Things have got really tough. The world we live in now is so far from anything we could have imagined. Not allowed to touch your only family? Yep, that’s a reality. Having your freedom restricted? It’s happening.
Right now, to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t really feel like we are living to full capacity. It’s like the fuel tank is up to say, 40% full. A huge portion of our lives has been snapped away from us, and we’re left trying to survive and pick up the pieces of our soul.
But despite being utterly shit, it does shed new light on the definition of a meaningful life. With many things restricted, we are left with the bare bones of existing. Which means focusing on loving, living and growing. You will have many times where you feel despair, that is perfectly understandable. And then there are times when you stop and think, do you know what, I really appreciate the simplest of things.
Never again will I take seeing my loved ones for granted.
Never again will I take my health for granted.
Never again will I take my FREEDOM for granted.
So, while we ride this annoyingly persistent storm that is Covid-19, how do we stay remotely sane?
There’s no simple answer, but I’m here to try and put forward some sensible suggestions. And don’t worry I’m not going to tell you to take up a new hobby (although that’s not actually a bad idea) or ‘think positive’.
How to stay sane and look after your mental health during the pandemic
Remember, we’re NOT all in the same bloody boat
If someone says that to you, tell them it’s not helpful, not one bit. We are in the same storm, yes. Hell is raining down on us all, but there’s one major difference between each and every person. We are riding in different boats.
What that basically means is everyone is different. We’ve all got unique home situations and challenges we’re managing during these testing times. Trying to downplay what you or anyone else is going through by thinking everyone is going through the same thing is nonsensical. It’s OK to recognise that what you are personally going through at the moment is hard.
Focus on what you can control not what you can’t have
OK, so you can’t go meet your friends at the pub for a pint or go on holiday. These things are out of your control. Fixating on the 187295 things you can’t do right now is only going to make you feel down in the dumps. But, what can you do? Try and get creative each day and come up with simple pleasures that will make you feel just a teeny bit better.
You can go and explore nature, you can work out at home, you can work on your personal development. After this pandemic is over, a lot of people will credit what’s happened to something they have achieved. Something they managed to do that they wouldn’t normally have done. What can you do?
Work on the relationships in your life that matter
I don’t know about you lot, but I have certainly realised more in the last 12 months who is really important in my life. What Covid has shown me is to not waste one millisecond on people who aren’t worth it. We have a finite amount of time on this strange old planet, so why waste even a moment of it on someone who at the end of the day, doesn’t really matter?
If you live with people and they are important to you, now is the time to build stronger relationships with them. To cherish every single second you are able to keep on living together. Because as we now know more than ever, life is oh so fragile and not to be taken for granted. If you live alone, you could think about the people who matter in your life and put time into them remotely (or virtually). Or consider when this is all over, who you will be putting your time into?
You are trying your best and that is enough
Let’s be honest, getting from one day to the next is an achievement. All you can do is your best. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a crap day where you don’t achieve all that much. If you are finding everything is building up and you’re expecting too much of yourself, then start small. Jot down a few little things to achieve each day.
It’s OK to have moments of fear and sadness, but be aware
It’s kind of impossible to not have at least some moments where you feel rubbish. And if you’re feeling that way, it’s OK. You’re human, and this is a very, very stressful and arduous situation we find ourselves in. Of course we’re going to struggle at times.
Just be aware of the thoughts running through your head and try to question them. You might start to notice that they’re becoming overly negative, and putting a different spin on things can help. If you want to feel sad for a little while, do it. But pay attention to the scary thoughts running through your mind and do your best to attempt to question them. If you let your thoughts run away with you it’s easy to spiral into a very dark place.
If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it
As mentioned earlier, we might all be struggling to cope with Covid but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask for help. If you feel your mental wellbeing is deteriorating and you feel really down, don’t suffer in silence. At least talk to a family member or friend about how you’re feeling. It’s quite a lonely and monotonous existence for us all, and so it’s important to get help if you need it. If you need to, speak to a professional. There are also helpful mental health charities offering support and advice.
