engaging with family and close friends, and following pages that are uplifting and aspiring rather than those with which you compare you own life to. In essence, use social media as an motivational and uplifting tool. Using social media to do workouts, such as with the body coach Joe Wicks, is a good example.
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