Tips for starting a conversation around mental health in lockdown
With many of us feeling the effects of lockdown on our mental health, it's important to talk about how we're feeling. This can seem scary, but Rachel, 18, shares some tips that can really help.
“How are you?” This is a conversation-starter we are all used to, but we often find ourselves blurting out “Alright, getting on,” before we can actually think whether this is even true. I know that when people would ask me how I was in the early days of the pandemic, I would deflect my true feelings by asking theirs. After asking my friends about this, they admitted they do this too, sometimes without even realising.
This is an entirely normal response to such a difficult situation, but if we bottle up our feelings they can sometimes become too much. Even if you’ve never struggled with your mental health before, it’s important to actively look after yourself in lockdown.
Doing things differently
When lockdown number three rolled out I began to miss my friends. My days were short, dark and cold. Then, a message came up on my phone, from my best friend - “How are you?”
This time I decided I would be completely honest. Keeping my feelings to myself was not working. I texted them back a lengthy message admitting that I was finding working from home difficult. I paused before sending the message, reading over what I truly felt. I was a little nervous about being a burden. But I thought about if it was the other way round - if I had asked my friend how they were - and realised that I would not think it was annoying or too much if they revealed they weren’t doing so well. Realising my compassion did not extend to myself, I allowed this text to be a change towards self-compassion, and the beginning of starting conversations about mental health.
My friend responded to my text message saying they felt the same. I felt relieved knowing it wasn’t just me who felt this way. We decided that we would text each other every day asking how our day was. I didn’t find this too hard and I had control over what I could share. I could send a really long message about my day but also had the choice to send a shorter text on days that I needed space. Once I was more comfortable, I decided to extend my conversation around mental health to five other people. Quite quickly, I noticed how I didn’t feel as lonely staying at home. I found that my time spent on my phone was a lot more meaningful than endlessly scrolling on Instagram to fill my time.
Starting conversations about mental health in this relaxed and informal way wasn’t only beneficial to me. One of my friends confided in me that they couldn’t remember the last time they were asked how they were and appreciated me doing it. Knowing this made starting conversations a lot less scary.
Tips for starting a conversation about mental health in lockdown
- While we may not be able to talk in person right now, a quick text can do the same job - A 20-second text could make someone’s day or make them feel appreciated. Also, a text can be a lot less daunting than in person which really helps starting a conversation.
- Talk to someone you are comfortable with - It is important to consider who you share your personal information with. Make sure you only talk to someone you trust.
- Listen - Listening is as important as talking about mental health. Try to not interrupt or rush the person you are talking to as this could be their first time talking about their mental health, which could make them nervous. You could ask them if you can help them in any way or let them know that you are there for them anytime. If you can, let them know that you appreciate them talking about mental health with you.
- Try the five-person challenge - This is a challenge where you text five people each day asking how they are, and challenge them to ask five other people how they are also. Remember the challenge is only meant to be a fun way of starting these conversations, so only do this if you are comfortable doing it, and don’t expect your friends to have to participate. It is also important to remember that it’s okay to take a few days off from talking about mental health if you need.
- Congratulate yourself - It is equally as important to celebrate your participation in starting conversations around mental health as it is to celebrate others’. Well done! Starting is the hardest part, so you should be proud of yourself for opening up.
Author: Rachel, 18
Where to get help
If you are struggling with your mental health, you're not alone. For tips, advice and information on where you can get support with whatever you're going through, have a look at our find help pages.