Mental Health | Tips on getting through lockdown

You are not alone.

After trying everything possible to get a LIVE call together with Laken Folster, Counselling Psychologist, we have admitted tech-defeat as it just seems her phone does not want her to go LIVE! Laken and I were able to have a ZOOM chat together whereby I could ask her the questions sent through by my IG followers, and she has kindly put everything together in writing for me to share with you all. In essence this post covers: Why the lockdown has us feeling anxious, unsettled and unstable & what we can do about it.

Shan xoxo

SUMMARY:

  1. What happens to your body and brain when you are quarantined and how to cope:
  2. Mental health tips
  3. Staying or being motivated
  4. Adventure therapy- growth- positivity
  5. Dealing with anxiety
  6. Relationship tips
  7. How to balance it all
  8. Pregnancy and isolation

What happens to your body and brain when you are quarantined?

You’ll likely be in an unpleasant state after a period of social isolation as humans thrive and need social interaction. In various studies it has been demonstrated that people who have weaker social relationships are 50 times more likely to die over a given period than those with more social connections- so essentially our bodies are telling us to be social so that we can stay alive. 

The reduction in physical activity can also affect one’s mind- Not moving as much as you used to. On the one end of the argument we have the idea that reducing and/or eliminating your physical activity can also cause your muscles to atrophy- the cliché of use it or lose it applies here. According to the Insider Magazine, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that just two weeks of inactivity can have an impact on your heart and muscle mass. At the other end of the argument, we can consider the idea that many individuals use physical activity as a means to cope with and manage their emotions. This skill or coping mechanism may not be able to be used as effectively during this time, exacerbating the experience of any emotional symptoms.

Lastly, in general, the effects of quarantine can be psychologically damaging, and in some severe cases can lead to an increased vulnerability for post traumatic stress symptoms, depression, confusion, anger, fear and substance misuse. In this case, the most vulnerable people appear to be those who have suffered with mental illness previously.

Mental Health tips to cope with the aforementioned physical and psychological impact of Lockdown:

The mental health tips have been previously discussed in a previous blog post, but are as follows:

  • Try your best to stick to a routine in your home environment, and if you have kids, try and get them into a ‘normal’ routine as well. Make sure that you keep time in your schedule for work (which you may have to tag team with your partner), as well as self care (exercise, painting, reading, etc). For kids, don’t over think it. Allow them free play time, snack time, school time/learning time (if required by school). Routine will help to create a sense of security – we feel like life is manageable and we are in control when we have a routine. Kids also feel a sense of certainty that comes with routine.
  • Get up and get dressed – do not stay in your pj’s all day. Make sure that you look the way you want to feel during this time. The way we ‘image’ ourselves during this time will most definitively have an impact on the way we feel and subsequently our level of productivity. If you have kids, they also need to benefit from good examples. They will look at you, and what they see will become a reflection of what they feel and choose to internalize.
  • Reach out to others on social media/online platforms – do not isolate yourself entirely from those around you. Spend at least 30 minutes per day connecting with others (not in person). Any applications which allow for face time are great and can be used effectively. Some people have used this as an opportunity to think creatively, and have wholeheartedly accepted the challenge of playing games and eating meals with those that are far away on social media platforms. You are not the only one’s going through this and a sense of connection and community can help you to feel less isolated.
  • Find some time to be outside each and every day. Vitamin D is extremely important for your emotional well being. Did you know that Vitamin D is known to boost levels of energy? Low levels of Vitamin D is also associated with depression, anxiety, seasonal affective disorder and other mental health challenges. The key here is to get outside, and get happy!
  • Exercise – I can’t highlight this enough. Get moving, for at least 30minutes per day- Get the kids involved too!!  There is a strong link, based on research; between mood, stress and exercise- Studies show improved mood and reduced stress levels when at least 30min of exercise is conducted. And no- you do not need to run a marathon to reap the benefits. Get creative!
  • Self-care – we cannot pour from an empty cup. Make sure that you set some time aside for yourself each day, to do something just for you, that you enjoy. Don’t feel pressure in this regard, keep it simple. For example, a lovely long foam bath might do the trick.
  • Remain calm -this is important! Do this not only for yourself, but also for your loved ones (and perhaps those little people watching your every move). Anxiety and panic breeds anxiety and panic. Scary thoughts lead to scary feelings – so let’s stay positive and believe that everything is going to be okay. Try and think of things that can assist you or ‘distract’ you during times where you begin to feel overwhelmed- Write a list and keep it next to your bed (use it when you need it). If you are really struggling, seek some professional help. It’s okay to reach out if you need it.
  • Be patient and kind with those whom you love. Emotions are usually heightened during times like this – couple that with been cooped up together for 21 days and BOOM- Remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to look at understanding and empathizing with those around you. Be gentle with yourself and others, and at times, if you need to, lower your expectations. Go out of your way to be thoughtful and understanding. Accept that everyone will be doing their best- Consider writing down a few expectations for your kids or partner during this time. Remember, everyone will have good days, and everyone will have bad days. Be supportive on all the days and remember- you may at times have to ‘let it go’.
  • Kids may be difficult during this time. Remember that their world has also been turned upside down. Children may not always overtly express their feelings or concerns, but are likely to demonstrate this in their behaviour. Watch them, what they do, how they play- They are communicating with you.
  • Eat well, drink lots (of water, not wine ;)). Healthy body- healthy mind!

