Updated: Feb 5
So not only is it January, but here in England we’ve recently been asked to enter into our third national lockdown in the past 12 months. It seems fair to say that the general mood is not a positive one.
So while our blog articles normally focus on topics related to decluttering and home staging, this one is a little bit different, we’re going to be talking about wellbeing, and staying sane and healthy throughout lockdown.
The reality of lockdown is hard – we totally get it. For many people the anxiety caused by the pandemic itself is exacerbated by money worries, having to homeschool, social isolation, caring for elderly or vulnerable relatives, being separated from loved ones. It’s hard, it really is.
During the first lockdown, things didn’t seem quite so bad – the weather was good for one thing, and for a great deal of people it allowed them to spend time at home, exercising, doing DIY, getting into cooking or baking (remember the sourdough craze?) or growing vegetables. We had Joe Wicks, Clapping for the NHS, Zoom calls galore - so although it was stressful there was a kind of blitz spirit which kept everyones’ spirits up for a while. This time around it definitely feels harder to summon up the enthusiasm.
Anyone remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? It’s a model of human psychology which states that at the very basic level humans need to take care of their physiological needs (shelter, food, warmth) and their safety needs (stability, order, protection from harm) before they can even begin to focus on their higher level needs such as companionship, creativity, self expression etc.
The problem is that at the moment so many of us are worried about our basic needs that it’s difficult if not impossible to think about the more fulfilling aspects of life like personal development, intimacy, self expression and so on.
The other important thing to remember is that in a survival situation, the “fight or flight” response kicks in. The fight or flight response is a basic physiological response designed to help us respond to emergencies – like run away from a predator. The body releases hormones like adrenaline that prime the body for immediate action – for example by making the heart beat faster.
The problem is that our brain is unable to tell the difference between a real and immediate threat right in front of us (sabre tooth tiger) and one that we are imagining or thinking about (someone getting ill, or losing our job for example). So we remain in a kind of permanent “on guard” state, with raised levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
These stress hormones can affect a whole range of processes within the body from sleep to digestion. But perhaps most important of all at the present time, stress has been shown to have a negative effect on our immune systems.
So reducing stress is a good idea during a pandemic, not just for our emotional wellbeing, but for our physical wellbeing as well.
The following suggestions assume that your essential needs for food, healthcare and so on are being met. If you are struggling in any of these areas, please make sure as a priority that you get the help you need. Your local council, Citizens Advice, or community volunteers may all be able to help. If you’re really struggling do let us know via email or a private message and we will see if we can help at all.
First of all, cut down on the negativity coming into your mind. Remember that journalists are there to sell newspapers, and good news rarely sells. These days we are bombarded with so much information online from social media, TV news, radio news, news apps, as well as the newspapers themselves. While it’s useful to keep abreast of the main news items, we strongly suggest limiting the amount of time spent watching/listening to the news, especially in the evenings before going to bed. We also suggest you are discriminating in the sources of information you read or share, as there is a lot of scare mongering and misinformation being put around, especially on social media. Try to keep a sense of perspective, and always think about your intent when sharing or reposting something you have read.
Do something physical every day. Physical activity helps to reduce stress and is good for our mental health as well as our bodies. It doesn’t have to be an actual workout but it’s good to do something that is challenging enough to raise your heartrate and build up a bit of a sweat – a brisk walk, some energetic housework, dancing around in your kitchen to some disco music – whatever it is that works for you. If all else fails, just get out into the garden or walk around the block to get some fresh air and if possible natural daylight which helps to boost your Vitamin D levels as well as serotonin (known as the “feel good” hormone)
Make time for relaxation Relaxation may seem self indulgent but actually it’s really valuable in reducing stress and promoting the “rest and digest” functions of the body which are such an important part of the immune system. By choosing to relax you are actually helping boost your chances of staying healthy and well. Now it’s worth mentioning that by “relaxation” we don’t necessarily mean mindless channel hopping or cracking open yet another bottle of wine, but rather choosing to do something nurturing and positive for yourself. It could be a walk in nature, a hot bath, doing some online yoga, meditation or deep breathing, or simply doing something absorbing like reading a good book, watching some comedy on TV, or doing a jigsaw. Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s something you enjoy. If it feels like it is good for you, it probably is.
Reach out to friends or other sources of support. It’s so easy to feel isolated especially if you live alone. Although the family Zoom quizzes may have lost their charm, it’s still good to make contact with other human beings, whether that be by picking up the phone, sending a message, or making time for a FaceTime or WhatsApp chat. Some people do find it difficult to talk to family or close friends about what is worrying them – this is where social media can be a force for good as there are many ways to connect with others online – again the links below offer some ideas. At the same time make sure to check in with friends or neighbours who may benefit from a friendly chat or phone call from you.
Get professional help if you are struggling. One of the positive changes we’ve noticed in recent years is the increased recognition of the importance of mental health. If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, help is available. Your GP is a good place to start, and we have listed some UK based resources at the bottom of this article. Many therapists in private practice are offering online counselling or therapy sessions at the moment. If finances are a barrier some may be able to offer reduced or flexible payments, there are also some charitable organisations that may also be able to help as well as lots of online communities and support groups.
Finally, remember that while times may be hard, the current situation will change. It won’t always be this way. Now more than ever it’s so important to care of ourselves, and one another.
If you need help, do check out the links below, or contact us directly if you need support.
Under current legislation we are still able to work in certain circumstances, and even if we cannot come to you in person we can always offer our help virtually with any organisational or administrative jobs you are finding difficult.
Take care, stay safe, and we hope to see you very soon.
Claire & Sue
Some Covid 19 Resources
NHS Mental Health & Wellbeing https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/
MIND (Mental Health support) https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/accessing-treatment-and-support-during-coronavirus/
Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR3bGSkdCw8zm6AklbPputnYp6dgLkG-E6JBCdYfmDhK_6HngbKUV9SHJB8
British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapyhttps://www.bacp.co.uk/search/Therapists
The Brain Working Recursive Therapy Institute https://www.bwrt.org/
Young Minds https://youngminds.org.uk/