Welcome back to the Blog!
So, we’re in lockdown. The first week of it is over and we’re fully into the second; I don’t know about you, but the previous week seemed to last about a month! I had to ration my workload to make sure I had some left to do this week, something I’ve not had to do for a long time! That sentence is a very privileged one to be able to type; I explained in the last blog post that I work from home. My work is consumed entirely online and I have my own studio and study at home where I work. Not much has changed for me in that respect and I know just how lucky I am to be in this position. But lack of changes to my working life doesn’t shield me from struggling with my mental health.
I don’t get stressed immediately. Things tend to pile on top of me and then, eventually, I snap into a very stressed state of mind. Right now, I’m not doing too bad with my Mental Health; but I know the warning signs and my triggers when it comes to relapses, breakdowns and the slipping of, well, my mental health. I won’t lie, I can feel them starting to form a tiny pile, but there are things I’m going to share with you that may be able to help you, or be useful in looking after your mental health during isolation, lockdown and uncertainty.
Communication is an incredible tool and one I urge you to use as much as you can. I know for many that that is easier said than done, talking to people for some people is either nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing or logistically problematic. Thankfully Social Media and platforms such as Reddit and Tumblr (is that still a thing?!) mean that even if you have little to no close members of family or friends to reach out to, there are millions of people whom you can talk to.
I mention Reddit, and for the most part I really like this site, but be warned; like many platforms and websites there is a darker/unsavory side to them. If you stay firmly in subreddits you want to engage in and seem genuinely helpful and wholesome, do use them to talk to (potentially) like-minded people. There are support groups for basically anything you can think of, some of the ones I use are:
- PodcastGuestExchange (to get others people involved in my podcast, it’s been great meeting new people!)
- Ask Women Advice
There are also loads of funny subreddits, ones for games, films, books…basically whatever you can think of! Not only are the support group subreddits great for communication and support, the fun ones are great for connecting with people who share your interests but are also a great distraction if you need it.
If you have people in your life, family or friends, who you can talk to during isolation, please do talk to them. I like to think I’m one of those people for a number of others, my family included. You might be afraid that you’d be bothering someone or they don’t want to hear from you. I don’t know know for certain, obviously, but I don’t think that would be the case. If you’re unsure all you can do is ask and request those around you to be honest. Boundaries when it comes to emotional and mental health support are incredibly important for everyone involved. Communicate!
My family and my friends have set up various video chat platforms so we can stay in touch and see one another. Messaging and emails are great, but seeing your loved ones faces, talking to them face-to-face, is just that bit better. My family includes 3 nephews, all under 5. At that age they grow up and change so quickly, being able to see them as well not only makes us feel we’re not missing out on their growing up, but helps keep us in their minds too!
Most of these, like Skype and WhatsApp are free to use and have video chat. If you want to have multiple screens chats there are others that either have a small fee or a time limit. Use whichever best suits your needs.
Equally, if you have people to talk to but are just not in the mood, or you have mental health issues that can result in bad days, let people know. Don’t just go radio silent and off the grid; keep your loved ones up to date with your moods etc. If you’re having a bad day, a mental health day or just need a bit of space – tell people. This just ensures they don’t worry if they don’t hear from you and they can safely respect your need for quiet and space.
Getting Professional Help
I know, it’ll be hard, but reaching out and getting help from professionals shouldn’t be dismissed because of the current situation we’re in. Looking after your mental health shouldn’t take a back seat because physical health is in the news every day. I’ve even noticed people who don’t usually suffer with mental health problems, show signs of them, and admit that they’re feeling anxious, depressed, lonely and other things that for some people are an every day struggle in more normal times. So this is why it’s important to remember that mental health professionals and services are still available and should be used by those in need.
I’m not currently in therapy (I recently finished a very successful course of EMDR therapy, check out the Podcast Episode) but I have friends who are, and their counselling and therapy have been adapted to online and telephone sessions. I was going to share them here but I think I’ll dedicate an entire blog post to them soon.
So, as I was saying, mental health care is just as important as physical health at the best of times, but it is especially important to remember this during this pandemic. Because of this, you shouldn’t be afraid to get in touch with and use professional mental health help that is still available throughout all of this. Though, one piece of advice I will share is to try, if possible, to refrain from using the NHS 111 line (Non-emergency number here in the UK) unless it is an actual emergency (You’re feeling suicidal, at risk of self-harming or harming someone else). This line will be especially busy at the moment and to make sure that everyone gets the help they need, it’s best to only use this number in an emergency. Below I will list number and websites that you can use during this lockdown to get help with your mental health:
- Calm: 0800 585858 www.thecalmzone.net
- Campaign Against Living Miserably Help and support for young men aged 15-35 on issues which include depression and suicide.
