Since early 2020, tough and trying times, which have pushed our mental health and wellbeing to the limit, have become the new normal, the way humanity has learnt how to re-engineer the way we live, work, play and study. As never happened before, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a deep impact on our health, daily lives, habit and above all social life-style.
For the first time in the past 100 years, the last worldwide lockdown happened between 1918 and 1920 with the Spanish flu pandemic, humankind has been forced into isolation, social distancing, working and studying from home and for many all these has been translating into loneliness, a threat to our mental health!
Physical and social interactions have been limited to our own family members and, what before were the weekly habits of a dine out, movie, windows shopping walking through shopping malls and more have now become a kind of health threatening practice and “forbidden dreams”.
How often we all have had family and work discussions or quarrelling? It is very normal and, in the past, we were practicing the healthy habit of cooling down through a walk outside. Let’s be honest, sometime we all need a bit of “me time” isn’t it? Even if you love your other half very much, there is always a time during the day in which being alone for a while is the best formula for long lasting relationship.
The limitation or even worst elimination of all these habits and practices has and is taking and extremely heavy toll on our mental health. I speak for personal experience, at least.
I was an extreme “social animal” and it has been taking long, the process is actually still ongoing, for me to leave the whole concept of social life aside and live my life in a 24/7 mode with my wife, our daughter and 4 dogs only. In the following paragraphs I thought to share with you some of the habits, we can call them mental-health tips, which have helped me enormously while sailing through this 15 months’ long health storm.
Being our business in a service industry, we have moved everything on line and since March 2020 and, we have been working from home, dealing with our team on line, meeting clients in zoom and, in other words, having a fully isolated life to protect our health from the pandemic threat. As all say, better be safe than sorry!
How did we managed our lives since then with all the on and off of the various MCO (Movement Control Order) we had in Malaysia? I’ve listed below some of the tips and tricks that we have used. I really hope they will help all readers in feeling less stressed, more relaxed and in a much better mental health status.
One last thing, before we start with the tips is, we all have learned how to love ourselves, take more care of us first! It’s not being selfish, more giving a modified priority to our own needs and thinking more about ourselves which, at the end, translates in a much better mental health.
Stay connected with friends and family. Try Zoom, Team or any other video calling platform out of the so many available so that you can see and hear your friends and family members. Most platforms have basic free packages and it will not cost you a cent, if the subscription cost is what has kept you away from these tools.
It is important to catch up, to talk and to listen to each other. If you would normally meet up with friends for a drink or a teh tarik, try to stick to that routine and make it a virtual catch up instead but, still with real drink. Make a time to call someone on the phone, write a letter or send something through the mail. Communication, be it physical or virtual help enormously in remaining connected and, at the end, results in a positive stimulus to better mental health.
Life goes on, do not change your habits
One of the best tips I received, back one year ago, has been, keep doing your daily routine from morning to night you have to be very rigid in your planning and actions. Even though, you guys are not going out or, do not have any planned virtual meeting, remember to shave and comb your air as if you are going to office. Gals it is the same for you, make up and get ready for a full “in-house” day in the same manner you would prepare for full normal working day. If you are passionate about fitness, make sure you will keep on practicing it in your house, our mental health is strongly connected to a good physical condition.
There are plenty of YouTube videos available on how to set a perfect fitness corner at practically zero cost and even in a small apartment. Set some sort of goal in terms of weight, measurement of your waist or else. Set a time to start and a time to finish, decide how many time you want to practice every week and then go for it.
The tip here is about your habits, those developed in many years, you get me? Stick to them and keep on our normal daily routine as if the pandemic didn’t hit and threat us and our health.
Find old and, why not, new things to do
If you are bored and alone, now is a great time to pick up something you thought of in the past but never had time for. It could be drawing, reading, writing, handicraft or cooking and baking you choose!
Think of yourselves, once completed your professional daily duties, as being on holiday and decide which new things you would like to do and learn. On a personal basis, once more, I can reveal my secret. Originally from Italy I’ve had all my life a passion for food, in terms of eating more than cooking it.
Well during the first MCO, I decided to develop better cooking skills and went on a self-learning journey from YouTube, again, to other platforms and readings I’ve become a pretty decent chef with my family adoring it! It’s fun and, above all, it carries a very important mental-health booster.
While cooking, the need of full concentration and attention is extremely high. You cannot forget to put salt or oil because you are thinking about something else. You also cannot have negative thoughts as your food, in the unfortunate situation in which you have those negative waves coming up, will really taste horribly. Tears and food do not match! Eating is more than a human necessity, it can be real fun and has proven to be a great help in maintaining a good mental health status.
Choose what you really would like to do and, just do it, the above is only an example that has been working great for me!
Take it easy
Be kind to yourself. If you are working from home, facilitating your child’s online learning as well as their emotional and physical wellbeing, trying to take care of other vulnerable people like older parents or grandparents who are self-isolating… know that you are doing the best you can and that you can’t do everything for everyone.
Take some deep breaths, run yourself a hot bath or use an aromatherapy diffuser and some soft music to create a sense of calm. Mindfulness, relaxation a bit of meditation can also help a great deal at times like these. Take some time away from the movies, news or social media. Set this as a fixed rule for the good of yourself! Having some healthy self-care is definitely not being selfish, just loving yourselves a bit more and better. Very important factor in improving mental health, trust me it has worked perfectly with me.
Still go outside, without breaking the SOPs!
Exercise is still possible, even in lockdown areas people are still allowed to go out for a short walk, as long as we all follow the social distancing SOPs and guidelines from authorities. Breathe the fresh air early in the morning, see the sky at sunset or at dawn while walking around. Take this as a me time and enjoy it!
As I explained above, exercise and physical activity is an important part of maintaining your mental health. Just 20 to 30 minutes a day… even if it’s just a walk around the block. Please always be sure to stay few big steps away from other people and always wear your mask.
In case of mobility-related disability, the above might be challenging or impossible. Better to look for creative ways to connect and engage with nature. If you have a garden, take a few turns around it. Sit on your veranda in the sun for ten minutes… if you can’t get outside, bring outside in… open a window, bring potted plants inside the living area, create an in-house garden and care for it. Gardening, even simple one, has been since ever considered a unique way towards great mental health
Keep track of what you do
Since March last year, the time in which the first MCO was declared in Malaysia, I’ve been start writing a daily diary. How I feel, what I’m doing, my ideas, thoughts, dreams and more. I’ve then been using it as a reading tool, it has helped me a lot and often sparkling ideas on business issues, or for a new product or campaign for my clients or else are popping up much easily in this way.
It becomes also a useful tool in planning your next month activities. It’s like looking at the past and having a chance to replicate the good and skip the bad. Writing, and for once it could be the old and seldom used handwriting way, it is used by psychologists and mental health specialists as a supporting activity towards better wellbeing!
There is so much more that could be written on mental health, this is a very interesting article from a UK site with more tips and suggestions, and I’d love to. However, I would really appreciate to know your own way of reacting to this New Normal that has been changing so much our previous lifestyle. I’m sure I could learn a great deal about mental health from you all and eventually, sharing it in few more articles.
Let’s communicate more, drop an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be definitely following up with you!