One of our wonderful volunteers recently shared a list of wellbeing tips from a qualified psychologist to help get you through tough times. And Covid-19 can certainly be classified as that!
So, grab a cuppa and find yourself a comfy spot and have a read through. We recommend you also have a pen and paper handy to pick out ones that are most relevant to you.
Mental Health Wellness Tips
1. Stick to a routine
Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
2. Dress to impress
Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have.
Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colours. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.
3. Get some fresh air
Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned about contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less travelled streets and avenues.
If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.
4. Get moving
Find some time to move every day, for at least thirty minutes.
If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!
5. Talk to someone
Reach out to others – you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes.
Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls or texting – connect with other people to seek and provide support.
Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc. Your kids miss their friends, too!
6. Stay hydrated and eat well
This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food.
Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!
7. Develop a self-care toolkit
This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure).
An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala colouring book is wonderful. Bubbles to blow or blowing watercolour on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation.
For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or tin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when feeling overwhelmed.
The NHS has created a self-management toolkit to help you get started. Click here to download the booklet.
8. Enjoy some playtime
Spend extra time playing with your children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play.
Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play though. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children – it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.
9. Be kind in your thoughts
Give people the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone.
Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements.
We are all doing the best we can to make it through this.
10. Find your ‘alone’ space
We should all find our own retreat space. With space at a premium, particularly with city living, it is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation.
For children, help them identify a place where they can retreat to when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”.
It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.
11. Children are struggling too
Expect behavioural issues in children, and respond gently.
We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns.
Try not to introduce major behavioural plans or consequences at this time, instead hold steady and focus on emotional connection.
12. Focus on safety and attachment
We are going to be living with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement for a while yet.
We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children.
Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.
13. Lower your expectations
Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. This idea is connected with Tip No. 12. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress, which does not make a formula for excellence.
Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self-acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this – there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
14. Limit COVID conversation consumption
Restrict the time you spend on social media and COVID conversations, especially around children.
you can find lots of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist.
Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children as they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.
15. Notice the good
Try to take notice of all the good in the world, in particular the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic.
But, there are also lots of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the ‘not nice’ stuff with the good stuff!
16. Help others
Find ways, big or small, to give back to others. Support local restaurants, offer to grocery shop for a friend, check-in with elderly neighbours, write psychological wellness tips for others – helping others gives us a sense of balance when things seem out of control.
17. Clear your cupboards
Find a job to do around the house, something you can control – and control the heck out of it.
In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelmingness, it helps to be able to control your little corner of the world. You could organise your bookshelf, purge your wardrobe, put together that furniture, or group your children’s toys (maybe get them involved too). There are many things you can do to help to anchor and ground you when the bigger things are chaotic.
Ther are some great tips on the Good Housekeeping website on how to declutter your home… it’s a good place to start!
18. Find a long-term project
Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
It’s the perfect time to do a range of things you’ve ‘never had the time to do’, such as
- learning how to play the keyboard,
- finishing off that huge jigsaw puzzle,
- starting a 15 hour game of Risk,
- painting a picture,
- reading the Harry Potter series from start to finish,
- binge-watching a whole series on Netflix,
- crocheting a blanket,
- solving a Rubix cube, or
- developing a new town in Animal Crossing.
… the list is endless!
19. Keep moving
We mentioned how important it is to keep moving in Tip No. 4. It’s also important to engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements.
Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, colouring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping, etc.) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.
The NHS website has a dedicated page on their website called Move More which offers home workout videos and other tips to help you get moving. Check it out here.
20. Get creative
Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for the release of feeling.
Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel.
It’s also a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate!
21. Find lightness and humor everyday
There is a lot to be worried about at the moment, and with good reason.
Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie – we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
22. Reach out for help
Your team is there for you – if you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they will be available to you, even at a distance. Keep up with your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can.
If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis.
Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges.
Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbours to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day – although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
23. Take one day at a time
“Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now.
Psychiatrists recommend for patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, that they engage in a strategy called “chunking” – focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable.
Whether it’s 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time – find what feels doable for you, and set a timestamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.
24. Remind yourself that this time will pass
Remind yourself daily that this situation is temporary. It might seem, in the midst of this quarantine, that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us.
Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.
25. Find the lesson
Finally, although this whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency; the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction.
Continuing our support
What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation and our world?
Here at Home-Start, we are looking at a greater diversity of service provision, even beyond the lockdown, so that we can support a wider range of families in the longer term.
Although we have found getting set up for online, digital and virtual support has been challenging and we’ve had to think fast, it has opened our eyes to new ways to provide support. It has pushed us into thinking about how we run our services, developing new ideas and finding new ways to help the families who live in our area.
Regardless of how long the lockdown lasts and how far-reaching the effects of the pandemic are; we will be here for parents when they need us most… because childhood can’t wait.