Further thoughts on mental wellbeing

See this post for the context. Please especially note: “None of these replace seeking medical help, which you should still do if you need it. Talking therapies may be harder to access than usual, but medication can still be prescribed if appropriate, and you should absolutely talk to your GP if you are not coping. These suggestions are simple things which may help all of us, whether or not we also need to seek medical help.”

Following that post, I thought of a couple of other things I wanted to mention, and some other people also made suggestions. So here’s a few more things you might find helpful

Pay attention to your physical wellbeing

Physical wellbeing has a significant impact on mental wellbeing. For me, one of the quickest ways to send my mental health into a downward spiral is to start eating lots of carbs. That might not be true for you, but eating heathily in general will help your mental health. So will paying attention to sleep and exercise patterns. That’s hard at the moment when all our routines are different, so it will be worth giving some thought to how you can best look after your body.

Be ruthless about your media consumption

One of the first things I noticed affecting my mental health, within the first 24 hours of lockdown, was the constant barrage of news, information and other posts. Trying to keep up with everything was making me anxious and distracted. None of us need 24 hour news and none of us need 24 hour social media. If our heads are constantly being filled with things to do with the pandemic, we will very quickly end up with unhealthy patterns of thinking and feeling.

Be ruthless with this. You can cut out as much of it as you need to. You don’t have to watch the daily briefing. You don’t have to watch every news bulletin. You can mute anything you want on social media. You can restrict the time spent online, watching TV, or consuming news in some other way.

It’s okay to be ruthless with who you are giving attention to at the moment as well. I have muted or hidden several people who I normally like to follow and engage with online, some of whom are offline friends too, because their feeds are currently full of posts that I can’t cope with. You don’t have to read everything and you absolutely don’t have to engage with everything, even the people who are Wrong On The Internet.

I have set up a Facebook group which anyone can join and post in, where the rule is simple: nothing coronavirus-related. It is a breath of fresh air in a world that is otherwise entirely saturated with it. But you can achieve the same thing by switching your computer off and picking up a book. Or playing a board game. Or digging the garden.

Treat yourself

Many of the things you might normally look forward to in life will be different or cancelled at the moment. Make a list of nice things that you can still enjoy. Pick up some treats next time you’re out for essential shopping, or order some things online, and put them in a drawer to pull out next time you’re having a bad day.

But also, lockdown isn’t about making life as miserable as possible. If you aren’t spending money on going out, what could you treat yourself to instead? Maybe get a Netflix subscription or Disney+. Now is a GREAT time to invest in a Kindle, if you don’t have one. If you’ve had to cancel a holiday, what about treating yourself to an inflatable hot tub for the garden instead?

Treat other people too! I love giving things to other people – it makes me happier as well. You can still send things in the post, and you can give treats online too.

Set healthy boundaries

We do need to be looking out for other people at the moment. Lots of people need physical help – doing their shopping, or whatever. And all of us need emotional support from friends and family. It’s good to be able to help other people in whatever ways we can.

But we also need to be able to set healthy boundaries. If I regularly spend so long on the phone to other people that I don’t have capacity to cook my own dinner, or get good sleep myself, that’s not healthy. There are some ways of offering support which are much more costly to me than others, and sometimes it’s okay to set limits on how much of that I can do.

Because there are limits to how much help we can be, anyway. We can’t be responsible for anyone else’s mental wellbeing, for example. We can’t solve all their problems. We can’t end the isolation of lockdown. We can’t promise that they won’t get coronavirus. We can’t provide the peace and security which only come from Christ.

Find something to laugh at

A proper, laugh out loud, gigglesnorting laugh is a wonderful thing at any time, but particularly valuable at the moment. I’ve been working my way through Twenty Twelve and W1A on iPlayer, but ymmv. Find whatever makes you really, really laugh, and get some of that into as many days as possible.