There is currently a lot of discussion about mental health and the potential toll that social distancing is having on many individuals. What’s important to note, is that the term ‘mental health’ is often misunderstood and is colloquially used in reference to specific mental health conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety). According to the World Health Organisation, ‘mental health is: “A state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
So with that in mind, let’s look at how to maintain a state of mental and psychological wellbeing.
All health is interrelated, so by looking after ourselves physically and socially, we will be positively contributing to our mental health. Here are some practical tips that you can implement to help support your mental health:
1. Make time for yourself. For some of us, it is necessary to schedule specific time for ourselves, otherwise it just won’t happen. You might choose to meditate, read, or watch an episode of your favourite show. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, just make sure it is something that you enjoy and that gives you some much deserved ‘me time’.
2. Have a social interaction. Every day, aim to have at least one (virtual) face-to-face conversation that is not related to work. If face-to-face is not possible, pick up the phone and call someone for a chat. Engaging in conversations with people outside of the four walls of your home will help you to feel connected to the colleagues, friends and family that you aren’t able to spend time with at the moment.
3. Get outside. Being restricted to our homes doesn’t mean that we have to stay indoors 24 hours a day. Whether you are out on your balcony, in your backyard or going for a walk around the block, aim to spend time outside amongst nature every day.
4. Move your body. A key aspect of keeping your mind healthy is getting your body moving every day. This does not need to be a strenuous activity like running 10km in your lunch break (unless you enjoy that!). It can be as simple as stretching throughout the day, dancing to your favourite playlist or doing a 30 minute fitness class on YouTube.
When looking after our mental health, it is important that we focus on the positive aspects of sustaining a healthy mind (like those listed above). However, that does not mean that we should ignore any negative feelings that we may be experiencing.
As cliché as it may sound, part of looking after our mental health is talking about our concerns with people that we trust. Have an open and honest conversation with someone that you can confide in – utilise the phone or video-chat if they don’t live with you – and express how you are feeling about all the uncertainties that surround us. What you will find is that you are not alone in your feelings. We are all trying to navigate our way through this as best we can and none of us know what to expect. What’s important is that we stay positive and look after ourselves.