Taking care of yourself in lockdown

Here are some key tips for looking after your mental health during another lockdown

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

While we all hoped that 2021 would start differently, we now find ourselves in another national lockdown. However, this time it’s different. We know there’s a vaccine coming down the line and we have the experience of previous lockdowns to work with.

Here, we offer some thoughts on how to take care of yourself, taking into account the season and our new circumstances.

Allow yourself to feel how you feel

It’s okay if you’re angry. It’s understandable if you’re sad about the things you’re missing from normal life. Whatever you’re feeling is valid, and you don’t need to suppress those emotions. Allow yourself to feel it, and then let it go.

As counsellor Lyn Reed explains, this is the true meaning of resilience. “Resilience is often described as ‘bouncing back’ but I think it is a little more complex than that. A process needs to take place, such as a period of reflection, as we find our way back and look at how we have got to where we are now – then we can, eventually, move on with our lives, having learnt some lessons along the way.

“For me, resilience is not about ‘keeping a stiff upper lip or developing another skin. It involves many emotions, and especially our negative ones – anger, resentment, frustration,” she says.

Go back to basics

When everything else feels hard, keep things as simple as possible. Have a shower, get dressed, make yourself something to eat. Just go one step at a time.

Try to get outside during the day if you can. The mornings and evenings are dark, so why not set an intention to go for a walk in the middle of the day? Prioritise getting your fix of vitamin D.

Create your own lockdown toolkit

Take 30 minutes to pause and move away from notifications. Write down two lists using these questions:

  • What did I do that helped me in the first lockdown?
  • What wasn’t helpful for me in the first lockdown?

Now, take the learnings from list one (the things that helped you to feel better mentally, physically, or more socially connected) and look at how you could change some of the challenges in list two – and remember, there is no pressure to be productive or to ‘achieve’ anything right now. Focus on things that can make you feel good rather than comparing your lockdown to anyone else’s.

Have a conversation

You may be living in a household of many, or you may be living on your own. Whatever your situation, reach out, or sit down with a friend (if the rules allow), or your family and talk to them. Tell them about your lockdown self-care list and encourage them to create their own. Let them know how they can help you, and ask how you can help them in turn.

Behavioural change life coach Angela Cox suggests that a household communication plan could help you to meet everyone’s fundamental needs in these strange times. Consider things such as where everyone will set up space for work or homeschooling, or how to signal if quiet time is needed. Getting everyone on the same page in your household can make for a better living situation for the next few weeks.

Check-in with each other

You’ll know from past conversations who really struggled or just needed a little more care during the last lockdown. You might be sick of Zoom, or a social life that runs through a screen, but let’s not forget the importance of staying connected.

Create a check-in WhatsApp group and resolve to share/post once a day to maintain connectivity. If you’re a parent, perhaps a parents’ group could be helpful for sharing your highs, lows, and end of day wind down (when and if it comes).

If, however, you’re already feeling technologically drained from lockdown life, perhaps this period of restrictions is a good time to consider your boundaries and say no to too much screen time. Think about why you want to say ‘No’ to a Zoom or FaceTime call:

  • Do you feel drained or overwhelmed right now?
  • Do you need to schedule self-care time in your day or week, to help you feel more balanced?
  • Do you feel drained from constant notifications on your ‘phone all day?

Whether it’s one, or all, of these things, it’s okay to say that. There’s nothing wrong with saying “Is it okay if we don’t catch up today? I’m just not feeling like it. Shall we do it [insert day/time] instead?” Sometimes all you need is to feel that you have control over your own social schedule.

The end of this pandemic might not be as visible as we’d like it to be, but there will be an end, and it’ll be so good once we get there. In the meantime, just be kind to yourself and others, and remember that it’s okay to ask for help if you need it.

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