How I look after my mental health in lockdown
Euan’s Guide Ambassador Karine Mather shares her experience of having anxiety and how it has affected her during lockdown. She’s also developed some tools to help her cope and shared them in the hope that they will help other people who might be struggling at the moment.
Yesterday was a good day; it was the first time in a long while that I didn’t feel anxious or depressed. Of course, I’ve woken up this morning suspicious, anxious about why I wasn’t anxious, not trusting how I felt yesterday. It is a worrying time at the moment. You may have been diagnosed with a mental health condition or you might be worried due to what’s happening in the world at the moment. Let me share my experiences with you. On reflection, I think my problems with anxiety started in my late teens. It’s a difficult time the teenage years, everything is changing and the expectation to grow up quickly is actually quite a weight to carry on such young shoulders. I muddled on and found my path. Later in life, when my health started to decline, anxiety reared its ugly head and reminded me that it had been there all along. My wife knew before I did that I was struggling and it took a mundane incident that reduced me to tears to see that I had a new battle, with depression. Everyone’s story is different and how they manage their mental health is different too: some people prefer talking therapies, some people use medication and some people handle the mental health in their own way. Since I started sharing my experiences, I have found many others who share theirs too!
In the current climate, I have been experiencing a mental health roller coaster. One minute I can be calm about staying home and staying safe, the next I can be almost hyperventilating about the fact that we have received post and we don’t know who has touched it. When the virus arrived in the UK and started to spread, I was so anxious everyday that I began to worry that I would end up with a stomach ulcer when all this finished. I had to do something to relieve the stress that I was under so here are my tips for surviving lockdown, these might not work for you, but they really do work for me:
1. Try something different every day. It’s easy for the days to blend together so I do one thing each day that I didn’t do the day before. This can be small or it can be big, it depends on what you feel like doing. My activities have ranged from learning to draw to building a Batmobile (it’s made of cardboard and it was a gift received a while ago, and finally have time to do it!).
2. Try to keep to a routine. For me, I know that I can only really concentrate in the mornings so I read or do coursework and this frees up the afternoon to do something less taxing on my brain, for example, colouring in or playing with Lego (a favourite pastime of my wife and I).
3. Exercise. If you can, fit in a little exercise each day, it’s surprising how much better it can make you feel releasing the good hormones. For me, I have a static hand bike and I have taken out many a bad or anxious mood on this and it always makes me feel better. It doesn’t need to be something this taxing on your body, wave your arms about, role your head or practice mindfulness.
4. Talk to people. Even though I can’t see people, other than my lovely wife, I find it really helpful to keep in touch with friends and family. This can range from a simple text message to online quizzes and games nights. It takes you out of your own head and can be a lot fun!
I hope the tips help and can aid you in finding your own path, and even though it said a lot, it really is okay not to be okay.
Thanks to Karine for sharing her experience and tips with us as part of our Voices of Covid series. This series sees people share their stories and experiences during the Coronavirus lockdown. Please let us know if you would like to get involved.
Karine is a Euan’s Guide Ambassador and super reviewer. She’s currently shielding with her wife during the lockdown. If you have any tips you’d like to share of ways to cope please leave them in the comments below.