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March 19, 2020

Maintaining good mental health in uncertain times (5.5mins read)

Written by David O'Connell

All of us find ourselves living through unprecedented times, experiencing things that we have never before contemplated. It is very natural to be jolted out of norms and left in an anxious paradigm. This is why it is increasingly important to enact positive mental health habits and measures from an early stage while you are self-isolating, working from home and experiencing a ‘lockdown’. Having previously discussed this subject and practices here, there are many areas that you can control that help make things better.

Self-Care: Sleeping, Eating & Drinking Habits

Self-care is any health function which is under an individual’s control.

 

Firstly, sleep! While it may be more challenging, it is still vital to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep. A little known fact is, during sleep your immune system comes alive in a big way. Your body releases proteins called cytokines which are critical in fighting infections and inflammation. Between this and the mental health reset and regulation of good rest, it needs to be prioritised.

 

Secondly, what you put into your body impacts everything else. You are what you eat is a ridiculous cliche at this point. No, you are not a pig for having bacon but you may need to cut down on it to not feel like one. The healthier the diet that you can maintain, the better you will feel. Having been off chocolate for lent so far, I understand the sadness involved at times but I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a positive difference. By eating healthy, you keep the mind and body sharp.

 

Lastly, is alcohol intake. With St. Patrick’s Day having just occurred, this is an obvious entertainment people will consider more often. I highly suggest that each of us do what we can to reduce drinking during this time. In actual terms, your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the most restorative part of your sleep cycle, is severely disrupted after alcohol making you more susceptible to illness. Beyond that, your concentration, mood deteriorates and drowsiness sets in. 

 

 

Avoid burn-out

Of course, nobody really knows in full how to react to the current situation. However, every so-often we should try to self-assess and figure out if the way we are right now is something we can maintain for a long time. If you are peak stressed every day, how long do you think you can keep going? Maintaining a normal routine is an important habit but being ready to make changes may be just as important. Changes may need to include identifying things that cause stress, even if they are minor, and making necessary adjustments. In addition, areas that you notice cause stress to others that you can change, go ahead and do those. Where you can lift both yours and others spirits is ultimately good for all so be kind where you can.

 

Reduce technology consumption & Social Media exposure

The most natural thing in today’s world would be to plough newfound free time into consuming crazy amounts of social media and news. Be wary of this! Over-exposure to social media and news channels may steer you towards panic. Allow yourself time away from this to decompress and meditate away from the madness. It makes sense that “it” is all everyone is talking about right now but that may not help to keep the populous rational about their approach to this situation. Take a few hours away from your phone or these outlets and screens in general when it is appropriate and when you do have screen time, look for positive, uplifting stories such as balcony singing in Italy, makeshift St Patrick’s Parades in Ireland or group video chats for connectivity worldwide.

 

Stay Connected

To family, friends, elderly, medical staff and people with the illness. Connection is likely the biggest loss from social isolation and it may not have to be. Millennials are often made fun of for lots of things but if there is one thing my avocado toast generation has helped with, it is the ease of connection. The number of social messaging tools available are extreme so feel free to make use of them. While you’re at it, help someone else download any messenger and enjoy the learning process of calls with your parents who don’t always know where the camera is and spend the first two minutes of any call I have had, fixing their hair. 

  • Call someone you wanted to speak to for a while but just left it go. 
  • Call grandparents and anyone that may be worried.
  • Call those who are sick.
  • Call a family with children.
  • Call people you know in the medical, grocery, delivery and government fields that may need someone to talk to. 

The only request is to be careful of your language. No need to scare anyone! If they are sick, they need someone to talk to, not to be judged by.

 

Exercise

Exercise may seem so far from a necessity in all of this but it is a major keystone habit and certainly affects each person’s mental health. Positive endorphins are released by exercising regularly and this is very important for your overall health. Many sources of home exercises such as yoga and calisthenics are available on YouTube or Facebook. We have reviewed exercise in more detail in a previous blog which you can find here.

Credit: https://valentinbosioc.com/28-days-full-body-home-workout-challenge/

 

Children

Undoubtedly, there are numerous people in a state of lockdown with their children. This is going to be a difficult time and I won’t pretend otherwise. There are some wonderful ideas out there to help alleviate their boredom and any pressure you may feel as a result. Arts and crafts, cooking, fixing and building things are among them and learning something new together. Making drum sets, playing soccer or sports together along with whatever schooling you feel the need to do. Here is a link to some novel and creative ideas that can be done with modest supplies like fishing tackle and a cardboard box.

 

 

Looking for opportunities

Lastly, while these are extraordinary times we are experiencing, we all have a part to play in the upkeep of our societies. That seems like a crazy thing to say, even to me. However, we have a number of tools through which we can contribute to others mental health and overall connection.

  • Social media - reaching out to others and find groups looking to help.
  • Calling each other and charitable organizations to see if there is any way to help.
  • Donating to community libraries where non-perishable foods are being given away.
  • Online-forums that form discussion groups for healthy idea generation.
  • Building and fixing things at home that might have been lingering. 

There are any number of ideas that people can use this time at home for good. Undeniably a distressing time, there are opportunities for each of us to offer something to each other. Buying groceries for the elderly, the ill or overworked people can be a major help. If you have had to apply for EI, help others understand how that works. Try painting, try making funny videos, try writing, pick up an old instrument.

Most of all, stay safe and do what you can to lessen the impact on you and everyone! We will get through this together and as always, feel free to reach out to us if there is anything you would like us to write about or help with!

 

Dave O’Connell

Resources used:

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