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Mental Health: Coping During Lockdown

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Coping During Lockdown

Lockdowns, Social Distancing, Work from Home, Stay at home and Safe Lives. All things that we have never had to cope with before and for some people, the risks are greater than others. Perhaps you are in a vulnerable group or maybe you are experiencing employment uncertainties or are having money troubles. Uncertain times bring with it some unique fears and stresses; these are all a very normal human responses to the unknown. It’s okay, to not be okay. Many things are out of our control, trying times indeed. We caught up with mental health champion and distance runner, Rob Shenton, to talk about the effect lockdown and Covid-19 is having on our mental health.

Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing

It might not be as bad as it seems. Going beyond the initial shock and forced changes, you will start to see the positives. A difference in people and ourselves that could have lasting benefits. Not just the amazing volunteering that has been seen to help the NHS and the country, but a change where people are starting see the benefits of health, both physically and mentally.

Mental Wellbeing

A big part that provides balance in our mental health is the emotional regulation system. The emotional regulation system has three parts to it:

  1. Threat - We do things because we are under threat. We have a deadline at work to keep; we run faster in race if someone is trying to overtake us or perhaps a threat response to something more sinister to our safety.
  2. Drive – The intrinsic drive for an improvement. We will work harder to get recognition, maybe a promotion or pay rise; we are driven to train harder to try and get a PB.
  3. Soothe - This is something that we don’t often think about, in my mind this is what we need to refill, to replenish the Threat/ Drive bank account.

The Soothe is the time we take for ourselves, to look after ourselves. Such as, a long soak in a bath, time to read, do art, write, do yoga, do mindfulness, anything that is restful and will help you be reflective and relax. Take time out. In our busy lives this is so often pushed to one side due to other demands that come with a modern lifestyle. So perhaps lockdown will help with that, perhaps we will come out more reflective than before?

image credit: Adrian Davis, 2013

Putting into practice

As a recurrent depressive my threat, drive and soothe balance is one of the many things I have to manage. So much so that I have a self-soothe box. A physical box of things that if I open, it will remind me of things that make me happy and soothe my anxiety and negative thoughts. It has photos to make me smile, things like an art kit, a Rubik’s cube, tea bags, my favourite book, all things that remind me to take that break and just breathe. Here are some other tips and pointers that may be useful for you to maintain a balance during these unique times:

  • Stay Connected. With modern communications, this is easier than ever. I have found even group video calls, be that running, training or work, does lift my spirits.
  • Stay Active. Thankfully, we can still go out to exercise; doing some form exercise has well documented benefits. Some people are seeing the lockdown as a focus to help them get fitter with regular exercise and stretching. Check out our training programme for supporting your mental health.
  • Take notice. Appreciate what you have and the world around you. Take time to appreciate the good things around you and in your life. This is something I struggle with the most and need to work on.
  • Love yourself. Take some time to look after yourself, do that self soothe, treat yourself in some way, a long soak in the bath, make some time to read that book, enjoy watching the sunrise.
  • Remain Positive. Think of the best-case scenario rather than the worst. Avoid negativity, for instance not looking at the news after a certain time in day, or limit your exposure to things that have a negative effect on you.
  • Plan a Routine. Plan ahead, have an aim, let others you live with know the plans, let them be part of these plans. Establishing a routine can help you achieve what you want and get you one step closer to your goals.
  • Control the Controllables. Accept what you can control and don’t worry about what you can’t. Saying aloud or writing down what you are anxious about and identifying the things you can’t control will help with that acceptance.
  • Give Something. Even if it is a smile, saying thank you. Obviously, the volunteer side of the coronavirus situation has been amazing, but if you are not in position to help, a smile costs nothing. The other day I was out running and a fellow running going the other way gave me a big smile, it really lifted my spirits. When we do go out to shop or for exercise it so easy to look at people with a suspicion, worry and concern. Once you have realised, they are not threat and are in the same situation as you - SMILE, it can make a big difference!
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