The Coronavirus pandemic has completely upended our lives in ways we couldn’t even have imagined at the start of last year; we’ve been kept apart from our loved ones, forced to find new hobbies, and ordered to stay at home. These changes to our ways of life have resulted in a surge in mental health issues across the UK, with feelings of loneliness and hopelessness rising massively among the general population according to the Mental Health Foundation.
So when Boris Johnson set out his roadmap for leaving lockdown, it was a huge sigh of relief for many; finally a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. However for many of us, the world opening up again comes with increased feelings of worry, uncertainty and anxiety – just as it took us time to adapt to a new way of living at the start of lockdown, it may take some time to adapt to life changing again. Humans are creatures of habit – when the habits that we have come to know are disrupted, we can become stressed.
At #TeamHable, we are passionate about wellbeing and ensuring everyone looks after theirs properly. Read through our tips and hear from some of our people around how to look after your mental health as we leave lockdown in the UK:
1. Prioritise doing the things you enjoy
Mental health issues can often have a huge impact on hobbies; things we usually enjoy doing can easily start to feel boring or tiresome if you are struggling with your mental health. However, studies show that people who have and regularly participate in hobbies are far less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and general feelings of low mood, so it’s important to make time for your favourite activities if you still can.
For some, that may not be possible at the moment due to the restrictions that are currently in place, (e.g going to the gym, going to the cinema, seeing friends) so try to find ways to adapt the activity within the COVID guidelines.
As lockdown eases, more and more of the activities you enjoy doing will become available once again – it’s important to get back into these if and when you feel ready to do so. Write down the activities you miss doing, and make plans to do them when restrictions allow; even if it’s something as simple as going for a coffee with your friend.
2. Pace yourself, take things one step at a time
Everyone has dealt with the turbulence of the last year in their own way and will continue to adjust to a return to normality in their own way too. It’s important to recognise that everyone around you will want to go back at their own pace. Some of your friends, for example, might be ready to go back to pubs and restaurants when the time comes – if you don’t feel ready, that’s okay. Everyone will have different ways of coping with their mental health as we leave lockdown and as rules change.
“You feel like you’re letting someone down when you say you aren’t ready to do something,” says our Content and Marketing Consultant, Georgie Bartley. “Due to a vulnerable family member, I have to be more mindful of what I do and evaluate the risks, which can be exhausting in itself. But I also don’t want to restrict myself completely as I know my mental health will suffer.”
As we navigate the return to a new normal, don’t let others pressure you into doing things you don’t want to. It’s important to get back to socialising when you feel ready, but take things slow if you need to and try doing things at a pace you are comfortable with.
You could try doing small things – like meeting up with a few friends outside – before taking bigger steps.
3. Avoid consuming too much news
When COVID broke out at the start of last year, there was a huge increase in the amount of traffic to news sites around the world, as well as a surge in the amount of young people tuning into the daily news bulletins on TV.
While it’s important to keep up-to-date with what’s going on around the world and stay informed with current affairs, make sure you’re consuming news in moderation and taking enough breaks. Therapists and Psychologists believe that consuming too much news not only leads to “Corona Fatigue,” but that it also likely to be worsening anxiety and depression for those with a history of mental and emotional health issues.
“For me, I decided to limit the amount of news I was watching just before the third lockdown,” says Rosie Hall, Marketing Executive here at #TeamHable. “The constant doom and gloom was just really draining. Taking a step back from consuming so much news made the whole situation much easier to cope with.”
Try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the numbers or situation in your area. With a huge rise in fake news and conspiracy theories, it’s also important not to get too consumed by what you read on social media.
4. Accept that it might take time to adjust to life out of lockdown
Lets not forget that we have been living through one of the strangest periods of modern history, with completely unprecedented changes to our way of life. After a year of staying at home, it’s only natural that it might take some time to adjust back to your old way of life. Not putting too much pressure on yourself to get straight back into normal, is really important in looking after mental health as we leave lockdown
“Be kind to yourself,” says our Principal Consultant, Sital Champaneria. “It takes time to readjust, so don’t expect to be fine on day one. Try implementing some coping strategies such as breathing exercises, a morning walk or shorter days back in the office if you’re able to.
5. Talk to loved ones
Research shows that 1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health issue each year across England, with mental health issues on the rise year on year. Despite this, it’s still considered taboo, with many people who suffer too afraid to speak up; keeping these things in can then go on to make symptoms even worse.
Talking about how you’re feeling is a really important part of ensuring you cope as life goes back to normal – talk to a friend or family member that you trust and explain that you’re feeling nervous about things. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, reach out to communities online through social media or forums.
It’s not always easy to open up but remember, if you do, it might encourage others to do the same.
Looking after your mental health as we leave lockdown and you return to work
From lack of social contact to not being able to switch off, the move to home working has been a difficult transition for many. However studies have also shown that on the other side of the coin, home working has been one of the more positive consequences of the COVID19 pandemic, with 45% of people stating that home working is better for their mental health. For this group of people, the prospect of returning to the office is likely a daunting one.
If you are feeling anxious, worried or depressed about returning back to work, here are some quick things you can do to prepare:
- Talk to your line manager or HR team about how you’re feeling
- Talk to other colleagues, they may be feeling the exact same way
- Ease yourself in slowly, start with going in for just a few days a week at first if that’s possible
- Start waking up earlier now to get back into the habit – especially if you’re going to have a long commute
- Ensure you’re getting outside as much as you can, either at lunch time or before/after work
- Focus on the positives if you can, there are some really great benefits to working with people in person
Transitioning back to working in an office or retail environment is likely to involve mixed feelings for most of us, and it’s only natural that it may take time to adjust. It’s important to recognise that and not put too much pressure on yourself too soon.