It can be hard to stay mentally strong during a global pandemic - but it is possible. Sure, positive thinking can help to an extent, but looking after your mental wellbeing is much more than that. It’s important to look at how you can practically look after your mental health through various means.
Here are a few practical ideas to help get you started:
Don’t engage with hate online
This is a big one. More people staying indoors means people are spending more time on social media. While in some instances, this is a wonderful thing as it keeps us connected to our loved one - chances are, you’ve encountered trolls or hateful comments on social media, whether it’s aimed at you or someone else.
Photo Charles Deluvio
If you’re trying to look after your mental health during lockdown, try not to engage with hateful comments. It might seem tempting to ‘put things right’ with someone being hateful, but in most cases it’s near-impossible to change someone’s opinion (even if it is something that shouldn’t be up for debate - such as gender and sexuality). This comic explains it perfectly!
Instead, you could focus your time and energy on something more worthwhile than trying to convince a bigot that they’re a bigot. One idea could be to read up about an issue you previously had little knowledge about. For example, other sexualities, the gender spectrum, different cultures, history of systemic racism, people living with disabilities...the list goes on! The beauty of the internet is people can tell their stories and we can learn from them.
Just the act of ‘learning’ itself is one of the very best gifts we can give ourselves during this time. Invest your time in learning about others - knowledge still is power….even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment!
(and if anyone calls you a snowflake - check out why snowflakes are awesome!)
Create a new daily routine
Lockdown changes the very way we live our lives and with a new situation, means we all need to create a new routine and stick to it. Following a daily routine may sound dull to some, but it has been clinically proven to make you feel more secure and in control - which can only be good news for your mental health. A daily routine helps cover your basic needs (food, drink, hygiene, social, energy...OK so basically all the ‘Needs’ bars in The Sims!).
Photo Alice Pasqual
Think of your daily routine as a time for self care. It can include little things like having your favourite breakfast, using your favourite shower gel (aromatherapy anyone?!) or chatting online with a good friend. If you work from home, get dressed as if you’re going to the office. Give yourself a casual Friday (if your job allows). Have after-work drinks with your workmates over video chat. As long as you’re looking after your routine, your body will look after you. For example, try to eat your meals at around the same time every day, as it’s great for your digestive system and your general mood. It’s seemingly little things like this that can really help us with our mental health in the long run.
Consider a social media break
It sounds crazy in this day and age to suggest a social media break, right? But sometimes you really do need to take some time out from the hectic world of social media. It isn’t just the trolls that can bring us down - the constant news streaming through on social media is enough to stress out the calmest of us!
If you are interested in taking a social media break, there are a few apps to help you with your social media break. Offtime, for instance, allows you to block individual apps and functions from your phone for a set period of time. There are also some great desktop/laptop browser extensions that can help you curb your social media activity - such as Cold Turkey! The extension can block specific web pages, the whole internet and even, if you need it, your computer.
Some of us might not have the self-discipline to stay away from social media, so one idea, albeit a last resort, is to get someone close to you to change your social media passwords. Tell them not to give you the new passwords until you’ve finished your social media break. It’s a bit old school but it can help calm your mind once you get over that FOMO feeling.
Physical fitness / keep moving
Some of you might miss going to the gym and some of you might not be fussed. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy being active - it really is beneficial for your mental health. You’d be surprised at what counts as “being active” - it isn’t all treadmills and weights.
Video games like Just Dance and pretty much most of Nintendo Switch’s games involve more physical activity than you think. If you make it part of your daily routine, you’ve definitely got more than enough exercise for the week.
Or you could even go retro and find loads of hilarious, and admittedly cheesy, 70s and 80s aerobic videos on YouTube. Even better, why not get some friends together on Zoom and do the exercises together. When it comes to exercise, just think outside the box!
There are good people out there...
Never be afraid to ask for help if you need it. As well as any family (chosen or otherwise) or friends you may be able to turn to, there are still loads of wonderful charities out there providing help and support for people from all walks of life.
Albert Kennedy Trust: Helping LGBTQIA+ young people find homes, employment, education and much more.
Galop: Anti-violence LGBTQIA+ charity for those who have experienced hate crime, domestic abuse or any form of violence.
LGBT Foundation: Various free services for LGBTQIA+ people.
Mencap: Help and support for people living with learning disabilities.
Mermaids: A charity supporting trans and gender-diverse children and young people.
Mind: Has a phone line and comprehensive resources for anyone struggling with any mental illnesses.
MindOut: LGBT Mental Health Service
Samaritans: Talk to a friendly person over the phone or via email.
Stop Hate: A charity supporting those who have experienced racist and xenophobic hate crimes.
Trussell Trust: Find your nearest food bank and get help with benefits.
Remember, you are never alone and there are good people in the world. Take care and stay safe during the lockdown!
Main Lockdown pic by Matt Seymour
Article by Beth Kennedy