I don’t need to tell you that we have already had a lockdown and are heading for another one soon, but a winter lockdown and mental health decline is very serious!
I am used to a lockdown, I rarely venture out the front door and to a degree I have learnt to accept it.
When Autumn properly hits and I am no longer able to get out in the garden, that is when my mental health declines and it happens every year!
So what can we do to protect ourselves and make sure that our mental health doesn’t slip to a point where it is a serious problem?
The government is currently saying that taking Vitamin D can help protect us from the Covid-19 symptoms but it is also very good for our mental health and particularly so in Autumn and Winter.
In summer we naturally make a lot of Vitamin D, when we are outdoors the suns Ultraviolet rays or rather the UltraViolet B rays hit our skin and Vitamin D is produced from cholestorol.
Vitamin D helps our brain and having low levels of Vit D can lead to depression and seasonal affective disorder and so by taking Vitamin D in the Autumn and Winter (I take it year round) it can help us avoid running low.
A multivitamin is also good for our general wellbeing.
Getting through the day
It is also important to not slip into a lazy routine. Of course it is okay to have a lay in some days and even a pyjama day doesn’t hurt but routine can help us get through the days, weeks and (hopefully not) months of being stuck indoors.
Socialising is very important and we are very lucky as even on a strict lockdown, social media and face to face chats via Zoom or Skype mean that we don’t have to miss out on talking with loved ones and friends.
Hobbies are a very good way of keeping ourselves mentally well, we have all at some stage said that we fancy having a go at this or that and we never get round to it because life takes over.
So the dreaded lockdown is the perfect time to build that model kit or knit that blanket.
The various colouring books available are perfect to distract us and eat up some of the time.
Many people find they help with anxiety and stress!
Distraction is an amazing tool to help with poor mental or physical health, that is why when we are in bed and the lights are off, that things feel like they hurt more. Without any distraction we then start to struggle with pain and can lay there over thinking all the things that we shouldn’t be thinking about!
This is vital. It is far too easy to focus on the negatives of what is happening and as I said above, focusing on the things that have happened to us or mistakes and even on the pains in our body can make them feel worse.
I personally don’t get on with Mindfulness but many people find it very helpful and it is worth trying it. With various the therapies it is a case of trying them and seeing if they work for you.
I find that meditation is a vital tool for me, when I was first introduced to it, I didn’t like it, I felt awkward and a bit daft laid there on the floor with others round me doing the same.
I also couldn’t settle, the slightest noise would distract me but eventually I got the hang of it and again it is a case of trying various meditations to find the one that works for you or you feel most comfortable with.
If you start to struggle mentally it is important to speak to someone, it doesn’t have to be a mental health professional, it could be a loved one or a friend.
I understand why people don’t tell someone, all too often people don’t understand or they tell us we are being dramatic and that angers me because even though we now talk about mental health more, there is still a long way to go.
But please do confide in someone, if it isn’t a loved one or a friend, there are many websites and helplines and if you are not comfortable talking on the phone, some of them use online chat and that can be an easier way to discuss how you are feeling!
If you are having a mental health crisis, please contact your GP or ring 111 for help. Please don’t ignore it or struggle on your own.
I will put a list of websites and phone numbers at the end of this post!
Physical activity and exercise is a great way to keep our mental health from slipping.
It is not only a distraction and a way to eat up some time, but it also helps to boost our mood.
I love to garden when I can and even though it increases pain, the benefits for my mental health makes it worth it.
This could be just putting on some music and dancing for 15 minutes, or if you are able, use your stairs for exercise but spending 15 minutes going up and down.
Even putting on music and dancing whilst hoovering is great exercise and will help to make a boring chore more fun.
There are countless YouTube workouts available and some are sitting exercises for wheelchair users or people who struggle to exercise standing due to poor health or through age.
Getting out for a 10 minute walk does wonders for our mental health or in my case a push round the block in my wheelchair when I am able.
Alcohol and Drugs
It is too easy to have a couple of drinks to get through the day or to roll a joint to help us feel more relaxed and moderate use is not a problem.
But take away and online sales of alcohol rose during lockdown and that could be down to the pubs closing but also I saw posts from a lot of people who were day drinking more.
This can become something that can easily become an issue and alcohol helps at the time but it isn’t a soloution for depression or poor mental health and can actually make things a lot worse.
Helplines & Online Support
- Samaritans – 116 123 – We’re here round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call us on the phone.
- MIND – 0300 123 3393 – We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem
- SANEline – 0300 304 7000 – Out of hours mental health helpline offering specialist emotional support and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. We are open every day of the year from 4.30pm to 10.30pm
- Mental Health Foundation – 020 7803 1101 – Improving the lives of those with mental health problems or learning difficulties.
- No Panic – 0844 967 4848 – a registered charity which helps people who suffer from Panic Attacks, Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and other related anxiety disorders including those people who are trying to give up Tranquillizers.
- Shout is the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help. Text Shout to 85258
- Together – 020 7780 7300 – Supports people through mental health services.
- The Centre for Mental Health – 020 7827 8300 – Working to improve the quality of life for people with mental health problems.
- Depression Alliance – 0845 123 2320 – Provides information and support to those who are affected by depression via publications, supporter services and a network of self-help groups.
- BACP Find a Therapist Directory – 01455 883300 – Through the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) you can find out more about counselling services in your area.
- Anxiety UK – 08444 775 774 – Works to relieve and support those living with anxiety disorders by providing information, support and understanding via an extensive range of services, including 1:1 therapy. Relate – 0300 100 1234 – Offers advice, relationship counselling, sex therapy, workshops, mediation, consultations and support. PACE – Leaflet on support after a suicide – http://supportaftersuicide.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/England-Help-is-at-Hand.pdf
- Alcoholics Anonymous – 0800 9177 650 – email@example.com
- Narcotics Anonymous – 0300 999 1212
- Al Anon – 020 7403 0888 – For families & friends of alcoholics
- Gamblers Anonymous – National 0330 094 0322 – North-East 07771 427 429 – North-West 07974 668 999 – Ulster (028) 7135 1329