How to Save Your Mental Health on the Lockdown
Quarantine and lockdown have been hard on everyone. After entering in nearly a year of lockdowns, many people are having to find new ways to cope with their mental health. Being stuck indoors and shut off from most kinds of social activity is a surefire way to cause anxiety and depression. So we need to figure out new ways to maintain our mental health while during the lockdown.
To that end, we put together this article on the best, science-backed ways to protect your mental health while on lockdown. These methods are drawn from actual science and have evidence proving that they work.
We know it is almost cliched at this point, but exercise is one of the best ways to manage symptoms of mild to moderate depression and has a whole load of other health benefits. Exercise is one of the best ways to manage mental health as it requires the person to get into the “zone” and focus on a singular goal.
The good thing is that you do not have to be killing yourself in the gym to get these beneficial effects. Mild to moderate exercise produces beneficial mental health effects such as reduced depression or anxiety. Even 20-30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity can go miles to making you feel better.
There are a ton of sources online to help you give out your workout routine. You also do not need any special equipment either; a good bodyweight workout with push-ups, sit-ups, and squats is a low-cost way to build a workout routine.
2. Try to Build a Routine
Human beings are creatures of habit. Many people like having a set schedule to stick to day after day because it gives them a sense of control and productivity in life. One major issue caused by lockdowns is that people can no longer abide by their normal routine of wake up, go to work, come home, make dinner, exercise, etc. Whether it’s because your work schedule has changed or you are currently between jobs, it’s important that people try to build a new routine to ground themselves.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that keeping a routine is a way to build psychological resilience against trauma and other unpleasant experiences. Unstructured time can create a sense of boredom, which can cause spikes in anxiety and depression. Keeping a routine helps cut down what is known as “decision fatigue,” the exhaustion and anxiety that can result from having too many options.
At the same time, it’s important to let yourself have a bit of flexibility in your routine. The point is not to regiment every single action you take each day but to free up some cognitive resources from deciding what to do every day. Don’t feel bad if you want to take time out of your schedule to play online slots for free instead of doing your yoga one day.
3. Figure Out Your Red Flags
People with mental issues tend to be more sensitive to particular kinds of stimuli that can exacerbate an already negative response. These “red flags” are different for every person and part of managing your mental health is learning how to identify these red flags so you can avoid them. Despite what many people think, having good mental health is often a matter of engineering your environment rather than building a kind of mental “resistance.” Identifying your red flags can help you remove them from your environment to not trigger episodes.
For example, physical sensations like shortness of breath or seeing specific stimuli are a red flag for many people. For others, red flags might be a particular thought or emotional state. Learning to consciously identify these red flags so you can preempt them is important. For example, breathing exercises are one way people manage physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.
4. Stay Connected
One of the worst parts of the lockdown is how our social relationships have been on hold. Given that many recreational and entertainment spots are closed and people have been quarantining, many people have lost human connection with others. It can feel pretty isolating sitting in your house all day working and not seeing another person.
Thankfully, the internet makes it easier than ever to stay connected with others, even if it’s not face-to-face in-person. Virtual forums, webcam chats, virtual co-working spaces, online book clubs; all of these options are ways to stay connected with other humans when physical contact is not an option. Just because people are isolating does not mean you have to feel socially isolated.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that focuses on your environment and what you are currently sensing. The purpose of mindfulness is to become more familiar with the inner workings of your mind so you can better recognize certain patterns of thought and action that might be negative. Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective technique for managing stress and reducing anxiety.
One key aspect of mindfulness is to keep at it so you can get used to the kind of introspection it involves. Simple mindfulness exercises can be done virtually anywhere, but it helps to set aside specific times for scheduled meditation, such as the early morning before waking up or before going to bed. The more you practice, the more adept you become at recognizing the procession of your metal content.
One last important thing to realize: you are not wrong for feeling sad. Many people are suffering from a kind of rueful ideation that they are not achieving as much as they could be during lockdown. It is ok to not feel good sometimes and it’s ok if you do not feel like you are meeting all your goals. Beating yourself up for reacting to things that are out of your control only makes the problem worse. Having compassion for yourself first and foremost is the key to maintaining good mental health.