Caring for Your Wellbeing During Lockdown

The week before half term was Mental Health Awareness Week.  Whilst we are still in some degree of lockdown our Pastoral Tutor wanted to share some tips on how to care for our mental health whilst we are in lockdown.  Some of these you may already have implemented without even realising that it was your way of coping with the isolation.


8 Practices To Help Maintain Mental Health During The Coronavirus Lockdown

Have a routine (as much as you can)

“Studies in resiliency during traumatic events encourage keeping a routine to your day,” says Deborah Serani, PsyD, professor of psychology at Adelphi University and author of "Sometimes When I'm Sad.” “This means eating meals at regular times, sleeping, waking and exercising at set times, and maintaining social (socially distant) contact. Unstructured time can create boredom, spikes in anxiety or depression, which can lead to unhealthy patterns of coping.”

Start a home exercise routine

Working out at home in these times is obviously a good way to stay healthy and kill indoor time. Many online workout sources are offering free access or longer free trial periods during this time, which might be worth looking into. But again, anything that gets your heart pumping or builds muscle is excellent for both physical and mental health.

Get outside—in nature—if you can

This is much easier in the country or suburbs, but if you’re in the city and it’s feasible, shimmy past your neighbours and go for a walk in the park. Remember to stay 2 metres away from other people—as city dwellers know, this can take some manoeuvring, but it’s possible.

And there are some very good reasons to do so. Lots of recent research finds that spending time in nature is a boost to both mental and physical health.

Declutter your home

Working on your home if you have time can be a good way to feel productive and in control (see caveat down below though). “Take the opportunity of the extra time by decluttering, cleaning or organizing your home,” says Serani, referencing the book Trauma-Informed Care. “Studies say the predictability of cleaning not only offers a sense of control in the face of uncertainty, but also offers your mind body and soul a respite from traumatic stress.”

The caveat is that you don’t want to become obsessive about cleaning, since there’s only so much you can do. But using the extra time, if you have it, to reorganize and throw out or donate items you no longer use is a very good idea.

Meditate, or just breathe

Meditation has lots of research behind it, as most people by now know—it’s been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and even increase the volume of certain areas of the brain.

But if meditation isn’t for you, just breathing slowly might be. Controlled breathing has been used for millennia to calm the mind—and a study a few years ago showed the mechanism that might explain it. The researchers found that a tiny subset of neurons in the area of the brain known to control various types of breathing also seemed to house a group of neurons that controlled the animals’ level of arousal. Knocking this area out made mice uncharacteristically calm—and the team believe that slow breathing might also tap into this area of the brain and have the same effect.

Maintain community and social connection

As mentioned, we’re fundamentally social creatures, and during crises it’s natural to want to gather. Social connectivity is the perhaps the greatest determinant of wellbeing there is, as this landmark 80-year-long study from Harvard reported, and one of our most basic psychological needs. Unfortunately, it’s the opposite of what we can do right now, so we have to be creative, to maintain both psychological closeness and a sense of community. Texting and social media are ok, but picking up the phone and talking or videoconferencing, or having a safe-distance conversation on the street, is probably much better.

Be of service, from a distance

Being of service is one of the best things we can do for society—and on a more selfish note, for ourselves. Studies have repeatedly found that serving others, even via small acts of kindness, has strong and immediate mental health benefits. And feeling a sense of purpose has also been shown to help people recover from negative events and build resilience. For people who are lucky enough to be healthy right now and not caring for a loved one who is sick, finding ways to help others in this kind of crisis is probably very good for your own well-being.

Practice gratitude

This is not the easiest thing to do in these times, particularly if you’ve felt the more brutal effects of the pandemic, like job or business loss, or illness. But practicing gratitude for the things we do have has been shown again and again to be hugely beneficial to mental health. For instance, in one of the first key studies on the subject, the researchers found that writing down five things one was grateful just once a week was significantly linked to increased well-being.  So even though it might be a challenge right now, write down some of the things you’re grateful for; or if you find it’s easier, try talking about and listing aloud things that make you happy and that you’re thankful for.