During January, an intensive care consultant was interviewed for a local news broadcast. He was asked about the mental health of his team during the current pandemic and he tellingly replied that while the situation was bad now, he thought the worst time for mental health would be when the crisis was over.
We’ve all been there, running on adrenalin to clear our desks before we go on holiday, only to relax when we get there, metaphorically letting our guard down and getting struck by a bug.
Who knows what sort of adrenalin the ICU staff and other front-line workers are running on right now. But it’s not just them, lockdown is proving difficult for millions of people. Juggling work, childcare and a relationship, finding that working from home isn’t quite the same after the novelty has worn off, not seeing loved ones or, for some people, not seeing anyone at all.
It may not be just ICU staff that will face mental health problems when the pandemic is over – it may be a great many more of us.
So what steps can we take now to look after our mental health and to make sure that we come out of the crisis with optimism?
Here are three simple ideas that might help:
Psychologists call them ‘micro-lifts’; those small moments in the day that lift our spirits. It might be popping into your favourite coffee shop or a chance meeting with someone you haven’t seen for a while.
When working from home and only allowed one period of exercise a day these ‘micro-lifts’ just don’t happen. That’s why it’s important to schedule a Zoom call with friends, connect with people through book clubs perhaps, or to learn a new skill during lockdown, all activities that will replace the ’micro-lifts’ that are missing.
Maintaining a Healthy routine
It almost goes without saying that eating healthily and exercising regularly are important. They’re vital at any time but especially so now. Keep your kitchen stocked with nutritious food from the five core groups and plan out your week. Allocate time for meal breaks based on your regular eating routine.
Connect with nature
Finally, engage with nature. Stephen Buckley, from the mental health charity Mind, says that getting out into nature is crucial, whether that is the great outdoors (insofar as we’re allowed to), your garden or – if it is all you have – your balcony.
Even looking out of the window at the birds or tending to houseplants can be good for you. And, of course, if you’re looking at the birds, you may as well open the window and let some fresh air into the room…