The current pandemic, it is fair to say, has challenged all of us in varying ways. These challenges are even more evident when in lockdown, as feelings of uncertainty, fear of illness and isolation are significantly exacerbated. But, of course, in the face of adversity (and not to mention slight irritation!) many have banded together and helped each other through; with zoom quizzes, live workouts, and even homeschooling. Still, it is a very difficult time, especially for those suffering with their mental health. And so with this in mind, here is a guide providing some ways that may help with coping during COVID.
Mental health and Covid
A key aspect of coping during Covid is looking after our mental health. This is something that is certainly sometimes easier said than done. For example, some may experience being ‘stuck in their own head’ – an unhealthy habit induced by isolation and loneliness. This situation is a breeding ground for overthinking, rumination and self-critical thoughts, and can be a tricky habit to break. Others may experience varying levels of anxiety and feelings of uncertainty. Maybe they have felt fearful of being thrown back into social situations they have experienced little of over the last year. While of course we would recommend seeking professional support, there are certain things you can do that may also help, day-to-day.
Occupying your day
Although this may seem rather obvious, how you spend your day can have a massive impact. More relevant to the first example, it can be troubling being trapped in your mind constantly. And so filling your day with things to do can help alleviate this. This could be through starting up a hobby, particularly a new one, and building upon a skill. Currently a very popular example is colour by number, which can be a brilliant distraction. When finished, it also results in a brilliant piece of art. Others could include (at home) sports, gaming, baking, writing, arts and crafts, hiking, the list is endless!
Another way of occupying your day is online courses. This may be useful for students or recent graduates looking for ways in which to build up their CV. This can also provide a slight feeling of productivity and achievement, especially if you gain a qualification at the end. There are multiple out there, free of charge, so do have a look and see if you’re interested.
Meditation can be a controversial suggestion but is certainly becoming more and more popular. If you think about it, how often do you sit and do or think about absolutely nothing? Even whilst sitting and scrolling through a phone we are bombarded with information, thoughts and feelings, without having a break. Meditation is a great way to ensure you are getting that break as well as proving to have a multitude of other benefits. For example, it has been suggested to help with productivity, dealing with stress, sleep issues, grounding you in the present, and much more! Even if you’re rather skeptical and possibly not as a stand-alone solution, I would recommend giving it a try.
Keeping a journal/diary
A suggestion some may not have considered is keeping a daily diary or log. Whether writing the occurrences of the day, thoughts or struggles you may be experiencing, using a diary can certainly provide a bit of structure to your week. It can help to set a routine and set daily goals, leading to higher levels of productivity. For a more personal use, jotting down dilemmas can also help organise your thoughts, making them seem more manageable and solvable. This could also be an enjoyable pastime or hobby.
Seemingly a much easier task now the lockdown roadmap has been announced, plans can start being made for the future! Having something to look forward to, both short and long term, I believe can make the current situation more manageable. These plans can almost act as checkpoints. They can demonstrate that we are making progress and that things gradually are getting better. This makes the light at the end of the tunnel a little more noticeable! Making plans also gives us more control; something we may feel we have had a lack of due to national restrictions.
Social media use
Another way of coping during Covid is to keep social media use to a minimum, as much as possible. This can be a difficult ask, especially as it stands to be our main way of staying in contact with loved ones and friends. However, the negative impact social media use has on our mental health has been strongly suggested. Therefore, it makes sense to try to avoid being bogged down in scrolling. There is, of course, the option to delete all social media, but that can be a big ask. Instead, try uninstalling the apps that are the most distracting and addictive for a week, and see how you get on. That way you can always reinstall them but can help break that habit of using them all day everyday.
Alternatively, there are focus apps available. For example, ‘Forest’ helps you set a specific focus time that gives you the incentive to stay off social media and keep working by planting trees in your own little virtual forest. Every time you exit the app to go onto social media, the tree stops growing. This really helped me in particular during exam season!
Summary of coping during Covid
Overall, I hope this post has given you some initial pointers on how to look after your mental health during COVID. Whether you try one or a couple of the suggestions, it’s important to remember that there is not necessarily a right way to get through the pandemic. Some will have thrived over the past year, whilst others will have struggled whilst waiting for the world to open up again, and both are absolutely fine! Aiming to do whatever makes you happy and comfortable whilst not worrying about what others are doing, is a great place to start.