Staying Happy in Lockdown
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to everyone’s lives in 2020. We have all been through various stages of lockdown as the government is trying to minimise the impact of the virus on our health system.
In Melbourne we have seen large increases of coronavirus leading us to much heavier restrictions. We are currently past the halfway mark of stage 4 but it is unknown at what stage we will be able to start returning to a resemblance of normal life with no restrictions.
While we have been extremely fortunate that the efforts of state and physical distancing have helped reduce the cases of coronavirus, it has also created other problems. Mental health conditions including depression and anxiety has been on the rise since the beginning of restrictions cause by fear, isolation, and loneliness. Those that have lost a job or work have got the added stress and uncertainty of how they will provide for their family and what they can do.
With very little to do many people have turned to social media or the news in order to stay connected. While social media has bene extremely beneficial in keeping us in touch with loved ones during this time it can also be detrimental. Distressing news articles and rumours can cause an increase in anxiety and depression.
Laurie Santos is a professor at Yale University who specialises in happiness. Recently she has been highlighted the importance of looking after your mental health during lockdown period and has shared 5 simple tips to help improve happiness during quarantine.
- Deep belly breathing – Taking a big deep breath to calm yourself is something many of us have heard before but often we don’t understand the significance behind it. Taking a slow big deep breath has the ability to change our nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve. Our parasympathetic nervous system is what helps us bring our body back to normal after a stressful situation. However, in the current climate we are often in a constant state of stress and we need to trick our body into using this system to relax again. This is what deep belly breathing does, give it a shot it can give instant results.
- Do acts of kindness – Research has shown that the happiest people are often the most giving and this has been proven time and time again. While we are in a time period where most people are worried and trying to look after themselves you might find it useful to see what you can do for others.
- Focus on what you can control – The pandemic is here and for the most part there is nothing we can do about the cases and deaths we hear about every day. What we can do is control how we respond to these stressful situations. Is it the best choice to drink that bottle of wine or three? Or should we sit on social media for hours reading into conspiracy theories? If you can recognise the causes of your stress and anxiety, then try to minimise those actions that you can control.
- Food, exercise, sleep – Of course our physical health directly impacts on our mental health, it seems so obvious but often forgotten. When you don’t have work the next day you can stay up until 3am eating chocolate binging Netflix but getting out of a good healthy routine can be very detrimental to your health. Make the most of your down time by researching healthy meals, use your hour of exercise time to get out and make the most of the day.
- Gratitude – Looking at the lockdown from a different perspective and using it as an opportunity can be greatly beneficial. At the moment, a lot of people are focused on what they are missing out on or the negative in the world. This is a dangerous mindset for our mental health, but it can easily be turned around. A simple task like writing down three things every day that you feel thankful for can have you feeling happy in no time.
It is important that we continue to look after ourselves during this pandemic, this includes our mental health as well as our physical health. It is not going to be over anytime soon, so please take the time to assess your lifestyle and make the necessary changes.
If you are struggling with mental health the government has given access to additional Medicare appointments during the pandemic. Please contact your GP for more information or a care plan. Otherwise organisations like The Black Dog Institute or Beyond Blue are a great resource to get in contact with.