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9 Tips to help Mental Health during this time

Start an at-home exercise routine

Working out at home in these times is obviously a good way to stay healthy and kill indoor time. Many online workout sources are offering free access or longer free trial periods during this time, which might be worth looking into. But again, anything that gets your heart pumping or builds muscle is excellent for both physical and mental health.

FREE Live Yoga Classes at 8pm and all their previous sessions can be accessed on YouTube here

Another FREE Yoga class on wednesdays at 6pm can be accessed here

Joe Wicks has become a familiar face with his promotion of online PE sessions for children at this time. He also offers free videos of a wide range of workouts for all ages here

Get outside—in nature—if you can

There are some very good reasons to do so. Lots of recent research finds that spending time in nature is a boon to both mental and physical health. For instance, multiple studies have found that time in green and blue space is associated with reduced anxiety and depression.

On the physical side, an interesting study a couple of years ago found that people who spent more time “forest bathing,” also known as shinrin yoku, had significantly reduced risk for chronic health issues, including reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower heart rate, and reduced all-cause mortality and death from heart disease.

But what’s fascinating is that it doesn’t seem to have to do with just the extra activity, the sunshine, or the air quality (though these certainly play a role). Forest bathing may actually help the immune system: One mechanism is thought to be through the chemicals that trees release, phytoncides—some studies have found that people who spent more time in nature had greater activity of immune cells known as natural killer cells.

So get out to the park and breathe in some phytoncides (making sure to practice good social distancing, of course)—it will be a very good habit for body and mind.  

Declutter your home

Working on your home if you have time, can be a good way to feel productive and in control (see caveat below). Take the opportunity of the extra time by de-cluttering, cleaning or organising your home.

The caveat is that you don’t want to become obsessive about cleaning, since there’s only so much you can do. But using the extra time, if you have it, to reorganise and toss or donate items you no longer use is a great idea.

Meditate, or just breathe

Meditation has lots of research behind it, as most people by now know—it’s been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and even increase the volume of certain areas of the brain.

But if meditation isn’t for you, just breathing slowly might be. Controlled breathing has been used for millennia to calm the mind—and a study a few years ago showed the mechanism that might explain it. The researchers found that a tiny subset of neurons in the area of the brain known to control various types of breathing also seemed to house a group of neurons that controlled the level of arousal. Knocking this area out made mice uncharacteristically calm—and the team believe that slow breathing might also tap into this area of the brain and have the same effect.

Slow breathing is used clinically to suppress excessive stress such as seen in panic attacks, so trying some controlled breath work may be an especially healthy idea these days.

A FREE online mindfulness-based stress relief course can be found here

Learn how to meditate - a FREE online course can be found here

Maintain community and social connection

We’re fundamentally social creatures, and during crises it’s natural to want to gather. Social connectivity is perhaps the greatest determinant of well-being there is and one of our most basic psychological needs. Unfortunately, it’s the opposite of what we can do right now, so we have to be creative, to maintain both psychological closeness and a sense of community.

Texting and social media are OK, but picking up the phone and talking or taking part in a video- call is much better.

Be of service, from a distance

Being of service is one of the best things we can do for society—and on a more selfish note, for ourselves. Studies have repeatedly found that serving others, even via small acts of kindness, has strong and immediate mental health benefits. Feeling a sense of purpose has also been shown to help people recover from negative events and build resilience.

For people who are lucky enough to be healthy right now and not caring for a loved one who’s sick, finding ways to help others in this kind of crisis is great for your own well-being.

Practice gratitude

This is not the easiest thing to do in these times, particularly if you’ve felt the more brutal effects of the pandemic, like job or business loss, or illness. But practising gratitude for the things we do have, has been shown again and again to be hugely beneficial to mental health. For instance, in one of the first key studies on the subject, the researchers found that writing down five things we are grateful for, just once a week was significantly linked to increased well-being!

So even though it might be a challenge right now, write down some of the things you’re grateful for; or if you have little kids and it’s easier, try talking about and listing aloud things that make you happy and that you’re thankful for.

Let yourself off the hook

The might be the most important thing to keep in mind—don’t beat yourself up when things are not going perfectly in your household. On top of everything else, being upset with yourself is totally counterproductive. If the kids watch too much Netflix or play too many hours of video games, it’s not the end of the world.

Things are going to be hairy for a while, and if you can’t stick to your schedule or can’t fit in your at-home workout every day, it’s really not such a big deal in the long run. It’s much more valuable to everyone to cut yourself some slack, use the time to reflect on the important things, and try to keep a sense of “we’re all in this together” at the forefront.

* Parts of this article have been copied from this article on Forbes

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