Are you bored of hearing how we’re living in an ‘unusual’ time. Or about how civilisation has entered a ‘new normal’. Or how life will never be the same again?

Even if you are, the truth is those terms are being used because they unfortunately reflect the reality of the situation. Yet, they are just terms. What really matters is how we stand up and engage with our environment, new and unusual or not.

Such a sharp shock to our systems, the social lockdown and shielding measures currently in place will undoubtedly impact our mental health to varying degrees. So what can we do about it? Do we suck it up and suffer, or do we seek healthy, proactive ways to salve any potential mental stress or fatigue?

In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Week, here are five easy ways that you can effectively mitigate emotional and mental stress:


Nurture The Best Version Of Your Living Space

Image of a tidy living room

Perhaps that joke about making new housework because you’ve run out of normal chores has already worn thin? However, there can be no denying the value of rolling your sleeves up and using your time to optimise your home/office/garden/garage/all of the above.

When we are having to spend so much time within limited spaces, it is in our best interest to make those spaces as comfortable and as enjoyable to be in as possible. Don’t worry though, this isn’t one of those blog articles telling you to go out and spend all your money on some fancy new homeware. ‘Maximise what you’ve got’ is the antidote to our consumerist society, especially when purse strings are necessarily tighter than ever. So what can you do about it?

Parents

Sweet image of a child browsing books

Do you have the unrivalled privilege of being a parent, but the equally unrivalled experience of spending all your time keeping the kids entertained? There probably is no time left to nurture any version of your living space… But, to flip a certain superhero mantra on its head: with great responsibility comes great power, for in your hands you hold a valuable resource: unpaid labour!

Could you make a bit of fun out of challenging everyone to do their best tidying up? Whoever does the best dusting wins! Or how about making a competition out of who can look after their indoor plants the best?

Home Workers

Image of an optimised work space

If you’re working from home, is your work space in the best shape it can be in to help you focus? Is it cluttered? In need of a good airing? Or perhaps the feng shui simply saps at your qi. As you’re no longer commuting, could you elect to seize back 15 of those saved minutes every so often to experiment with rearranging the office a little bit, or doing some filing - a clear desk can help you find a clearer mind!

Inner City Dwellers

Maybe you are living in the city, in a high rise with limited access to outdoor space and a small apartment with multiple occupancy. How can you turn an environment that might be starting to feel a bit like a prison into a space that you can begin seeing as a sanctuary? Is there an opportunity to explore the ‘life changing magic of tidying’ or to reappropriate certain spaces you associate with particular things (i.e. the sofa = for lounging on, the dining room table = the place to pile washing/ironing etc)? Perhaps that sofa can be the place where, for 20 minutes each day, you choose to see as your meditation space. Perhaps that dining room table becomes the place where you make art or learn a new language.

Of course, let’s not forget that many of us live with others, so nurturing our spaces naturally means to nurture our relationships in them too. If you’re feeling down, it’s likely that others in your environment are going through similar emotions. Be aware of that and be kind to each other. Give each other space, do nice things for each other and generally be the respectful, caring people we already are. Get your heads together to discuss your priorities in your living areas - they may be having very similar thoughts to you and want to jump on board with some decluttering!

Right now our living spaces have probably never been more used! They are an extension of ourselves and so doing our best to make them real reflections of how we want to feel will help us to feel less stress, less confined and less unsettled.


Develop A Reading Habit

Woman relaxing with a coffee and a book

Getting lost in a good book is one of mankind’s simplest, purest pleasures. With minimal effort we can explore new worlds, experience the spectrum of human emotion, unlock new skills or develop existing ones, and find inspiration to do and be whatever our hearts desire.

In fact, the most difficult thing about reading is choosing what to read next!

The e-book readers among us can pick up new reads for fractions of the cost of the physical counterpart. In fact, there is a world of free e-books out there just waiting to be devoured, which makes our reading options exponentially broader.

If you like the feel of a book in your hands, grocery stores often have great ranges of best-selling titles whilst buying them second-hand will also help save a bundle. You may also find your local telephone booth has been turned into a mini-library, ready for some free literary swaps!

If you’re struggling to choose your next read, apps like Goodreads are a fantastic place to get insights on new titles, read honest reviews and discover titles that you might not otherwise be aware of. It’s also a good place to get swept up in the gamification of reading by committing to reading challenges or even joining digital book clubs and engaging in forum debates about all things book related.

