Last week the government published its roadmap out of Covid-19 measures. On the assumption that things go according to plan we still face 4 months of restrictions. In total, by the end of June the UK will have been under Covid measures for 15 months. The mental health impact of the virus has been building and is now becoming more apparent. So, as we pace ourselves through the slow easing of restrictions over the next four months, how do we get ourselves mentally back on track?
The first place that we must start, is with self-care. I’m sure that some of you will have been doing better in this area than others. Nevertheless, here are a few self-care tips to keep you going and to rebuild your mental health.
- Take physical exercise: You should balance what you do based on your own level of fitness and capabilities. The gyms being closed is not an excuse, and they will open again in April anyway. Taking physical exercise is good for your mental health, it makes you feel better inside. Even doing some simple, regular exercise gives you a positive routine and allows you to set, and then achieve little goals. By doing so you create a sense of making progress in your life.
- Meditate: There is a lot of scientific evidence about the positive effects of meditation, such as better emotional resilience. What this means is that you develop more ‘bounce-back’ ability, and your sense of keeping your emotional response in proportion to what you experience is better too. Meditation also helps people to live in the now. Which, as I wrote about last month (The Power of Now) is the best place to experience your life. In its simplest form, all you need to do is sit with your eyes closed, where you won’t be disturbed for about 6-15 minutes. As you do, just focus on your breathing. If thoughts come into your awareness, which they will, just notice them, then let them go, rather than ruminating on them.
- Eat well: Reduce the amount of alcohol and refined sugar that you consume. By doing this you will feel more energetic and positive. And I do appreciate that this is probably one of the areas where most people have overindulged during the pandemic. It may even have been how some people have been able to make it through. But now is the time to become more aware of the foods and drinks you consume, that aren’t actually very good for you.
- Spoil yourself: Do things that you enjoy doing, simply because you enjoy doing them, and because you are worth it, because you are. Value yourself, appreciate yourself, indulge your pleasures, as best you can. This could be as small as taking half an hour to sit down, undisturbed, and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, or watching a TV programme or film. Take a long bath. Have a walk. Love and nurture yourself.
Make sure that through these next few months you look after yourself, so that once restrictions are lifted you can hit the ground running. Once you have a self-care routine established, the next step to take is to set yourself some realistic goals for this year and next. By all means have longer term goals in mind too. I do think that this is important and to get back on track make this year and next a priority. Next, spend time investing in important relationships. Many people have been doing this since the various lockdowns started, by having regular Zoom calls with friends or family. Even if you have, think about which relationships will be crucial to you moving forward, or which ones you may have neglected over the last year because of the pandemic. Make a conscious effort to reach out. Spend some time listening to other people’s experiences. It is very therapeutic simply to be listened to and to have your experience validated. And by the way, listening isn’t about waiting until the other person stops talking, so that you can talk about the most similar thing that has happened to you. Listening is about actually taking the time to put yourself into the shoes of the other person, and to empathise with what they have experienced.
Putting in some positive habits now, which help to strengthen your mental well-being, will ensure that you can make a positive contribution, as we all aim to build back better post Coivd. My guess, and it is only that, is in the years ahead we will be faced with other disruptive changes too. The better that we can ride this one out, and emerge mentally strong, the better we can face whatever else life will throw our way.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Søren Kierkegaard