Coronavirus & Mental Health

Here we are, well into week 8 of the coronavirus lockdown. I don’t know about you, but the social distancing and lockdown measures are really starting to have an adverse effect on my mental health. Having spoken to some of my friends and family about this issue, I decided to write a blog to create a space for people to read a little bit about mental well-being and hopefully prompt you all to start looking after number one a little bit more.

I’m going to be very honest with you here, I’m pretty positive that my mental health hasn’t been at the low point it’s at now for a long time. I find myself questioning what my purpose is, even though I know I’m doing all I can by staying home and following Government guidelines. I find myself moping around the house a lot, trying to distract myself from my mind which is never a good thing.

Aside the obvious things we can do to make lockdown easier on ourselves like going outside, practicing numerous recipes (honestly, I think I might apply for the next series of the Great British Bake Off once this is all over) and binge watching all the Netflix series you never had time to watch, there comes a point where you need to address your mental well-being.

Photo: Ann Martin via Flickr

For me, looking after my mental health has come in the form of taking up running again. Shocking I know, but running gives me the space I need and the focus required to tell myself “hey, you’re doing alright” and think through what’s going on in my mind, as well as reminding myself that I am doing all I can to protect our absolutely wonderful NHS. Additionally, snuggling up in comfy pyjamas to either read a book or call your friends are also great ways to keep your mentality healthy and happy.

However, trying to come up with a load of ideas and suggestions as to how to keep calm when everything is so uncertain is a bit of an impossible challenge for a 20-year old tea addict. So, for this blog, I asked a few people via my Instagram how they’re keeping their mentality healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier, I want to make this blog an open space for you all to read and maybe open up either to yourselves or your loved ones about mental health, because I think now more than ever it’s so important to check up on others, especially when brushing it off and saying “I’m fine” seems the easiest thing to do.

A common theme throughout the responses I got was that some days in lockdown are good and seemingly productive, but others seem more hassle and energy than they’re worth. Jacob Lewis, an army medic from Neath explains: “Lockdown has impacted me positively to have more self-discipline because I keep wanting to chin off work, even though I know I have to do it. It seems so easy to sit at home and not do any physical activities, but lockdown is pushing me to get on and do it.”

He explains: “Setting yourself a small goal every morning, and gradually setting bigger goals each day can really help to motivate you.”

Establishing a routine can help to pass the seemingly slow-moving hours we’re faced with: even if that includes making yourself a cup of tea and sitting in for a morning of TV listening to Phillip and Holly on This Morning or waking up and doing a skin care routine to set you up for the day.

Alternatively, you could take up meditation. Molly Bird, a student at the University of Lincoln explains: “Meditating more has really helped with my mental wellbeing because it’s made everything clearer.”

Photo: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr

In these uncertain times, I think we can all agree that clarity is key. An article published by Healthline explains that some forms of meditation have been scientifically proven to give a more positive outlook on life.

The article explains: “Studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults.”

“One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression.”

“Inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress, can affect mood, leading to depression. A review of several studies suggests meditation may reduce depression by decreasing these inflammatory chemicals.”

Perhaps we could all do with introducing a meditation session into our quarantine routines when things get a little overwhelming!

Communication is absolutely crucial in these times. Now, I know I’m not social media’s biggest advocate, but I do agree that it has played a central role in bringing people together. Being told to avoid people is hard. If you’re feeling down about not being able to see your friends (I know I am) don’t panic, they’re just a call away!

Will Aldridge, who has just completed his first year at the University of Lincoln explains: “Talking to my friends a lot is helping to keep my mentality healthy, as is finding a project or something similar that you can work on from home.”

Photo: KaCey97078 via Flickr
(Couldn’t resist including this photo, so cute!)

Whether you decide to become the next quiz connoisseur on your Zoom calls or teach yourself a new skill, there’s plenty of things for you to do to maintain healthy mindset and ensure you’re raring to go once things get back to normal.

This next point is a shift in tone, but it’s something close to my heart and I want to address it. Mental health isn’t the only thing many are dealing with at the moment… imagine the struggle of being in lockdown and battling an eating disorder.

Did you know that there are approximately 1.6 million people in the UK who have been affected by an eating disorder? Whether it’s anorexia or bulimia, each disorder presents an unimaginable challenge for those affected to deal with every day.

Katie Straw, a student at the University of Brighton explains the challenges of dealing with an eating disorder in lockdown: “Some days I find myself eating a lot out of guilt, which is not good for the guilt that comes after eating when you have an eating disorder. Other days I struggle to eat because having an eating disorder can make you believe you don’t deserve to eat unless you have earnt it, which is difficult when the exercise you can do and the time you can spend outside is limited.”

She adds: “Some days, I find myself eating more out of boredom, and the guilt that kicks in later is very hard to cope with. The guilt of eating when I haven’t really done a lot in the day is also very high, leading to intense urges to purge or self-harm in order to cope with the guilt. Ignoring these urges has definitely been the hardest thing for me personally during the pandemic.”

The struggle of having an overpowering urge to harm yourself is something not many people can imagine living with and this is where social media presents a huge issue for many like Katie. She explains: “Social media has become very toxic for someone with an eating disorder during the coronavirus lockdown. There’s so many posts about weight gain in lockdown and people doing home workouts, which are both equally as triggering to people with similar disorders to myself because it reinforces the idea that weight gain is a bad thing, and can make us feel as though we don’t deserve to eat because we aren’t doing as much exercise as others.”

Perhaps we can all use this time to reconsider the effects that social media can have. I know I’ve seen some nasty posts about people close to me recently and I really hope that lockdown pushes these people to re-evaluate that what they write can have a negative effect on the well-being of others.

Anyways, before I round off this blog, I wanted to dedicate this little paragraph to my amazing friend Katie. I am so unbelievably proud of you for continuing to fight your disorder. I know that there are some really low days, but there are also some really good days and I’m sure that one day, every day will be a good one. I can confidently say you are the strongest person I know, and you will get through this. I love you so much!

I would also like to personally thank Jacob, Molly, Will and Katie for their contribution and to everybody else who contacted me: I’m sorry I couldn’t include you all, I fear I’d need to write a book to fit all of that in!

Until next time, stay safe everybody.

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation

https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/about/statistics

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