The sudden and dramatic nature of lockdowns in most states this spring had a significant impact on the mental health of millions worldwide. The forced isolation from friends and family, along with worry about the future and their own health, pushed many into severe depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues for the first time in their lives. For those who already struggled with their mental health, the sudden inability to attend face-to-face therapy and take advantage of other resources had the potential to be emotionally devastating.
Unfortunately, a peak in coronavirus cases in the fall and early winter of 2020 caused some governments to issue a second round of lockdowns. Although most people understand the rationale for them, this came as an especially cruel blow for those who struggled to make it through the first time.
This blog post presents a compilation of tips from mental health professionals as well as everyday people who have found tips that work for them and want to share them with others.
What Are Micro-Lifts and How Can People Seek Them While Isolated?
According to a counseling psychologist based in the United Kingdom named Dr. Lucy Atcheson, a micro-lift is a small, positive interaction that lifts people’s spirits without them necessarily realizing it. For example, ordering a cup of coffee from the local coffee shop and receiving especially friendly service can boost anyone’s spirits. Running into an old friend on the street or swapping jokes with co-workers in person are two other examples.
Most people don’t experience any micro-lifts when they are home alone all day, whether working or not. They probably won’t notice that at first, but Dr. Atcheson states that the cumulative effect of living without these little mental boosts hits most people after about two weeks. That means that people must seek out micro-lifts on their own. Dr. Atcheson recommends choosing something that brings a sense of accomplishment such as learning how to use FaceTime or mastering a foreign language.
Keep Expectations Realistic
There is nothing wrong with trying to maintain a positive attitude during an incredibly challenging time. In fact, it is commendable. On the other hand, it’s equally important to maintain realistic expectations. This is especially important for highly driven people who focus a lot on achievement. They may go into the lockdown period thinking they will completely clean and organize their home, write a novel, or paint a masterpiece.
When people in lockdown have high expectations of themselves that they don’t meet, their mental health can suffer even more. What many people fail to take into consideration is that the pandemic and isolation takes a huge emotional and cognitive toll. The weight of worry and loneliness can make it difficult to concentrate and remain motivated, much less accomplish significant achievements. For some people right now, getting through the day is enough of an accomplishment and that is okay.
Weather Permitting, Get Outside
A second round of lockdowns during the winter can be even more challenging than the first round in the spring, especially for those who live in cold climates. Even so, mental health experts recommend getting outside whenever possible. If that means bundling up in multiple layers, then so be it.
Fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for mood because they automatically boost serotonin, one of the hormones responsible for mood regulation. Spending time in nature can also help people feel more contemplative and give them the strength they need to meet the challenges of the day.
Investing in a patio heater or backyard fire pit enables more access to outdoor lounging and relaxation for those in cold weather regions.
When the isolation and frustration starts to build and people feel like they just can’t do it anymore, they would be wise to remind themselves that their track record for surviving the pandemic so far is 100 percent.