How to support your household’s mental health during a lockdown
Having lived through three lockdowns in the UK, here are some things I’ve learned to support others and myself
It was an understatement when healthcare campaigners were warning against the mental health impact the introduction of a lockdown was going to cause back in March 2020.
As the pandemic persists, the UK has found itself imposing lockdowns one after the other. With the introduction of each one, people are constantly finding themselves experiencing the impact of it again and again.
While lockdowns are an essential and effective way to counter the rise in infections, the continuous impositions are prolonging the detrimental effects of living through them.
According to a nine-month study during the pandemic conducted by the Mental Health Foundation, figures show that there has been a 10 percent to 25 percent rise in loneliness from March to November for UK adults.
It also shows that from April to November, there has been a decrease from 73 percent to 62 percent for people who were asked if they were coping well with the stress of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, not only are clinically diagnosed people struggling but so are others without a diagnosis.
Before we had access to in-person therapy, outdoor activities, socialising, and visiting leisure venues to alleviate the tensions within our lives. However, in this new normal, we are made to sit at home and face our troubles.
It is now more than ever important for us to be there for our loved ones and master the true art of communication. Being stuck in a household with others can definitely strain your relationships, however, during times of challenge is when love and devotion are tested the most.
As someone who received counseling for anxiety and a support system to family and friends, here are some things I’ve learned to support someone’s mental health during a lockdown.
Become an active listener, not a reactive one
Being a productive listener takes more effort than you would think. It is not simply about listening to someone but making them feel heard.
In conversations with people discussing their mental health, the most important aspect to acknowledge is that they want to talk about their feelings. By being an active listener, you will say things to affirm your understanding and build trust, rather than tell them how you feel about what they’re telling you.
We tend to tell one another to stop feeling the way we’re feeling, saying such things as “don’t cry,” or “that’s not true.” However, a more reassuring way to help someone cope would be to allow them to express their thoughts and emotions. It is essential to allow them to talk and remind them that their feelings are valid. Affirm that you care about them and don’t overwhelm them with advice.
Accept taking turns to support one another
Accept that sometimes you have to go the extra mile and do the heavy lifting for a while. It is all about balancing the load and taking turns when one gets overwhelmed. Accepting this will prevent you from potentially resenting the person and burning out.
Utilise the current freedoms we have in the lockdown rules
Being able to exercise and have a social bubble during the lockdown have been vital freedoms among the government’s lockdown rules. Going for a walk can have a lasting impact on the rest of your day. Alongside having physical benefits, walking in the fresh air can raise your mood and clear your mind.
In addition, organising a walk with someone from your social bubble, while following government guidelines, will boost the benefits of your walk by adding a socialising element to it.
Research and utilise current online mental health services
There are still valuable mental health services operating online or over the phone. The NHS website lists various options and more specifically Mind, a mental health charity, has numerous services, including how to support someone with a mental health condition.
Sit together with (or without) your household member and go through the available services. If you do it alone, compile the various options and present it to them at a suitable time.
Dedicate time for your own self-care
I stumbled upon a teaching by an American spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, that changed my life for the better. He says, “I can do nothing for you but work on myself. You can do nothing for me but work on yourself.”
It resonated with me because I found that the only way we can adequately be of service to others is to first be strong and healthy within ourselves.
Scheduling in a self-care slot and holding yourself accountable to it is essential to recuperate. Depending on your lifestyle try to set aside an hour each day, or an entire day within the week. Take a bubble bath, dance to your favourite songs, or pick up a fun hobby. Enjoy some ‘me’ time.
Dealing with mental health is not easy. There may be times where you feel overwhelmed despite the effort you’ve been putting in and you may slip up. You need to be ready to forgive yourself when this happens to not prolong your suffering.
Most importantly, remember to embody compassion and patience for one another. We are all in this together and will get through it together.