The start of this year has been a rocky road for the international community. At the start of this year, the World Health Organization declared Coronavirus as a global outbreak. Later in March, WHO categorized it as a global pandemic. The whole world was launched in a frenzy of panic and social isolation. With the other natural disasters that have hit earlier this year, it has never been more crucial to pay attention to our mental health. This is the key to staying productive at home and coming out of this stronger.
A Mental Health Crisis
With many citizens of the world under lockdown, we are constantly in front of a screen. Our constant go to activity is social media or watching the news. This is playing a key factor in destroying our mental health. Even before this pandemic, scientists believed social media caused loneliness and depression.
A study published in Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reported that there is a link between using social media and depression. With so much constant negative news, it is easy to fall into a pit of despair.
If being disconnected from your friends, hobbies and normal life has you frustrated, agitated or just feeling down then know you are not alone. This is a completely reasonable response to a rise in misery and isolation.
“Pandemics such as the one we are currently grappling with often ignite fear, anxiety and erratic behaviors,” remarks Dr. Kelly Vincent, a practicing psychologist from California.
People suffering from anxiety and depression are more vulnerable in this lockdown. WHO estimates that more than 240 million people around the world suffer from depression.
With uncertainty being sky high and the lockdown not letting up anytime soon, you have to play a key role to maintain positive mental health in this lockdown. We put this list of things together to help you boost your mental health. Science and experts have backed up these activities because they work. Incorporating them in your lockdown routine is bound to produce positive effects.
Your mental health is the key to coming out of this stronger and equipped to handle the new world.
How to improve your mental health in lockdown
Your feelings, emotions and moods are a mixture of chemicals inside your head. When there is an imbalance of said chemicals, we suffer from things like depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Chemicals in our brain are released due to our surroundings, our mindset and our interactions.
It is imperative that we learn how to control what goes on in our head. This guide helps you get started.
There are 2 ways to improve your mental health during this time. The first step is to cut out a lot of negative triggers that are responsible for negative mental health. The second step is to bring in habits that not only boost your mental health, but improve the quality of your life.
What needs to be cut out?
1. Take a break from social media and news
Constantly thinking about the end of the world, a deadly virus, and then watching news or reading updates creates a dastardly vicious cycle in our heads. We keep thinking about an impending doom that changes the way we think. We start to focus on the negatives, our brain selectively perceives information to bolster this negative narrative.
Funny thing is, we choose the narrative, our brain just picks up specific information from around our environment to prove it. This is why you need to take a much needed break from news, politics and where the world is going. You create your own vicious cycle by constantly watching news that only focuses on negativity.
2. Trust reliable sources of information
Did you hear about how in Africa people started believing that Covid-19 could be spread through mosquitoes? Or how 5G has caused the spread of Coronavirus? Fake news is at its peak around the world. People have been spreading conspiracies theories to fake DIY treatments. It is impossible to stop the spread of fake news because users are used to sharing information without verifying it first.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness advises the general public to consume relevant information that you need to know only. We do not need to know every single update around the world, because that information adds no value to our lives. It feeds a sense of impending doom and paranoia inside of us. Fake information can also be very deadly. In fact, a man in Arizona passed away after self-medicating chloroquine after news stated it was a cure for Coronavirus.
WHO has added a myth buster section to their website to fight against fake news, always get your news from reliable and trusted sources and do not believe anything until you can verify it yourself, this is the only way to save yourself from fake news.
Activities to boost your Mental Heath
3. Yoga is a game changer
Yoga has a plethora of mental health benefits. The American Psychological Association considers it a useful tool for psychotherapy. Yoga helps with relieving stress, muscle tension and inflammation. It also helps increase your concentration and relaxes your central nervous system.
Doing yoga on a daily basis increases GABA, a natural chemical in the brain responsible for regulating nerve activity. This is especially important for those who suffer from anxiety which causes them to have lower levels of Gaba. Yoga is one of your greatest tools to fight depression and a negative mindset, helping you best in this daunting lockdown.
4. Meditating is key to a peaceful mind
While yoga consists of simple to complicated body movements, meditation is a much simpler mental exercise to do. Meditation is a process of controlling your thoughts and focusing your mind on a specific thought for a period of time. While it may sound east to do, 10 seconds in to your meditation and you are already in an embarrassing flash back from high school. Hence, meditation requires focus and dedication.
Meditation is not just letting your mind think freely of whatever it wants, it is to tame the horse that runs wild. Numerous studies have shown that meditation decrease stress and helps control anxiety. Also, it enhances self-awareness, increases your attention span and helps with regulating your emotions.
