10 WAYS TO STAY MENTALLY HEALTHY WHILST PHYSICALLY DISTANCING_
By Robert J. Stanex, Head of Mentoring & Youth Development
Being away from friends and family, living through uncertain times and being stuck indoors all the time can have a huge impact on your mental health.
Here are my top tips for looking after your emotional wellbeing.
26 March 2020
1_ FANCY DRESS
When you get up each morning, get washed and dressed as if you were going out for the day. It can be tempting to stay in your pjs all day but staying in your lazy clothes can make you feel lazy. You could arrange theme days with your friends and share your photos? You could all wear the same colour, your jazziest top or even dress as a superhero.
2_ WEATHER FORECAST
Remember back in primary school, each morning someone would be chosen to come to the front and put today’s weather symbol on the chart? Why not create your own emotional weather map and use it to chart how you are feeling each day. During this time you will have good days and bad days and that’s ok. Keeping a log of your emotions can help you see patterns and appreciate the better times.
You can also use this exercise to check in with others in your household. They will be going through similar emotions at this time and setting aside time each day to see how everyone is coping will make you stronger as a unit. Don’t live with anyone, try a virtual check in with friends or coworkers!
3_ MAKE A LIST
When each day feels the same as yesterday, having a clear routine and a manageable to-do list can give structure and purpose to your day. Start with things you know you can achieve – making your bed, opening your curtains, having a shower – and go from there. You can also set yourself longer term goals but if you don’t complete everything, don’t worry. Just move incomplete tasks onto tomorrows list and try again.
4_ BREATH OF FRESH AIR
Focused breathing has the ability to sooth us and help us feel more calm and safe. If you are finding you are struggling to concentrate or feeling irritated take some time to breathe. Open a window or door or step out into your garden if you have one and spend a few minutes regulating your breathing. There are some great apps and online tutorials which can guide you through this. Try this: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and let it out for 8 seconds. Repeat.
5_ KEEP FIT
Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. There are lots of free online classes, from aerobics to zumba, which you can use to stay active. Here’s a great account on Instagram that lists all the free lives workouts you can take part in from your house! Remember, if you are going outside for exercise to only go with members of your household, to keep moving and to remain at least 2 metres away from others at all times. Yesterday I took up parkour. What actually happened was I jumped over a wall to avoid being too close to someone – but I’ll put a more positive spin on it.
6_ SCREEN BREAK
Try to take regular breaks from being at a screen and dedicate a chance of time each day to being screen free. Draw a picture, read or listen to a book, play a musical instrument, do some gardening, learn to knit, complete a jigsaw, have a bath, floss your teeth, cook a meal – anything you can do to instead of staring at that screen.
7_ DIGITAL DETOX
We are so privileged to live in a time where physically distancing does not mean being socially isolated. But be mindful of which apps and accounts you are using and how they are affecting your mood. Now is the time to do a spring clean of your social media, removing anything which doesn’t give you positive vibes. Sometime I want to unfollow certain accounts on Instagram so I don’t see them everyday but I don’t want to forget them completely in case I want to go back and look at them later on. For this I create a saved Instagram folder and add a post from each account I’m unfollowing so I can find it if I ever need it!
8_ BREAKING NEWS
With information changing daily, it is important to stay up to date with the latest news. However, seeing a constant stream of, often unsettling news, can heighten your anxiety. Dedicate just 1 or 2 moments in the day to check in with the news. I read the headlines on my phone during my morning coffee then sit down to watch the government briefing in the evening and that’s it. Get the family together to watch and discuss your feelings about the news afterwards. We’ve made an event of it. Each day at 5pm in my house is POPCORN AND PRIME MINISTER!
9_ 5 4 3 2 1 TOUCH THE GROUND
If you do get to the point of panic, this simple exercise can really help. It is my go-to in those situations when my heart starts to beat too fast and my breathing gets laboured. First, find 5 things you can see. Notice them one by one and name them in your head. White Chair. Copper Lamp. Tartan Scarf. Round Mirror. Favourite Mug. Now do the same, finding 4 things you can touch. Recognise how they each individually feel. Next find 3 things you can hear. 2 things you can smell and finally 1 you can taste. Once you have done this, place both your palms on the floor and breathe deeply, focusing on the items you have just identified. This will begin to ground you. When you feel more settled stand up slowly, take one deep breath and try to go on with your day.
Remember if everything is feeling too much and you need someone to talk to, our Crisis Messenger service is available for free 24/7. All you need to do to start a conversation is text ‘DA’ to 85258.
10_ BUILD A FORT
When we are out and about our home is our safe space that we retreat to. But when our house is our world it can be difficult to find that security, particularly if you live with a large family. It doesn’t matter what age you are, something I still do when I need that extra level of comfort and security is build a blanket fort. Make it cosy with fairy lights and cushions, curl up with a hot drink and a magazine and take some time to be alone.
The coming weeks and months will be challenging for everyone. Always remember that you are not alone. Be mindful of your own wellbeing and others around you. Talk about how you are feeling and know that there is always support available.