Your mental wellbeing is the unique way that you handle your emotions, respond to stress and also your general outlook on life. Having a healthy sense of mental wellbeing has many benefits. It lifts your mood, promotes resilience in difficult situations and helps you get the most out of life. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or how you’re feeling – taking a few moments for yourself each day will help you be a happier and more resilient you.
The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted people in varying ways on an international scale. It is understandable that during times like this, people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious, and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus.
While it is important to stay informed, the following are some mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies to continue looking after ourselves and each other during these difficult times.
Here are some tools and tips for supporting your mental health during difficult times.
1. It’s ok not to be ok …
If you’re having a down day, have it. Let yourself feel the emotions — but don’t stay there. You may find yourself focusing on one thing that went wrong instead of many things that went right. Consider writing about what you’re experiencing. Then, when the feelings lift, write about that, too. Push yourself to recognize the good. Write was happy about the event or day. Then write down what went wrong. Seeing the weight you’re giving to one thing may help you direct your thoughts.
2. Set attainable goals
Instead of a long list of tasks, consider setting one or two smaller goals.
- Don’t clean the house; take the rubbish out.
- Don’t do all the piled up laundry; just sort the piles by colour.
- Don’t clear out your entire email inbox; just address any time-sensitive messages.
When you’ve done a small thing, set your eyes on another small thing, and then another. This way, you have a list of achievements and not an untouched to-do list.
3. Reward your efforts
All goals & successes are worthy of recognition. When you achieve a goal, do your best to recognise it.
You may not feel like celebrating with a double fist pump, but recognising your own successes can be a powerful weapon against depression’s negative weight.
4. You may find it helpful to create a routine
If you’re experiencing a change in mood or behaviour which disrupts your daily routine, setting a gentle schedule may help you feel in control. But these plans don’t have to map out your entire day. Focus on times when you feel the most disorganised or scattered.
Your schedule could focus on the time before work or right before bed. Perhaps it’s only for weekends. Focus on creating a loose, but structured, routine that can help you keep your daily pace going.
5. Do something you enjoy…
Even if you’re not feeling great, it’s important to try to keep doing the things that you usually enjoy — something that’s relaxing but energising. It could be playing an instrument, kicking the footy, hiking, or biking. These activities can provide subtle lifts in your mood and energy, which may help you feel better over time.
6. Listen to music
Research shows music can be a great way to boost your mood and improve symptoms of depression. It may also help you strengthen your reception of positive emotions. Music may be especially beneficial when performed in group settings, such as a band. You can also reap some of the same rewards simply by listening.
7. Spend time in nature
Mother Nature can have a powerful influence on depression. Research suggests people who spend time in nature have improved mental health. Exposure to sunlight may offer some of the same benefits. It can increase your serotonin levels, which can provide a temporary mood boost. Consider taking a walk at lunch among trees or in your local park. Or plan a weekend hike. These activities can help you reconnect with nature and soak in some rays at the same time.
8. Spend time with loved ones
If you’re feeling down, you might find yourself withdrawing from loved ones and spending more time alone. At times like this, connecting with others is really important. Spending time talking with your mates in person is best, even if it’s just a quick check-in, a coffee, or a quiet beer. If you’re unable meet up in person, even texting a mate to say g’day can help make you, and them, feel more connected.
Try to remind yourself people care about you. Resist the temptation to feel like you’re a burden. You need the interaction — and they likely do, too.
9. Try something new entirely
When you do the same thing day after day, you use the same parts of your brain. You can alter your brain chemistry by doing something entirely different. Research also shows doing new things can improve your overall well-being and strengthen your social relationships. Consider trying a new sport, taking a creative class, or learning a new cooking technique.
10. Volunteering can be a great way to do both
Knock out a few birds with one stone — spending time with other people and doing something new — by volunteering and giving your time to someone or something else. You may be used to receiving help from friends, but reaching out and providing help may actually improve your mental health more.
Bonus: People who volunteer experience physical benefits, too. This includes a reduced risk of hypertension.
11. You can also use this as a way to practice gratitude
When you do something you love, or find a new activity you enjoy, you may be able to boost your mental health more by taking time to be thankful for it. Research shows gratitude can have lasting positive effects on your overall mental health. What’s more, writing down your gratitude — including writing notes to others — can be particularly meaningful.
12. Incorporating meditation may help ground your thoughts
Finding relaxation techniques can help you lower stress and invite more joy and balance into your day. Research suggests activities like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and even journaling may help you improve your sense of well-being and feel more connected to what’s happening around you.
13. What you eat and drink can also affect how you feel
There’s no magic diet that will treat depression. But what you put into your body can have a real and significant impact on the way you feel. Eating a diet rich in lean meats, vegetables, and grains may be a great place to start. Try to limit stimulants like caffeine, coffee, soft drinks, and depressants like alcohol. Some people also feel better and have more energy when they avoid sugar, preservatives, and processed foods.
If you can, consider meeting with a doctor or registered dietitian for guidance.
14. If you’re up for exercise, consider a walk around the block
On days when you feel as if you can’t get out of bed, exercise may seem like the last thing you’d want to do. However, exercise and physical activity can be powerful depression fighters. Research shows that for treating mild-moderate depression, exercise can be as effective as talking therapy and medication. It may also help you manage your mental health and wellbeing on an ongoing basis.
If you’re able to, take a walk around the block. Start with a five-minute walk and work your way up from there.
15. Getting enough sleep has a noticeable, positive effect
When you’re feeling down you may notice changes in your sleep. You may not sleep well, or you may sleep too much. Both can impact your mental health. Aim for eight hours of sleep per night. Try to get into a healthy sleeping routine.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help you with your daily schedule. Getting the proper amount of sleep may also help you feel more balanced and energized throughout your day.
Remember, if you or someone you know needs support, there is help available.
To chat to a mental health professional contact Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
For crisis support contact Lifeline – 13 11 14