Your mind matters
During these tough times of unprecedented events, I’ve spoken to many people who are experiencing increased anxiety, some of whom have never struggled with their mental health before. I, too, have found myself finding my increased anxiety difficult to manage. Instead of letting it get out of hand, I decided to put some boundaries in place to reduce the intensity of it, and like magic, it really did help. I have since written this guide to managing your mental health in mind of these times of heightened anxiety.
Reduce your time spent on social media.
This morning, just to prove my point – I scrolled through the first 20 posts on my own Facebook feed. 19 out of the 20 were to do with the current pandemic.
I struggle with anxiety as a part of my EUPD/BPD. These posts do not help. Especially when a high percentage of those posts aren’t fact. They’ve not been fact checked – they’re purely opinion, panic statuses from friends, or headlines from news outlets designed to cause worry so we open and read, thus bringing them more traffic and ad revenue. Those outlets are making money from my panic. Thanks, guys. (More about news outlets in a moment.)
Now, I have decided to only spend time in our Creative Mental Health Online Community™ (here), because we have implemented a CV-free zone. It’s not helpful to be constantly reading upsetting posts about it, or seeing upsetting videos.
Start there. Set social media boundaries and stick to them. It really does improve your mental wellbeing – whilst reducing anxiety. Conversely, don’t completely isolate yourself. Set up group chats with friends and stay away from the obvious conversational topic.
Limit your “news” intake.
I found myself falling down the rabbit hole of reading every single article there was online, listening to news constantly. Not only did this increase my anxiety, but it also made me feel incredibly sad and feeling bleak.
I had to set up boundaries for my own mental wellbeing. Now, I limit myself to watching the daily briefing from our Prime Minister and sometimes don’t even watch the press questions. That is it. If there’s anything important I need to know, it’ll be part of that briefing. If it’s not in that briefing, it’s not critical for me to digest.
To reinforce this boundary, I have unfollowed all news outlets for now on all of my social networks. This stops me mindlessly clicking to read articles. I have also stopped push notifications from the Apple News app. This has massively reduced “news noise”.
Practice self-care more often.
I admit that I haven’t been the best practitioner of self-care in the past and had to work through my own self-imposed barriers to access self-care. Now that I have worked through those barriers, I cannot advocate for self-care enough.
Firstly, self-care is NOT selfish. We have to take good care of ourselves before we can extend that care to others and self-care is part of that caretaking.
During times of uncertainty and heightened anxiety, slot in at least 10 minutes of self-care in the morning and the evening. If you find this difficult to remember, set alarms on your phone to remind you. Choose different self-care activities, and try not to include the usual personal hygiene tasks you do every single day unless you’re really struggling to do those with your current mental health struggles.
Bring the outside, inside – and get outside if you can.
This may sound like a weird statement, but open your blinds, open your windows, let the outside sounds and smells inside – just because we have to stay indoors for the most part of the day, doesn’t mean we can’t let the outside sunshine in.
Many of us across the world have a lot of restrictions on our movement right now and whilst that really is for our own benefit and safety, it can be tough for all of us. Follow the rules set by your government or local authority first and foremost.
If you are allowed 30 minutes of exercise per day, go for a stroll if it doesn’t cause too much anxiety, whilst observing social distancing rules. If that’s too much for you right now, get out into the garden and do some light stretches. Read in the sunshine. Mow your lawn. Vitamin D is essential; it’s the sunshine vitamin. Half an hour in the sun does wonders for the body and mind.
*Remember your government rules and guidelines and be safe and sensible.
Start a new hobby – Get Creative.
We wouldn’t be a creative mental health charity without suggesting this. Of course, Team PIN would suggest writing creatively first and foremost, because it’s part of our DNA, but here’s some other creative ideas from the team:
Making soaps / candles
Learning new recipes
Learn to play an instrument
Take five minutes to list some things you’d like to try.
Learn something new
Learning is not just for those in school. There are many free courses you can participate in online and broaden your skill sets. Some may even enhance your current job role, some may just be purely out of personal interest. I, personally, would love to learn more about forensic psychology, for example.
Read or Binge Watch Something
Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Disney+ – what do they all have in common? They’re all places we can access to binge watch whatever takes our imaginations’ fancy.
Team PIN have been watching the following:
I am a Killer
Wild Wild Country
The Good Place
And many many more… You can see that we all love a good binge.
If bingeing isn’t your thing, or you’re suffering from binge-burnout, why not try reading. Getting lost in other’s words is an amazing form of escapism. As a team we collectively devour so many books we are not even going to recommend books for fear you all will start to wonder how we ever get any work done.
There’s a lot of virtual tours available online right now. One PIN staffer has just delved into the catacombs. There’s even a tour of the national gallery for some paintporn for your eyes to devour.
Schedule daily video calls with friends/family
These calls do not have to span hours. Even five minutes seeing a friendly and familiar face can really lift our spirits – and stop us worrying about their wellbeing too.
Keep a daily “good things” journal/list
When we are feeling heightened emotions, we often overlook the good things going on around us. Writing one good thing each day that you’ve seen or heard of, is a great way to remind ourselves that good still remains even in the heaviest of storms.
Mindfulness is about being present – in a very oversimplified nutshell. Next time you’re washing your hands, be present and mindful. How does the water feel against your skin, what does the soap smell like? What does running water sound like as it hits your skin?
All daily tasks can be carried out mindfully. The objective of mindfulness is not to switch off your thoughts. Thoughts will still happen regardless of how much you try to avoid thinking. When thoughts arrive, notice them happening and then swiftly bring back your attention to the task at hand.
If you want to take your mindfulness practice further, check out the Calm or Headspace app – there are free meditations on there, or check out YouTube for mindful meditations. We also have a living mindfully resource available to download soon. Watch this space!
Listen to Music
This one is a no-brainer. Music is the soundtrack to life. Make new playlists. Listen to music you wouldn’t normally listen to. Broaden your musical tastes. Now is the time to experiment with sound. You can even listen to music mindfully by focusing on one part of the song – the beat, the strings, the lyrics. Try it, it’s calming and fun!
Find things that make you laugh
YouTube has a plethora of funny videos. Search on there for things that make you laugh. Watch a comedian. Laughter is medicine.
Most of all – Be kind.
This doesn’t need an explanation. We cannot control the happenings right now, but we can control how we react to it. Be kind. Not just to others, but to yourself. There is no handbook on how to manage this. You are amazing and you’ll get through this. We are all in this together.
If you are struggling and you need some help, please get in touch with us.