Staying emotionally healthy during lockdown

Photo by: unsplash.com/@nadinesgeschichten

Many people are currently experiencing lockdown anxiety so I’ve decided to go back to the basics of how we can keep ourselves emotionally healthy during lockdown.

1)  Keep busy

Healthy people try to keep busy. They focus on meeting their own needs and the needs of their loved ones. They try to contribute to the local community by volunteering & being neighbourly. In other words, they are focused outwards. Emotional ill health often involves over-thinking things (focusing inwards).  Keeping busy can helps us avoid this . The old-fashioned advice “find something to do and do it ” actually has a lot to recommend it!*

Spending a lot of time thinking, especially when under stress or down, can be disastrous & can lead to depression. In Zimbabwe the name for depression apparently translates as the thinking too much illness (and they’re not wrong).

*If you’re finding it difficult to keep busy with all the restrictions at the moment here is a link to a recent article with suggestions that might help:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/jan/27/lockdown-cabin-fever-here-are-56-tried-tested-and-terrific-ways-to-beat-the-boredom?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
There is also a new depression app, available for free that is designed to help.

2) Get out of the house, ideally every day.

Exercise has been found to be as effective at lifting mood in mild to moderate depression as an anti-depressant. Fresh air and spending time in nature has also been found to be important for our well-being.

3) Be gentle with the people you live with (easier said than done, I know!)

These are difficult times for all of us and we are all struggling in our own way.  Long-term research has found that some people have great relationships and these people are usually gentle with each other. Remember to practice the three behaviors that heal: attention (listening to whatever the other person wants to talk about- at least for short bursts each day), affection ( a hug or a touch can mean the world & has been found to be essential to maintaining emotional connection) and focusing on the positive (appreciation-what the other person is doing right- it is all too easy to lose sight of these things when we are stressed).

4) Be compassionate with yourself

Being compassionate with ourselves is the beginning of being compassionate with other people.  We can only really be a source of support and strength for other people if we are looking after ourselves  & taking care to get our needs met and being gentle with ourselves. The bookThe Four Agreementsby Don Miguel Ruiz is very good at explaining the importance of not taking things personally. This is something that many people struggle with and something that can easily lead to difficulties & misunderstandings in our relationships. In his book Miguel Ruiz argues that even in the extreme case that someone shoots you in the head, really, when you think about it, it is about them, not you. I know that this is an extreme example but many of us could benefit from taking things less personally. It is healthier, when in doubt, to assume that someone‘s bad behaviour is not aimed at us.

For example, I once texted a friend and received no reply.  I then started to think that I’d done something wrong and that maybe my friend didn’t like me anymore & that I had somehow offended them. I started to go on a, ‘hunt for what is wrong with me‘. We can all do this and can all find things that are wrong with us, if we try. But this leads us nowhere —none of us are perfect and it is better to assume instead that there were other reasons that have nothing to do with us for the person‘s behaviour( it turned out that my friend had not received the text— technology can be unreliable!). This is a skill — looking for reasons outside ourselves for things that go wrong—that can be taught & practised, for instance it is taught in The Optimistic Child by Martin Seligmann where I first came across it.

About the Author

Brainheart Coaching: Improving relationships one step at a time!:)

Ann Marie Taylor is a  Human Givens Psychotherapist specialising in relationships & the author of 5 Steps to Lasting Love: an evidence-based guide. She is based just outside Greystones, in County Wicklow, Ireland (sessions now available online & by phone). To book an appointment you can text or call me on: 0863549969 or, if you prefer, email me through the contact form on my website here.