As this second lockdown drags on and the world continues to fight back against Covid-19 the change in our usual routine can be stressful. The little things that we used to do without thinking, popping to the shop, nipping round a friend’s for a coffee, taking the kids to soft play, are suddenly impossible. Those previously simple little things now feel like a huge frustration.
We may have to take on the challenge of home-schooling again (with varying success depending what day, hour or even minute it is) while also potentially worrying about increased pressure on our finances. The children are working their way through the kitchen cupboards like a plague of locusts, and the food shopping bill has rocketed while at the same time our ability to earn money has been made much more difficult. So how do we stay sane with all this going on?
It’s more important now than ever to be aware of our mental wellbeing, because even the most laid-back person in the world might be starting to feel the effects of these changes and sometimes this can show itself in some unexpected ways.
There are five main ways to manage your wellbeing, and they are particularly useful to remember at the moment.
5 Ways to Wellbeing.
Even on days when all hell has broken loose in the house and you feel thoroughly frazzled, try to get out of the house and get some exercise. Go for a walk, a run or a bike ride. Physical activity has a HUGELY beneficial effect on your wellbeing, even if it seems a chore to get going.
Try and speak to someone outside of your household, on the phone, via text, Zoom, whatever you prefer, every day if you can. If you’re having a bad day and don’t want to bother your friends with it, speak to a professional (check out Gloucestershire County Councils website for some useful links). For children, calls to grandparents, their school friends or other familiar faces can help to reassure them that although things are a bit different the people they care for are still there and are ok.
This is a chance for the whole family to explore new topics that they’re interested in. With fewer places to go we’re spending more and more time in our homes so why not get the kids to start their own project? This could be outer space, animals, art, the ancient Egyptians or music… anything at all that grabs their interest. And for the grown-ups, we can learn with them. Children who see the adults in their lives continue to learn are more motivated to learn themselves. You don’t have to tackle a whole new discipline (remember how we all thought we would use lockdown to learn to play the ukulele or whatnot?). But maybe dedicating 10 mins a day to learning a new language (from apps like dualingo) is still possible? Or a new skill like knitting that you can pick up and put down when time allows, or simply get together as a family to learn a new recipe.
Make an extra special effort to look at the things that are around you, but you don’t really take in usually. Look at the family photos on the walls, Look around your home and associate those knick-knacks we accumulate over time with the memories attached to them.
Sit in the garden or by a window and appreciate the nature around you, even if that’s just a few bugs and birds.
Mindfulness (AKA switching off for a bit)
For anyone who has never tried mindfulness it can sound a bit daft, but really all it is is clearing your mind of the niggles and worries for a short time and just focusing on the things around you – the noises, the smells, the things we can see right here and now. It gives your brain a bit of a break. It takes practice, and you will find that the thoughts do pop back in from time to time. Don’t kick yourself, just think ‘whoops, I’ve drifted’ and plan to come back to whatever that thought was about later on, then turn your mind back to the sights and sounds around you. If you’re new to mindfulness you can try using a prop – a pretty pot plant, a candle, or just gazing out of a particular window. Focus on it, what colours do you see? Can you notice any noises that you usually tune out? does it have a particular smell? Does it make you feel something unexpected?
There are a number of good free apps for helping you to practice mindfulness.
At the moment it can be hard to think about ‘giving’, especially if you are feeling overloaded – how could you ‘give’ your time and energy to others when you don’t feel like you have enough yourself?
Helping others improves your mood, and it doesn’t have to mean volunteering for local organisations (although if you can, brilliant). Do you know someone who just might appreciate a call? Can you send some funny memes to someone who might need cheering up? Can you do something nice for your family – run someone a bath or cook them their favourite tea?
We can help others in small ways, it doesn’t have to be an enormous show of philanthropy.
It’s important to remember that although it may not be given quite as it usually is, support is still available. Primary mental health services are operating as normal and your GP can refer you to them if required.