Feeling especially stressed out or worried? You’re not alone. Last month, the Guardian reported that stress, anxiety and depression levels increased in the UK due to pandemic restrictions. Managing your emotions at this difficult time is no small feat. It’s okay to not feel okay right now. Adding a little self-care to your routine isn’t the answer, but it may help you get the mental headspace that you need. Here are five tips to get you started.
1. DON’T IGNORE YOUR EMOTIONS
From intermittent lockdowns and restrictions to the threat of losing work or your health, there are plenty of reasons to worry. It’s enough to make you want to crawl under a duvet and hide. Should you find yourself pushing these feelings deep down inside—whether that’s consciously or subconsciously—it could make things worse in the long-run.
Taking stock of your emotions and dealing with them makes you less susceptible to pandemic-induced stress than ignoring them, according to research from the University of Iowa. The researchers found that people who could identify their feelings and take action were more resilient than those who could not.
Becoming in touch with your emotions doesn’t happen overnight. Take small steps to get started. It could mean identifying that you feel lonely as a result of lockdown and reaching out to friends, or understanding that you are worried because of the ongoing pandemic and taking some time to relax and unwind. It’s a game of trial and error.
2. STAY CONNECTED WITH PEOPLE
Loneliness is a huge problem, especially during lockdowns. When you’re feeling stressed out or alone, contacting your friends and family may feel like a mountain you simply cannot climb. However, having social support during this period is essential to your mental health. Research from Wolters Kluwer Health found that both giving and receiving support from others can lead to lower overall stress levels.
If you find it hard to connect with people when you’re struggling, keep things simple. You don’t have to tell people that you’re stressed or finding things hard (unless you want to!). Instead, you can simply send a text message to say hello or ask them how they are. Equally, if you know someone who is vulnerable, you may want to offer to help them out. You could do their shopping or simply catch up with them via a quick video call.
3. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
One of the hardest things about the pandemic is the lack of control. For most of us, it’s the first time we have had to relinquish some of the control over our lives. For example, we now have to think twice about when we go out, who we meet, and what we do. Equally, we have no hand in when the pandemic will be over and life will return to normal.
Rather than worrying about things you can’t change, focus on what you can. You might want to establish a steady home routine, start a new hobby or make virtual plans with your loved ones. On the other hand, you could focus on eating well, getting enough exercise, and prioritising sleep. Taking the attention off the pandemic is certain to be a savvy move.
4. TAKE A MINDFULNESS BREAK
Mindfulness is more than just a buzzword. Right now, the world is a loud place. The constant coverage of the pandemic and endless comment threads on social media are hard to ignore. If you’re finding it all too much, taking a moment to be present in the here and now could be the answer. Practicing mindfulness for 25 minutes at a time can help to alleviate psychological stress, according to research from Carnegie Mellon University.
Whenever you’re experiencing stress from the pandemic (or anything else, for that matter), taking the time to relax and switch off could be the answer. To help you get started, you can use apps, such as Calm or Headspace. Alternatively, you may find that there are some helpful online tutorials on YouTube. Find out what works for you.
5. AVOID IMMERSING YOURSELF IN THE NEWS
Staying up to date with the latest developments is important. However, if you find yourself deep in a media hole, it could be time to get out. Checking various news outlets several times a day may be heightening your stress levels. Not only does this habit act as a constant reminder of the pandemic, but you may also be reading false information. For example, if you are reading posts on social media, it’s often hard to verify them.
Try restricting the amount of news you read. You could give yourself half an hour to catch up each morning and then avoid it for the rest of the day. When you get into the habit of checking the news less, you could find that it helps you detach from the situation. Always refer back to trusted sources, such as the government site or NHS information.
Put simply, we can’t underestimate the impact that the pandemic is having on our mental well-being. Figuring out tactics that help keep you cool, calm and collected is an ongoing process. Try some of the tips we have highlighted here and see if they work for you. Don’t push yourself too hard. Simply take one day at a time. You’ve got this!