How to look after your mental health during the lockdown

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing isn’t easy during lockdown. You may be self-isolating at home or living in a cramped room with shared facilities. Whatever your situation here’s how to stay well.

Acknowledge your stress

It’s a stressful time when normal life becomes something very different and restricted. The psychological impact can be wide-ranging and substantial. What helps here is to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings so you can manage them more effectively than you might do in everyday life. Start by giving yourself a break about what you feel you ‘should’ be doing right now. If you don’t feel like working today, don’t work. If you need to spend all day on Netflix, do it.

Mentally prepare for the day

Of course, it can be all too easy to fall into a Groundhog Day mind-set where every day just merges into the next with no real focus. What helps is to ask – “What do I need to do today to stay healthy and productive?” Productive doesn’t have to mean study; it can be something as simple as getting dressed, and calling a friend or going for a long walk.

Photo credit: fizkes, Shutterstock

Act when you feel socially isolated

At some point, you will feel isolated but when you do don’t retreat into your bedroom instead make an effort to connect. Video chat a friend, message your family, or call someone up. These are all ways to make a real connection while in isolation. Also, consider reaching out to helplines and University counsellors all of who can help if you feel your anxiety feels as if it’s out of control.

Maintain a healthy sleep schedule

The other problem with isolation is it’s easy to get into a routine of eating when you feel like it and sleeping and waking whenever you want. The problem here is it throws your body out of rhythm and can leave you feeling tired and groggy, and down about life.

Open the curtains and let the light in, and try to eat at the usual times. Don’t stay in a dark room all day watching TV, or on your phone or computer. Reduced exposure to daylight and sun will reduce the amount of melatonin and serotonin being produced in the brain; this can lower mood and affect your sleep pattern.

Stop watching rolling news

24/7 coverage of the COVID-19 can cause enhanced anxiety, mainly because the press leans towards negative stories. To help yourself avoid overexposure only check in once a day at a set time, preferably not before bed. Also make sure you go to legitimate sources of information and avoid conspiracy theories, which have been shown to affect mental health negatively.

Take extra care if you are self-isolating on campus

Living on campus can be tough right now, as it’s likely to be empty, which in itself can feel depressing. Be sure to take advantage of any help your university is offering. Remember they are not closed and are still operating, albeit in a different way. Find out about appropriate pastoral care via your university website, make use of any additional tutor meetings for extra support and see what student union help is available to you.

Ask for help if you are self-isolating in shared accommodation

Follow the guidelines if you are self-isolating for 14 days and living in shared accommodation but remember to ask for help. Ask housemates to bring you food and medicine but leave it outside the door and if you are unwell to check on you. However, you will need to avoid all shared living spaces where possible. If you need to cook, you should only use the kitchen when no one else is there so arrange set times with your housemates. After use clean, the surfaces you’ve touched and the same goes for shared bathrooms.

Take control

Anxiety levels can rise when we feel we have no control. This is why it pays to keep yourself mentally, and physically fit during the lockdown. Staying active and living in the moment will help you feel in control and able to cope when you are unable to go anywhere.

Where possible, try a daily 45-minute walk in the fresh air, or a YouTube fitness video if you don’t fancy going out. Eat healthy meals and a focus on what you have right now to enjoy, like the time to relax, watch your favourite shows, read and even catch up on your studies.