Life in Lockdown: Looking after your Mental Health

by Maria Clark

I am writing this from my desk at home, having left Lancaster due to the global emergency of COVID-19. Now, as the entire country has been placed on lockdown, maintaining your mental health is more important than ever. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your mental health and how to look after it:

1) How am I feeling today?

It may sound obvious, or even stupid, but in a normal working lifestyle, most people don’t have time to stop and think about their emotions. Forgotten and ignored, those worries, doubts and emotions can become overwhelming, and, in a highly pressured situation like lockdown, outbursts and anger in response are not ideal. By acknowledging your true feelings and emotions on a daily basis, it can help you to understand how you are responding to the global pandemic, and what to do about it. The entire world is currently feeling scared, anxious and worried about the future, but it’s important to think about why in particular you are feeling those emotions, as well as any others.

2) What can I do to change this?

Once you have identified your emotions and mood, to improve your mental health, you need to respond to any worries and anxieties, rather than just burying them. Are you worried about accommodation or the future of your university career? Email the university staff. Are you concerned about family members or friends? Get in contact with them regularly.

Unfortunately, however, a lot of the concerns surrounding lockdown and COVID-19 cannot be addressed directly, due to the instability and evolving nature of the situation. This means that you need to find other ways to look after your mental health during lockdown. This should involve something that distracts you, relaxes you, or makes you happy - whether this is reading a book; watching a family-favourite film, or baking.

Why not distract yourself by learning something new? A new language, or a new instrument, perhaps? Many programs and facilities have adapted to the lockdown process by creating online access and tours. I would personally recommend making use of the online museum tours (e.g. the Louvre); watching recorded performances from the Globe and the National Theatre or participating in initiatives such as Gareth Malone’s Great British Home Chorus.

3) How do I feel physically?

Your physical health is equally as important to remember, with physical exercise having a really positive impact on mental health. However, as we are only allowed to exercise outside once a day in lockdown, you’ll need to be a bit more creative with keeping up your physical wellbeing. Use your daily exercise by all means, but make sure you are keeping to governmental guidelines and not endangering others through walking, jogging or cycling near them.

Instead, you can do stay-at-home workouts, like the popular Joe Wicks’ workouts, or even just doing manual activities like gardening, DIY and cleaning. You might also need to take the opportunity of lockdown to catch up on your sleep, as stress and anxiety will make you even more exhausted.

4) Do I need to talk to someone?

Communication is key. Just because you should be staying at home, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get in contact with your friends and family via apps and social media. If you do feel like you are struggling with your mental health, it’s a good idea to talk it over with somebody: whether they are in lockdown with you, or over FaceTime. The university’s Counselling and Mental Health services are also operating remotely.

Finally, remember that it is perfectly normal to be struggling with emotions and mental health, particularly in an unprecedented situation like this. Talking to others and taking a few moments out of your day to really consider how you are feeling will hopefully help you to come out of this lockdown safe, healthy and happy. I wish you all the best!