Don’t get sucked into the victim mentality
During times like this, it’s easy to sink down into a bottomless pit of negativity. The further you drop down that negativity hole, the harder it is to climb back up.
Don’t use Covid as an excuse for not doing anything. Don’t let yourself get stuck. If you find yourself thinking or saying ‘I can’t do X, Y, Z because of Covid’ – change the conversation in your brain. These are excuses. Come up with solutions instead.
There will be some way you can move forward to change things for the better, you might just have to dig deep to find it. A lot of people are using this as an opportunity to start projects and do things they probably never would have done.
Now could be a good time to evaluate what really matters to you. That career change you’ve always wanted to try but have been scared to do – what’s holding you back from trying it now? Have you had an ambition to start your own business? Give it a go!!!
Perhaps this situation could be an opportunity for some rather than a curse. Life is what you make it.
There are always challenges. Things are constantly changing. We’ve not faced anything quite like this before, but humans have had to continue to adapt. Businesses need to adapt or crumble. What are you going to choose to do with your life and your time?
Speak to people virtually, even if you are sick of it
We’re all growing quite tired of zoom calls and speaking to people through a screen rather than in person. It’s not ideal and it’s not what we want, but it’s the best we’ve got. Imagine if this had happened before technology was so advanced and we were cut off from all our friends and family completely? Force yourself to video chat with a friend or two on a regular basis. Phone your family, talk to your loved ones. Try not to isolate yourself so you feel even more alone.
Get outdoors & exercise every day
It doesn’t matter if the heavens have opened and it’s unbelievably dull and uninviting outside, I try to make sure I step outside my house every day. The days I’ve felt like the walls are caving in on me and I’m slowly losing the plot are the ones where I’ve not been outside much. That hour or so you spend breathing in the fresh air helps you to gain a different perspective on things. And then, of course, there are the physical benefits. Simply seeing nature before your eyes also helps to naturally improve your mood, no matter how shit you’re feeling. Spend as much time as you’re able/allowed to do and it will help keep you sane. If you can, try and plan some physical exercise into your day and you’ll get a feel-good buzz of endorphins.
Shut out the news – be selective over what information you read
Whilst you’re feeling down in the dumps, do you really want to be loaded with even more depressing news? Nope. Now I appreciate we do need to stay in touch with reality and we can’t all float away into an imaginary land. You can check the news, just maybe limit the number of times you do it and how long you do it for. But crucially, be extremely selective over WHAT news you read. Stay away from the tabloids and follow trusted resources and updates instead. Don’t fill your brain with any more crap than it’s already dealing with.
Do things you enjoy and appreciate the small things
Covid has forced us into discovering a lot more about ourselves and appreciate the simple things in life. Being stuck at home without much to do gives you plenty of time to think. It makes you come up with new ways to pass the time. Take a moment to sit down and think about the things you really enjoy. What makes you tick?
This can be simple things like cooking, eating, having a bath, walking, reading, being surrounded by nature, working out, spending quality time with a loved one. Try to treat yourself to some of these things on a daily basis and plan time for yourself (I appreciate that’s difficult for those with children and I struggle with this myself).
Create a calming bedtime routine
I find it really hard to switch off at night at the moment. I’ve had many sleepless, anxiety fuelled nights lying awake worrying about what the next day/week/month might bring. Whilst I can’t eliminate these worries, I can do things that will help me feel calm before bed and improve my chances of a peaceful night’s sleep. Like having a bath with scented candles, using a pillow sleep spray and reading in bed instead of going on my phone.
Remember, it won’t always be like this
Things have to get better eventually. We may not be leading the same lives as we did a year or so ago, but we’ll learn to manage. You might feel horrendous about the world today, but tomorrow could bring a new perspective. Things change quickly and it won’t always be like this.
These are the things I’ve been trying to do to keep myself sane. I can’t say that I always follow my own advice, and each day is different. I hope that some of these tips help others during these very strange times. If you’ve got any advice on things that have worked for you, please do comment and share your wisdom!