We chat with psychiatrist Dr Steve Ellen to hear some simple techniques for looking after mental health in lockdown.
1. Structure your day
A return to lockdown will disrupt any work, school and social plans you may have had.
Maintaining structure when things around you are constantly changing is an important part of looking after your mental wellbeing.
“First, get as much structure into your days as possible,” explains Dr Ellen. “Set times for things, and try to keep yourself occupied mentally.”
2. Pay attention to your sleep
“Pay very close attention to your sleep,” says Dr Ellen.
Lockdown can also cause major disruptions to your sleeping habits, which can, in turn, leave you feeling fatigued, moody and mentally drained.
Make sure you’re getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night, and try to avoid the use of smartphones or digital devices before bed as they can impact your natural sleep cycle.
3. Get creative with exercise
If you’re stuck in hotel quarantine, it’s important that you exercise – not only for your physical health but your mental health, too.
Without the option to go to the gym or take a run outside, you’ll have to be a bit more creative with the way you exercise.
“Try to exercise in the hotel room using online apps (there are many, especially great yoga videos and apps),” recommends Dr Steve.
The same goes for how you eat and drink – it all plays a part in looking after mental health in lockdown. “Be careful with your nutrition and don’t drink too much,” he adds.
4. Start a gratitude journal
In times like these, it can be easy to focus on negative things. One way to combat this is to start a gratitude journal, says Dr Steve.
Practising gratitude is not only a good way to reflect on the positive things in your life, it’s been shown to have great benefits for your mental health.
Studies have shown it to improve sleep, heart health and physical wellbeing.
Starting a gratitude journal is easy. Begin by writing down 3-4 things you are grateful for – they could be as big or small as you like.
Keep it up as a daily practice and a habit of gratitude will soon develop.
5. Try a new craft
There are plenty of new skills and crafts you can learn at home or while in quarantine, says Dr Steve.
“Creative things like online writing courses or other courses, or even try learning an instrument if you can get hold of one.”
6. Volunteer online
Another creative way to fill your time in lockdown is by volunteering online to support others. A quick Google search will bring up loads of options.
You could lend your skills to a charity, be a mentor, or teach people online.
7. Learn techniques for self-relaxation
When you’re struggling mentally, known simple self-relaxation techniques can be hugely beneficial to looking after mental health in lockdown.
“Think about becoming an expert in self-relaxation,” says Dr Steve. “Try meditation apps or the various things like progressive muscle relaxation on YouTube.”
8. Stay in touch with loved ones
Staying connected is crucial, especially if you’re in lockdown alone.
“If you can, keep in contact with your friends and family using the various online resources,” says Dr Steve.
Perhaps you’ll want to restart your family Zoom quiz night or reach out to an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
9. Ask for help
Finally, if you feel you aren’t coping, get help and get it early. See below some resources if you need to speak with someone about your mental wellbeing.
In New Zealand, you can text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free or contact the Depression and Anxiety Helpline on 0800 111 757 or free text 4202.
In Australia, you can call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit their website to chat over the web.