We’re probably all now familiar with phrases such as “I’m going crazy being stuck at home all the time” or “I’m going to struggle to go outside once the lockdown is over”. It’s highly likely they’re meant in jest, but the fact of the matter is the self-isolation period we’re all going through can indeed have an effect on our mental health, even without you realising it.
We’ve covered in great detail what you can do to keep your fitness in check while you’re confined to the walls of your home, but what can you do to ensure your mental health is kept in tip-top condition too? To find out, we reached out to the Black Dog Institute, a mental health research facility based in Randwick, Sydney and asked them what sort of things we can be doing on a daily basis to look after our own mental health.
Dr Kathleen O’Moore, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Clinical Research Manager, says we should conduct a self-check-in on a weekly basis, which can comprise several elements. First, she tells us we should “set-up a checklist to cover things such as personal feelings, changes in our body and a record of our sleep”, to name a few.
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With regards to feelings, Kathleen says we should “write down how stressed or anxious we’re feeling on a scale of 1-10 and then compare it week after week.” She adds it’s “normal for scores to deviate up and down, so don’t be worried by that, but if they’re high and remain high, something could be wrong.” It’s the same for your body: “if you notice tightness in your chest, dryness in your mouth or if your heart starts racing on regular occasions, then it’s an indication that you’re stressed.”
As for what you can do to help minimise stress and anxiety, Kathleen adds “doing simple things such as an hour of physical activity, walking to get a coffee, reading a couple of chapters of a book, or just listening to some music can be beneficial as well, just as long as it’s an activity that gives you pleasure.”
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She goes on to say it’s important to make sure you have the right people around you, “sometimes without even knowing we can be doing things that we think will make us feel better, but actually make us feel much worse. For instance, speaking regularly with a person who may not be as supportive or helpful as we think.”
But adds it’s still vital to stay connected to friends and family, even when you can’t physically go and see them. Just like we championed the idea of the Cyberpub here at DMARGE, Kathleen says having “virtual drinks with someone is a perfect way to boost your mood if you’re ever feeling down.” Likewise, you could try “a new online fitness or yoga class to reduce stress, or even just go for a quick walk (within restrictions, obviously).”
We haven’t listed every single point Dr Kathleen makes in this article, but you can view her full guide with all the steps you can follow to ensure you look after your mental during lockdown here.
As with anything related to mental health, if you try some of the steps listed above but you don’t notice any sort of improvement in your anxiety or stress levels, then it’s vital you reach out to the professionals. Services include MyCompass, BiteBack (targeted specifically at 13-16-year-olds), iBobby and Online Clinic.