If there’s one rabbit hole to fall down, it’s this one.


Work On Your Physical Health

Have you caught the home workout bug yet? Or relented and finally committed to regular jogs, even if you just wanted an excuse to get out of the house?

Working out, in whatever way you choose, will always be a fantastic way to nurture stronger mental health. Our bodies absolutely love to be active. The proof of this is in how good we feel after a brisk walk, a little run or a bike ride through the park.

However, in the 21st century, a functional body is so much more than a tool to get us from A to B. No matter what our ability level is, encouraging our bodies to exert just a little bit of effort (relative to our own limits) will translate into a clearer mind and a nice little injection of the feel good factor.

Give your brain a reason to release those sweet, sweet endorphins (i.e. the happy hormone) and you’ll be hooked on exercising in no time. If you don’t believe it, get out there and prove us wrong!


Lose Yourself In Remote Communications

Man communicating over the internet

We are not solitary creatures by design. Sure, we may be private or enjoy our own company from time-to-time, but prolonged periods of isolation without any form of social interaction will quickly drain even the most stoic of individuals and leave them yearning for a good conversation.

The 21st century is an absolute gold mine of opportunity to connect with others, no matter where we are, or however stringent the lockdown measures might be. In fact it is entirely possible that there are many of us out there who are now spending more time talking with others, making new friendships or simply strengthening old ones than ever before. With all this extra time on our hands, connecting with others might just be the healthiest thing we could be doing.

So if you’re feeling down, or lonely or as if the world has forgotten all about you, please don’t. Ping off a short email, text or messenger to someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Use Skype or Zoom or Hangouts or Whatsapp or any of the million other video conferencing tools out there to set up regular (or spontaneous!) check-ins with friends and family. If you have a smart home, why not put your smart devices to the test and communicate with others through them?

Find and sign up to online webinars and workshops to meet new people and be surrounded by interesting new faces. Not only will your social fuel tank take a healthy refill, you’ll probably come away having learned something new or, at the very least, have had your brain stimulated by a new thought or idea (or made a little more fuzzy by that online wine tasting event!).

If you enjoy a good debate, seek out discussion boards and forums on topics you feel passionate about, and contribute to conversations happening there.

For the gamers amongst us, multiplayer games are an easy way to have fun with others from the safe confines of your living room or bedroom.

Perhaps you have a penchant for writing. Why not start a blog or a social media account and use them to share your passion with the world and invite others to engage with you about them?

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolating our social lives to me, myself and I. The distance is purely physical. The socialising is still very real.


Embrace Your Passion(s)

A variety of materials commonly linked to hobbies

There’s something hugely satisfying in accomplishing projects that encompass your passions. An artist working on a new canvas. A chef perfecting the art of the soufflé. The woodworker whittling a new figurine. The gardener seeing those rose buds bloom. It really doesn’t matter what it is that you enjoy doing, if doing it brings you joy.

But then maybe you don’t have a specific hobby or a particular ‘thing’ that you enjoy doing. That’s ok! It’s ok because there are things in your life that make you happy when you do them, whether that’s sitting down and working your way through a new TV show so that you can chat about it with your friends or simply enjoying watching the world go by as you sit on your bench in the park feeding the pigeons.

Do what brings you joy.

Because joy is the antidote to feeling joyless. Let’s seize every chance to embrace it. Let’s find the quick wins, the easy routes and the smart plays. Above all else, let’s not wait - why do tomorrow that which can be done today?

Image of a card with a motivational message

Right now, seeing the lockdown as a setback is a reasonable outlook, but it shouldn’t be. The lockdown is prime time for us to be using it as an opportunity to embrace elements of our lives we may not have maximised on otherwise. It’s the perfect time to work on ourselves and to embrace the ways in which we can nurture a healthy, positive mental attitude.

Deep down we know it won’t last forever, so take each day as it comes, look for opportunities to maximise connections and experience joyful activities, and don’t set unrealistic expectations. If, some days, simply getting out of and making the bed, having a refreshing shower and putting on outdoor clothes rather than PJs and getting some fresh air, is what you can manage, then pat yourself on the back - you’ve made a giant step in looking after your mental wellbeing.



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