The Covid-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for us all. Over the last year, we have had to make major changes to our way of life, and having already endured two lockdowns, we have once again been told to stay indoors and minimise our social contact.

It’s no real surprise then, that more than half of adults in the UK – and nearly two-thirds of young people – say their mental health has gotten worse during the pandemic, with 24% of adults saying they had increasing feelings of loneliness during the winter lockdown. The real impact on mental health caused by Covid-19 is starting to become clear.

There has never been a more important time to look after your mental health. So, what exactly can you do?

 

1: Be kind to yourself

It’s easy to be hard on yourself at the moment, especially when your productivity isn’t what it once was. Realistically though, is this the right mindset to have? We are all doing the best we can to get through lockdown, and you are too – so be kind to yourself when you’re having a tough day. It is more than acceptable to have an unproductive day, so long as you don’t feel guilty for it afterwards! Managing expectations is important, and remember that everyone is likely to be in a productivity slump at the moment.

 

2: Get some exercise

We know it’s much harder to find the motivation to get outside for some exercise when the days are darker and colder, but even a 20 minute walk can do wonders for your mental health. Spending time outside will help ease the feeling of confinement and help your mind reset. Exercise is also a proven releaser of serotonin – the ‘feel good’ hormone, so if you’re having a bad day, try getting some steps in to clear your mind.

 

3: Maintain your diet

Eating a balanced diet can help to boost your mental health and will go a long way in improving your long-term wellbeing. It’s always a good idea to create a weekly meal plan – especially if you’re cooking for your family, as this will give your week some much-needed structure and help you avoid the pain-staking process of thinking of a meal to cook at the end of each day. Remember, it’s acceptable to treat yourself once in a while too – this can give you something to look forward to and helps keep eating the right foods enjoyable!

 

4: Look after your sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep is also important for your mental health. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep your routine in order – avoid screen time before bed, cut back on the caffeine and try to create a peaceful environment. You can find some useful tips for getting the right amount of sleep on Public Health England’s ‘Every Mind Matters’ website.

 

5: Structure your day

Having a form of structure to your day will keep you active as opposed to endlessly floating from one day into the next. It’s easy to feel bored when there isn’t much to do, but following the same routine and planning things to do for later in the week can give you something to look forward to. Try waking up around the same time each day, and schedule in walks or phone calls with friends.

 

6: Stay connected

During this lockdown, you should make time to regularly check in with people – by phone, video call, messaging or social media – and support those closest to you. Even just sending daily updates can help you feel more connected and less alone, and being able to share how you feel with someone else can help you to think rationally about the current situation.

 

7: Talk about your feelings

It’s normal to feel helpless and worried about your future when things are out of your control – but remember, it’s ok to feel like that. Almost everyone will have negative feelings at some point, but it’s the way you deal with them that really matters. Speaking to someone about the way you feel ensures you don’t bottle in your feelings, and allows you to talk through why you’re feeling the way you are.

If you don’t have anyone to talk to about your feelings, there are various different helplines that you can try instead:

It’s important to try and stay positive, and remember that this lockdown will be eventually be over. This won’t be the way we live our lives forever – even if it sometimes feels that way.

Life will return to normal, so let’s continue looking out for those closest to us, take it day by day, and get through this together.