Quarantine is taking a toll on everyone’s mindset! Here, experts share tips on how to maintain mental health in lockdown
By Chere Di Boscio
When times are uncertain, it’s easy to feel super stressed. And thanks to the lockdown measures imposed by governments over the Coronavirus, many of us are worried about losing our jobs, our livelihoods, and in some cases, our homes. Even those who have more financial stability are still suffering from mental health issues, as Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Chan School, is well aware.
Koenan pointed out that the pandemic has sparked growing fears not over the potential for illness, but increasingly over job losses, bankruptcy and financial insecurity. Social distancing and being kept away from loved ones are yet further contributors to the anxiety and depression felt by millions around the globe.
“These mental health consequences don’t occur in isolation,” Koenen said. “I would be most concerned about the range of depression and anxiety…We know that job loss and foreclosure are associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety,” she said.
Yep. True. That’s all fine and well. But how are we meant to deal with all that depression and anxiety?
Some hit the anti-anxiety pills or the bottle. Not good, for so many reasons. Others hope they can get some feedback about their future by reading about their astrology signs or even by visiting psychics. But the truth is, the best way to maintain mental health in lockdown is to take control over your own state of mind.
To know how to master this, I did some research, and asked some experts, including Louise Murray, a highly experienced Health & Mindfulness Coach, for some tips.
8 Ways To Maintain Mental Health In Lockdown
1. Turn The Crap Off
Karestan Koenen believes that limiting exposure to the 24/7 coronavirus media frenzy is key to helping ease anxiety. Hearing bad news around the clock isn’t good for anyone, so the first step to try to maintain mental health in lockdown should simply be this: turn off your TV!
And of course, don’t go on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, that bombard you not only with exaggeratedly bad news, but also with the opinions on that news by people who you might not agree with. In fact, hearing their opinions may well make your blood boil! Instead of TV and internet, why not treat yourself to hours and hours of your favourite music, or listen to an audiobook? Or better yet – go back to reading actual books?
2. Set A Daily Intention Or Affirmation
Ayurvedic health expert and the founder of Subtle Energies, Farida Irani, believes it’s vital to set a daily intention or affirmation each day to keep yourself grounded.
As soon as you wake up, ask yourself, How do I want to feel today? This can be as simple as: empowered, heard, energetic, focused etc. Then ask yourself, what do I need to feel this way? This could be checking your phone or social media less, video calling a friend, or taking 10 minutes at the end of the day for some mindful meditation. Then, ensure you follow through with that intention.
Irani herself also practices the Scientific Healing Affirmations technique given by the great Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. This allows us to re-program and recharge ourselves right to the cellular level. She asserts that these affirmations below are a great way for people of all faiths to overcome fear:
“God is within me, around me, protecting me, so I will banish the gloom of fear that shuts out his guiding light”
“I am fearless, I am made of the substance of eternal spirit, I am a spark of the Fire of spirit. I am am atom of the cosmic flame”
Other affirmations to try include:
- I create a safe and secure space for myself wherever I am.
- I give myself permission to do what is right for me.
- I am confident in my ability to [fill in the blank].
- I use my time and talents to help others [fill in the blank].
- What I love about myself is my ability to [fill in the blank].
- I feel proud of myself when I [fill in the blank].
- I give myself space to grow and learn.
Say those that resonate best with you to yourself a few times a day and see how you feel.
3. Get To Know Yourself Better
During this time, for many of us, our main – if not only – company is ourselves. But honestly: how comfortable are you with yourself? How well do you even know yourself?
Following a few steps to understanding yourself better is a great thing. It can lead to more self-love, which, if you ask me, is the key to happiness.
The idea of needing to “get to know” oneself is a little odd on first inspection. After all, you live with you, so it’s reasonable to expect that you know yourself inside out. But in reality, few do! Luckily, there are ways of understanding the ways you think and behave better.
For example, you could try taking the Myers-Briggs personality test. This well-established psychological test is based in the assumption that every kind of personality has a preference between the following four categories:
- Introversion or extroversion
- Sensing or intuition
- Thinking or feeling
- Judging or perception
The test can be taken online at a variety of sites, after which you will learn which of the 16 personality types best describe you. You can then use this information to find out more about how you react to certain situations, which types of people you’re most compatible with, and even which jobs might best suit you.
Another way to gain more insight into yourself is to establish your ‘VITALS’.
This is a useful thought exercise that can really help to strengthen your understanding of who you are and what is most important to you. “VITALS” stand for:
- Values – what you consider to be important in life, the philosophies and morals that guide you in your choices and decisions.
- Interests – the things that matter to you and that you are passionate about, the hobbies and subjects that you find engaging and wish to dedicate time to.
- Temperament – how you deal with stimuli and certain situations, whether you tend towards panic or are more calm under pressure, and whether you prefer life to be organised or need an element of surprise.
- Around-the-clock activities – whether you are a night owl or a morning lark.
- Life missions – your goals and what you want to achieve in life or feel would be essential in order to live a “good” life.
- Strengths – the things you are good at and the positive attributes that you possess.
Sitting down to ponder your VITALS can provide a hugely advantageous window into who you are, which you can then use as a roadmap for your life.
4. Take Back Your Power
If you are feeling a bit low, seek positive inspiration from others. It helps shake your thoughts up – replacing any negative chatter in your head with positivity instead. This might mean listening to your favourite music, listening to an uplifting podcast, or reading an inspirational book. If you choose a book or a podcast; set an alarm for 10 minutes, read/listen away and then you will come away feeling much more positive and ready to get on with the day again.
5. Get Some Exercise!
Personal trainer Slawomir Milewski says that a workout can literally change your mood. “Exercise is well known to help to reduce anxiety, depression, and bad moods,” he says. “It also relieves stress, improves memory, and helps you sleep better. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits – even just getting out and going for a walk for half an hour can make a huge difference to your mindset,” he says.
6. Express Gratitude
Even when things seem to be sucking really badly, there’s always something to be grateful for. Always. Gratitude is a fantastic little mindset makeover tool and something you can practice throughout the day. Here’s how: be in the moment of whatever you are experiencing at any given time of the day, and mentally note down what you are grateful for. For example – sunshine. Good health. Being loved. Just be in that moment and acknowledge how grateful you are for that one thing. Try and rack up as many of these as you can throughout your day. Your mindset will shift into a far more positive zone, guaranteed.
7. Reframe Your Thinking
Louise Murray recommends flipping a negative into a positive to maintain mental health in lockdown. “First, give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel without judgment and then make a conscious choice to focus on strengths, resources, and solutions to get your needs met,” she says. For example? If you’re thinking: “Argh!! My toddler is just so defiant!” flip the thinking over to something more positive, like: “My toddler is so courageous!”
8. De-Stress In Your Favourite Way
You may be stuck at home, rather than waiting in traffic, pushing through crowds on the subway, or sat in your office, at your boss’s mercy. But you know what? It’s still damn stressful!
Murray insists that mediation can be a powerful tool to help maintain mental health in lockdown. By using simple breath work (pranayama) visualisation techniques, and healing affirmations (such as those in number 2, above), you can gain vast therapeutic benefits.
You may already be doing your own meditation practice, but if you’re looking for some guidance to meditation techniques, just click here.
Meditation not your thing? No problem! “Do whatever it takes for you to destress: play a game, take a bath, listen to some music and dance around the house…whatever. Just make sure you take time in your day to unwind and clear your mind,” she says.
I hope these tips prove useful to you! What has worked for you to maintain your mental health in lockdown? Let us know in the comments section below!
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