Five ways to recover from lockdown: 3) self care to support mental health
You're not alone
So many of us struggled with our mental health during lockdown. As parents and carers, we had to cope with an overwhelming amount of pressure at times -- hanging onto or losing our jobs, handling round-the-clock childcare in isolation, trying and failing to home school our children, worrying about our families or grieving lost loved ones.
It's really important to acknowledge what we've been through, and appreciate that we've kept on going through an extraordinary time.
There is help
If you're struggling, overwhelmed, or in need of help processing the impact of the past year, there are people and places you can turn to. Here are just a few.
BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) can help you find a registered therapist through their online directory.
Samaritans offer listening and support 24 hours a day, "for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure."
Mind provides tips for taking care of your wellbeing during the pandemic, as well as support for people experiencing mental health problems.
Celebrate the good
Getting perspective on more than a year of constant challenge and upheaval is tricky, and will take time. While we start to adjust to life opening up again, it's worth recognising the things we've managed to do under intensely difficult circumstances.
Try this quick challenge: write down ten things you achieved during the past year. Each one can be as small as 'I did some reading with my child' or as big as 'I started a new job'. Take a moment to consider the list and give yourself credit for the efforts you've made.
Slow right down
As lockdown eases, there can be a lot of nervous energy around rejoining the wider world and all the new possibilities opening up. It's OK to go slowly, and at your own pace.
If you can sit still for five minutes, just breathing, listening, being with whatever's going on, you're using a really powerful tool to bring your stress and anxiety levels down. The free Insight Timer app has a starting and ending bell you can set, allowing you time in between just to breathe and relax.
Do something fun
Kids are great at this, but adults easily forget how good it feels. Try doing something fun, just for the fun of it. Make a playlist of songs you love. Watch something that makes you laugh. Play a silly game -- try and make someone laugh without talking.
Technology has been a lifeline for lots of us during lockdown, and a source of connection when we've been feeling isolated. But too much looking at the news can be overwhelming, and social media can be hectic, and sometimes lonely.
So it's worth stepping away from our phones sometimes, making a conscious decision to take a break from checking messages for while. Maybe it's helpful to set boundaries around the times of day we want to be on social media. You'll know what works for you.
If going out into the wider world and socialising again feels daunting, you don't need to do it alone. Ask a friend or a family member along with you and do something interesting or fun. Ease back into life gently.
Do something kind
An act of kindness towards someone else, big or small, can make all the difference to your day and theirs. Whether it's picking up the phone, sending a message, making something, donating to a good cause, doing a favour or giving a compliment, it all goes towards supporting your mental health and, hopefully, someone else's too.
Put pen to paper
Writing down our thoughts, feelings and worries at the end of the day can be a really helpful way to let things go, so we can rest. You might find it helpful to do some free writing, to express, explore and clarify feelings that you haven't had a chance to process during the day.
Another helpful practice is writing down three things you're grateful for, at the end of each day. It's a is a great way to choose to focus on the positive.