The current situation can make us feel quite anxious and stressed, and it’s easy to allow our thoughts to spiral into thinking about ‘what if’s’. Physical exercise can certainly help take our minds off these thoughts. But it’s important to keep mentally active as well. Board games are a good way of keeping mentally active. Many of us have family favorites which can be used to keep children entertained. But there has been an explosion in board games for adults over recent years. Games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and Scrabble are making a comeback! Many of these games are also good for children. Or maybe learn a new card game? Most of us have a pack of cards at home. And there are lots of websites which teach you how to play games like canasta and crazy eights.
If you have children at home, you can also help them with their work for your own benefit too. There are lots of resources being posted online to help parents. Many parents would be grateful for a bit of help, and this can always be done via apps like Skype or WhatsApp. Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you. Do things you enjoy: Focussing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.
Many of us believe that now we’re at home, we’ll get so much more achieved, but that often isn’t the case. We need to be honest with ourselves about what we can realistically do in a day, especially when we might be feeling more anxious than usual. Many of us wake up daily with a long and endless list of tasks. While you are at home, we may develop a false sense of being able to conquer the day and get all our tasks done. Be mindful of what you intend to do and set small achievable goals.
These can and should include non-task-oriented items, such as connecting with loved ones. Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose. Think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. Think about your new routine. Life is changing for us all for a while. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines. Try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (such as reading or calling a friend).
Our physical and mental health and undeniably linked, so it’s important to stay active, even if we don’t feel like it! If you are lucky enough to have outdoor space, you can use it as a gym. There are lots of YouTube videos that you can use to help you exercise either in the home or in your garden. Many yoga and fitness classes are now being run online. You could go to a ‘virtual class’ with your friends.
This has the added benefit of keeping connected with people. Maybe spend this time learning about new forms of exercise, like Pilates or Tai Chi. The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both. These recommendations can still be achieved, even at home, with no special equipment and with limited space. The following are some tips on how to stay active and reduce sedentary behaviour while at home in self-quarantine.
Take short active breaks during the day. Short amounts of physical activity add up to the weekly recommendations. You may use the suggested exercises below as inspiration to be active every day. Dancing, playing with children, and performing domestic chores such as cleaning and gardening are other means to stay active at home. Follow an online exercise class. Take advantage of the wealth of online exercise classes. Many of these are free and can be found on YouTube. If you have no experience performing these exercises, be cautious and aware of your own limitations.
Walk. Even in small spaces, walking around or walking on the spot, can help you remain active. If you have a call, stand or walk around your home while you speak, instead of sitting down. If you decide to go outside to walk or exercise, be sure to maintain at least a 1-meter distance from other people. Stand up. Reduce your sedentary time by standing up whenever possible. Ideally, aim to interrupt sitting and reclining time every 30 minutes. Consider setting up a standing desk by using a high table or stacking a pile of books or other materials, to continue working while standing. During sedentary leisure time prioritize cognitively stimulating activities, such as reading, board games, and puzzles. Relax. Meditation and deep breaths can help you remain calm. A few examples of relaxation techniques are available below for inspiration.
Research shows that paying more attention to the present moment can improve our mental wellbeing. The NHS are using mindfulness more and more in their approach to things like stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is something which sounds easy but can be difficult. Some people try it and find it hard. But, like with any skill, it gets easier the more you practice it. A simple exercise is to practice mindfulness whilst brushing your teeth. Concentrate on how the brush feels in your hand, the sensation of it brushing your teeth, the feeling of your feet against your bathroom floor, the smell and taste of the toothpaste. It’s amazing how much we experience in the space of 2 minutes brushing our teeth!
Another exercise is to take a piece of chocolate or a candy. Put it on the back of your hand. Concentrate on how it feels against your skin. Pick it up and feel its texture. Look at its colour. Smell it. Put it in your mouth and let it dissolve without you biting into it. Experience how that feels. This also has the added benefit of making chocolate and sweets last longer!
Take time to relax and focus on the present. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. Learn to take time out and relax. People have lots of different ways of relaxing or having downtime from the stresses of life.
These can be the things that you stop doing when you start to feel low in mood, or stressed, as you forget to be kind to yourself. A hot bath, listening to music, watching a film, keeping social arrangements and hobbies going, whatever it is, think about the things that help to keep you calm or more content, and make sure they are still in your routine.
The best type of breathwork to help with anxiety or stress is one where the exhalations are longer than the inhalations. This method signals the parasympathetic nervous system, which is what we want to help change our physiology and chemistry out of a fear state to a calm state. It is suggested to begin with taking a breath in for three counts, then breathing out for four counts. Do that for a few rounds and then increase to four counts in and five counts out, if possible.
