Supporting Your Mental Health During Lockdown Three
The third national lockdown is upon us, and with it comes the potential and risk of increased stress, worry, anxiety and the negative impact upon your mental health and well-being.
There are mental health impacts from the ongoing restrictions and limitations, on employment and jobs, financially and from things like home schooling. And whether you are not working, working from home or still need to work as usual, all of the evidence shows that our mental health has been impacted during the various stages of this pandemic.
I’ve been working from home (as all therapists should be), and getting a lot done despite all of the distractions that come from being at home (including the kids and home schooling!). On the plus side there is still exercise to enjoy and I’m continuing to make time to learn the guitar. I’ve written before about how online hypnotherapy is as effective as face to face hypnotherapy, so if you are struggling then do get in touch.
As this lockdown continues, and the pandemic endures, it’s now more important than ever that you take a proactive approach to supporting your mental health. Whether it helps you cope and deal with things completely, simply mitigates any adverse mental health impacts, or allows you to function and get through things so you are in the best place you can be after all of this, you need to do stuff. Below I’ve covered what I suggest you do to support your mental health during this lockdown three.
Supporting Your Mental Health and Well-being
During the first Covid-19 national lockdown, there was a seismic impact upon us all, none of us ever having experienced anything like it before. We all had to make huge adjustments to our lives very suddenly, and those changes in habit, pattern and routine took time to adjust to. Some things, like socialising, we’ve just had to get used to, as best as we can, not having in our lives. At the same time I think the pictures from hospitals, the uncertainty and the number of daily reported deaths added to the sense of anxiety and stress.
I’ve covered many, many research studies since then that all point towards the detrimental impact upon mental health and increased anxiety and stress.
A study from the University of East Anglia has been published this month showing the impact on health and well-being during the first lockdown. Naughton et al (Health behaviour change during the UK COVID-19 lockdown: findings from the first wave of the C-19 health behaviour and wellbeing daily tracker study. 2020), looked at how lifestyle behaviours changed in the first lockdown back in April 2020.
In summary, they found that health behaviours worsened and that people ate less fruit and vegetables, took less exercise and drank more alcohol. This is pretty important because diet, exercise and alcohol are so strongly associated with your physical and mental health.
“This study identified changes in dietary, physical activity, and alcohol use behaviours during the early phase of the UK COVID-19 lockdown relative to pre-pandemic levels. Most changes…were towards a worsening of health behaviours.”
Health behaviours directly affect your mental health and your risk of chronic conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type II diabetes, as well as being potentially important determinants of contracting and surviving viral infections such as Covid-19.
This links closely to some other research I talked about recently (in this article: The Three Pillars of Mental Health) which identified the importance of sleep, physical activity, and diet for your mental health and well-being. Wickham, Amarasekara, Bartonicek & Conner (The Big Three Health Behaviors and Mental Health and Well-being among Young Adults: A Cross-sectional Investigation of Sleep, Exercise, and Diet. 2020) covered how healthy lifestyles are important contributors to both physical and mental health. Getting high-quality sleep, engaging in physical activity, and eating well not only have advantages to physical health, but also have advantages to mental health such as reduced risk of depression and anxiety and increased psychological well-being.
The message here is clear for lockdown three, when supporting your mental health you should eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables each day, exercise and reduce your alcohol intake. Rather than repeating the negative health impacts from the first lockdown, you can learn from it, manage your health behaviours during this current lockdown better, and support your mental health and well-being.
You can nudge these improvements in your health behaviours. Start by adding one additional piece of fruit or portion of vegetables a day, add a ten minute walk into your plans and either reduce your alcohol gradually, dilute your drinks or adopt more no drinking days.
Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Mental Heath
A very recent published study has added to our knowledge about the mental health impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gloster et al (Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health: An international study. 2020) looked at the impact on mental health, such as depression and stress, from lockdowns, using a sample of over nine and a half thousand people from seventy eight countries. Their results indicated that about 10% of the population were struggling from low levels of mental health and about half had only moderate mental health.
“This study assessed nearly 10,000 participants across many countries to examine the impact of the pandemic and resultant governmental lockdown measures on mental health. During the height of the lockdown, the pandemic was experienced as at least moderately stressful for most people…Symptoms of depression were also high…”
The results suggest that there is a subgroup of people who are especially suffering as well as a larger number of people whose mental health could be substantially improved (and of course there are those whose mental health improved or stayed at a high level throughout).
1. Seek social support.
We may not be able to meet socially in pre-pandemic ways but keeping in touch with people and talking, have never been more important. It will help counteract feelings of loneliness and isolation, it can lift your mood and it gives you an opportunity to talk about how you are feeling and any concerns you have. Don’t hesitate, talk yourself out if it or assume others are too busy. Message them or call them and keep communicating.
2. Psychological Flexibility
Scroll through the articles on my website and you will find many suggestions, strategies and techniques to help you take control over your thinking. You can deal effectively with catastrophising and worst case scenarios, tackle anxious and stressful thinking patterns and also focus on other, more positive and constructive, aspects of things.
You may also want to take a look at the hypnosis downloads pages and make use of these awesome resources, there’s even one you can download for free right now.
And if you need any help from my hypnotherapy, please do get in contact.
3. Health Behaviours
Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat healthily (with enough fresh fruit and vegetables), exercise regularly and limit your alcohol intake.
Interestingly, Gloster et al found that people who left their house three or more times per week reported more positive affect than those that left their house less often. Make a point of going out for a walk or other exercise regularly to support your mental health (and we know being in nature boosts mental health and well-being so try and incorporate some of that as you exercise too).
There are many other constructive steps you can take to support your mental health during the pandemic in the blogs I have published during previous lockdowns and throughout the pandemic.
None of us know quite how long this current lockdown will last, even less so how long the pandemic itself may endure. Covid-19 has impacted upon physical and mental health in many ways. Please do be proactive, take care of yourself, stay safe and take steps towards supporting your mental health and well-being.
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Gloster, A.T., Lamnisos, D., Lubenko, J., Presti, G., Squatrito, V., Constantinou, M., Nicolaou, C., Papacostas, S., Aydın, G., Chong, Y.Y. and Chien, W.T., 2020. Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health: An international study. PloS one, 15(12), p.e0244809
Naughton, F., Ward, E., Khondoker, M., Belderson, P., Minihane, A.M., Dainty, J.R., Hanson, S., Holland, R., Brown, T. and Notley, C., 2020. Health behaviour change during the UK COVID-19 lockdown: findings from the first wave of the C-19 health behaviour and wellbeing daily tracker study. British Journal of Health Psychology.
Wickham, S.R., Amarasekara, N., Bartonicek, A. and Conner, T., 2020. The Big Three Health Behaviors and Mental Health and Well-being among Young Adults: A Cross-sectional Investigation of Sleep, Exercise, and Diet. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, p.3339