How Can You Best Manage Your Mental Health As The Pandemic Continues Over Winter?

Posted by on October 24, 2020 in Health with 0 Comments

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There's little doubt that the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic has had a huge effect on every aspect of modern life – from the economy, to our careers and relationships. Learning to cope with it's restrictions and challenges represents the biggest mental health struggle of our times. During the first wave of restrictions, adrenaline fuelled some of us more than others. But that can only sustain anybody for so long, and as time goes on and the restrictions kick back in, it cannot sustain us. With the onset of the winter months when the days are shorter, temperatures plummet, skies are literally greyer and we spend more time in darkness, this can become even harder to cope with. So what are the tools and techniques you can use to manage your own mental health and cope with the ongoing uncertainty in the world right now?

Manage Your Own Expectations

A little realism can be a very good thing when it comes to coping in difficult circumstances and developing emotional resilience. There is a kind of pressure from various sources to make your periods of quarantine insanely productive – to learn new skills and forget better quality relationships with the enforced time out from the rush. We feel like we need to have gained something from the sacrifice – some kind of enlightenment or prize endeavor. But that kind of thinking can be very dangerous for our mental health. It completely minimizes the considerable psychological and emotional burden of dealing with the reality of the pandemic and everything that comes with it – reduced social support, loss of status, financial difficulties, lack of structure, health worries, pressure to deliver remotely at work, to homeschool children or to look after vulnerable elderly loved ones as best you can. These things are more than enough – writing a bestselling novel or running the equivalent of a marathon each week do not also need to become part of your to-do list or another stick to beat yourself with. Being kind to yourself – and those around you – is incredibly important at the moment. If you experience a loss of focus, persistent distraction or low motivation that is a perfectly natural response to the extended state of fight-or-flight we've all been plunged into. Make smaller scale, realistic goals for yourself in this time of change, and look to appreciate the little things now more than ever.

Be Proactive About Your Mental Health

One of the best steps you can take is to make a plan to manage your own stresses and anxieties very proactively. This is an important commitment to stop negative feelings spiralling and to help you feel a measure of control in the face of such a complex situation where so much seems uncontrollable. This can involve simple actions such as ensuring you get enough quality sleep a night by banning electronic devices that emit blue light from the bedroom, making sure it's dark and a little cool and that you have comfortable bedding for the season. It could be making time to incorporate recognized wellness practices such as yoga, mindfulness or controlled breathing techniques into your day. Eating well is another pillar of good mental health, so find some simple healthy recipes you can prepare in advance and freeze to save on time. Be conscious of your consumption of alcohol and the methods that you use to unwind. If you feel that you are beginning to develop a dependency on them, question your intake. If you know you have a problem already, consider seeking support for inpatient addiction treatment. Now is not the time to be trying to battle your demons alone. Exercise is another useful tool for regulating stress levels and giving a positive focus. What works for you will be highly individual, so try things out and find a new routine that supports your wellbeing.

Understand Your Warning Signs

Managing distress on a scale such as we are seeing right now requires focus. Sit down and think about situations, certain thoughts or physical sensations that make you feel overwhelmed. Our thoughts and feelings all too often feed into a negative emotional spiral that can leave us struggling to cope. The key lies in being able to identify and recognise these red flags and then choosing what to do with them. We don't have to let thoughts and feelings influence our actions. We have the choice to control what we do. Break the loop by becoming conscious of these thoughts happening, and using practical interventions such as box breathing to lower the stress hormones in your brain and the physical symptoms of panic. This can calm down the cycle and help you to take back control.

Develop A New Routine

One of the hardest aspects of pandemic living has been the complete disruption of all of our routines. A daily routine is comforting: it provides structure, security and a sense of purpose. Routines are a useful tool in terms of managing anxiety and can help us to accept the new reality we're currently living in. It's crucial to create clear boundaries between working time and personal time when working from home. This applies both to the hours you work and the mental space you give it. Find something you enjoy doing that relaxes you and make sure you have allocated time to do it. Blurred boundaries lead to stress, and they are much easier to slip into working from home all the time, so be strict about enforcing the distinction yourself. Restrict your work to short bursts using the Pomodoro Technique, interspersing it with regular breaks. This will bring you much more success with productivity and allow you to bring much more mental clarity than dragging a task out over hours and hours. It's also vital to make sure you are getting outside enough and not spending the entire day slumped over your desk. A brisk walk outside in the sunshine will boost your immune system, brighten your mood, get your circulation going and help to reset or maintain your body's Circadian Rhythms, which in turn helps with sleep and alertness.

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