Minding Your Mental Health in Lockdown: A How-To Guide

Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Molly Kavanagh, shares some of the​_ ways in which she intends on minding her mental health in Ireland’s current Level 5 COVID-19 restrictions.

 

When I enter into a depressive episode, the only thing I want to do is turn off my phone, close my blinds, get into bed, and sleep the entire day away. When college life is operating as normal, that lifestyle isn’t sustainable – I have lectures to attend, friends who want to see me, and responsibilities that need to be fulfilled. Basically, I have things to do and places to be, and if I’m not there, then it inconveniences and worries other people. But in lockdown, I have absolutely nowhere to be, which means that falling back into the habits of unhealthy coping mechanisms such as oversleeping or isolating myself from my friends, becomes a lot easier. Additionally, lots of people, myself included, use copious amounts of partying or social interaction to distract themselves from their emotional troubles. Their social life is their lifeline, their escape, and now COVID-19 has taken that away from them with no specified return date. But there are ways in which you can mind your mental health even when your support network feels out of reach and your routine is disrupted- here’s how.


  • It has literally never been easier to connect with people- take advantage of that: Listen, I hear you – the thought of participating in yet another Zoom quiz is absolutely soul-crushing, I agree. I feel like Zoom quizzes are grim because I never attended pub quizzes pre-COVID out of a passion for trivia- I went to them because it was an excuse to go out with my friends and drink. But what is less soul-crushing is say, calling a friend on the phone to catch up for an hour while you’re doing work around the house, or video-chatting a friend while you both eat dinner together. You can make a routine of it, and call your best friend on the same day every week for Zoom dinner or Zoom tea, to give yourself something to look forward to in a time where it feels like there’s nothing to look forward to anymore.  Social media can sometimes leave us feeling overly cynical because our entire feed is just a series of people complaining about the current state of affairs, and one person complaining about Zoom followed by a second person complaining about Zoom followed by a third person complaining about Zoom builds up to the point where you’re forgetting that it has literally never been this easy to connect with people who we can’t physically see. For example, a lot of counselling centres and mental health organizations have adapted to provide therapy online or over the phone, which means that it’s becoming more accessible. So yes, it absolutely sucks that we can’t hang out in person anymore, and you’re allowed to be saddened by that- but try to focus on the positives. I know it sounds silly and a bit easier said than done, but maintaining a positive mindset and counting your blessings is vital to minding your mental health when you’re isolated. 


  • Focus on activities or hobbies that necessitate alone time: I suffer from genuinely crippling FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Pre-COVID, I was so terrified of missing out on something or wasting my time in college, that it actually began to have a seriously detrimental impact on my mental and emotional health. It was exhausting. So I try to view lockdown as a long-awaited break from feeling as if I’m obligated to go out every night, or party every weekend. I’m using it as an opportunity to focus more on college, read more books, watch some movies, and relish in my alone time. I initially thought that lockdown would wreak absolute havoc on my mental health because I’m a person who really doesn’t enjoy sitting at home or being left alone with her thoughts for more than an hour at a time- but that’s not very sustainable, or healthy, so I’m hoping lockdown will give me some more time to work on that part of myself. I’m just trying to make lockdown a little more exciting so I’m not tempted to spend the whole day in bed. As I said, it’s all about spinning lockdown into something positive, which is very rich coming from a person who is very depressed. 

Photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

  • Maintain a normal routine: I can not stress how important this is. When I had to self-isolate alone for two weeks last month, maintaining a regular daily routine kept me sane. I would shower, do my hair, put on makeup, and get dressed every day at the same time (even though I wasn’t even leaving the house). I also ate three meals at consistent times each day and tried to strike a healthy balance between work and leisure. Going to sleep at the same time every evening was also important because I usually take my antidepressants right before bedtime, so when my sleep schedule is disrupted, I sometimes forget to take my medication, which will then throw me off for days at a time. Lockdown is hard because it requires self-discipline, but I try to frame it less as a responsibility, and more as an opportunity “to take care of myself and be productive today,” and rather as a luxury, where I “deserve to take care of myself today because it will make me feel happy and good about myself.” That’s how I keep myself motivated when I’m taking care of myself while I’m alone, solely for my own benefit, and not for the benefit of other people.