The World Health Organisation (WHO) promotes World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. It’s a day to put mental health centre stage and in the spotlight. A chance to talk about mental health in general, how we need to look after it, and how important it is to talk about things and get help if you’re struggling.
Our world has been turned upside down these last couple of years. While scientists have been fighting to protect us all from the COVID19 virus, the pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. Perhaps forever.
As freelancers, authors and writers, we spend most of our time working alone. In April 2020, the Office for National Statstics (ONS) stated that almost half of people in employment in the UK did some work at home. But it’s not just more of us working from home, virtual meetings have replaced in-person contact, and socialising with family and friends has been put on hold. We’ve had to adjust.
I always try to focus on the positives in life. However, the lockdowns, restrictions and shortages have taken their toll on my mental health. But I’m not alone.
From the beginning of the outbreak, The Mental Health Foundation in the UK and others around the globe have been tracking the pandemic’s impact on people’s mental health. The resulting research shows that we’ve all been affected to one degree or another.
What can you do to improve your mental health?
The NHS have many great suggestions on their site. From visiting our local parks or tending our own plants indoors, to making sure we get enough good quality sleep. I must admit that sleep is always one of the first things to be affected when I’m stressed. However, I’ve found reading a paperback or listening to an audiobook helps me to drop off and take my mind off my worries. I wake up in the morning having slept straight through, rather than waking up every few hours.
Sitting outside for just 15 minutes helps reduce feelings of stress and seems to improve my mental health.
Spending quality time with nature has also been proven to have a positive effect on our mood. I’m very lucky to have a back garden – it’s green and full of life. In fact, I’m typing this post on my laptop sat in my garden right now! The sound of traffic can’t dim the serenade of bird songs I can hear.
Over the past year, many of my friends have told me that they’re taking daily walks or spending time in our local parks and green spaces to cope with the pandemic. With winter fast approaching, this solution may not be practical. We need to have a collection of strategies at hand. Some activities that we can do outside, such as walking, while others we can do at home away from any adverse weather, such as reading or mindfulness colouring. A friend of mine has taken up knitting. She was originally taught as a child by her granny but picked up her knitting needles again during the first lockdown. I’ve been promised a lovely new scarf for my birthday in December.
Mental health awareness will continue to be important tomorrow, a week from now and a year from now.
To be a healthy, happy, and productive member of society we all need to play our part. Look after your wellbeing and be aware of others. I’ll be looking at my work/life balance. Reminding myself that I don’t have to do everything, all the time, right now! I will ask for help before I feel overwhelmed. Most importantly, I’m going to make sure that I have time for myself.
What steps are you taking to ensure your mental wellbeing?