This Mental Health Awareness Week is extremely poignant given our current situation. The human brain is extraordinary and resilient but can also be challenged in unforeseen tragedies like COVID-19. Experts worry that due to the uncertainty of the pandemic combined with the lockdown, mental health rates are set to rise, so this Mental Health Awareness Week is the time to work on what is still to be done to tackle the stigma that surrounds mental health.
There is a lot that each and every one of us can be doing to help both ourselves and others, even in lockdown. Here are our top tips:
Significant amount of research has shown that engaging socially is one of the best ways to cope and manage stress and anxiety. Connecting with people and investing in good relationships has always been important for your mental health. That’s why many people are taking advantage of new, fast and easy ways of communicating digitally during lockdown.
There was once a time where social media was blamed for being the most anti-social platform in existence. Now, the tables have turned on this completely. Social media, our phones and technology are our saving grace to help us communicate with loved ones and friends during the pandemic and it is easier to connect than ever.
So, get in touch with people who you trust and who make you feel good. Give them a call, a message or organise a video call until we can be together again.
Show compassion to yourself and others
In the face of this global pandemic, we as individuals are the first responders. Showing compassion is one of the best human traits, and over the last few months, it has been amazing to see inspirational and heart-warming acts around the world. From rainbows in windows to walking 100 lengths of your garden to clapping every Thursday night for the NHS.
It always feels good to do good. At a time when you feel low, scared or anxious, taking part in some local initiatives to help out in a time of need is really worth it. Volunteer at your local food bank, help with local deliveries of prescriptions or offer doing an essential shop for someone who is vulnerable or isolating.
Let’s not also forget – be kind to yourself. There is no ‘right way’ of handling these circumstances. The internet has seen a rise in pressure for people to become more productive and learn new skills in lockdown with all the free time they have. The phrase ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ has never rung truer than right now – so keep it in mind that whilst it’s always good to develop yourself, it is never worth jeopardising your mental health. This ‘free time’ is not under the normal circumstances. So, don’t feel guilty if you want to use this time to recharge, take time to do things you enjoy and reflect on where you have come so far.
Look out for others
Now more than ever, we must look out for each other as we are all in this together. Everyone is affected directly or indirectly from the pandemic and it can take its toll in different ways. Checking in on friends, family, colleagues or even neighbours is important and asking ‘are you ok?’ goes a long way.
Reach out to people if you are concerned and they will appreciate the gesture. Likewise, speak up to people who reach out to you. We are all human and are all in this together.
Make time to do things you enjoy
Activities or hobbies can help keep you distracted, have a positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing and can help increase your confidence and self-esteem. This could be building something, playing an instrument, painting, reading, cooking, dancing, exercising or even watching TV.
Now could be the time to do something creative you enjoy. If you have photographs lying around the house, why not try putting together a scrapbook of happy memories. You could even keep up motivation by making a mood board of all the things you hope to achieve in the future once lockdown is over. Seeing little goals all built up in front of you can be great to lift your mood and improve mental health for the future you!
Keep active if you can
Keeping active is so important for mental health. Whilst we don’t have access to gyms, clubs and classes like we used to, we have to adapt to other forms of keeping active while making it enjoyable for ourselves as to not make it feel like a chore or duty.
Endorphins are real. And just like parts of our brain can make us feel low and lazy, endorphins work in the opposite way by minimising discomfort and stimulating natural feelings of euphoria and general well-being in the mind. They always say the hardest step is starting. So, keep active this week and recognise how it makes you feel!
We know the feeling of creeping towards the fridge every day in lockdown only too well. But at Inspire, we know that food is fuel, and what nutrients you feed your body contributes massively to your mental state.
Being in lockdown is the best time to educate yourself on what works well for your body, and learning new and quick recipes will be something you will thank your future self for when you can rustle it up in the kitchen as a quick meal without the guilt!
Here are two simple ‘Keep Calm and Cook’ recipes we put together to get you inspired!
Don’t be afraid to get help
Over time, more and more people are speaking out about how they are feeling, and this is only becoming more apparent during the pandemic as we are all facing the battle together. But there is still a lot more to be done, and for someone already suffering with a mental illness, the current pandemic makes things even harder.
We continue to give ongoing support for one of our chosen charities Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) for all the incredible work they do to support those living with mental health issues.
You can read more about what they do here.
If you need urgent help, the following organisations are here to support you if you need to speak to someone urgently.