- HopeLine UK 0800 068 4141
- www.papyrus-uk.org For practical advice on suicide prevention
- Lifeline (N.Ireland) 0808 808 8000 www.lifelinehelpline.info For anyone in N.Ireland who is in distress or despair. Immediate help on phone 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Face to face counselling can be arranged, also befriending, mentoring. Issues dealt with include suicide prevention, self harm, abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety.
- Run by Contact N.Ireland www.contactni.com independent counselling service employing professional qualified counselors who have extensive experience of working with people facing a wide range of problems, free to all users.
- Premier Lifeline 0300 111 0101 www.premier.org.uk/lifeline Helpline providing a listening service, information, emotional and spiritual support from a Christian perspective
- Samaritans: Helpline: 116 123 (free of charge from a landline or mobile) Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.samaritans.org24 hr helpline offering emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide.
- Kooth from XenZone, is an online counselling and emotional well-being platform for children and young people, accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop and free at the point of use.
Routines: Be Constructive, Creative and Productive
I mentioned in the previous blog post that establishing or keeping up a routine whilst working from home is going to be one of the most important things, but it’s just as important in every-day living during isolation and lockdown.
Not everyone is working from home,. Perhaps their job is not doable at home, they’ve unfortunately lost their employment, or their contacts are suspended until things are safer. If you’re a student at university, school or college, this is also an issue; though many are having online lessons. GCSE’s and A-Levels have been cancelled, meaning that so many students have their workload made redundant.
These people and more are now stuck at home, wondering what to do with their days, and this is where forming and carrying on with a routine is going to help. Not only to, hopefully, structure your day, but also to help with mental health and ‘cabin fever’. Not only that, a routine and schedule can really help you creatively. I have my job already to work with part of the week, but since things started getting a little scary I decided to up my productivity with my Podcast, Vlogs and Blog. This fills portions of my day and I really feel like I’ve been working on something – being productive and letting my creative juices flow.
Taking up an old hobby or starting a new one can be beneficial for many reasons, you can use it to structure your day. Keeping yourself busy with something you love (or are passionate about) will help with isolation, and having to stay indoors. It will help keep your mind occupied and healthy. Always wanted to learn a language? Go for it! Used to paint more? Pick up the paint brushes and let your imagination go wild!
An added, unexpected, bonus to this lockdown is that many online courses and learning platforms are having generous sales on their materials and programmers. For example, the website through which I have done most of my Feline Care courses, Centre Of Excellence, is offering most (if not all!) of their courses at a hugely discounted rate of £29 (I’m not sponsored! I have just used them before and highly recommend!). You can use online courses to better your work skills, learn new ones or just do something for fun like creative writing or crafts! Again, not only will this help structure your day but keep you entertained and busy during isolation.
Help Other People
I’m very worried about getting sick or bringing the virus into my home; my Father-In-Law, with whom we own our home, is Type 1 Diabetic and would likely get very poorly if he were to contract the virus. This has amped-up my anxiety, through watching the news, worrying about my grandparents and needing to leave the house to buy food. My Husband asked me recently if this near-constant feeling of anxiety was what it was like being me. You know what, he wasn’t far off…
But heightened anxiety and a fear of the outside may be doing more damage to you than good (obviously don’t go outside more then you need to…but try not to harbour a fear of going outside that will hinder you late on). Distraction in the form of helping other people will not only help yourself, but someone in need too. If can be as simple as going shopping for an elderly neighbour or relative. Use your own trip to the supermarket to do their shopping too; most places are restricting the amounts of things people can buy but I’ve heard from various people that if you explain that you’re shopping for others they’ll let you buy what you need to (within reason…).
Ringing relatives or loved ones who are alone or vulnerable is a great way to not only connect with someone else for your own good, but provides interaction and friendly conversation to someone who might not get it regularly, if at all.
You can even go as far, if you’re able to, as physically volunteering in places such as care home, hospices, food banks and community outreach. This is probably best done if you live alone, exposing yourself to increased risk in order to help others is extremely generous and much needed, but not worth putting others at risk (family, roommates etc.); especially if one or more of them are particularly vulnerable or high-risk.
Right, I think that’s enough from me for another week! I hope you have found these pointers useful, and please, if you need to talk to someone, reach out to people. Reach out to me if you want to, I would love to hear from you (see links below).
Stay safe out there.
And available on many more podcast platforms – just search Exercising Depression Podcast.