Another really calming breath exercise is to gently draw air in through the nose and blow softly out, as if through a straw, with lips parted, exhaling long and smoothly out through the mouth. If you’re pregnant, a good suggestion might be trying an online prenatal yoga class that specifically incorporates breathing techniques.
Apps such as Calm and Headspace are popular and low cost. Which is completely free of charge. Going into a guided meditation using these audio apps can really impact the mind, the body and therefore the nervous system. These can last anywhere from five minutes for up to an hour and they’re grouped into themes, including anxiety and sleep.
So you can choose what works best for you and your schedule. The scientific research around the benefits of meditation is compelling, and just a few minutes of meditation can be beneficial. It’s a way to connect to your inner world each day and opens your heart naturally towards yourself and compassion emerges.
While all most of us want to reach for comfort food, like cookies, chips, and cake. This may not be of service to your health. A few mood-boosting foods she suggests incorporating into your diet include: asparagus, as one cup offers two-thirds of your daily folic acid requirements, which some studies show helps stabilise and boost mood; avocado, of which a slice contains plenty of vitamin B, essential for healthy brain cells and nerves; blueberries, because they’re an “antioxidant powerhouse”; almonds, which are high in vitamins E and B2, both immune system boosters; and
Brazil nuts, which have helpful anti-inflammatory properties. It is also suggested to try fermented foods, such as kombucha and kimchi, which are great for your gut microbiome. Recent research has provided us with a new astounding fact: your gut microbiome is home to a second brain and that a healthy gut can equal a healthy mind. Also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, adequate hydration can improve your energy levels, mood and overall well-being. Drinking water can be soothing at times of intense stress and has natural calming properties so to avoid headaches and fatigue.
Alcohol can cause depressive feelings, heightened anxiety, or feeling out of control in a way that feels unpleasant. It can also increase risk-taking behaviours, so you need to know what your reactions might be. Remember to make your own decisions about what is right for you and not to bend to peer pressure around drinking.
A resent study concluded that abuse of alcohol puts an individual at a significantly greater risk to develop depression than that of a person who is not abusing the substance. Therefore, it is clear that alcohol abuse can induce depression, and depression can also induce alcohol abuse.
Most people don’t get enough vitamin D at the best of times, never mind when we’re staying indoors. So it’s important to still get some sun on your face, even if that means just getting out on your balcony, front step or simply opening a window. It makes a huge difference, not only physically but mentally through this challenging phase in our lives. You can also get the vitamin by eating certain foods, including mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light, or fatty fish, such as salmon, and egg yolks.
There has never been a greater experience of global empathy and community. Tap into that and build on that. This will help boost your mental health immunity and resilience. Whether that means weekly Zoom meet-ups with friends and family or joining an online community of like-minded strangers, it’s important to connect with people at this time. That being, it’s also important to distinguish between conversations you find helpful and those that are detrimental to your mindset. We are social creatures, relationships are key to our mental health. Having to self-isolate or practise social distancing may be difficult.
There are obvious ways to digitally connect through WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook. Or even an old-fashioned phone call! But it can be worth thinking about some more imaginative ways. How about organising a group of friends to all watch the same movie and then meet up digitally to discuss it? You can have a ‘Netflix Watch Party’ with your friends and talk just as you usually would. If you have a skill, perhaps you could set up a Facebook live session and teach people to knit or draw. If you, or someone you know, don’t like using social media, make an agreement to write a letter or email to each other once a week.
Giving to others is a great way to boost our wellbeing. We know that it gives us a sense of purpose and creates feelings of positivity which are particularly important at times like this. So you may not be able to go out and volunteer at a community project but think about other ways you can give.
Sign up to one of the local Mutual Aid groups, donate food to a food bank or use an app like Nextdoor to connect to your local community. Think about people you know who are self-isolating and alone at home. Give them a call for a chat. Help and support others, helping others could make a big difference to them and make you feel better too. Find out how you can help out in your local area.
Over recent years, the idea of having a gratitude journal, the practice of regularly logging what you’re grateful for in your life, has become increasingly popular. And there’s a growing body of research to back-up the technique’s benefits. This not only includes boosting a person’s psychological health, but people who keep gratitude journals have also reported having fewer aches and pains, better self-esteem and improved sleep.
