Things are challenging for everyone at the moment and we are feeling it too. Winter is fast approaching and with a second wave likely, there is a lot of uncertainty around what the next few months might look like.
Katherine and I had been talking about things rather organically earlier this week and realised that we are both feeling rather low at the moment. And we are not alone.
A major study, carried out by Nottingham University and Kings College, into the mental health impact of the pandemic found that in the early stages of lockdown 57% of those who took part reported symptoms of anxiety, with 64% recording common signs of depression (source: The Guardian). While the mental health problems improved as restrictions eased, scientists warn they may worsen again as infections rise and more aggressive nationwide lockdowns are considered over the autumn and winter.
With this in mind, we have been thinking a lot this week about how we can find new ways to process and cope with our feelings and support our mental and overall health over the next few months. We'd like to share our top three ideas with you.
Make time for ourselves
Lack of personal time is a big one, we need this to decompress and recharge and most of us have had very little of it over the last few months. Despite being able to get out more since lockdown ended, it can still be challenging to carve out me time in this new normal and as the days become shorter and wetter, our options will decrease too. So how can we find ‘me time’ when we can’t go out and some of us are rarely home alone anymore?
Things like going for a run or walk alone or taking a long bath quickly came to mind as well as our daily time out for a healthful cup of Matcha but there are lots of other ways we can take time for ourselves when we aren’t on our own.
I have recently started listening to audio books, which I find a great way to unwind and to also block out other noise or distractions. As soon as I put on my headphones, I can feel myself start to relax and focus on what I am listening to. As an added bonus, audiobooks and podcasts can also make sometimes tedious tasks such as cleaning and cooking more enjoyable and when I go for a run while listening, I feel like I am killing two birds withs one stone!
Other ideas include doing an online exercise class or meditating and setting aside designated time to read or do a craft or hobby.
Make time to connect with friends and family
We may not always be able to meet up with our social network in the way we would prefer but connecting with people – even virtually – can really give us a boost. Talking through things can be an excellent way of processing our feelings and it can also have the added benefit of making someone else feel less alone in how they are feeling.
When plans I’d had for the weekend, with friends I haven’t seen for months, had to be cancelled due to the groups of six rule, we all felt disappointed to say the least. And whilst it’s not the same, a group Zoom call, allowed us to connect and check in with each other with several (much needed) laughs thrown in as well!
It’s not all about WhatsApp and Zoom calls though, I recently received a letter (an actual letter!) from a friend of mine overseas. It was so nice to hear from her and knowing she had taken the time to write the letter and post it, in this virtual world we are living in, made me feel really special and loved. On the flip-side, writing out our thoughts can be really cathartic and help us get in touch with how we are feeling so there are real positives from both sides. It has now motivated me to write a few of my own.
Learn something new
During lockdown, there were some people, celebrities in particular, suggesting we take the time to learn a new language or skill at a time when many of us were just barely coping with our new reality whatever it was - working, home schooling, loneliness, etc. or all combined. So, hearing someone else talk about how they learned Mandarin in 6 weeks wasn’t exactly motivating or good for our mental health. This is not what we are talking about, unless of course, you have the time to master Mandarin in just a few short weeks!
What we are talking about here, is taking out snippets of time when we can, to try new but relatively simple things. It may be something like mastering a new recipe, doing an online art class, trying our hand at flower arranging or baking bread. Learning something new can be fun and can also give us a sense of accomplishment and pride.
According to an article in Pyschologies, “It’s actually a core need for psychological wellbeing. Learning can help us build confidence and self-efficacy. Learning also fuels our creativity. Ideas can come from making connections between seemingly unrelated things”, says Vanessa King, positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness. Learning something new in one area of our lives can trigger ideas in another.” This can also help with creating what psychologists call ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’ – when we’re so absorbed in what we’re doing, we lose sense of time and of ourselves.
So learning something new and in particular ‘being in the zone’ can provide somewhat of an escape and leave us feeling recharged, with the added benefit of having acquired a new skill.
It goes without saying that taking good care of our physical health is key for supporting our mental health, with eating well and exercising regularly particularly important. However, it’s equally important to try to find some 'me time' each day, to be kind to ourselves and to not hesitate to reach out to friends, family or a professional if things become unmanageable at some point.