Looking after your mental health following lockdown

It’s Talk to Us Month – Samaritans’ focus on mental health and the services the charity offers in each community. As we come out of lockdown, but with Coronavirus far from over, we need more support than ever to look after our emotional wellbeing and to face the coming months.

According to the Office for National Statistics, almost half the UK population (49.6%) has reported high levels of anxiety since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic. And more than four in 10 (43%) psychiatrists in the UK saw an increase in urgent and emergency cases during lockdown – while, at the same time, fearing a surge in routine appointments as restrictions start to ease.

Shielding ends in England at the end of July and in Wales on August 16, leading to heightened anxiety among many who have felt safe at home for nearly five months. So how can we approach the next phase of these unsettling times and remain positive? Our senior manager Martin Ricketts has these ideas:

The write medicine

According to neuroscientist and author Dr Tara Swart, journaling can be a powerful way of understanding your emotions and spotting repeated patterns in your behaviour. You don’t have to write reams, but finding five minutes each day to reflect on your motivations and behaviour can bring positive benefits. Be honest in what you write, so you can acknowledge and start to challenge negative thoughts and behaviour.

Don’t worry, be app-y

Apps can be a great way to keep track of how you’re feeling and to boost your mood, whether with a three-minute meditation or just giving you space to savour the small things that make you smile. The NHS’ Feeling Good app helps relax mind and body and build confidence, while Calm helps manage stress and supports good sleep. Mindfulness and meditation app Headspace remains popular, while Happify has a number of science-based games and activities to help overcome negative thoughts.

As nature intended

There’s no doubt that being outside in nature, or watching it from the garden or window, has helped many of us through lockdown. This year’s BBC Springwatch proved one of the most popular series yet, with a focus on the benefits of nature on mental health, while gardening sales have soared as more of us turn to growing our own vegetables and creating bug hotels and bird feeding stations in our outdoor space. 

Try walking first thing in the morning, just before sunset or after rainfall, when nature’s colours and scents can be at their most vibrant. If you’re unable to leave the house, sit by an open window for 15 minutes each day, focusing on the sounds and scents outside. The National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ is brilliant whatever your age, and many activities on the list can be done within current distancing guidelines. 

Home sweet home

If, like most of our staff, you’ve been working from home for months, feelings of loneliness and isolation can seem quite overwhelming. Happiful has some great tips to foster a positive mindset while working at home, including creating a divide between work and home life, taking a lunchtime walk and doing some simple stretching exercises throughout the day. 

Stay positive on social media 

Social media can be a great place to connect with like-minded people, both personally and professionally, but it can also be negative – and, without our ‘normal’ routine, it can become addictive. Keep your social media lighthearted and positive by unfollowing people who post unkind comments and don’t try to debate with those you disagree with; simply ignore them and scroll on by. 

Stop comparing your life to others – we all know that most people show a glossy, edited version of their world! Remember that it’s your space and you have no obligation to let anyone in if they make you feel uncomfortable. Think of it as your living room; you’re probably quite selective about who you invite in for a cup of tea! Most importantly of all, switch off your phone for a portion of each day, whether that’s on your lunch break or an hour or two before you go to bed. Those messages really can wait!

We’ve written a series of guides to better mental and physical health, including how to stay healthy through lockdown and how to train your brain to be positive. You might also want to read our guide to the positive lifestyle choices you can make, including changing your diet and using essential oils.

If you need extra support at this challenging time, find out more about the services offered by charities such as Mind and Hafal. And if you’re really struggling, contact Samaritans free from any phone, 24/7, on 116 123.

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