How to look after your mental wellbeing during these Covid times

The Covid pandemic and resulting lockdowns have had a serious impact on mental wellbeing, but just as there are simple measures to help protect yourself from the virus, there are many different ways to ensure your mental health is guarded during these tough times.

In this exclusive article, Estar Gathu, founder of mental wellbeing and inspirational hub www.thingsihear.co.uk, provides a range of easy-to-follow tips to keeping calm and carrying on.

Nothing makes a better recipe for a mental health crisis than a global lockdown, with all the associated fear and uncertainty. American molecular biologist Joshua Lederberg said, “The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.”  The Covid-19 virus has proved that it is possible, and it’s hit everyone hard — from our nation’s economy to how we interact with one another.

Now, more than ever, it is important to look after our mental health. Just as you improve your diet to optimise your physical wellbeing, feed your mind with a mentally-balanced diet.  

Stay and keep in E-Touch

Humans are social creatures and maintaining healthy relationships is key to optimal mental health. Luckily for us, this global lockdown has come at a time when the internet connects us more than ever before.  We are spoilt for choice on ways to stay in e-touch: WhatsApp, Facetime, IMO, Skype, Facebook, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and, of course, the phone and email.  If there was a time to improve on relationships, or to repair broken ones or create new ones it is now — after all, you have plenty of time.

And when it gets monotonous — i.e. you feel the need to socialise online with a group of your friends — you can now organise e-parties with apps such as Houseparty and Netflix Party.

Avoid information overload

Every day someone comes up with a video that will most definitely contradict the last one you watched about the virus. As much as the web is essential for us right now, not least for staying in touch, it can also induce anxiety and stress because of information overload, conflicting reports, and propaganda. One minute someone says you can eradicate the virus with heat, the next minute someone else says you need ultraviolet rays or bleach, while others will confidently declare that none of it works. All this conflicting information drops on your news feed with no filter. To protect yourself, take a break from reading every piece of advice that comes your way and, if necessary, only focus on those that come from reliable sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Take time out from online activities or, better still, allocate yourself a certain set time for being online and then take a break. It’s good for your brain.

Brain excercise

While offline, take your brain on the treadmill by engaging in old-fashioned games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Jenga and/or Twister (for those who live with others). These are fun and engaging, and will temporarily distract your mind from thoughts of impending doom while also creating a sense of togetherness in the home. 

If you have no board games in your home, you could invent new games that would utilise resources within the house. For instance, you could create a type of ‘house Monopoly’, counting the different types of items around the house and putting a price on them. Create rules that can be clearly understood, along with including some obstacles that can make the game interesting. Teach a dot.com child pre-internet games that required a lot of tact, planning, and execution.

Get physical

As much as we enjoy online interactions, most of it involves a lot of sitting down and lying around. Maintaining our physical wellbeing is essential, and lack thereof can be detrimental to your mental health because the two are interlinked. 

Now, more than ever, the air is fresher because of less traffic and people. A 10-minute walk around your block is probably better than the 10-mile run you took before lockdown life. So, get outside and utilise your once-a-day exercise while observing social distancing rules.  If you feel the need to do something fun, yet also beneficial, YouTube is awash with ideas and tutorials on any form of exercise you can imagine.

Estar Gathu, founder of mental wellbeing website www.thingsihear.co.uk

Get learning

It’s always an added bonus to learn a new skill which is also a way to improve mental wellbeing, boost self-confidence, and raise self-esteem. Learn a new language, for example, or a new craft, or even calculus if that what takes your fancy. Let your imagination run wild in this area. The possibilities are endless. You can learn from strangers online or you can ask a friend to virtually teach you something you. This way, your interaction can become even more meaningful, and beneficial as you both learn something new while staying connected.

And if something breaks in your home, before you call a repairman, why not try to find a solution yourself. You might surprise yourself and learn something very valuable in the process. DIY is now an essential survival skill as much as a pastime.

Practice mindfulness and meditation

Being mindful requires you to be fully focussed and engaged in/with whatever you are doing at that moment. You can do this for a minute or even seconds by being aware of your thoughts and feelings without losing yourself in them, especially if scary thoughts about the possibilities of getting sick or dying invade your thoughts as they do in these challenges times. Do not allow yourself to wallow in such thoughts as they can easily lead to despair and despondence. When you observe such thoughts, breathe deeply in and out. Concentrate on your breathing. It will take your mind away from such negative thoughts, no matter how temporarily. Keep doing it. In these difficult times, when people are losing their lives to this cruel disease, it is vital to live more mindfully and in the moment, as we give gratitude for our health.

Be charitable

Where possible and safe to do so, in compliance with social distancing regulations, give to others — especially the less fortunate. Check on your next-door neighbours or take a walk with them and get to know them better. Use this time to declutter and give away those extras that you do not need, for instance a dress or shoes that you have not worn in more than a year. You don’t have to physically go and take these items to people; you can donate online to charitable causes, who are willing to collect, e.g. the British Heart Foundation. 

Giving is a great way to boost personal wellbeing while improving that of others. It gives a sense of care, belonging and purpose. 

Conclusion

In short, during the pandemic, do whatever it takes to sustain your mental wellbeing, while caring for that of others. Protecting ourselves from the virus includes consideration of our own mental health, and hopefully this advice will be of benefit in doing so.

For more information, visit www.thingsihear.co.uk

Follow Estar Gathu on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at @thingsihear2016

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