Look after yourself: Tips for keeping your head healthy during lockdown

As fundamentally social beings, the reality of having to isolate from others while being bombarded with a seemingly never-ending stream of worrying news can naturally have a negative impact on mental health. 

While the external factors are far from ideal, it’s important to take steps to keep your mind and body in good shape to help you cooly navigate the stress a crisis can often bring. 

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help with anxiety, emotional reactivity, and generally improve mental wellbeing. And since we’ll be spending a lot of time in isolation, there’s never been a better time to get to know your own mind. The basics are simple: sit still for 10 minutes and focus on something (usually the breath) while allowing thoughts and emotions to simply pass by. This simple task, done consistently over a long period of time, can profoundly affect the way you engage with the world.

There are plenty of great apps out there to help with this, such as Headspace and Calm. Another popular app is Waking Up. It is the most expensive of the three, but the developers offer it for free to anyone who can’t afford it, you just have to email and ask.

According to Government guidelines we can still leave the house once a day in order to exercise, provided you keep your distance (two metres) from anyone you don’t share a household with. Get outside and get some fresh air, get some vitamin D, and keep on top of your physical health, because it is linked very closely to your mental health. You can also read about the benefits of gardening here.

As well as the obvious general health benefits, it will also allow you to develop a deeper appreciation for how lucky we are to live in one of UK’S greenest cities. If you download the Strava app, you can keep track of any running stats and share them/show them off to friends. 

Of course, there are plenty of ways to stay fit in the home (or on your back garden) and YouTube is positively awash with free training tutorials to keep you active while staying safe. 

Call your friends and family
It is vitally important that we maintain contact with friends and family. Even if you can’t see them in person, you can still hit them up by telephone, email, social media or skype. A popular app at the moment is Zoom, which allows up to 100(+) people to join a video call – perfect for a bit of virtual pub action!

It’s also important to remember that if you can’t reach friends or family and feel as though you need someone to talk to, you can still contact a number of helplines for emotional support, such as the Samaritans (at 116 123).

Keep a Gratitude Journal
Taking the time to write down what you are grateful for at the end of each day can help provide some much-needed perspective and lift your mood. These can be big things (you might be grateful for your health, or your family and friends) or small ones (a good cup of coffee).

Maintain a Routine
If you are currently off work, or working from home with a lot of flexibility, it can be easy to lose all semblance of routine. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little time off, but it’s important to have some kind of structure to your day to day life

Have your meals at a similar time each day. Make the effort to cook (to the extent that the supermarket shelves allow). Don’t be the guy who’s eating cereal in his pyjamas at two in the afternoon.

Don’t let your sleeping patterns go off the rails. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep. Getting much more or less than this can have a deleterious effect on brain function and mental health. It is also important to go to sleep and wake up at a similar time every day if you want to feel alert. The body loves predictability.

Most of all, schedule some form of mentally stimulating task. This could be learning a language or instrument, reading a challenging book, or just solving a few crossword puzzles.

Pssst. Fancy more of the same? The April issue of Exposed Magazine is now available to read online here.

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