Social distancing and self-isolation are going to be difficult enough for most people, but for those of us with enduring mental health conditions it could be extremely rough. I don’t talk about this often but I suffer from sever and enduring depression, I’ve been on and off (currently very much on) medication for it for years, I’m in regular therapy, and managing it is a major part of my life. There’s lots on Facebook about “practising self care” but that’s a ridiculous buzzword that means nothing.
I’m about to go from working 40+ hours a week in the shop and spending all my free time with my friends to long, long periods of sitting in my 1-bedroom flat alone. I’m not worried about that though as I have coping mechanisms in place and strategies that I know will help me. I thought it might be useful given the news today that practically all social spaces across the country are to close to share some of those in case anyone out there finds them useful.
1) Get your medication in place now – do you have repeat subscriptions setup with the pharmacy? Do you have enough supplies now to see you through? Do your healthcare providers know what your situation is and what you are doing? Do you know who to get in touch with for help if you need it over the coming weeks? Answer these questions now and save yourself worry and upset in the coming weeks.
2) Get a routine in place early and stick to it – get up at the same time each day and go to bed at the same time, shower and dress yourself everyday even if you aren’t going anywhere, eat properly and at the right times each day. Don’t allow yourself to slip into a daze where you are up and down and all hours of the day and night, be awake and active during the day and sleep at night as keeping a regular rhythm does wonders for your mental health
3) Talk to your friends and family. I don’t mean online chat rooms, WhatsApp groups, or via gaming. I mean lift the phone (remember that’s what that device is supposed to be used for!) call people and speak to them. Typed conversations do not have the same effect on the brain that actual conversation with people does, there are plenty of studies that show that to be true. One thing this whole situation might remind the world is how much fun it is to call a friend and spend an hour chatting.
4) Bring the outdoors indoors – keep your curtains open during the day, don’t turn on an electric light if sunlight is available and keep your windows open for fresh air. Sunlight is deeply important and there is loads of evidence of the boost it makes to your mental health of getting an hours sunlight a day. Plus, fresh air and sunlight coming into your home – especially if you are living alone – will make it feel more open and generally much healthier and it will kill a lot of bugs.
5) Find a creative outlet – the world is set up to transmit noise – television, social media, the news, podcasts, streaming services, video apps - all of these things and more are designed to download information into your brain all day long without stopping. You need to find a creative outlet where you can pour your feelings into something. Preferably something that you need to use your hands to make; perhaps painting, building models, writing, playing an instrument – anything that allows you to give an outlet to your inner self. You don’t have to be good at it, you don’t have to let anyone else know you are doing it, but taking the time to create something is an incredibly calming experience and such a mindful activity that can bring enormous peace
OK, I’m finished preaching – I hope everyone out there manages throughout this period, that you are safe and that you know someone somewhere in the world is thinking about you. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Stuart Kane, Perth