This year has seen some abrupt and significant changes to our daily life and routine. Some of us are facing extended periods of isolation and restrictions. We are all facing uncertainly and disruption to ‘normal’ life which can have a negative effect on mental health.
Isolation from others and from a normal daily routine can invoke feelings of being without purpose and out of control of the situation. Feeling lost and unmotivated is common, and even everyday tasks can be difficult. A loss of connection to others such as friends, family or even training buddies is a real and detrimental consequence of being isolated.
According to the Psychological Association “Feeling isolated can lead to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health, lower immunity, depressive symptoms, and impaired executive function.”
The good news is there are are number of simple ways to support your mental health during periods of self-isolation or quarantine.
Remember it’s temporary
It pays to remind yourself that these social changes are temporary and that isolation from others will help the health of the greater community. Restrictions will have an end point – and although we know life isn’t going to snap back to ‘normal’, it will improve.
Find the positives
It might be the last thing on your mind some days, but there really is always a bright side. Are you happy to have less rushing to meetings and being able to Zoom in your Ugg boots? Or are you able whip up a yummy salad for lunch because you’re at home? Making a conscious effort to focus on the little positive things can go a long way to lifting your mood.
Establish a Routine
Whether you’re home or out and about, establishing a routine is great for both your physical and mental health. Start with a consistent sleep routine, and create a morning wake up ritual to start your day right. Adding in planned meal times, regular breaks and exercise blocks will set a good structure for your day. Remember it doesn’t need to be elaborate, you just have to create a set of activities and tasks that you can do every day that will support your health
Move every day!
Exercise is simply the best stress release available to us! Exercise releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, helping to improve mood and reduce stress.
You may find that some exercise or training options simple aren’t available to you right now, so it is vital to find something you can do every day to get a sweat up. Try a morning power walk as the sun rises with stretches to finish. Set up your bike on a trainer and check out online training systems like Zwift where you can join others for a ride or race. We love the free Workout Women App (don’t be put off fellas – this is not just for the ladies!) for everything from strength to yoga. Whatever it is that gets you sweating (and happy) – just do it every day!
Nutrition for mental health
We all know that when you eat healthy food, you feel better. A diet of natural nutrition which is rich in fruit, vegetables and lean proteins will result in good physical and mental health. Conversely, there is strong evidence that people with depression typically have unhealthy dietary habits. Aim to reduce processed food intake and increase fruit, vegetable and olive oil consumption to not only improve your health, but your mood too!
Maybe you’re not in the mood… but picking up the phone to say hi really can make a difference. Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or phone. Seeing a loved one’s smile on a screen really can make your day!
Avoid mood busters
We are bombarded with information, it seems like something new is happening every day around the world, and it is easy to get anxious when you feel like you have no control over these situations. Stick to sources that you trust and limit how often you consume media. Don’t be afraid to take a break – most important news has a way of filtering through regardless.
We all know the negative effect that social media can have on our mental state now, so don’t be afraid to do a review of all the accounts you follow and really decide how they make you feel. Do they uplift you, or do they make you uneasy or unhappy in any way? Perhaps it’s time to step back and stop the scroll for a while.
Setting goals can help you maintain a healthy mind. Some people have been highly productive in 2020, and for others it has been harder to achieve their goals. So, don’t be hard on yourself, but also don’t stop setting those goals, even if they’re small ones!
Is it a week of planning your meals and prepping healthy options? Or is time to enrol in a course you’ve always wanted to do? In chaos is opportunity, and 2020 is certainly the year for both of these! By keeping your brain engaged, challenged and well nourished you will give yourself every opportunity to thrive in these challenging times.