Hello, my name is Andy Toynton and I’m the Building Recovery in the Community Coordinator (BRICC) for Inspire. This leaflet has been written for those on lockdown who do not necessarily have access to the internet, social media etc. It is designed to provide advice and guidance on maintaining positive mental health and suggest some activities that may help towards filling the time. I really hope that you find it useful and I will leave my contact number at the bottom of the page.
At the end of this page has been taken from the CSI WhatsApp group and the Inspire Well-being WhatsApp group. Thank you very much for your contributions.
I have put this leaflet in the form of ‘top ten tips. Some of these are based on my first week in lockdown.
First, whilst it is a bit of a cliché, we are all in the same boat. Covid-19 does not discriminate which can be quite scary for many. However, in some respects, there is comfort in knowing that, if you are feeling isolated, there are many others out there in a similar position.
Tip 1 – Maintain a Structure for your day
This is probably the best tip I can share. Not having a structure for the day could have an impact on your mental health. From a personal perspective, I struggled last week to make routine, particularly with juggling work and housework etc. I was all over the place. However, once I compiled a timetable it was more manageable. Obviously, this is just friendly advice, although I did find a structure helped. Your structure is what you decide, and it does not have to be complicated. Last weekend I wrote a list of jobs that had to be completed around the house. Against this list, I put a time to be completed by. Doing this gives you a sense of achievement.
Tip 2 – Keep your mind active.
The old saying ‘the devil makes work for the idle hands’ can also apply to the mind. The mind is an expert on filling the space with negative thoughts, particularly when you are struggling to keep it busy. I reckon that balance needs to be struck. Relaxation and mindfulness are important, and I will cover this in a later tip. However, it is important to keep the mind busy as well. Sometimes we will have a negative thought which can spiral out of control quite quickly and before you know it can lead to negative behaviors. Again, it is down to the individual what routine they adopt to keep busy. Examples include: the structure in tip one will work in partnership with keeping your mind active.
If you start having negative thoughts one good tip is to imagine a stop sign in your mind and hold it up. At first, this might feel a bit unusual and in time it can become a good habit. I have lots of articles on this subject so telephone me and I can send you them in the post.
Tip 3 – Accept the situation.
The situation with Covid-19 will end at some point in the future. It would be easier to predict the lottery numbers than knowing when this end will be. However, one tip is to accept that we are all in this situation and it will eventually end. As humans, we are extremely adaptable to our circumstances. You only must have seen this when you notice the tape on the supermarket floors and people queuing accordingly. To be honest, we have been forced to adapt quickly. However, we have and are doing it. One way of adapting is to accept the current situation. A tip here is to calculate what aspects of your life you still have control and accept the aspects you do not. Yes, our previous freedoms are not now available to us. However, this is a temporary situation and some aspects are totally out of our control. Allowing frustration and anger to consume us serves no purpose and only contributes to making the situation worse.
Tip 4 – Don’t overload on the news.
Obviously, the news is totally dominated by Covid-19. It is important to keep ahead with developments and advice from the Government. However, too much time spent watching or listening to news and stories relating to Covid-19 could have a detrimental effect on your mental health. If you find watching and listening to Covid-19 news items, try and reduce it.
If the government is issuing any medical suggestions and orders to minimize the risk, then it is important for you to abide by them. Keep an eye on the news but don’t get obsessed with it. There is a lot of misinformation that is spread around by people, so try to stay away from all that, as much as you can for the sake of your mental health.
Tip 5 – Exercise
Exercise can help manage stress, boost the immune system, and improve your energy levels. Restricted to your home does not necessarily mean you are restricted to undertaking some form of exercise unless your health is a barrier. Even then there are armchair exercises that can be undertaken. One of my favorite terms is integrated exercise i.e. doing the housework. Even vacuuming can burn off many calories. Further, use the 30 minutes of exercise the Government allows and go for a walk, run, cycle etc.
Tip 6 – Lifestyle.
