Mental Health

How to look after your mental health as we enter a second lockdown

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Lauren Geall
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Are you worried about the impact a second lockdown might have on your mental health? We asked the experts to share their advice when it comes to taking care of ourselves during this difficult time.

England has officially entered its second national lockdown. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or low today, you’re not alone – across the country, many people are having to come to terms with the idea of not being able to do ‘normal’ things like meeting up with a group of friends or popping down the pub.

Of course, underneath all these feelings lies our shared concern about how a second lockdown might impact our mental health. 

While for some people this fear comes from the mental health problems they faced during the first lockdown in March, for others, the idea of spending so much time cooped up inside during the winter months has brought on a fresh sense of dread – especially if they’re someone who already deals with seasonal affective disorder.

However, no matter which scenario best describes your current fears, there are things we can do to take care of our mental health over the next couple of months. 

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Taking proactive steps – such as engaging in self-care – may not work for everyone, but they’re a great first step if you’re worried about what the next couple of months might bring.

To find out more about how we can take care of ourselves now and throughout the second lockdown, we asked the experts to share their advice. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Write a list of the things you want to prioritise

A notebook and pencil
Second lockdown and mental health: write down a list of things you want to make a priority over the next month.

We’re not talking about a list of big, life-altering ambitions or endless to-dos – instead, making a simple list of things you’d like to enjoy and make a priority during this period is a great way to focus your mind.

“There are lots of negatives about the lockdown but there are also many positives to be found too, such as having more time at home with loved ones, being able to reach friends via technology, having the time to organise the house or having a world of courses accessible online,” explains Charlotte Armitage, a psychologist and psychotherapist at Outsourced Psych Ltd.

“Some people may just want to spend this time to slow down, and that is an achievement, too – especially for those who struggle to switch off.”

2. Try “reparenting”

By addressing our inner-child and speaking to ourselves in a kind, understanding manner, we can start to process some of the anxiety and overwhelm we might be feeling at the moment.

As The Anxiety Coach Lorraine Pascale previously told Stylist: “Inner child work is about becoming the parent. Speaking to our inner child gently, checking it and seeing what the child wants and acknowledging thoughts, feelings, emotions and need the way they may not have been at times as a child.”

She continues: “There may be a time when we are feeling super anxious, and instead of reaching for things which may be unhealthy, we can talk to ourselves and start calming ourselves down.”

For more information on reparenting and how to use it to cope with anxiety, you can check out our interview with Pascale.

3. Practise gratitude

“Write a gratitude journal and record what you are grateful for during the day – what made you smile and what made you happy,” Armitage says. “Bringing your focus onto what has made you happy can improve your mental wellbeing.”

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She continues: “It’s likely that what we thought made us happy a year ago will be very different to what makes us happy now, but it’s that stripped back joy that we find in the small things in life that we need to focus on now.”

For more information on practising gratitude, including how to start a gratitude journal and the psychology behind it, you can check out our guide here.

4. Focus on what you can control

The huge amount of uncertainty which is dominating our lives right now can be particularly damaging for our mental health, so it’s important not to spend huge amounts of time dwelling on the things we can’t control.

“The unstable and unpredictable environment, coupled with a perceived lack of control over the future, may elicit a negative emotional reaction for some,” Armitage explains. 

“Try to focus on what is within your control and try to adapt your life so that it won’t be affected by external changes too much. This will enable you to grasp a sense of stability which is important for positive mental wellbeing.”

5. Establish a healthy routine

A woman waking up
Second lockdown and mental health: establish a routine by waking at a similar time every day and organising your time.

One of the main things that hasn’t changed since the first lockdown in March is the value of establishing a ‘lockdown routine’. 

“I would advise that people follow the advice that was given throughout the first lockdown including creating a routine, always getting up and dressed in the morning, going out for a walk or participating in some form of exercise once a day and creating a suitable space to work from to maintain work/life boundaries within the home,” Armitage suggests.

“The nights are drawing in, but there is still enough daylight to get outside and go for a walk during the day – wrap up warm and enjoy the autumnal scenery.”

6. Do the things which make you happy

Instead of spending your evenings scrolling for hours on end or reading the latest headlines over and over again, make a conscious decision to do something that makes you happy every day.

“Focus on spending time on what makes you feel good, whether that’s baking, drawing or doing a course,” Armitage says. 

7. Practice breathwork

If you’re finding it hard to relax during lockdown, making breathwork part of your daily routine is a great way to calm your body and mind.

As Kate Gaskell, an intuitive breathwork coach, previously explained to Stylist: “Taking conscious control of your breath – a practice often referred to as ‘breathwork’ – has a range of physical, mental and emotional benefits.”

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She continues: “By slowing down your breathing rate and extending the length of your breaths (without making yourself uncomfortable), you send powerful signals to your body that you are safe. This helps your body to feel relaxed, which in turn helps your mind to settle.”

You can check out a range of breathwork exercises here.

8. Identify and limit behaviours you find triggering

Do you spend too much time on social media, even though you know it makes you feel bad? Now is the time to try and put a stop to this kind of behaviour.

“Attempt to stop engaging in behaviours that you might find triggering such as thinking too far ahead, reading the news or spending too much time on social media,” Armitage explains. 

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Whenever you find yourself slipping into one of these behaviours, why not turn to a favourite activity or make a conscious decision to talk to someone about it?

It’s worth noting that if your mental health continues to worsen or begins to interrupt your day-to-day functioning, it’s important to seek help from a GP or qualified mental health professional.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations here.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

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