LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH  …………….whilst it’s important to keep up to date with what’s going on, too much news can be depressing at a time when you need to be looking after your own mental health. Try these tips:

  • Only watch or read the news once a day. Choose a time when you know you’ll be able to deal with it.
  • Switch your social media off during the day where possible. If you use social media for work then focus on the positive rather than negatives
  • Actively avoid sensationalistic sites where you’re likely to find fake news Don’t read social media posts full of doom and gloom.

Find your creativity, with a hobby, interest, doing something you’ve always enjoyed but haven’t had the time to do such as:

  • Joining a virtual choir
  • Colouring books for grown ups
  • Painting – either art or decorating
  • Gardening – focus on making somewhere comfy to sit outside
  • Knitting – knit blankets for premature babies
  • Sewing – make face masks
  • Reading – all those books on the shelf or kindle you’ve been meaning to read
  • Handy work around the house
  • Repairing things you’ve put off for ages
  • Cooking or baking – make something you can share with people who are on their own
  • Have a clear out ready to take stuff to the tip or charity shop

Stay away from the mood hoovers people but if you have one in your house then talk about thinking of the positives and not discussing the negatives

The act of savouring – paying attention to the things that make you happy during the day triggers serotonin which will ease your stress.

Be grateful every day for what you have

When things aren’t great then actively thinking about the positive things you do have will lift your mood and help your mental health. Every morning and evening, either write down or think about:

  • 3 good things that happened that day – even if they are very small
  • 3 things you’re looking forward to tomorrow or that day

If you’re working either at work or from home, write down at least one achievement each evening for that day

Practice reducing your stress and anxiety

It’s natural to be worried about what the future holds but actively practising stress reduction will help your mental health

Meditation is a good way to calm your brain down – even if you don’t feel like you’re getting “deep enough” – it will still help relax your brain. It’s best practiced on your own so you can focus. Many people practice first thing in the morning – you can do it before you get out of bed or go into another room so you can sit or lie comfortably. There are lots of recordings, videos, books, explanations out there so find one you like (you don’t need to spend any money) and if you find a recording you like, download it to your phone or tablet.

Put earphones or earplugs in if your house is noisy and if you don’t want to disturb anyone else in the room. Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and focus for about 15 mins, particularly on your breathing

You can also practice Mindfulness during the day – you can do this when other people are around and you want to get away from tensions, noise, feeling overwhelmed or anxious. There are many books, recordings, videos etc to follow but here’s a simple technique

  • Sit or stand comfortably (people have practised mindfulness on the tube – just make sure you’re not driving or moving where you could fall over or cause an accident)
  • Be aware of your surroundings but focus on you
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • Consciously breathe and identify any parts of your body that are tense.
  • Consciously relax those parts
  • Breathe in and out, slowly and steadily
  • Do this for as long as you need then open your eyes

If you can – get outside and breath the fresh air if you can, walking or if you have a garden, go and sit in it for a few minutes and see if you can hear the birds singing.

Look after your body – it’s the only one you have

If you have space, practice yoga or pilates as often as you can. It’s important to keep stretching your muscles, particularly if you’re sitting at a desk or table for long periods of time.

Make sure you stand up and move about at least once an hour if this is you – set the timer on your phone to remind you and try these simple exercises:

  • Roll your head from side to side
  • Roll your shoulders round
  • Stretch your arms and hands out behind you, above your head and to the front
  • Wiggle your hips to release tension and help your lower back
  • Lean forward and reach towards your toes.

Try to ensure your desk, chair, computer, screen and keyboard are set up to suit you properly, otherwise you could end up with longer term back, elbow and wrist problems leading to repetitive strain injuries.

Get a good nights sleep.

Whilst we’re all facing the challenges of lockdown, it’s having an effect on our brain and our sleep patterns. If you find it difficult to get to sleep, you’re waking up in the night or very early, having strange dreams, then firstly try not to worry about it but actively think about a wind down routine in the evening. Other things that will help you get a better nights sleep could be:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and set your alarm for same time each morning – at the time you actually need to get up – don’t allow yourself an extra half an hour to snooze.
  • Check the room temperature – it needs to be cool rather than hot. Open a window open to let air in if possible.
  • Don’t pile on the duvet and covers it you find yourself kicking them off in the night. Use less.
  • Make sure there’s as little light coming into the bedroom – it’s easier to sleep if the room is dark
  • Turn off phones or tablets of turn them face down so you don’t get disturbed by the blue light they emit, which will stimulate your brain and keep you awake.
  • Don’t watch tv or kindle read late at night, if you like reading, choose a book
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol late at night and cut the carbs and heavy meals late at night too
  • Try to get natural sunlight as early as possible
  • Try not to take naps in the day unless you’ve been up very late the night before. Avoid sleeping in.
  • Exercise during the day if possible
  • Listen to a relaxation recording to help you drift off
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation or deep breathing exercises with a body scan to check for areas of tension before you try to sleep
  • If you do wake up in the night, don’t panic and try not to look at the clock
  • If your brain is buzzing then write down some positive thoughts or any ideas you’re had so your brain can get back to sleep mode

Say to yourself each night – ‘I’m going to get some sleep and wake up tomorrow morning and do it basically good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect — just good enough.”

More to come on the next blog to help you through this tough time