How can we look after our mental health and wellbeing in lockdown?

By Dr Phil Clarke

Everyone across the world is facing a period of massive uncertainty. We’re all wondering: When will we be able to meet up with friends and family again? When can we get back to work and our hobbies? When will shopping be normal again? We are facing a massive shift in our normal routines. Many of us are confined to our houses not knowing when this will end or what life will be like afterwards. This all means that it’s really important to look after our mental and physical wellbeing during this period.

So, let’s have a look at some things that can help:

  1. Routine, routine, routine

As humans, we are creatures of habit. Now that we’ve been knocked out of our normal routines, confined to home and unable to engage in some of our usual activities, it is important to create a new routine. This helps to keep our minds on some form of normal path. When you set up your new routine allow some time to be productive (being creative, helping others or planning for the future), some downtime to relax and chill and some time to catch-up online with friends and family.

  1. Sleep

With busy work and social lives, many of us may have been in a sleep deficit when the crisis began. The current situation provides us with an ideal opportunity to catch up on some of that sleep and go further by improving our sleeping routines, sleep quality and sleep quantity.

So first, let’s look at trying to improve our sleep quantity. Start with the time you need to get up in the morning and work backwards to work out what your ideal bedtime should be. Try and stick as close as possible to the time you would wake up normally. This means it won’t be too difficult to get back to normal once we are out of this. Adults need a consistent minimum of eight hours’ sleep. If you usually only get about six, there’s no point going to bed two hours before your usual bedtime. You’ll probably just lie there wide awake. The aim is to work in 15 minutes blocks. So, if you usually go to bed at midnight, then aim to go to bed at 11.45pm and try that for a week or two and then keep working back until you get to your ideal bedtime to get the appropriate number of hours sleep.

  1. Chance for new things

You may now find yourself with a lot of free time on your hands. This is an ideal opportunity to try something you have always wanted to do, or to add some twists to what you currently like doing. You can try a new hobby or skill such as learning another language, baking, gardening or reading. There are lots of online courses and classes available. You might want to use the time to organise photos, or de-clutter the house. Be creative.

  1. Isolation not isolated

The Government wants us to avoid social contact between households. This does not mean, however, that we need to become completely isolated. Modern technology means that we can stay connected with key people without physical contact.

Use this time to stay connected with family, business connections and friends through FaceTime, WhatsApp, video calls etc. Perhaps now is a perfect opportunity to call a friend you have not spoken to in a while and have a good catch-up.

  1. Social media overload

This new-found free time can mean that we spend lots of time scrolling through social media and keeping up to date with the current situation including statistics, Government directives etc.

This can mean that you become overwhelmed with the endless stream of information and also the negativity associated with the current situation. So, when you are setting your routine up, designate a limited amount of time for social media and stick to it.

  1. Help is there for those who ask

We are facing uncertainty around when we are going to get back to normal in both our personal and work lives. This is something we have never faced before, and therefore it’s likely that we will experience tension, anxiety and stress. It’s okay if you find yourself more emotionally affected by this than other situations. This is a real concern for all of us, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Alongside tip four, make sure to talk to your friends and family.

DR Phil Clarke

Dr Phil Clarke is the Sport Psychology Lead at the Derbyshire Institute of Sport and Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology at the University of Derby Online Learning. Through this website and our social media channels, he will be sharing his thoughts on a range of topics as we travel through the current crisis together.

 

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