Mental health toolbox
Tricks to keep yourself positive and calm
I make no secret that I have had my battles with anxiety and depression and still do. Over the years, it has however allowed me to develop a handy toolkit for how to manage mental health when things get difficult. I’ve listed 10 things below that will help you get through what is going to be a tough few weeks to months for everyone, with or without pre-existing mental health difficulties. Some of them may seem simple, but that’s what makes them so good - they are more easily achievable when you aren’t feeling great.
1. Open the windows Letting fresh air circulate has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety so fling them wide as soon as you wake up. Studies have shown ventilation improves productivity as well.
2.Have a cold shower Hot, stagnant water is calming. Cold, moving water is energising and invigorating. It takes your breath away the first couple of times but a blast of cold for a few minutes at the end of your shower will really pick you up. A splash of water on your face can help a dropping mood or ground you when feeling anxious during the day too. Avoid a hot bath if your mood is low.
3. Create a playlist What gets you on the dance floor without fail? It doesn’t have to be high brow with life affirming lyrics. It just has to get your foot tapping.
I’ve linked my playlist here... don’t judge me!
4. Adjust your space The chances are your life just changed significantly and the way you spend time in your home has too. Instead of one or two meals at home a day, you’re now having all of them there. The children are now home all day, every day. Think about which areas of your home are now priority. In my home, we use the dining table three times a day for meals and for arts and crafts and a variety of activities throughout the day. So the dining table is in the spot with the most natural light and is the focus of our main room rather than a sofa and TV which would probably have got the most use if we spent most days away out at work and school. A few simple adjustments can make your home much calmer.
5. Allow yourself to just be Maybe you’ve written a list of things you want to achieve with this time. Self improvement, DIY you’ve been putting off, the deep clean of the house you’ve not had the time for. If you have no motivation though, that’s ok. This isn’t a holiday or a gap year, it is an international crisis. We are in flight or flight mode and grieving our connections with family and friends, our cancelled plans and steady income. Your body clock, your appetite, your energy levels, your mood, are all likely to be severely impacted even without being physically unwell. If all you manage is binge watching box sets on Netflix (Grace and Frankie is a must!) and a daily chat with your nan, then that’s fine!
6. Video call or phone, don’t text Having gone from interactions with multiple people daily to being alone or with just your immediate family, even if you lean towards being introverted, is a shock to the system. Humans are naturally social creatures, albeit to varying degrees. Zoom and houseparty allow you to add multiple people to the same conversation. And ok, you may not have much of a response to “what did you do today?” but there’s nothing to stop you watching a film together, having a dress up theme or a cook off. Shaun of the Dead was made to be watched in quarantine via video call!
7. Take a social media break This one is fairly obvious but it’s so hard to do right now. There are so many breaking news stories, so much information and advice and let’s not forget the ‘Quarantine Day 1, 2, 3, 4’ videos and memes. Comedy gold. It’s a welcome mind numbing tool with all of worries we have right now and maybe makes us feel like we’re not helpless. That said, being engaged constantly isn’t doing anyone any favours. Give yourself permission to have a break, even a couple of hours in the morning and the afternoon.
8. Add some magic to your mealtimes It’s very easy for your day to become a blur when you spend all of it in one house. Take the time to clear the table, light some candles, put the phone away, pick some music and get comfortable. If you’re eating alone, this is a lovely way to remind yourself that you are worth the effort. If you’re eating with children, it helps keep them at the table rather than up and down for drinks, toilet trips or to twirl around the living room which is a regular occurrence in my house. Studies show you sit together longer when you have candles on the table and from my experience, this is because there is more conversation and laughter.
9. Create something daily Before you roll your eyes at this one, I don’t mean get the sewing machine out and whip up a full summer wardrobe in the next fortnight or start chiselling wooden toys to get a jump on Christmas. This could be a diary entry, a simple daily sketch or make a silly video to share with friends.
10. Use positive affirmations Learning a few phrases to repeat to yourself can be really beneficial for a great number of things. Everything from body confidence to giving birth can be improved by shifting your mindset with repeated positive language. Attempt to pin down what is lowering your mood or making you anxious and imagine what reassurance a good friend would give you. Some that may help are:
• I am safe in my home.
• This is temporary. It will pass.
• I am loved by my friends and family.
Write yours down and stick them up in places you will see them to encourage you to repeat them.
Record what you’ve tried and how effective it was, so when a low mood strikes, you have your own toolbox. Keep yourselves safe and if you need support, telephone Samaritans on 116 123