It is now more important than ever before to consider wellness and self-care in these isolating times. In lockdown, more people are battling mental health struggles, anxiety and feeling cabin fever at home and through restricted freedoms. You don’t have to search far to see that many are looking for how to keep their mental health in check. The World Health Organisation defines self-care as ‘the behaviours you do to take care of your own health’. This can include leisure activities, nutrition, sports, exercise and seeking professional healthcare services.
Excelsia’s School of Counselling is constantly thinking through this and Dr Dion Klentzos, Senior Lecturer in the Graduate School of Counselling, has assisted in providing a few tips and tricks to help keep your wellness in check.
• As we are all allowed to exercise outside even during lockdowns, make the most of it! Exercise safely outside at least once a day if you can. It doesn’t have to be strenuous; it could be as simple as walking up the street to get a coffee. Getting your blood pumping will also help to lift your mood, increase blood circulation and give you a natural energy boost that countless cups of coffee won’t provide! It also releases those feel-good endorphins and it’s nice to exchange a friendly smile and hello with fellow walkers that you come across.
• Schedule a walk with a friend in your area for the weekend. Even though you might be walking the same streets, at least you’ll have someone to talk to and it will motivate you to get out of the house when you’re feeling lethargic. Also, it’s something to look forward to!
• Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night as this affects your productivity and mental health. Having a set bedtime and wake-up time will make a world of difference to your mental health. Sleep experts recommend (among other suggestions) not using an electronic device in your bedroom at bedtime and not drinking stimulants such as coffee late in the day. If you are a coffee fan, watch your caffeine intake as it can led to increased anxiety levels and affect your sleep, depending on how sensitive you are to caffeine. Try swapping a caffeinated beverage for a decaffeinated tea or coffee if you enjoy having one in the late afternoon or evening.
• Maintain a balanced diet each day; you are, after all, what you eat. Use this time in lockdown to brush up on your cooking skills, or experiment with new dishes and meals. Sure, treat yourself to takeaway on a Friday evening after the end of a busy week, but don’t make it an everyday meal, especially if you want to shed those Covid kilos!
• Practise assertive, respectful and kind communication with others.
• Schedule a video call with family members and friends in your evenings. With a myriad of video chat platforms, there’s no excuse! Even though it isn’t the same as being together in person, it’s still a nice way to fill your nights and will hopefully make you feel less isolated.
• Be prepared to challenge (and allow others to constructively challenge) if you are having negative thoughts.
• Carve out some time every day to care for yourself through meditation, relaxation, journaling, or listening to calming or invigorating music.
• Identify your strengths and creative interests to help you to reduce stress. Baking, for example, is a great Covid hobby to try out new slices and cakes, and watch what you’re putting into your body, rather than buying pre-made treats which can have a high fat content and refined sugars. Other creative outlets include paint by numbers, mindfulness colouring in and virtual trivia nights with friends and family.
• Take time to reflect on what you are thankful for at least a few days per week and write it down in a gratitude journal.
• Laugh at least once a day if you can! Even if it’s at something mindless like a favourite television show or a funny Youtube clip, laughing can help you to de-stress. You can also keep your friends amused by sending them a funny video or meme you come across.
• Get stuck into a good book series and give your eyes a break from the screen. You could even join a virtual book club if you’re a voracious reader.
• Practise positive self-talk. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t achieve everything you hoped to that day.
• Use social media mindfully; monitor the amount of time you are using it. You can set a timer on your phone which will lock you out once you’ve exceeded your limit.
• Avoid watching the news all the time. Unsubscribe from news updates and take time out because it’s only going to make you feel glummer.
• Stand up and stretch. Make sure you move every hour when you’re working from home.
• Download and subscribe to a home workout channel like cardio, yoga or Pilates.
• Send surprise cards or gifts to your friends. Who doesn’t love receiving a treat in the mail, especially in these isolating times? It can really brighten up someone’s day when they know someone else is thinking of them and their needs.
• Declutter your house and different rooms that you’ve never had the time to get to.
Please visit NSW Health Website if you require any mental health assistance or don’t know where to go for help. There are a range of services to assist you.