Whether you’re concerned about a relative living under a local lockdown or worried about job security after the furlough scheme ends, it’s important to remember it’s completely normal to feel anxious, sad or stressed in light of the current circumstances, even if your mood may feel at odds with the sunny weather outside.
“It’s normal to feel anxious, sad or worried occasionally, especially during these uncertain times,” explains Lauren Gordon, a behaviour insights adviser at Bupa UK. “Over the last few months, our lives have changed enormously: the normal things, like commuting to work or meeting friends, have often stopped entirely.
“Even with our lives returning to normality, it’s understandable to experience changes to your mood.”
If you’re feeling sad, anxious, stressed out or on edge at the moment, it’s important to take some time out to look after yourself and not get frustrated for feeling or not feeling a certain way.
With this in mind, we asked Gordon to share some easy ways to lift your mood when you’re in need of a pick-me-up – here’s what she had to say.
Try something new
Trying your hand at a new hobby or skill isn’t just a great way to relax and unwind at the end of the day, it can boost your mood, too.
“Opening our minds to a new thing or a new way of thinking is often frightening because by definition it’s unfamiliar, but research has shown that learning new skills can improve our mental wellbeing,” Gordon explains. “Trying something new can also boost your self-esteem and help you connect with others.” Why not join some online classes, or take up a new hobby?
Speak to a friend or family member
It might sound small, but the power of chatting to someone about how you’re feeling and having a real conversation is often overlooked. Reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while or arranging to meet a family member for a coffee can help to take your mind off things as well as giving you a chance to alleviate some of your worries and concerns.
“Something simple like speaking to a loved one, or meeting them for a walk outside, can improve your mood,” Gordon says.
“This is a difficult time for us all, so sharing how you are feeling can really help. Talking about why you’re feeling sad, worried or anxious may help you feel better. A good friend can give you advice on what’s bothering you and cheer you up.”
Make some time for mindfulness
It doesn’t have to take hours, but setting aside a few minutes each day to practise mindfulness is a great way to relieve some of the stress and anxiety you might be feeling.
“Mindfulness has many benefits for our mental health; it can help relieve stress, improve sleep and increase happiness levels,” Gordon points out. “It doesn’t take up too much of your day and can be practiced anywhere.
“As soon as you wake up, sit up in bed and focus on your breathing for five minutes. Notice how you feel afterwards – you should feel calmer and ready to take on the day. You can also practice mindfulness throughout the day, such as when you sit down to start work or during the mid-afternoon slump!”
Write down why you’re grateful
Practising gratitude not only helps to remind you of all the good things going on in your life despite everything, but can retrain your brain to have a more positive outlook.
“Commit to writing down three things each evening you’re grateful for,” Gordon recommends. “Showing gratitude and being appreciative of the things you’re thankful for can help you gain a new perspective of what’s important to you.
“Try to be as detailed and as specific as you can. Doing this in the evening – perhaps just before you get into bed – finishes the day on a positive note, and when you look back, you’re more likely to remember it as a good day. Not only can practising gratitude increase your sense of wellbeing, it’s also a great example of practicing mindfulness.”
Prioritise your health
When we’re feeling sad, anxious or stressed, it’s all too easy to forget to take care of yourself. But taking time out of your day to prioritise your health can actually help to improve your mood, too.
“Keeping yourself well – both physically and mentally – is so important, especially now,” Gordon says. “If you’re working – whether it’s at home or office-based, make sure you take regular breaks. Take time out of your day to exercise; not only does exercise release feel-good hormones into your body, exercise can help boost a low mood, because it distracts you from your thoughts and worries. Try to exercise outside too, as spending time outdoors has huge benefits for your wellbeing. It can boost relaxation, reduce stress and give you a greater sense of satisfaction with life.
“Making sure you’re getting enough sleep too. Sleep and mood are inter-related, so if you have a poor night’s sleep, chances are you may experience a low mood the next day. If you are struggling with your sleep, include some relaxation techniques – like mindfulness or meditation – before bed, power down your digital devices an hour before bed and avoid alcohol or coffee late at night.
“Keep yourself hydrated, as not drinking enough can affect your concentration levels. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, be sure to include lots of fruit and vegetables in your diet, as they contain minerals and vitamins needed to keep us healthy – both mentally and physically.”
If you’ve been struggling with low mood, anxiety and stress for a few weeks, or find that your mental health is impacting your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, it’s important to speak to your GP about how you’re feeling, as they will be able to help.