Social distancing, staying indoors, worrying about the end of the world as we know it (cataclysm, chaos, etc.), these are all things that we would normally avoid to help us stay mentally healthy. However, most of us now suddenly find ourselves staying away from people, staying indoors a lot of the time and understandably worrying about a lot of things.
If you, or anyone you know, are having a hard time at the moment. Here are some tips to keep things as positive as possible.
Human contact is absolutely vital to us all, even the introverts. Make sure you are getting enough contact with other people, even if it is not in-person, and make sure it is good quality. WhatsApp groups only count if you are having personal exchanges. Other social media doesn’t really count. You need personal exchanges of messages and probably real phone calls or video calls.
If you have neighbours you can talk to at a distance, even over a fence or across the road, this really helps you feel like you’ve had real contact with a real person!
Watch out for negative groups or sites that make you feel negative and try and have contact with people that make you feel good. If you have to be in touch with people that are very negative (family members, for example), try and keep it brief, or call them when you are feeling good enough to cheer them up.
Let’s be honest, we all need a certain amount of simple distraction, so you’re likely to spend some time on social media, watching TV, reading, whatever you need, but pay attention to how these things make you feel and steer towards those that are harmless or make you feel good.
All the usual advice for staying healthy applies to your mental health too. Try and avoid junk food, excessive sugar and even alcohol, especially if you feel low. At those times our bodies are more susceptible to the effects of these “drugs” and they can make us feel worse and make it harder to get out of a negative cycle.
I know, easier said than done, but with practice you can actually get better at this. Start by asking yourself what you are worrying about and figuring out whether it is a real threat or not. If it’s not, definitely don’t let yourself think about it! If it’s a real threat, you have to be careful about when you let yourself think about it and how. One way to stop your mind running away with itself is to write about your worries. On paper, you don’t let yourself away with imagining all sorts of terrible things in the same way you do in your head. The negative spiral of worrying thoughts is called ruminating and you can find many, many tips for how to stop. Here is one article: https://psychcentral.com/blog/8-tips-to-help-stop-ruminating/ It’s a really great thing to work on at any time of life, especially just now.
Get some exercise! Even if you can’t leave your tiny apartment, you can keep up an exercise regime if you have one, find an exercise you like on the internet (time to learn yoga or some other type of sport?) dance to some crazy music, or whatever else suits you. Exercise really can help combat depression, and lack of exercise really can contribute, so no excuses!
Eat well. The more healthily you can eat, the more it helps. You might feel restricted but do what you can. You already know what you “should” be doing!
Practise gratitude. If you don’t already do this, it’s a really great habit to get into. If you can find even one thing to be grateful for when you are feeling down, your mood starts to lift almost at once. Try it!
Get some sunshine and fresh air. The best is to exercise in nature if you can, but if you can’t, even just sitting in the sun with the window open will help those brain chemicals to do what you want them to do.
Find a way to laugh and have fun. Play a game with your family or with a friend over a video call or just talk to someone you can have a laugh with or even just watch something funny.
When we start to feel bad, it is really hard to find the motivation to do these things, but they really do help.
Sending you good vibes…