Having a mental illness can be one of the hardest things in the world. However, it’s made 100 times harder, or even more, by being told you have to stay inside. Normally, I cope by exercising, socialising or spending time travelling. With these removed, staying mentally healthy becomes more difficult.
At the moment, this is a necessary evil, and despite its difficulty something we must all do. Coronavirus has taken a lot from many people, including their lives. To protect ourselves and others – we must stay at home.
But how do we protect our mental health?
Like many others, I’m struggling with lockdown, and it’s important we share this feeling and recognise we can support each other; even through locked doors.
My bipolar is always at its worse when I’m in one place and this is exaggerated when that place is inside a house. I struggle to control my moods more and to stay level. I often feel very anti-social and struggle with speaking to friends during this time.
Despite this, I’m trying to teach myself ways to stay mentally healthy during this lockdown. But navigating life in lockdown is difficult.
The reality is it may be like this for up to 3 months.
Therefore, I’d like to share with you 10 things I’ve learnt for trying to stay mentally healthy during lockdown.
Take a walk or cycle
Every day I’m making sure I take my daily exercise outside of the house. At the time of writing, we were allowed one exercise outside per day, of a normal length you would have completed before lockdown. I’ve found some great parks nearby and have been enjoying a cycle around the empty town of Derby. So try to get some fresh air into you, and get out of the house!
Set a schedule
For me unscheduled time can be very difficult. It causes my mind to wander which is detrimental to my mental health. I set myself a schedule on Excel for the day so each hour from 9-5 is accounted for, like it would be in a normal work day. I include exercise, lunch and baking in this schedule. I also include my work time as an online English teacher and my work on this blog.
However, I also include rest time! It’s ok to have personal time, a rest day or a chilled few hours watching a film. You do not need to be productive all the time. Rest is good for everyone, and especially those suffering with bad mental health.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about staying mentally healthy it’s about being busy. For me baking is providing a bit of relief when I’m too agitated to work and too restless to relax. Try out these parmesan and herb rolls, or these brownies if bread seems like too much effort.
A busy mind can sometimes be a peaceful one!
Read a good book
One thing I love about travelling is being able to relax on a beach with a good book. Now, I may not have the beach part, but it doesn’t mean I can’t feel that relaxation vibe. So give it a try yourself – buy a new book and chill in the sun in your garden, if you can, or on a comfy sofa in the house.
If you’re looking for a new book to read, I loved Adam Kay’s ‘This is going to hurt’. It follows the life of a doctor and is also good for understanding what people in the NHS go through with a pinch of humour thrown in. I believe this is important in the current situation.
Keep your morning routine
One thing that really helps my mental health is to put distinction into the day. It’s very easy to slouch around in your PJs all day. Sometimes this might be well needed, however, when I start doing this every day, I know it’s time to make some changes. I try to wake up at a similar time, have a shower and get dressed. Then at night you can have that sense of relief when you get back in your PJs!
Plan something for the weekend
It’s good to keep distinction in your week as well as your day. For me, that’s been having a takeaway on Friday to mark the end of the week. I also try to mark a Saturday or Sunday by doing something a bit different like going for a longer cycle or having a Sunday roast. This helps to break up each week. I know that it’s another week of lockdown completed and a week closer to being able to go out again, whenever that might be.
Plan for the future
Planning your week is one thing, but planning your future can be much more fun! Spend a day or two planning goals for your future. For me, it has consisted of planning a million travel trips that I can’t currently go on! These have included some trips to South America or India.
But if you’re not into travel, this could just be goals for your future. Anything you’ve always wanted to do but don’t know how? Now is the perfect time to research!
A good home workout can help you to stay mentally healthy during lockdown. I like to do a mixture of different home workouts over the week, from high intensity interval training to Yoga, Pilates or Zumba. There is something on YouTube for everyone. Try a different one each day and find out what you enjoy the most.
Stay in touch with friends and family
Being alone in a house doesn’t mean you are alone! Stay in touch with family and friends via skype or phone. I’ve enjoyed trying out virtual pub quizzes or playing games online while chatting with friends. It’s important we look after each other during this time. So try and stay in touch with your family and friends.
See a counsellor
This last point is for if if you are struggling with your mental health at the moment. It’s ok to admit you’re not ok. If you’re having a difficult time, think about reaching out to a counsellor. Most are offering sessions via skype or telephone at the moment. Counselling will give you an outlet for any difficulties you’re facing.
Most importantly remember you’re not alone in this. Everyone is in the same situation and we need to support each other through this period. Now is the right time to check up on your friends and family and make sure they’re ok.
Also, remember it’s also ok not to be at your most productive.
These tips to stay mentally healthy can help, but it’s ok to have a day in your PJs and not do anything.
There is no pressure to use this time productively….
It’s ok not to!