5. Do workouts at home
Exercising helps regulate positive mental health. Studies show that regular exercise can help patients combat depression, anxiety and ADHD. Scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health discovered that running for just 15 minutes a day helps reduce the risk of depression by 26%. Therefore, when you work out, your body releases endorphins which is an instant feel-happy chemical for the brain.
Working out has numerous medical benefits. For this reason, we have put together a series of workouts you can do at home without weights or equipment. Each circuit consists of movements that help you lose weight, add mass and get in to shape quickly. Here are all the workouts you can do at home with no equipment:
- Lose fat quickly with this full body workout
- An explosive chest workout to add mass to your pecs
- A lower body workout that helps add strength and stamina
6. Create a routine
A routine gives your life order and where there is order, chaos cannot prevail. Dr. Mimi Winsberg, chief medical officer of Brightside, says “Emulate your life before COVID-19 to the best of your ability—follow the same schedule of when you wake up, when you eat and when you go to sleep”. Create an action plan or a routine, this will help keep your mind at ease.
A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry remarked that people who have a daytime routine have healthier sleeping cycles which contributes to better mental health. A routine can also help you dedicate much needed time to all of the activities we have talked about so far. Rather than just sulking and waiting for this lockdown to end, we can utilize all of this free time to train our brain. This investment will pay off your entire life.
With a proper routine think about all of the things you can learn: self-control, increase in attention span, self-awareness, emotional maturity, and so much more.
7. Talk to the right people
The American Psychological Association says “Maintaining social networks can foster a sense of normality and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress”. Therefore, communication is key when talking about positive mental health. Staying in touch with the right people has never been easier. Social media has cut global boundaries.
While we cannot meet our friends and loved ones in real life due to social distancing, it doesn’t mean we have to stop positive communication. Bottling emotions in at this time is like playing with fire. Even those who never suffered from any mental problems, are starting to feel the effects of isolation and lockdown. It is important for every human being to vent. Talking about our problems helps process our feelings and get crucial feedback that helps us feel understood.
8. Learn something online
Educating yourself actually makes you live longer, wait, what? A paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research stated just this.
The results from the study shows that 25-years-olds with a bit of college education had an average life expectancy of 54.4 years old. Consequently, 25-year-olds with just a high school diploma had an average life expectancy of 51.6 years old. Education also improves our cognition which researchers say plays a key role in Alzheimer’s and memory loss as we age.
Many social scientists also agree, they think that education is an important factor to ensure longer lives. Learning has become so much easier than just a decade ago. With the rise of online courses and tutorials on YouTube you can practically learn any skill with just a bit of dedication and commitment.
9. Bring up others around you
Everyone around the globe is in some kind of panic mode. Some are suffering because they have been laid off from work, while some are in a financial fix. Altruism has a positive effect on our own mental health and well being.
“The act of giving to someone else may have mental-health benefits because the very nature of focusing outside the self-counters the self-focused nature of anxiety or depression,” says Carolyn Schwartz, a researcher from University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Whether it’s helping a neighbor out with groceries or just listening to someone vent, knowing that someone else feels better because of you is an instant self-esteem boost. We are all users of the digital community, we all have a voice there.
Taking out sometime to interact with people online in a motivating and understanding tone can help spread much-needed positivity around. This in turn makes you feel good about yourself, as you feel you are doing something productive and helpful.
10. Interact with your family at home
If you’re working a 9 to 5, you must have thought about taking time off every other weekend but work would never let you. Consider this, regardless of how down, demotivated or average you think of yourself, someone needs you. That someone could be a father, a mother, a sister or a brother. Many of our psychological problems stem from trauma that is usually created during our childhood.
Taking this time to mend bonds with you family can help dissipate years of underlying stress necessary for a healthy mindset. Children require attention from parents for grooming, emotional growth and their own development; parents are too busy playing the provider role and ignore the nurturing role they should be playing with their children.
Being stuck under one roof is a blessing, it is the perfect opportunity to get on the right page with the right people. This will help you improve your mental health drastically.
It is uncertain when life will resume to normality. Will anything be normal after this? Many experts are predicting economic changes that could years to recover from. To embrace this uncertainty and the unknown future, you need to be on top of your mental health game.
The power to becoming stronger mentally resides solely in you, literally. The way you think determines your outlook, it determines how feel and see the world around you. You can be your own savior and the above mentioned activities can help you get started right away.