Coping With A Winter Lockdown

We’re about to head into a second nationwide lockdown in England after a somewhat predictable rise in Coronavirus cases (and sadly deaths) this autumn.

These new restrictions apply from Thursday 5th November until 2nd December but there are suggestions that this could be extended beyond the 2nd December and that we’re unlikely to just return to “normal” once the restrictions have been lifted. There was also an acknowledgement, at yesterday’s briefing, that Christmas would be very different this year.

From Thursday 5th November, people in England will only be able to leave their homes for specific reasons including for educational purposes (school/university), for work where they cannot work from home, food shopping (including to collect medication) and exercise with members of their household in public spaces.

Winter is notoriously a difficult time for many regardless of mental health challenges. And these restrictions coupled with longer nights in what has already been a very challenging year will inevitably have an impact on people’s mental wellbeing. So here are a few things that you can do to safeguard your mental wellbeing.

Safeguarding your mental wellbeing

  • Stay active outside – There’s no doubt that this will be harder…the pull of the warmth and the comfort indoors will make you less likely to want to leave the house. But where you can try and be active outside.  Being outside will help you disconnect, destress and can boost your mood. All it takes is a 5 or 10 minute walk. As the days get shorter you may prefer to do this earlier in the day so it’s still light outside. Getting daylight as early as possible in the day will also support your circadian rhythm helping you to sleep better at night. If getting outside isn’t possible keep active indoors, whether that’s climbing the stairs more often or following an online exercise class. You can even watch videos and listen to the sound of nature – this has been found to offer some gains to mental health.
  • Stay connected with others – Where you can try and stay connected with family, friends and colleagues using platforms such as zoom, teams, what’s app and messenger. But be aware that video calls can be energy sapping so be mindful of “zoom fatigue”.
  • Develop coping strategies – This lockdown is happening and if there was ever a time to lean into the mantra “plan for the worst but hope for the best” this is it. Brainstorm any stressful or anxiety inducing challenges that may crop up during this lockdown period and identify some positive strategies to help deal with them. These may include journalling, speaking to a friend or watching a rib-tickling movie.
  • Plan, plan, plan – whether you’re working from home, on furlough or not employed, plan out your weekly activities. The structure to each day  provides a sense of grounding and getting through any tasks or life-admin activities provides a sense of achievement.

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  • Self-care – while you’re planning your weekly activities ensure that you block some time out for you, at least once each day. Make sure that whatever you choose to do in this time supports your mental wellbeing. I know this may feel like a luxury but it really isn’t and it’s especially important when you care for others.
  • Light therapy – As the morning’s become darker if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and aren’t already using light therapy you may want to invest in a light box. This can greatly improve mood as it simulates the sunlight that’s missing during the coming months.
  • Ask for help -it should go without saying but it can be difficult to ask for help. If you are struggling, don’t ignore it. Get in touch with your doctor or a mental health charity to get the help you need.

ABOUT

Leah de SouzaThomas BSc (Hons) MSc MPH IFMP

I specialise in helping people feel well again, by using functional and lifestyle medicine. It’s an approach to health and healing that addresses the root cause of illness or symptoms. Aiming not only to re-establish good health, but also avoid disease in the first place.