Try and take care of yourself. Self-care is incredibly important, especially during times like this. Try and maintain a healthy diet. There is a temptation for each junk food during this period. However, it’s not great for your mental health and waistline. If you are struggling to get to the shops or afford shopping please ring me and I will make a referral to a food bank.
Tip 7 – Relax
Saying relax is not as easy as it sounds. On occasions, we can have too many distracting thoughts. So relaxing takes practice. The good news is the more you practice the easier It becomes. Try listening to some relaxing music and if distracting thoughts come into your head don’t fight it, just go with the flow. Mindfulness: Research has shown that mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is simple, but not easy. Find a quiet space and take a seat. You can set a time limit on your phone, maybe five to fifteen minutes. First, notice how your body feels on the surface you’re sitting on. Second, notice your breath passing in and out of your nose or mouth and focus on this sensation. When you notice that your mind has wandered, simply and non-judgmentally return your attention to your breath. This will happen repeatedly, but every time you notice your mind has strayed from your breath, return your attention back to your breath.
Deep belly breathing: Deep belly breathing can slow your heartbeat and lower blood pressure, counteracting anxiety and stress at the moment. Again, deep belly breathing may be simple but can be easily done incorrectly if not paying attention or rushing. First, sit or lie down (on your back) in a comfortable position, and place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Take a deep inhale, letting your belly fill with air, which should push the hand on your belly out while the hand on your chest remains still. Exhale, and feel your belly and the hand on its fall. Slowly, continue breathing in and out as you feel your belly rise and fall each time. Do these five to 10 times, or if you desire.
PMR: Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) also helps combat stress response and can be practiced almost anywhere or at any time. It involves intentionally tightening or flexing a set of muscles for a few seconds as you inhale, and then relaxing these muscles completely as you exhale, and noticing the difference in how your body feels. Then, you continue this alternating flexing/relaxing practice with each muscle group, relaxing each muscle group for 10 to 20 seconds before the next set, until you have covered your entire body. You can follow this list of muscle groups and how to contact them before totally relaxing them. In a pinch or in public, PMR can be practiced with just the hands or feet (several times over) to achieve the same result.
Tip 8 – Read
When self-isolating for Coronavirus, one of the best things you can do is read books. Create a list of all the books you have always wanted to read and get started on them one by one. Reading is an extremely restorative and therapeutic practice, and it can really help you keep your heart and mind happy!
Studies have shown that even if you read every day for 10 minutes, it can cause a big drop in your stress levels. Getting lost in a book means you get to enjoy a temporary release from all the chaos, anxiety and fear around you, due to Coronavirus.
Tip 9 – Catch up on sleep
Proper and adequate sleep can boost and improve your mental health and help you to deal with the anxiety surrounding this virus. However, make sure that you don’t spend all day just sleeping. Just like too little sleep is bad for health, too much of it can prove to be harmful to your physical and mental health.
Tip 9 – Learn a new hobby
When you have got a lot of time on your hands, why not use it learn something new? Painting, dancing, or even learning to knit- there are many options when it comes to learning. So, make the most of your time while you are self-isolating at home. See the list from the WhatsApp group below.
Tip 10 – Develop habits.
Being positive during a testing time like this is imperative and necessary. One of the most effective ways of ensuring that is by taking care of yourself and doing what makes you happy and peaceful. Try best to develop positive habits. For example, use your 30 minutes of exercise to get out (with social distancing). One negative habit is not getting into the habit of getting out for 30 minutes
Coronavirus has forced many to reconsider their purpose. Purpose provides us with sense, which is a critical ingredient in personal fulfillment. Explore your purpose, write it down, refine it, and, when you are ready, share it with others – this gives a powerful driver to your goals. Once you have a sense of your purpose (this might take longer than the Coronavirus epidemic will provide), try mapping out, in your mind, or on paper, how your current approach to life meets your purpose. Which activities and relationships support your goal, and which do not? You now have your very own personal improvement plan.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Below are some tips and ideas that were taken from the WhatsApp group. Thanks to those individuals that contributed. Once again if you need any help and guidance please ring me on 07917556946.
Andy Toynton – Building Recovery in the Community Coordinator.