Things are tough at the moment. If you’re in the UK, you’ve been in coronavirus lockdown for over six weeks and are looking at several more. You’ve probably got, or are wishing you had, face masks and gloves to use whenever you do go out, and you’re wondering when the coronavirus outbreak will begin to subside.
We’re all worried – about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our health, and on the local and global economy. You might be trying to explain to your children why they can’t go outside, what social distancing means, and the importance of washing their hands or using hand sanitiser really, really regularly. Or you may be worried about a member of your family with possible coronavirus symptoms, and spending half your day on Google, trying to figure out what to do.
If you’re spending a lot of time on social media, or looking at the news, it’s easy to get super stressed from all the conflicting information out there. We all know by now that Covid-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China and has since spread around the world, but so little is known about it, and the information changes daily.
So now you’re following government requirements to stay home, how do you stay positive during the extended coronavirus lockdown?
Over the first two weeks of lockdown, I made a daily series of Coronavirus Survival Hacks videos, sharing with you some of the things my family and I did to help stay positive. You can watch the series here, but I wanted to share some of my favourite, simple life hacks in this blog.
Staying positive is really important, not just for your mental health but also because stress puts more strain on your immune system.
So what did we find helped in my family?
1. BE KIND TO YOUR MIND
The brain is in charge of our body and our emotions. You might be exercising to be kind to your body, but what about your mind?
Here are some of my favourite mind kindness life hacks.
i. Keeping a gratitude diary
Keep a diary or notebook by your bed and use it to write down each evening something you’re grateful for, or that made you smile that day. Doing this regularly actually trains your brain to be more positive, and to focus on the good stuff rather than feelings of stress of anger.
ii. Feeding your brain
Blueberries, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, fatty fish and dark chocolate are all really good food for the brain. 60% of the brain is made of fat, and half of that is Omega 3 – the type of fat found in oily fish like mackerel. Feeding your brain is a really good way to be kind to yourself.
iii. Staying hydrated
Drinking loads of water is good for us for many reasons, but it also helps to ensure the brain gets plenty of oxygen and nutrients, which in turn support brain function and help to stave off feelings of stress and anxiety. On the flip side of that, liquids high in sugar, and, yes, that includes alcohol. So do try to resist temptation, and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum.
iv. Fresh air, stretching and exercise
All of these are important for our physical health, but they’re also great for our brains. Stretching helps to increase blood flow and circulation which boosts oxygen supply to the brain, which makes us feel happier.
v. Keeping an eye on technology use
In lockdown, with social distancing in place, we’re even more reliant on technology than usual – for our social lives, work and keeping up with the news. That’s all good, but there’s a danger we can become over reliant. From eye-strains to posture problems, technology can impact on us. Make sure you build in regular 5-minute breaks during your day if you’re working. And I find that taking a whole day off from technology – putting down the phone, tablet or whatever – once a week is really beneficial.
vi. Exercising your brain
Doing puzzles, like crosswords or sudoko for example is actually really good brain training. Or games you can play with your family, like Scrabble, are really good for mental fitness.
If you have any outside space, gardening is a great activity for helping you to stay positive. You could be benefitting the environment by planting things that bees love. It’s also a top stress-reliever and anti-depressant, and being outside boosts our Vitamin D and Cortisol production. Gardening helps to build the immune system and there is evidence to suggest that it can reduce the risk of dementia by up to 36%. The pleasure you get from the sense of achievement as you enjoy the visual effects of your gardening can be a real boost. And if you need any more incentive, three hours of moderate gardening is the equivalent of a one-hour gym session!
CONQUERING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
If despite all your best efforts, you’re still struggling with negative feelings during lockdown, this is a trick my therapist taught me last year when I was having a really hard time.
Wear a rubber band on your wrist and whenever a negative thought pops into your mind, ping the elastic band! It stings a bit, allowing you to acknowledge the thought, but also reminds you to think about the more positive side of things – like being able to spend more time with your kids or maybe some hobbies at home.
I hope some of these will help you through the tough times of the coronavirus pandemic. You can subscribe and watch the complete series of Coronavirus Survival Hacks videos here, along with the other videos on my channel.
I’ve lived with high levels of stress and anxiety for years, and during a major burnout and personal trauma in 2016 I was in a really tough place. Now I want to help others to get through difficult times.
The most important thing, if you’re struggling with mental health issues, or if you’re concerned about any of the people around you; is not to suffer in silence. Please reach out for help if you need it.