It is estimated that 6 in 10 Britons are dreading winter due to the restrictions we are facing. With cold, dark nights and limited social interaction, this lockdown is undoubtedly going to be harder than the last. Mental health issues relating to Covid-19 were already on the rise, and this latest lockdown is sure to see another increase.
So what can we do? Here are my top tips for coping better during lockdown:
It sounds such a cliché doesn’t it? However, did you know that deep breathing calms the fight or flight part of our brains, as it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system. Try this simple breathing exercise each morning as you wake up, and each evening before bed. Or whenever you feel you may be having a wobble:
- Exhale fully
- Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4
- Hold for 2 seconds
- Exhale for a count of 6 through your mouth
- Repeat for at least 2 minutes.
If it doesn’t feel comfortable breathing in for so long, reduce the count to 2 inhaling and 4 exhaling, but the important part here is to make sure the out breath is longer than the in breath.
“When the breath wanders the mind is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still.”
Hatha Yoga Pradapika (Mid-14th Century)
Use the outdoor exercise allowance
Exercise produces feel good chemicals in the brain, which help us cope better with life's challenges. Being in the sunshine (even on an Autumnal day) will also give you a boost of vitamin D which plays an important role in regulating your mood. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety.
Eat a well-balanced diet
When we are anxious, our body craves sugary snacks. And during the first lockdown there seemed to be a plethora of baking pictures on social media and the like. However, there is a correlation with anxiety and not getting enough antioxidants, so it is important that those sugary snacks are limited and to make sure your diet is full of beans, fruits, nuts and vegetables to keep the anxiety at bay.
Focus on the good things
We may be in the middle of a global pandemic, but there are always good things in life. The more we focus on those, the more we strengthen our positive neural pathways which in turn will weaken our negative thoughts. Try to think of 3 good things that have happened during your day every night before bed.
Practice an Attitude of Gratitude
Similar to focusing on the good, studies have shown that those who feel grateful have a reduced level of cortisol, the stress hormone. Take time out to focus on what you are grateful for. It could be the nice weather, your family, or having a lovely meal - from small things to big, it's sometimes the simple things we overlook.
Fake it Until you Make it
Smiling, genuine or otherwise, actually boosts feelings of well-being. We can intentionally force the production of endorphins in our brains which will in turn make us feel a little brighter, therefore more likely to smile. So, whilst you may feel a little phony at first, the more you smile, the more you'll smile!
Surround Yourself with Cosy Comforts
A recent poll found that 34 per cent of people were adopting the Scandanavian trend of Hygge, essentially surrounding yourself with things which provide you comfort. There is a similar word in Scottish ‘cosagach’ meaning snug and sheltered. Surrounding ourselves with cosy comforts in our living space can make us feel less anxious and promote a sense of emotional well-being and safety. So grab that crocheted blanket and snuggle down…
Ask for help
Do not be ashamed if you are struggling, it is perfectly normal. Maybe you could reach out to a friend or family member? Or perhaps you feel a professional may be able to help you more. Whichever route you choose, know that you will not be judged, and sometimes just expressing how we feel can make us feel better in itself.
I hope that the above may help to bring you some peace and comfort at a time which can only be described as incredibly difficult and unprecedented. We will get through this.