With Britain slowly emerging from the lockdown and businesses starting to reopen, you’d be forgiven for thinking that mental health problems would improve as lockdown eases.
After all, we can now see our family members, head to the pub for a beer or two, and even go and get a haircut if we want to. Many of us are heading back to work and we no longer need to feel so isolated.
But the reality often isn’t that straightforward.
There remains a huge amount of uncertainty and fear regarding a second wave and the risks of contracting the virus, especially for at risk groups. Then there’s the fear of recession, our financial problems, job losses and the continued stress of educating our kids at home.
It’s no wonder that a huge proportion of us continue to experience mental health problems, despite the restrictions of lockdown easing.
Having said that, there are many things we can do to help ourselves get through these difficult times. To ease our struggles with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Here are some of the ways you can help your mental health as lockdown eases
1. Get outside
Spending time outside in the fresh air has been shown to help ease a range of mental health problems including stress, anxiety, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It helps us to feel calmer and more relaxed. Try to stay off your phone, it will also help you to disconnect from the chaos too.
With this in mind, it’s a great idea to get outside as often as you can even if that means just using any outdoor space that you have. For example, why not enjoy your morning cuppa on your balcony? Or read a great book as you lounge in your garden? Or even spruce up your surroundings with a spot of gardening?
Whilst you’re there, you might even decide to make it more beautiful with flowers, grow your own veg, add some gorgeous new garden furniture or treat yourself to a brand-new lawnmower. Find out more here.
If you don’t have an outdoor space of your own, regular walks or trips to your local park can be just as enjoyable and beneficial.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Your diet plays a huge part in how you feel. For example, if you’re not eating regular meals, drinking enough, or getting enough essential nutrients, then you’re more likely to feel irritated, stressed, tired and unable to concentrate.
So, make sure you don’t skip meals and rely on unhealthy snacks. Instead, eat well-balanced meals that give you plenty of energy and nourishment to feel at your best.
Here are some tips:
- Eat regular meals to help balance your blood sugar and give you plenty of energy.
- Add plenty of fresh fruits and veggies to your plate to make sure you’re getting your 5-a-day.
- Drink plenty: at least 6-8 glasses per day.
- Include healthy protein: lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and nuts and seeds are all great choices.
- Eat the right fats: oily fish, poultry, nuts, olive and sunflower oils, seeds, avocados, milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs are great choices.
- Avoid processed or sugary foods: they often lack key nutrients and can leave you feeling worse.
If you’re worried about visiting the shops or you’re in an at-risk group, consider using a food delivery service or ask friends or family to buy your groceries for you.
3. Stick to your routine
Although you might feel tempted to stay in bed longer and lounge around in your PJs all day (yes, even if you need to work from home!), you won’t be doing your mental health any favors.
“It can sound counter-intuitive but developing a daily routine can help us to feel more in control of everything, and help us to make room for all that’s important,” says mental health website Blurt It Out. “Routine can aid our mental health. It can help us to cope with change, to form healthy habits, and to reduce our stress levels.”
Plus when you have a daily rhythm or routine in place, you’ll have some structure to your day, even if everything else feels so up in the air. This will help you feel more secure and help free up your brain space for better things.
Make sure you wake up and go to bed at the same time. Stick to regular mealtimes. Set yourself clearly defined hours to work or for your kids to do their schoolwork.
But don’t forget to schedule in time to have fun too. Even though our choices are more limited than before, there’s still tons you can do.
For example, if you used to go to a salsa class every Tuesday night pre-COVID-19, why not look up an online Zoom class instead? Or dedicate one evening per week to catching up with friends, crafting, or learning a new skill.
4. Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t
At times like these, we tend to focus our attention on what we can’t do, where we can’t go, and who we can’t see. This is completely natural as we are grieving for what we feel we have lost.
But dwelling on these limitations won’t make them go away. It will only make us feel even more frustrated, depressed and overwhelmed than ever before.
Instead, we need to focus on what we can do. Despite the restrictions, we still have many opportunities at our fingertips.
For example, you might not be able to take your holiday to Florida this year. So why not plan the most amazing staycation instead, or go to visit your family instead?
Or perhaps you can’t (or don’t want to) go out to socialise with your friends. So why not cook at home and entertain a small group of friends in your garden (following social distancing rules, of course) instead?
You’ll avoid those negative thoughts, feel like you have control over your life and feel much better.
5. Stay active
Have you ever noticed how much better you feel when you’ve done some exercise? Even though you’re sweaty and tired, those feel-good endorphins make you feel great and you can’t help but feel proud that you’d actually achieved something with your day.
So, even though many gyms remain closed or restricted due to coronavirus and fitness classes are still cancelled, you should still make an effort to stay fit.
You could start by going for daily walks or doing some simple exercises just to get your body moving and your blood flowing. Or take it up a notch by downloading a couch to 5K running app, going for a bike ride, or heading to the park with the kids for some fun games.
You can also find some excellent fun workouts on YouTube that are completely free and will get you fit in the comfort of your own home.
6. Connect with others
Make sure you’re speaking with or messaging at least one person every single day, whether that’s a friend, family member or even one of your colleagues, so you don’t feel isolated.
Even if you’d prefer to avoid huge phone bills, you can use email, WhatsApp messages, Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom to stay in touch for free.
If you’re not in an at-risk group, you could go and meet up with your friends in small groups, maintaining social distancing rules and wearing masks wherever possible.
7. Limit your exposure to the news
Every time you switch on the news or pull up the headlines on your phone, you’re reinforcing the negativity which only serves to magnify the problem.
So, for the sake of your mental health, stop checking the headlines every hour, or watching endless news bulletins on the television. Instead, set yourself a specific time to catch up and then stick to it.
For example, sign up for an email roundup of the news and then only read this, or allow yourself to watch the 6 o’clock news, then switch off immediately afterward.
You’ll still know everything that you need to, yet your stress levels will be much lower.
Although many of the coronavirus restrictions are being relaxed across the country, we still need to take steps to take care of our mental health. This has been a difficult time for us all and the long-term impact of these social, economic, and health challenges is still unclear.
The full impact on our mental health as lockdown eases is yet to be discovered, but in the meantime let’s continue to eat well, get outside, exercise, stay connected, focus on the positives and limit our access to the news so we can get through these difficult times together.
For all the latest Gardening love news please subscribe using the link below!
Evelyn James is an emerging freelance writer focusing on elderly care, family dynamics, and mental health. Her writing is inspired by some of the incredible stories shared across the media, as well as the different battles fought by her family or friends, and by her own mental health struggles. she’s enjoyed gardening since she was young. spending her Sunday afternoons with her grandparents, picking the vegetables growing in their garden.