Lockdown can bring up many mental challenges that we don’t expect and don’t have the experience to navigate easily. For some people, mostly the introverted, Lockdown can be reasonably easy to navigate if not enjoyable in some ways. For others, it can cause mild levels of depression that become hard to manage when isolated – think of our extroverts who need people to recharge their batteries.
Whilst everyone likes to say “we are all in this together”, and we are, but we all have very different experiences and challenges.
I am speaking to people who are typically upbeat and outgoing but during this lockdown, they are struggling to find their happy space. And this can be both confusing and confronting. Even the introverted who enjoy being at home are finding it tough having everyone else at home with them constantly and not getting a break from people. Even if they love them.
Then there are those who live alone and are isolated. And of course, the financial challenge for many. Life in lockdown can be extremely challenging for people in this situation. Sometimes we may start to feel different and not even realise it for a while.
We can’t change what the rules are and what we have to live with. What we do have control over is how we think, to a certain degree, and what we do within the rules we’ve been given. We have control over our actions within the home.
What are some things we can do to help survive this difficult time and care for our mental health?
- Firstly, accept that you are in this space and stop focusing on being angry about it. I get you may feel angry. Whether it is fair or appropriate is irrelevant to your mental health. You can’t change it so focusing on the negative only makes you feel Start saying to yourself that “Yep, this is hard, I don’t like it, don’t agree with it. But I can’t change it, I will be ok, this will end, I will use this time to look after myself”. Or something to that effect.
- Reflect on who you are (introverted, extroverted, a mix) and what you need to ‘charge your batteries’. Be honest with yourself. If you hate being isolated and away from friends, then acknowledge that. If you are struggling having your family on top of you every day, then be honest about that with yourself. Self-insight is really important to help manage our mental health so taking time to think about your mental and emotional needs is important.
- Once you know what your needs are, look at ways to try and meet those needs as best you can in this situation. One very extroverted friend of mine said he is struggling with being isolated and so he and his mates hooked up a Zoom call, fired up their barbeques and sat with their beers and had a remote barbecue. Is that as good as being with his mates? Of course not, but he found a way to lessen the feeling of isolation and connect with his mates. Think about ways you can connect with people you miss.
- Be aware that Winter and the lockdown are both having an impact on our Vitamin D levels. There is evidence to support Vitamin D has an impact on our mood and being deficient can cause our mood to drop. Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement to support your mood during this time.
- Make a list of things you can achieve during this time or things to do to keep you busy and fulfilled. Learn a new skill, try a new hobby, finish (or start), something you have wanted to do but never had the time. Some ideas and some things people I know are doing are:
- learn to cook or if you can cook, learn some new recipes or get creative.
- Grab your camera if you have one or your phone if not and get creative with some photography. There are plenty of apps available to edit your photos and you can have some fun creating.
- Get fitter. Hard to get the motivation with this sometimes but again there is a huge number of online tutorials to help you. Some basic weights or exercise equipment which you can easily get delivered online will help start this journey. Even consider setting up a Zoom session with a friend and exercise together remotely. Maybe set yourself a challenge and start a competition in your home or with friends.
- Declutter one room in your home every few days. This alone is great for our mental health, having an organised space.
- Get your photo collection out and organise it.
- If you have a dog, teach it a new trick. Your dog will love the time with you too.
- Write a book. Maybe nobody will ever read it, that isn’t the point though. Get creative and write your own novel. Or if that doesn’t appeal, how about writing your life story. That itself can be quite a journey and something nice to read and reflect on years down the track. It can also be really therapeutic.
- Set up online dates with friends. Plan ahead so you have something to look forward to.
- If you are part of a couple, set up date night as though you are going out to dinner. Set a romantic table, a nice meal, get dressed up and create the theme as though you are at a restaurant. Creating this can be as fun as the meal itself.
- Get the board games out and play with family or again, remotely with friends.
- Learn to sew or knit.
- Take up a musical instrument.
- Take an online course.
- Make some family videos.
6. Be kind to yourself. It’s ok if you feel flat. Don’t compare yourself to how others are doing, we all do this lockdown thing differently because we have different environments and different needs. Reach out to someone you trust to talk about how you feel. Sometimes just acknowledging that can be enough to help you through a tough moment.
7.Reach out for counselling. Many people haven’t tried counselling, believing it to be for people who are mentally not well. It’s actually the opposite. It is about helping people navigate moments in life and helping them to understand themselves so they can make healthy changes for themselves. We don’t ‘fix’ people, we help, guide, support and accept. We have been trained to listen and ask good questions to help you learn about you.
It’s interesting, in other countries, people have their “own therapist” who they speak to as they need and they see this as legitimate as visiting the dentist or taking the car to the mechanic. They speak about it freely. It is a positive and a good thing to have your own therapist. In Australia though, we view it as a negative need and not something that we embrace as a good thing, nor do we share the experience with our friends. I have some clients who treat is as kindness to themselves and see me regularly for years. Not because they have ‘issues’ but simply because they enjoy it.
As a counsellor, I need to do regular sessions with another counsellor to make sure I am doing my job well. I love these sessions. I have a counsellor who I have worked closely with for years and genuinely look forward to my sessions with him. It is a time that is just about me, to say whatever I feel and not worry about judgement. Some times I get a little out of those sessions, other times I get a lot. After more than a decade of doing this job, I still learn about myself. Lockdown is the perfect time to try out counselling and see if you like it. Not only will you get some support in a difficult time, you may learn something about yourself and come out of lockdown in a better head space and having a cool resource to use in future.
8.Try and get a healthy routine going. It can be tempting to sleep in, lie in your pyjamas all day and do nothing. I love this for the odd day or two, pyjama days can be really healthy, but not frequently. Get dressed, exercise, eat well, have a plan to achieve at least one thing (big or small) each day.
9.Rearrange a room. This can be fun and create a different environment when you are stuck in the one environment. No cost involved here but if you need a few things, again there are plenty of places delivering during this time with no contact. Nothing like a fresh space to enjoy being stuck in!
10.Finally, keep a diary of this time. Written or video, it can be a really great way of identifying how you are going and it is something that we can all do and reflect on in years to come.
This can be a really challenging time. Be kind to yourself, remind yourself it will end at some point and reach out for help if you feel down.
All the best.