On Friday 5 June at 8pm the ‘enormously talented’ (BBC), ‘musical powerhouse’ (Chortle) Kirsty Newton will be back to lead us all in a life affirming singalong party, and this time we’re going back to the 80s!
There has never been a more vital time to make sure you are looking after your mental health. There are so many hints and tips around on maintaining your mental wellbeing during these difficult times. Remember there are no hard and fast rules! Everyone is different, we are all coping with different challenges and living in very different circumstances. So here I offer some of the common themes I have noticed and offer up some of my own thoughts.
Pick and choose what you think may be useful for you! Anything you do will be beneficial. Do what you can and don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day. Tomorrow will be a better day.
Obviously it is important to keep up-to-date with developments but it is useful to set limits. The constant flow of information is overwhelming online, on TV, on the radio – the news is everywhere. Perhaps catch updates in the morning then again in the evening. You won’t miss anything if you are not continually monitoring the situation. Also stick to reputable news sources – that friend on Facebook may mean well but sharing unfounded conspiracy theories really doesn’t help anyone!
Maintain a routine
Everyone has experienced a huge shift in lifestyle in recent times and this has a significant impact on your overall health. Try to maintain some kind of routine. Go to bed at the same time (ish) each night, try and stick to three meals a day, go for a lunchtime walk etc. If you notice your routine slipping, try and get it back on track as quickly as possible. For example, I noticed I was starting to have lunch earlier and earlier each day, when it got as early as 10.30am I realised I needed to reset my routine!
Try and think of three things each day you are grateful for. Doing this regularly can help you feel more positive and optimistic. Feeling ‘grateful’ isn’t always easy, especially at the moment, but focusing on the good things in your life really will give you a boost each day. I try to take a few minutes each day to write down a brief list of things I am grateful for or happy about. Often it is something simple as seeing a deer in the woods, that there is a new series of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, or I managed to get out for a run.
Organize your mind
Writing down what you have to do each day will help you plan more efficiently and have a more productive day. Writing it down gets it out of your head, and a list often seems more manageable than random thoughts. It doesn’t have to be detailed or extensive. I try and create a quick note on my phone of what I need to do each day and also what I want to do each day.
Organize your space
We all have different living situations. Living alone or with others, try and ensure a sense or organization where possible. You don’t have to be ultra-tidy but keeping on top of household chores will stop things becoming overwhelming down the line. If you live with others and you have some space for yourself, try to create a bit of sanctuary where you can go to relax and unwind on your own.
Technology is a wonderful thing and helps us all keep connected. You can video call friends and family, join virtual quizzes and much more. You can also keep in touch with a simple text or WhatsApp. If you are really old fashioned you can even phone someone. However, all this can also be overwhelming so don’t feel bad about not joining everything or jeeping in constant touch with everyone you have ever met. Like most things in life, it is about balance! And this relates directly to the next tip…
Do not compare yourself to others
You may think everyone is coping with the current situation better than you. It seems to me everyone is using their spare time to bake banana bread, do all the DIY jobs they have been putting off, learn a new skill etc. I have mainly been watching Peaky Blinders and Schitt’s Creeks – and that is fine! What people put out on their on social media is rarely truly representative of how people really feel. Everyone will have their ups and downs.
Whatever that means for you! That may be a one-mile jog or running a half marathon. Maybe it is a Joe Wicks PE class or maybe it is dancing around your living room. Trying to do a bit more each time is great, but then if you skip a day that is fine as well. The key thing is to just to keep moving.
Everything in moderation
Alcohol and food sales through the roof and it is unsurprising we are seeking comfort in a glass of wine and slice of pizza. When this becomes a bottle of wine and full pizza every night it may be time to cut back a little (I am speaking from experience). Try and keep the treats for the weekend for example. Though again don’t worry too much if you slip up. Just try and get back into a sensible routine.
Get some head space
Take some time each day to give yourself some headspace. This could be meditation, mindfulness, brain training or whatever works for you. If you haven’t tried these things before, give it a go. Give yourself a dedicated slot just for your head – even just five minutes will make a difference. There is lots of information online and loads of apps available. I try and do a short hypnosis session every day, using an app to have 30 minutes to relax and think positive thoughts and I always feel better afterwards.
Give yourself a break
Working from home, trying your best at home schooling, maintaining your studying or whatever it is you may be doing, regular breaks will help you feel refreshed and come back to your tasks with more energy and focus. With us all spending most of our time at home, it can be hard to separate things out. Just going to a different room, or in to the garden if you have one or sticking your head out the window if you don’t, can really help.
Really, give yourself a break!
This is the most important thing! GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re having a difficult day. We all have to adjust to the “new normal”. What is happening is a big deal. There will be good days and there will be bad days. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel low, or if you haven’t achieved everything you wanted to or if you ended up eating the entire packet of hob nobs. It happens, so pick yourself up and move on.
Although it may not seem like it at the moment this will pass! It will take time and things will be different on the other side, but it is good to look forward, start planning and give yourself some longer term goals.
Finally, if you need to reach out for more support
There are many organizations ready and able to help if you do need support. If it does all feel a bit overwhelming don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Despite lockdown, the world is getting ready to mark once again International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). Created in 2004, IDAHOBIT draws the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. This year will, of course, be quite different, but by no means any less vital. The pandemic affects every single person, however the LGBTQ+ community may be experiencing increased discrimination and are disproportionately impacted by the wider healthcare and wellbeing implications of the current situation.
Manchester based LGBT Foundation has reported a huge spike in calls to their crisis line during the lockdown. Calls include those in isolation experiencing violence or discrimination with abusive or unsupportive families. More people are concerned about not being able to attend sexual health appointments. Many just need someone to talk to.
They have a number of services to help support vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community during this time including a Coronavirus Hub. It provides a range of tools and resources to support the LGBTQ+ community during this time.
Did you know – May 17 was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.