Let’s face it, the past few months have been challenging for all of us. Four months ago everyone in the world was going about their business, to then suddenly be finding ourselves locked away in our houses, experiencing a worldwide pandemic that none of us thought we would witness in our lifetimes. For me I moved over to the Gold Coast at the start of February from the UK to pursue my PhD at Griffith. I flew halfway around the world on my own, knew nobody when I arrived and more or less as soon as I started my PhD I was told I would now be working from home in isolation. Not the start I had planned for, but that is one of the interesting things about life; we try so hard to control and plan for things when in reality a huge amount of life is out of our control. I guess the more we can come to be ok with this, the easier it is for us to adapt and deal with life when situations like the one we are experiencing occur.
Everyone has faced many challenges since the global pandemic of Coronavirus and it has required many adaptations. An area I feel that has been of great importance to everyone during this time was managing and looking after our mental health. Through my own experience of a severe mental illness, this was something I wanted to make sure I prioritised during this time, where the majority of my days were going to be spent in isolation. And I guess one of my concerns was becoming very lonely and every moment of each day being consumed by my own mind. So in this blog I want to share with you some things that I implemented to help me keep on top of my mental health during this period, which I am now going to make sure I continue each day post isolation life, and maybe you might want to as well. I honestly believe it is just as important to nurture our mind as it is our body, global pandemic or not.
How I nourished my mental health:
1) I spent less time watching the news, especially in the morning. What we feed our minds in the morning sets our attitude and frame of mind for the day. If we feed it with negative news, that will feed in to how we continue going about our day. If you do want to keep up to date with the news maybe choose to spend a short while in the afternoon catching up with the news online.
2) Have a digital detox from social media. During this time it was more important than ever to stay connected with others, however spending hours scrolling social media can have negative impacts on our mental health, especially when you are indulging in pictures of people living the so called ‘perfect isolation life’. Be mindful not to fuel this fire.
3) I spent more time outside. I mean living on the Gold Coast with the beautiful weather didn’t make this hard. But it really did help to clear my mind. Heading out for a walk was literally like medicine, and I suddenly noticed how I had become more aware of my surroundings and the natural beauty around me. The world really is a beautiful home.
4) I gave myself time to do things I normally don’t get time to do. So, for me that meant I spent more time getting creative in the kitchen cooking new recipes, reading more books, writing a journal, engaging in new home workouts, and downloading duolingo to take up Spanish.
5) I maintained a regular exercise routine. I have always been a gym bunny, and with the gyms closed I thought I would struggle to get the same ‘buzz’ from training at home. How wrong was I. I have loved home workouts during this time, so much I am contemplating not returning to the gym and training at home going forward. I love how it requires more creativity with exercises and following some of my favourite trainers online with their live workouts was just like having your own personal trainer, but for free.
6) I focused on ensuring I spent 5 minutes at least each day to close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I often find my mind distracts me when I try to meditate so to help me with this breath work I used a counting method, breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of 6. This really helped me to focus on the breath and left me feeling calm and re-energised just after a short period.
7) I started a journal, which I wrote in each evening. I would write down whatever emotions I was feeling. However, I would also always ensure that I wrote down 3 things I was grateful for that day, no matter how small. Some days it was simple things such as seeing the sun rise, the birds tweeting in the morning or the phone call with my parents in the UK. When we slow down and take time to live in the moment, we realise that there is truly so much to be grateful for, even in a global pandemic.
8) I showed myself some love and compassion. Instagram during lockdown became quite overwhelming seeing how so many people were ‘nailing isolation life’. However, I tried to show myself some love and kindness and know that it was ok if I wasn’t super productive every day, if some days I lacked motivation or creativity. By allowing myself to feel these emotions eased the pressure I put on myself.
9) Plan your day. Having a structure and plan to my day really helped me to remain focused and not let me build up negative thoughts in my mind. Pencil in time to work, study, exercise, eat and chill.
10) I reminded myself each day, ‘Look how much you have already managed to adapt to. Look at how resilient you have become already. There is no right or wrong way to respond to this because it has never happened before. So, give yourself some credit, there is no one in the world who has figured this out yet, so it is fine if you haven’t either’.
Hopefully, some of these you can relate to. And I know I am going to keep up with most of these habits even beyond Covid 19 to benefit my mental health and wellbeing. To finish on a positive note, I want to share with you things that I have learnt in lockdown, I invite you to see if you can identify too with some positives you have learnt and can take away from this time:
1) Home workouts are so much fun
2) My skin loves less makeup
3) I did not need to be super productive each day
4) Daily yoga flows kept me grounded
5) Beach walks and oceans swims are my fav
6) Routine and structure were so important for me
7) Chats with family and friends are so valuable
8) 5 minutes of Tik Tok a day brought so much laughter to my day
9) I am super productive working from home
10) I am useless at watching a series on Netflix (yet to get through a whole series of anything)
11) Mindful movement is so good for both mind and body (climbing trees, ocean swims, park yoga, beach walks)
12) It should not have taken a global pandemic for the world to show the love and kindness they have during this time, long may it last
13) A smile shared with a stranger literally transmits hope from my heart to theirs and from theirs to mine
14) How grateful I am for the little things in life, the sunshine, the sound of the ocean, the calls with my family, the sound of the birds
15) Beyond the essentials for health we do not need much else to be happy.