Reminding yourself of two to three things that you are grateful for is helpful to ease the mind at the end of the day. It can reduce those worrisome thoughts from creeping up right before bedtime. Even thinking of one thing a day can be helpful. Let it fill your heart and allow the energy of gratitude to come into your body.
Learning to identify the difference between real and hypothetical worries is key. Which worries can be helpful and which unhelpful? Which worries guide you to behave in a way that promotes yours and others’ growth, safety and security? And which are overwhelming and even debilitating? Talk about your worries – this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help.
If you don’t feel able to do this, there are a range o helplines to be signposted to the support you need. Try to manage difficult feelings: Focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel prepared. Every Mind Matters provides further information on how to manage anxiety. If you’re struggling to see the difference, it is advisable to seek support from a licensed mental health professional.
How would you feel if a friend asked for help, advice or just wanted to talk things through? Many of us would be pleased to be chosen to confide in, it might make us feel valued. When you are feeling low in mood, or anxious, it is easy to think negatively about yourself and be less likely to seek support from others. Try to beat this feeling and approach people that you trust to talk to. You may be surprised at how much better you might feel and how they have responded positively to you, as you would if the situation were reversed.
These are simple, positive statements declaring specific goals. Beautiful and meaningful affirmations will uplift your day.These empowering mantras have profound effects on the conscious and unconscious mindset. We suggests starting with the words “I am”.
These are the two most powerful words in the English language. Use the present tense and state it in the positive. A great example of an affirmation that’s particularly apt for the times we’re living in now is: “I am in charge of how I feel and today I am choosing happiness. I am healthy and safe.”
24/7 news and social media can make you more worried. If you find this is affecting you, try to limit the amount of time you spend keeping up with what’s going on.
Get the facts: Use a credible source you can trust and fact check information that you get from newsfeeds, social media or from other people. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources, too.
Focussing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.
Do something you enjoy We are all unique and enjoy different things. You may not have found the thing that you enjoy yet, so try some different things out. You may have lost touch with activities that have given you pleasure in the past. Doing things you enjoy can help you to stay connected with some more positive aspects of life.
Some people like to read, to learn about the world, or escape into other worlds. Some people like to express their feelings through art, some like talking things through with others. Whatever your style, make sure you do express yourself – it will help you to stay connected, to discover more about you, your identity, and the person that you want to become.
Get outside or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. Sit in your garden if you can, open windows to let in fresh air or look at a nice view or some photos. Remember that social distancing guidelines enable you to go outside to exercise once a day as long as you keep 2 metres apart from others who are not members of your household group.
When you are feeling immersed in a problem, let yourself switch off from it and go and do something completely different. When you return to it at a different time it may seem more manageable. Distracting yourself is not a cop-out, but can be a reliable way to stop overthinking a problem when you are feeling stuck. So, how do you distract yourself? Listen to soothing music. Cuddle with pets. Eat your favorite snack or have a cup of tea. Take a long walk. Exercise.
Stay calm, be wise, be kind. Let’s take action to look after ourselves and each other as we face this global crisis. We may be physically apart, but we can still be together. Learn more or download the app at actionforhappiness.org
Take time each week to think of small actions you can take to create happiness for yourself and those around you. Action For Happiness provides scientific background, practical strategies, and opportunities for people to take action.
We all have them, and none of us is perfect either. It can be easy to think that others are more talented, more successful, have more opportunity than us, when you are feeling low in mood. But it is impossible to know how someone else is feeling inside, whatever they seem like on the surface. Remind yourself about the things you do well, and looking for evidence of this can help to balance out critical thoughts about yourself, which tend to increase when we are stressed.
The brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres,” said Professor Nass, who co-authored “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships” (Penguin 2010). Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.
Some of us may be struggling to get some ZZZs with all those negative thoughts swirling around our brains, but getting good sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your physical and mental health. When your mood is wearing down, so is your immunity, and one of the most valuable things your body needs is to simply rest. It’s during the state of rest that your white blood cells work their magic, so take a load off and get in that nap or go to bed earlier every night.
Think of sleep as banked power to improve your mood, reduce irritability and improve your ability to cope with stress. To do this, it is advisable to set up a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as having a bath or reading a book, using blackout curtains to block out the light, and going screen-free for 30 minutes to an hour before you get into bed.
You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you. It’s important to remember that it’s OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, for most of us, these feelings will pass.
Staying at home may be difficult, but you’re helping to protect yourself and others by doing it.The tips and advice here are things you can do now to help you keep on top of your mental wellbeing and cope with how you may feel if you’re staying at home. Make sure you get further support if you feel you need it.