Anxiety and Lockdown

It is perfectly normal to experience some level of anxiety during this pandemic.  Anxiety occurs as a response to stress or can trigger stress and it is important that we can understand how to manage it well. Anxiety is often related to the way in which we think about things. Therefore, some of the following practical information, as well as the mental health tips above, may prove to be helpful in managing it:

  1. Information  Diet

Consider what information sources you are using to feed your brain- Are these sources credible and do they provide factual pieces of information? An idea would be to pick one/two credible sources, check for updates once per day, and try and limit your exposure to other anxiety provoking sources. Make sure to also read uplifting stories such as those on ‘the good things guy’

2. Focus on what you can control 

We often spend time and energy on things around us which we have no control over. However, research suggests that if we shift our focus to what we can control (complete and actual list of control vs not), we will notice meaningful and lasting changes in our mental health and well being.

3. THINK technique

This technique can be used when we have a thought that can be intrusive or cause anxiety:

T= Is the thought true/factual?

H= Is this thought helpful for you or anybody else?

I=Does the though inspire or motivate you to do something new or different, or does it have the opposite effect?

N=Is it important for me to focus on this thought/act upon it

K= Is it a kind thought, does it display self compassion.

4. Distraction

Distract yourself from anxiety provoking thoughts- Do something fun!

During this time, some people are able to focus and be positive and end up being quite productive, whilst others feel overwhelmed and struggle to become motivated, feeling unproductive, anxious and guilt by the end of the day. There was recently a facebook debate on this exact topic. Some psychologists have stated that during this time, it is good to do something new, get stuff done, and learn/ acquire new skills whilst others have strongly disagreed. A trauma psychologist from Beirut weighed in on this online debate and shared their thoughts stating that we are going through a profound trauma that is bringing up a lot of stuff for a lot of people- grief, loss of livelihood, financial ruin, panic over the loss or possible loss of loved ones. She further stated that people are in essence trying to survive, come out of this thing alive but we live in world where there is a cultural obsession with productivity and always spending time being productive. She believes  that at a time like this we should rather focus on more self compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us and rather focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves and our loved ones. I certainly can see both sides of this debate and would say that it is as important to practice maintain your physical and psychological health and to also remember to demonstrate self compassion and care. Essentially, do what is best for you, what gets you through the day, and don’t get PTSD in the process.

Many clients feel overwhelmed and anxious as a result of having to create a remarkable balance between work life and personal. It is not easy to fill so many roles, and people are taking strain. My advice to these individuals, is again, with the skills provided above, to practice self compassion, and care. It is okay to struggle, and no, you do not need to be good at everything. Accept your limitations and don’t set your expectations too high. Prioritize things which are important. On a practical level write a to-do-list (night before) and highlight the most items in red. The tasks which need to show progress in green and the tasks which can be left if need be in yellow. Address the red tasks first, green second and so forth. If the day doesn’t go as planned, green and yellow tasks can become red and green tasks the following day.

Pregnancy during lockdown

It is a difficult and uncertain time for those of you who may be pregnant during this time. Most women experience some level of anxiety that comes with pregnancy,but this can be exaercbated by the pandemic. I can imagine how uncertain you must feel as well as the profound sense of loss that you my experience- The idea of what you thought it would be like is most likely no longer the same as your current reality. In saying this, it is still possible to have the most wonderful experience, if you reframe your thoughts, and change your perspective. Birthing your baby will be one of the most magical moments of your life- No one will ever be able to take that from you. If you are feeling anxious, apart from the advice given above, have a birth wish, plan ahead (phone the hospital so you know what to expect), and use technology as part pf your birth plan to keep your family/ midwife included and their to support you. Reinvent your baby shower (zoom party with vouchers to spend online), video your birth… and soak it all in- Remember to stay positive.

Read more about others dealing with pregnancy in lockdown HERE

Shan x

How do we stay positive at time like this?

Throughout the blog, there are ideas to reduce anxiety and cope with the emotionally taxing aspect of this pandemic. Please see a few more ideas to remain positive below:

  • Let everyone in the family (lockdown house) say what they are grateful for each evening at the dinner table (daily gratitude)
  • Read positive and inspiring news or stories
  • Have an end of work day or start of work day ritual (exercise, coffee on the patio, etc)
  • Improve your social connectedness (zoom dinner dates/ cooking parties etc)
  • Compliment yourself
  • Take care of yourself

Remember, life is an adventure- In order to grow we need to be in our Stretch zones. Stretch zones stretch our capacity.

Lockdown and relationships:

Spending time crowded together with the family is quite a challenge. Here are some tips to survive quarantine with your partner and families

– Talk about your fears

-Talk about positive expectations for things that could happen in this time together

– Designate areas for private use- creating separation can also be a healthy measure

-Be creative- evening of 36 questions to get to know one another better

-Be open to talking about what each of you is feeling in a non judgemental space- helpful in reducing tension- avoid dismissive statements “ just calm down”. Try empathy.
In trying to manage conflict, try starting with “When you XXX it makes me feel XXX…”

– New family traditions – Pyjama day Wednesday, Pizza night Friday

I found these 36 questions – I think Juz & I will do these this weekend 😉
Sending you all big love. Remember to reach out if you are not coping. I have and it has helped me cope so much better. None of this is normal, so if you are struggling remember that you are not alone, and there is NO shame in asking for help. Do not suffer in silence.

Shan xoxo

LAKEN FOLSTER

COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST

www.counsellingpsychologist.co.za

laken@counsellingpsychologist.co.za

078 561 7240

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Author: Shan Fourie

Mom to three, Shan is a busy entrepreneur living in the seaside town of Ballito. Shan has a loyal following who love her for her raw honesty in her life journey. Shan loves to share her life with her followers, and has a keen interest in anything fashion, beauty, hair and motherhood related. Her and her husband also love to travel and review both holiday destinations and spa retreats.

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