Jude Kelly is a lecturer at Abertay University, programme lead for BSc Mental Health Nursing. She has been a qualified Mental Health Nurse for 20 years.
This blog post is about the importance of mental health care during lockdown.
In the past two weeks, we have found ourselves in uncharted waters. We’re being bombarded with sensationalised news articles, emails and social media posts. Stories about food shortages, job losses, an overwhelmed health service and social disorder are all around us. On top of all that, we’re being instructed to stay at home meaning our normal routine is disrupted and social connections feel fractured.
Is it any wonder then that our mental health could so easily begin to suffer in the face of all this negativity? A quick scan of my own Twitter feed reveals people feeling scared, anxious and disconnected.
It really is important then that we take positive steps to look after our mental health in these strange days. Usual ways of coping with negative emotions and staying mentally healthy may not be available to us at the moment, so what can we do? Here are a few thoughts…
Stay connected and reach out – whether by telephone, FaceTime or Skype, human contact is important to us as social animals. Check in electronically with those who are self-isolating alone and help them to feel more connected too. There are many helplines you can contact if you feel the need to talk and get support. You can find some helpful numbers at the bottom of this page.
Maintain a routine – whilst we’re in this state of lockdown, it’s easy to lose track of time and forget to eat regularly or go to bed at your normal time. Make sure that you stick to a daily routine – write yourself a daily planner or set alarms on your phone to help.
Distract yourself – losing yourself in work, a good book or an absorbing boxset is a good way to zone out and allow your mind some time off from worry and anxiety. There are lots of companies giving away free e-books, audio books and music currently, so why not sign up?
Give yourself a break from social media and the news – its good to keep up with events if it’s through reputable sources, but it’s easy to get swept away in the tide of panic-inducing news. Make sure you give yourself time to step away from your device and do something else for a while.
Above: Jude Kelly
Get outdoors if you can – a bit of fresh air to clear your head and stretch your legs can make you feel better, just so long as you are still following the official guidance. Make sure you have your one period of exercise outdoors each day.
Try new ways of doing your self-care – have you ever tried Mindfulness? The Oxford Mindfulness Centre are offering free online sessions each week. Check out YouTube for exercise and yoga videos. Take a long soak in the bath. Anything nurturing that reminds you that you are valuable and worth caring about.
Stay kind and demonstrate gratitude – kindness and compassion to yourself and others is important. At this uncertain time, we need to help and support one another. This might take the form of a thoughtful text or email to a friend or colleague, an offer of help to a neighbour, or just acknowledging those working hard to keep the country going. Take some time to think about the things in your life that are important to you and foster your own spirit of gratitude for them – make sure your loved ones know how much they mean to you, make an effort to smile more, notice the beauty in nature (even if it’s just looking out of the window or at photos online), or make a list of things you are thankful for and stick it up somewhere you see often.
Remember, these are difficult times, but they will pass. More than ever we need to consciously care for our own mental health and wellbeing whilst also supporting one another as best as we can.
Helpful Numbers and Contacts:
Men’s Health Forum - www.menshealthforum.org.uk
Mind – 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm)
PAPYRUS (young peoples’ suicide prevention) – 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri 10am-10om; Weekends 2pm-10pm)
Samaritans – 116 123 (24 hours)