Caroline Oberman shares her views on how lockdown can affect our mental health.

Last week we saw everyone coming together for Mental Health Awareness Week. All forms of social media were full of reassuring quotes and stories and it was great to see how much has changed over the last 10 years, with people feeling they can be open about their mental health without fear of judgement or disapproval

Coronavirus and Mental Health 

Whilst Mental Health Awareness Week has now finished, the subject is still very much at the forefront of people’s minds as we continue in lockdown, albeit with the promise of some restrictions being lifted next week.

There has been much debate about the lockdown and people “flouting the rules” by meeting up with friends or making unnecessary trips to the local B and Q. There has even been talk of people spying on neighbours who went for 2 lots of outdoor exercises a day rather than the 1 that was permitted! We have to remember though, that we have no idea of these people’s circumstances and perhaps that trip to buy paint was essential – for them painting their fence is how they kept sane, and as long as they followed the new process to buy it, is it really worth us getting worked up about it? 

Media and Mental Health 

I have to admit I haven’t been the biggest fan of the general media throughout this time. I know they are doing their job and the articles they write are to gain public interest, but there have been so many incorrectly reported stories and hype, that I feel it sent a lot of the country into turmoil. I know a lot of people, who during this time, have decided to delete “Facebook” and other social media apps from their phone to give themselves a break from it all. I also did this for some time as well as deleting Sky News from my phone as the anxiety it caused me from reading hyped up stories was definitely not beneficial for my mental and physical health!

Technology and Mental Health 

Whilst we have all welcomed the new ways of meeting people through online applications like Teams, Zoom and Google Hangout, there has also been some reports of people feeling overwhelmed by these sorts of meetings and actually feeling more tired at the end of the day than usual. I read a great article that really resonated with me, and I was interested to learn that “Zoom fatigue” is an actual ailment!

Mental Health Awareness

As someone who grew up in the era where depression and anxiety was reserved for “crazy people” or people who had experienced large trauma to their lives (I always thought it happened mainly to people returning from war!) it has taken me many years to realise and understand my own issues. My previous career was in the fitness industry and I had always placed such importance on physical health, but sometimes forgotten about the most important part of the body – the brain! One of my previous issues was a huge fear of talking in front of people – not because I couldn’t present – but because I hated the sound of my own voice! Hopefully I am learning to overcome this now, and I know what signs to look out for if I’m having a tough time – I am now aware of my own mental health.

Tips for Looking after your Mental Health during Lockdown

It’s probably safe to assume that life as we used to know it, isn’t returning anytime soon. Whilst we look forward to some easing of restrictions happening soon, it will some time before its “business as usual”

With this in mind here are my top tips for looking after your mental health 

  • Exercise is a great stress relief, if you can manage some in the morning the good endorphins will help keep you going for the day. The exercise can also take your mind off your issues and worries – it’s hard to think about problems when you are trying to keep up with an online exercise class!
  • Get some fresh air. Even in the strictest part of lockdown you are allowed to go outside once a day. Even if the weather isn’t glorious, the fresh air and change of scenery from your house can do wonders for your mind, especially if you have a problem you have been trying to solve.
  • Give yourself a break – don’t worry if you achieve nothing in a day other than getting out of bed. We all need the odd day to laze in our pyjamas and binge watch Netflix
  • Don’t compare your journey to others. I read a quote early on in the pandemic which said that whilst we were all in the same storm together – we are not in the same boat – we all have our own individual set of circumstances. Social media is also terrible for this – just because Sue down the road posts pictures of her perfect children eating vegan gluten free falafel every day, doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up about your take away dinner!
  • Don’t worry about things you cannot change. This is my mantra for life, even outside the lockdown. There is no point in worrying about the things beyond your control – worrying will not make them better I assure you
  • Don’t try to do too much. You wouldn’t book 5 meetings back to back in a normal working day – nor would you arrange to see 3 different groups of friends in 1 night in normal circumstances. Therefore there’s no point in trying to do that now, just because its easier to arrange on line; you will be exhausted
  • It’s Ok not to be OK. Everyone has good days and bad days. I have seen this described as “covid rollercoaster” and it’s normal. Talk to your friends, or reach out to your neighbour; it’s likely they will also be feeling the same.