As someone who lives with mental health problems, I have to say lockdown has had me in a tailspin. Aside from my mental health issues I also have physical issues, which means I do not go out that often – even under normal circumstances – , but having that option taken away has been hard. The fact that I cannot just pop over to see my parents or have someone come over to say hi has left me struggling with how to make it through each day.
Obviously I am not the only one feeling this way. Many people with (and without) mental health issues are finding lockdown hard. Support systems have become strained or even broken due to people not being able to see each other and contact with mental health professionals has gone from face–to-face consultations to telephonic ones. If, like me, you have issues communicating on the phone, this can be hard.
Lowering my expectations
When lockdown first started traditional and social media was flooded with inspirations and motivations to learn a new skill or finally tackle all the tasks you never get to. However I was just celebrating getting out of bed and stopping staring at the ceiling.
It took me a while to understand that this was OK (not the staring at the ceiling part, the celebrating the small bits part). We do not need to come out of lockdown with a new skill and our lives sorted out. If we do, fantastic! But, if all we manage to do is come out as mentally healthy as possible then that is a huge win as well.
Take it day by day
For me, routine helps. This doesn’t mean you have to plan everything for weeks ahead. It can be a simple routine set around sleep, meal times and talking to friends and family. Everything else can be organised on a day by day basis.
One day you might get up and feel like cleaning the house and doing the washing while the next might be all about survival. If you need to spend the day glued to your phone or computer, talking to others instead of ticking things off your list of tasks, then do so if it helps you through the day.
Listen to yourself and what you need during this time and try and fulfil those needs as much as you can.
Allow yourself some down time
Perhaps now more than ever it is a must to actively let your mind unwind. I know for me, my brain has been working overtime – especially at night. To combat this I have downloaded music which I play using headphone as it makes is harder to think and allows me to relax. Then I let myself drift off, and deal with the worries of the night the next day when I am able to talk to people about them.
Don’t worry about your dreams
I’ll admit that weird dreams are something that I deal with all year around. However, I have spoken to a lot of people who are finding their dreams to be much more intense at the moment. Dreams for many seem to have taken a very vivid turn, with our unconscious night-time brain trying to deal with our thoughts, feelings and ability to deal with life right now.
If you are struggling with vivid dreams I’ve found writing down or talking about those that linger with me, helped me understand or let go of the strange things my mind makes up.
Turn off the news
The constant cycle of bad news can really bring and hold you down. While I want to remain informed, I have found that the constant bombardment of guesses about the present and the future (because in the end, often that’s all they are) by many news outlets only made me feel worse. So I made a conscious decision to read only the run down of the daily highlights and leave it at that.
This is much like my consumption of news during normal times. I realise I need to know what’s going on in the world, but I also know that I can get very bogged down and wrapped up in it, which takes a toll on my mental health.
The amount of news that people can take varies from person to person, but don’t feel like you have to take in every scrap.
Reach out for help if you need it
We’ve never lived through anything like this before, so if you are struggling with your mental health remember that you can ask for help.
Doctors are still working, even if it is in slightly different way. Make a telephone appointment, or if you are really struggling, pick up the phone and call one of the many crisis hotlines available. They are still working and ready to take your call. Don’t feel you can’t or shouldn’t pick up the phone because of everything going on in the world.
UK/MED/20/0188 June 2020