January 20, 2021

MENTAL HEALTH & LOCK DOWN

Nour Fayad Sarieddine

We’re entering unprecedented times with this Coronavirus pandemic.  There are many things individuals and families can do to stay as physically and mentally healthy as possible despite any constraints.  Below, we share lots of practical ways to look after your mental health and stay sane if you are stuck at home.

1. Keep active – when we are physically active, it keeps our bodies healthy, our immune system strong and our minds in tip top condition.  Physical activity burns off stress hormones like cortisol so we feel calm, centered and energized.  Try some gentle yoga routines online – there are plenty to choose from on YouTube.

2. Focus on the present – our minds have a tendency to ruminate on the past, or fast-forward to the future, sometimes in a negative kind of way.  This tendency is often exacerbated during times of stress.  An antidote is to intentionally focus on the present moment – by noticing what’s happening in our minds, bodies and the external environment with an attitude of kindness and curiosity.

Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest and, as you breathe normally in and out through your nose, count 10 full breaths.  If you find your mind racing, lie down and tune in to the sensations in your body.

3. Laugh - Laughing feels good, boosts our immune system and helps us keep things in perspective.  Laughing with others helps strengthen relationships and, because laughter is contagious, we laugh more with others.  Try laughter yoga; there are plenty of examples on YouTube. There is some research evidence that even fake or forced laughter can improve mood and wellbeing.

4. Practice kindness – in times of need, we often see the best of humanity as people dig deep to help others.  Be extra kind to others in your house. Tensions can run high when we feel trapped inside.  Give hugs, if you’re allowed to!  Reach out to friends and family and let them know you’re thinking of them.

5. Focus on what’s good - There is ample research to show that deliberately focusing on the good things in our lives - practicing gratitude - can improve our wellbeing.  It’s easy to give in to our natural ‘negativity bias’ as our brains strive to protect us from harm, but we can counter that by deliberately focusing on what’s good, even during challenging times.  Share at least one positive story with other people each day and say ‘thank you’ for all the little things others do for you and mean it.

6. Keep learning – our minds need challenge and stimulation to stay healthy, which is why learning new things is one of the ‘five ways to wellbeing’.

7. Connect - Connecting with others is another of the ‘five ways to wellbeing’. Research shows that people who have the richest social relationships are the happiest; the quality of relationships has even been linked to physical health and longevity.  Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch.  Let people know you care and especially contact those who may be more isolated or lonely.  Each day, contact one person you haven’t spoken to for some time.

8. Concentrate on strengths - Character strengths are essential in supporting wellbeing.  Research shows that recognizing and working with our strengths increases our levels of happiness.  Identify your top five strengths and consider how these can help you navigate these challenging times.

Remember, nothing lasts forever, no matter how bad it is or feels at the time.  Human beings often grow and flourish through adversity.  This is an incredibly challenging time, but we are all in this together and we can take this opportunity to rediscover our shared humanity.