What we've learnt about our mental health in lockdown
Lockdown has been – and continues to be – a very challenging period for many of us. But it may also have given us some new perspective on our mental health. We asked our bloggers what they’ve learnt about their mental health in lockdown. Here’s what they said.
Lockdown has been – and continues to be – a very challenging period for many of us. But with us all experiencing a change in our routines and being forced to adapt to a new way of doing things, it may also have given us some new perspective on our mental health. We asked our bloggers and Activists what they’ve learnt about their mental health in lockdown. Here’s what they said.
"It's okay to live one day at a time"
It's amazing to see how much life can drastically change, and how quickly. One week before the lockdown, I was living my dream life, and I felt a sense of freedom. But because of the pandemic, I have struggled a lot with my mental health lately, and felt like my life was out of control.
However, being in lockdown for approximately ten weeks taught me how much living in the present moment is important - it's okay to live one day at a time. When things are beyond our control, it's essential to focus on what we can control no matter how small that may be! For example, what helped me to take back control of my life was to look after my mental health, meet my basic needs and establish a self-care routine.
This new reality affects us all in different ways, and it can be very overwhelming. So, it's important to slow down, to let yourself feel your emotions and to focus on what you have control of NOW.
- Cassandra, 22
Lockdown forced me to prioritise my mental health
Lockdown has put things into perspective for me, in both good and bad ways. Most importantly, it has taught me that I cannot keep running from my problems; instead I must face them.
Before lockdown, I never spent much time at home; I made sure to always stay busy, whether with work or going out. This felt like it kept me safe, kept me going, but it didn’t really. It was a way for me to not have to pay attention to what I actually needed. I was by no means looking after myself.
Having had no choice but to adapt to a different lifestyle in lockdown, working from home and being stuck in my own surroundings, this period has by no means been easy. My mental health has suffered at times. With all the difficult feelings I have been ignoring for the past eight or so months coming to the forefront, I could no longer plod along and pretend everything was okay.
I have learnt that I have the power to do things to improve my mental health. If I carried on with my pre-lockdown ways, I might have continued to run away from it all. But lockdown left me no choice but to face issues straight up and look after my mental health. And I have learnt I can do it. Slowly and surely, I will get there.
- Rebecca, 20
For me, lockdown has been a period of self-reflection
Initially when lockdown began, I noticed no difference if I am totally honest. For me being mentally ill in a way has become my own form of self-isolation. Being unable to leave the house without my mum and not really having any friends to meet up with - it was as if suddenly everyone else was experiencing my reality.
Things did get harder with time. I found the withdrawal of services and activities difficult, and it’s been hard not being able to do some things that normally work as distractions. However, for me lockdown has also given me the time out I needed without the guilt of knowing that the rest of the world was simply “just getting on”. It gave me time to reflect and understand myself more, and I have learnt a lot.
I have noticed how my mental illness had become my identity. The realisation that I am not an illness but a person kind of surprised me. Having been with mental health services for so long, I didn’t realise that in some ways they were becoming more of a hinderance than a help.
I think I felt I had to do certain things and act in a certain way for them to see me. It kept me stuck in behaviours that were not helpful simply due to the fear that they would think I was a “fake” or an “attention seeker” if I stopped them. But I can see now that I have to focus on myself to progress in recovery.
- Hannah, 19
Lockdown taught me the importance of routine
During lockdown I’ve learnt that keeping a routine is essential for me to have a positive mindset and good mental health. Small actions, like going to bed at the same time every night, eating three meals a day and exercising daily not only keep me physically healthy, but help me look after my mental health as well.
I’ve found that writing myself a to-do list every morning, with some realistic and manageable goals that I want to achieve that day can really help lower my levels of anxiety, as it means I have something to look back on at the end of the day and remind myself what I have done.
- Caroline, 22
In lockdown, I've learnt the importance of my hobbies
Being in lockdown has taught me a few things about myself. As I have an autoimmune disease, I’ve had to shield. This means that I’ve not been allowed outside at all unless it’s in my back garden, which I’m very lucky to have. It took a while to adjust to this new way of living, but I think being introverted has really helped. This probably won’t help when I need to return to the outside world again, but for now, I am reaping the benefits.
In terms of my mental health, I’ve realised just how important my hobbies are. I love my job, and I love freelance writing, but I’ve learnt to spend time doing things where there are no expectations. I’ve had the time to paint and draw for the first time in ages, which has been so relaxing and confidence-boosting.
When the days became a little sunnier early into my shielding, I was able to sort out my garden for spring. Pulling up the winter weeds (but keeping some for the creepy crawlies!) and planting new seeds was a fantastic thing to keep me busy, and I’ve been busy making my garden as bird-friendly as possible with various seeds and feeders. Being in nature has always been massively important for me, but lockdown has definitely made me realise just how vital it is for my mental health.
- Seren, 23
Lockdown gave me a chance to catch my breath
The pandemic has changed me, for the better.
Before the pandemic, the world was a scary place, and the people around felt like my enemies. I was restless and out of control. Then our routines got revolutionised, and our plans disrupted, but, in all the chaos, I found order. The pandemic allowed me to stop, inhale and breathe out everything I was holding inside. It taught me that change is scary, but that I can adapt.
If you feel like me right now, that the world moves so fast and you’re always having to catch up, stop and appreciate how everyone is stopping with you. Focus on the little things, on yourself and what you can change.
- Aglaia, 22
Lockdown taught me that my feelings are valid
Now, perhaps more than ever, social divides are so apparent and it is easy to feel guilty for feeling down or depressed when in some ways we are so fortunate. There have been many instances where I’ve felt so guilty for being sad when I felt like I should instead be thanking my lucky stars for my health, the wellbeing of parents, and having a roof over my head.
However, it is important to understand that sadness doesn’t pick and choose - it can affect anyone regardless of class or circumstance. Finding a balance between being grateful for the things you have and recognising that your feelings and worries are valid - regardless of your position financially or medically - can be really tough, but during lockdown I’ve realised that it’s so important to strike this balance between the two and to never invalidate our emotions.
- Jennah, 17
Lockdown taught me ways of managing uncertainty
For me, stress can cause panic attacks and lead to relapses in my eating disorder recovery. But lockdown has taught me that a particular form of stress – uncertainty - can be a trigger in a less obvious way.
There is a tone of uncertainty in all the Covid-19 information across our news outlets, on social media and in conversations with loved ones. Being constantly surrounded by this kind of information can affect the subconscious. Although during the day I may not feel particularly stressed, at night I can feel restless, grind my teeth and wake up in a sweat.
Usually, I plan ahead to protect my mental health when I know a stressful situation is on the horizon. But this is hard to do for an uncertain future. Instead, my advice is to limit your intake of information about things which are uncertain, e.g. the news.
Also, use the resources available online to learn about focusing on the things you can control, and learning to let go of thoughts about the things you can’t. This will help to shift your mindset to the present and to keep subconscious feelings about the uncertainty of the future at bay.
- Emily, 23
Where to get help
If you are struggling with the effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on your mental health, have a look at our page on coronavirus and mental health, which includes lots of tips, advice and suggestions on where you can get help.