Disclosure – this is a collaborative post.
How are you doing, dear reader? Are you okay? Are you managing to adjust to this strange new existence that we’re now calling “the new normal”? It’s totally fine if you’re not. You’re far from alone. Even if you’re lucky enough to have been unaffected by the virus itself, there’s a good chance that the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown have already wrought some pretty significant changes in your life. You’re almost certainly spending a lot more time indoors than you ever used to. You might be grappling with the logistics of working from home and dividing your attention between your work and your kids in a much more immediate way. You may have found yourself working as a part time teacher on top of your day job as you homeschool your kids using resources sent by their teachers. You may have a partner who is out of work or have to make some significant changes to your household budget to accommodate a diminished income.
Whatever changes the pandemic has necessitated in your life, it’s likely that (over 3 weeks in and with at least 3 more to go), all this self-isolation, social distancing and global calamity are beginning to affect your mental wellbeing. In the wake of the lockdown, the nation has seen a huge spike in depression and anxiety across the populace. Still, just as we can take precautions to prevent ourselves from catching the virus itself, we can also implement changes to safeguard our mental health.
Here are some mood boosting must-dos for readers that will hopefully make lockdown living a little more bearable, and perhaps even help you find some positives.
Let yourself cry if you need to
If you’re a parent, you’re likely all-too accustomed to staying strong for your kids. You are their model for stability. As such, you might not want to let them see your resolve crack. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let yourself cry. You may want to cry for all those who have lost their lives or loved ones. You may feel the need to cry for all the people who will have no choice but to shutter their businesses once all this is over. Or you may simply weep for the little things that you never thought you could miss this much like a trip to the cinema, shopping on a rainy Saturday afternoon or popping out for coffee with a friend.
Bottling up your emotions rarely leads to positive outcomes. Having a good cry, however, can help us to regulate our brain chemistry, reduce stress, sleep tight at night and even boost our immune systems. Who knew that a good blub could be so beneficial?
Embrace the positives… because there are positives
It may be hard to see the positives of this situation. They may seem drowned in a deluge of negativity. However, there are always positives in virtually any situation. This is no exception. You no longer have to endure the stressful rush hour commute through jam packed streets. You’re able to spend more quality time with your kids or significant other. You may have a new opportunity to address your work / life balance and re-engage with your old hobbies, reigniting a creative spark that has lain dormant for far too long. You might simply enjoy breathing in the clearer, cleaner air that we can enjoy with fewer cars on the road and marvel at the animals and birds that have begun to return to our built-up areas.
The positives aren’t always easy to see. Especially in a situation as grave and unprecedented as this. Nonetheless, there’s always positivity to be found if we condition ourselves to look for it. This is where we may need to employ some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques. Over time, we can train our brains not to dwell on negativity, not to catastrophise and to keep a clear focus on the positives, even in a situation that may seem impossible.
Check in with friends, regularly
Social distancing and self-isolation may mean that we have to sacrifice our time with our nearest and dearest for the greater good. However, that doesn’t mean that we need to suffer through this pandemic without getting to see the friends that mean so much to us. Even if its through the screen of a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
We need our friends now, more than ever. And they need us just as much. They may have lost someone close to them to the virus already. They may be worried about a relative or loved one who is affected by it and getting care. They could have lost work and income during the lockdown. They may have a lot that they want to get off their chests but don’t want to be a bother to anyone. Your call can make a world of difference to them.
Set reminders for yourself to send text messages or check in with friends over the phone or via video chat. Friendship is extremely important in managing our mental health. A long chat with friends can help us to feel better about the situation and give us the human contact that we all crave. Sure, you might not get the chance to hug them for at least a few weeks. But hearing their voices and seeing their faces can prove a real tonic for your wellbeing.
Help someone vulnerable in your community
One of the few nice things to come out of the pandemic is the newfound sense of community that we have discovered. All over the country, we’re seeing stirring examples of neighbours pulling together to help one another in terms of both logistics and morale. We’re seeing community efforts to get food and medicine to the vulnerable. Volunteers are doing whatever they can to look after the people geographically closest to them, forming closer bonds with their neighbours.
Now is the perfect time to show your children that not all heroes wear capes or fly around in suits of armour. That they can be heroes too by protecting the people in their communities. Helping others will not only allow us to get through this crisis and emerge as a better nation, it is also a proven and effective mood booster.
Surprise someone you love with a present
Most people will be reticent to check their post these days. More than ever, when something flops onto the doormat it feels like a harbinger of doom. A bill that we can do without or, worse still, a piece of bad news. Imagine, then, the joy that you can bring to somebody’s life by sending them an unexpected present. It can be something little like a physical copy of a book or a film that you know they’d love. Or it might be something a little more extravagant like a nice bottle of wine or an ornament for their home. It doesn’t even have to be for them. It might be something for their kids. There’s no greater gift you can give a friend than the gift of seeing their kids’ face light up with joy. Check out services like Kaiby Baby Box for super cute gift boxes for your friends’ little ones. Of course, even if you don’t have the budget to send your friends a gift in the post, even something as simple as a letter can make a huge difference to them.
Letter writing is an almost forgotten art in this digital age, but there’s a certain romance to correspondence by post that’s aching to be rekindled. And what better time than now? Letter writing has a wide range of benefits both for the sender and for the recipient.
Find a pen pal. Yep, that’s still a thing!
After you’ve sent some letters to your friends, you may have an urge to brighten more people’s days with letters. Why not do this on an international scale by finding a pen pal? Yep, that’s totally still a thing! There are numerous services that can help you to get in touch with an overseas pen pal. While this may seem like a quaint anachronism, it’s actually particularly important right now. We need to build a spirit of international understanding more than ever, and talking with a newfound friend overseas might help to give you a new perspective on your own lockdown experience.
Eat your veggies and fruits… and very little else
This is an outstanding opportunity to cut out the sugary, fatty and processed foods and embrace the goodness of a wholefoods diet that consists mostly (or entirely) of plants. Studies have shown that eating more plants can help to elevate your mood and decrease stress. So make sure every meal features a colourful plate that’s bursting with green goodness.
Get the whole family involved in keeping your home neat and tidy
Finally, with the whole family sharing the home, it can be very difficult to keep things clean and tidy. But mess and clutter can have a profoundly negative impact on your mental health. You can’t shoulder the burden of keeping the home clean and tidy on your own. So make sure that your significant other and kids all have their own responsibilities when it comes to keeping a neat, tidy and relaxing home.
Disclosure – this is a collaborative post.