Mental well-being is key to our overall happiness and supports us as we strive to be the best version of ourselves. Staying on top of our mental health can be challenging at the best of times with demands of work, modern life and 24/7 connection with technology. In the unprecedented times we find ourselves in it’s important that we find ways to keep our headspace in check. Whether you are a parent juggling home-schooling or simply adjusting to working from home and missing the social interaction of the office, these new conditions may challenge us all physically, emotionally and mentally at some point. Here are some ideas of things you might like to try to manage your well-being now and in the future.
1. Make exercise your friend
Not only is physical exercise an effective way to burn fat and develop your cardio-vascular capacity, but it is widely reported to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep and boost mood as well as overall well-being. While gyms are closed and current government restrictions limit outdoor exercise to once per day there are still plenty opportunities to keep moving;
2. Limit your social media and news consumption
Chris Underhill, a leading champion on mental health advises people to limit their news consumption as this can exacerbate anxiety. While it is important to keep updated with news and latest updates on COVID-19 in your country, consuming too much media may be overwhelming and unhelpful to our mental health. Unofficial channels may contradict, or misreport key messages and overly consuming bad news can negatively impact your mood and cause unnecessary worry. Pick one reliable source of news to follow and keep yourself updated.
Social media is a great way to keep much needed connection with friends and family during this time but controlling what we see on these channels can be tricky. Try putting your phone out of reach during key hours of the day, turning off social media and putting your phone away again a couple of hours before you plan to go to sleep to help your brain ‘switch off’ and give you the best chance of a quality sleep.
3. Maintain a balanced diet and stay hydrated
Throughout our lives we are taught about the importance of a balanced diet, but at times of high stress, worry or anxiety it can be comforting to consume foods and drinks that are not necessarily great for our health. To maintain some balance during this time, try using the weekend a time to treat yourself and during the week drink lots of water and limit consumption of food and drink that are high in caffeine, sugar and fat if you can.
4. Try meditation
Meditation or focused breathing exercises can be a great way to alleviate stress and relax our minds. There are many simple (and free) exercises to practice on apps such as Head-space and they can be done individually or in virtual groups. Morgan Dix from Do You Yoga suggests just 5-10 minutes per day regularly can really support our mental health.
5. Maintain a work-life balance
Allowing your brain to switch off from work, rest and recharge is key to maintaining a healthy work life balance and headspace. Before you start your day, plan out a structure and use you calendar to manage you work. Agree a time with your manager that you will log off and stick to this. Turning off your laptop and other technology and switching to something totally different; for example, cooking, exercise or reading can help signal to your brain that work is over and give it a rest from being switched on to work. Having a healthy work-life balance is important at the best of times, but even more so when working from home.
6. Be creative with social connection
While it is challenging to meet face to face during lockdown, it is still important to connect with friends, family and colleagues and find new ways to do so. As humans, we are inherently social creatures and there are many well reported benefits of social interaction. According to Mindwise, connecting with other people can boost mental health and provide increased feelings of belonging, purpose, happiness, reduce levels of stress and improve self-confidence. Whether it’s a message on Whatsapp, a card in the post or a coffee meet up over video call; stay well connected to your close network.
7. Create gratitude journal
While we can’t overly control what goes on in the world around us, we can change how we feel about it. Identifying and even writing daily reminders to ourselves about what we are grateful or thankful for can reinforce positivity and help our minds de-clutter. Try keeping a daily journal of gratitude to focus your mind on positive thoughts and read these message back if you find yourself feeling down or anxious.
8. Be kind to yourself and don’t expect perfection
As you are faced with challenges to work though over the coming months, remember to be kind to yourself in the process. We are all only human and most of what we are going through is new and challenging for many different reasons. We might feel like we are on our own, but it is important to remember that we are not. If we can stay connected, try to stay healthy and take some of the pressure off ourselves mentally by following just some of the tips in this article, then we are positioning ourselves well and maybe we might even find some enjoyment as we continue on an otherwise challenging and unprecedented journey.
These are our top eight to keep you feeling great during COVID-19. Why not try a few of these out and see how you get on.