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Keeping Your Mental Health Up During Lockdown Is Important – Here’s How To Do It

mental health

Being confined to your house for a long period of time and not being allowed to go anywhere can take a toll on your mental health and can sometimes have you feel like you’re losing your head. Knowing how to stay sane during this time is therefore essential and there are also many support services available to you. 

This lockdown has us being confined to our homes for a period of 21 days and we are only able to go out if we really need to. No walks or coffee outings to cool you down. While you’re also having your own anxieties and panic coming forward with worries about getting sick and your family getting sick and just the fear of the virus in general.

Another element of lockdown is that this strange period and being in one place for this long time can be damaging to those who live with abusers or LGBTQ+ individuals who come from families that are not supportive and have to now share this time and space with them. There’s also the possibility of individuals who have mental health issues having this situation worsen their mental health.

One of the most important things we’re going to need to do is to stay in touch with the people who’s company we enjoy and who we care about. This could help with avoiding feeling isolated and lonely and it also keeps your mind stimulated.

You should also make sure to check in with others. Make sure they are fine and that they aren’t going crazy during lockdown. You can even engage in an activity together using the many digital technologies we now have available to us.

Try to keep up a routine. This will help you not turn into what I call ‘a shell of a human’. Setting up a sleeping schedule is also really helpful. Having healthy times to go to sleep and waking up and being consistent with it will help keep your mental health up. Don’t take advantage of the freedoms of lockdown as it will make you lazy and feel the effects of being confined even more. Bring purpose into your day and maybe set out tasks to do the night before.

I can’t stress this enough but please, do not stay glued to the news. Overwhelming yourself with news can just have you feel more fear and panic. If you find that there’s a TV with the news channel for coronavirus updates on 24/7 in your house, switch the channel.

Managing where, when and how much news you get is important. Allow yourself to look at news at specific times during a day and make sure you’re getting it from reliable sources. Some are the World Health Organisation, the National Department of Health, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and then choose one reliable news station. Our Health Minister, Zweli Mikhize, is also a good person to follow.

Boredom and being in your house all the time can sometimes be filled by alcohol. Do not abuse alcohol. Monitor and manage your alcohol intake as you did before.

Speak to those you live with and spend time with them. Discuss your Covid-19 fears and anxieties and stay positive when you need to. Remember to keep things as normal as you can and to not only focus on the coronavirus, there are other elements to your life as well. Discuss your future after Covid-19 and your plans for when lockdown is done. Being isolated with the same people for a long period of time can sometimes have an effect on the relationship so express when you need space and communicate your feelings.

Washing your hands and cleaning everything is being encouraged right now. However, these feed into Obsessions and Compulsions associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Coronavirus can fuel these compulsions and they become compulsive. Instead of doing it for hygiene purposes, it’s being done to mask anxiety and feeds the compulsions. If this is your reality, try to restrict your hand washing and set up rules for yourself. Try to think logically about when you need to wash your hands and when you don’t need to. This might be difficult for some but it could help. Resisting the urge when you think you might have been exposed to the virus might help. If you find it not helping, psychologists and counsellors are able to be reached through phone and video calls.

Lockdown can be seen as social withdrawal and reduced activity for us. These are things that feed Depression and maintains it. People who suffer from depression are advised to maintain social contact through digital technologies and to find activities that can keep them active, even if they’re in their house. Keeping a journal of all activities done, reviewing it and then repeating it could be a big practice. But also, don’t put pressure on yourself to do all these activities and achieve goals as it will have the opposite effect. Good practices to do could be cooking, cleaning, arts, crafts, fixing things, redecorating, reading, exercise, contacting friends, etc.

If you are having to share a house with an abuser, call the police if you believe you are under threat and let friends and family know. Report to the Gender Based Violence Command Centre at 0800 428 428 or dial *120*786#

If you suffer from traumatic stress disorders, the current situation could fuel it. If you are feeling overwhelmed and suffering, seek out psychological assistance or counselling as psychologists and counsellors can be reached over the phone or through video call.

Those who suffer from anxiety can easily have this whole situation make their anxiety worse. First of all, don’t read fake news. Maybe it would be good for you to cut yourself off from the news and instead distract yourself with other activities. Have a time period set out for when you worry but also don’t indulge in it or engage in it when you don’t need to. Just remember that as you sit in your house, you are okay.

If you suffer from panic attacks and feel this worsening it, just remember to breathe during panic attacks. Having a breathing routine could help immensely and you could just do this routine when you experience a panic attack. Remember that it will end. That this pandemic will end. Repeat your immediate surroundings to yourself and keep on breathing. Even if it hurts, push that breath out.

The Department of Psychology at Rhodes University recommends the following routine:

  1. Either sit upright or lie down on your back. If possible, breathe through your nose in a gentle, steady rhythm. Your breathing should not be jerky and you should try not to gulp or gasp.
  2. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.
  3. As you breathe in through your nose, allow your stomach to swell. This means that you’re using your lungs fully. Try to keep the movement in your upper chest to a minimum and keep the movement gentle. Imagine that you have four lungs: two in your chest and two in your stomach area. Imagine the ‘lungs’ in your stomach filling up with air.
  4. Slowly and evenly, breathe out through your nose. Now imagine the ‘lungs’ in your stomach area deflating.
  5. Repeat this to establish a gentle rhythm. You’re aiming to take 8 to 12 breaths a minute. This means that it should take around 5 to 7 seconds for each in-breath and out-breath cycle. But don’t worry too much about the timing – you’ll find a comfortable rhythm that’s right for you.
  6. Try to relax your mind too. Shut your eyes and concentrate on pleasant, peaceful thoughts. Feel the tensions ease in your body.

If you are having and suicidal thoughts or impulses, please reach out to a family member or a friend or contact the Lifeline at 0861 322 322.

Some LGBTQ+ individuals are having to share a home with people who do not accept them and this could have a major toll on their mental health. If you are experiencing this, know you matter and that you are loved and have a community that supports you and accepts you and that you will get out of that toxic situation. If you need help or want to speak to someone, you can contact The Triangle Project at 066 076 8845 or 021 422 0255. You can also use the LGBT Helpline at 021 712 6699 where you will be able to speak to a counsellor.

LinkedIn has provided free Mindfulness Courses on LinkedIn Learning to help people deal with the COVID-19 lockdowns. These courses give guidance on mental health and mindfulness while you adjust to working or studying from home and how to maintain that balance between work and life. There are six courses: Mindfulness Practices, The Mindful Workday, Mindful Meditations for Work and Life, Manage Stress for Positive Change, How to Manage Feeling Overwhelmed and Balancing Work and Life. You can find them here.

Psychologists in Durban are offering free counselling support during lockdown to the general public as well as specific counselling for healthcare workers. For general public counselling, email [email protected]. For healthcare workers, email [email protected]. You can also use their WhatsApp hotline at 079 513 7015.

Keeping yourself engaged and active and getting support if you need, because it is there for you, could help you immensely and you can keep your boat afloat.

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