For many of us, the gradual easing of government restrictions has brought longed-for and much-needed opportunities to see family and friends. But with the threat of a second national lockdown hanging around, many of us are struggling with renewed feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and dread.
Finding routines, staying connected, eating well and taking exercise apply just as much now as they did at the start of lockdown, and there are some lessons and learnings we can take forward into the next few months. Here are a few to consider…
1. Garden, whatever the weather
There’s growing evidence that gardening can benefit our mental health. A report by the Royal College of Physicians concluded that gardening can reduce anxiety and boost your mood – something that’s definitely needed right now.
Just because we’re heading into winter doesn’t mean you can’t get outside for some green therapy too. Even though many flowering plants may be dormant, you can still mow the grass and tend to your evergreens. It’s also a great time to work through a seasonal shed or greenhouse tidy up.
2. Exercise every day
Studies have long found that exercise isn’t just great for your physical health – it also improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood.
Lockdown is a great opportunity to exercise more at home and reap the benefits of getting active. Whether you choose to do a sweaty HIIT class, a restorative yoga stretch or you like to simply take a walk around the block, daily exercise can help you to stay in control of Covid-related worries.
3. Get ready for the day
Working from home in pyjamas may sound like the dream, but it can really take a toll on your productivity, sleep patterns and mental health over time.
Start the day as you mean to go on, by showering, getting dressed and doing other essential grooming tasks, like putting on make-up or styling your hair. Separating your work and home life is really important during lockdown, and clothing can have a profound effect on our identity and mindset.
4. Explore new hobbies
Without the pub and commute, many of us dedicated our extra free time to learning new skills during the first round of lockdown. Now is a great time to revisit that language app, online photography course or recipe book.
Learning a new skill is a source of great accomplishment, and it can stop you from ruminating on worries or fears if you’re at home alone. Some of our favourite skills platforms include Skillshare and Future Learn.
5. Try calling, not Zooming
With home working in full force, we’re on video calls more than ever before – and many of us are understandably finding it exhausting.
Video chats come with extra stressors, like looking presentable, worrying about awkward silences and glitchy frozen screens. Plus, big group chats can be more draining on your energy than one-on-one phone calls.
If you’re looking to stay connected to friends and family, we suggest doing yourself a favour and opting for the old-fashioned landline instead.
6. Limit your news intake
With the pandemic unfolding, it’s important to stay informed about the changing lockdown rules. However, too much news – especially bad news – probably isn’t doing your mental state any favours.
Set yourself limits for how much news you want to consume. You could allow yourself to skim over the headlines once in the morning and evening, set screen-time limits on your phone, or go old school and read a newspaper once a day.
It’s also good to intake source-based media only, where you read news stories from trusted sources, that won’t cause you to feel more anxious than you need to.
The bottom line is that it’s important to protect your mental health right now, and limiting your exposure to fake news or ominous news reports can stop you from unnecessarily panicking.