Mental Health Ireland has shared five simple actions we can all take to protect our mental health and maintain positive wellbeing during uncertain and challenging times.
The CEO of Mental Health Ireland, Martin Rogan, says, "By now, we are all learning to adjust to the new ‘normal’ of remote working, social distancing and evolving updates on Covid-19 becoming part of our everyday lives.
"This can understandably cause a lot of concern and stress, and can impact on how we are feeling, thinking and behaving. However, there are a number of actions we can take to protect our mental health and maintain a more positive sense of wellbeing.
"The Five Ways to Wellbeing is used all over the world to help people take positive action to improve their wellbeing. These are simple and practical steps that we can take every day to boost our mood and outlook, even when faced with unfamiliar challenges,” says Mr Rogan.
Social distancing is different to social isolation. We can do many things to stay connected with our friends and family even if we cannot see them in person.
Emailing, calling, texting or even writing a letters are great ways to keep in touch. Set aside some time each day to catch up with an old friend or relative. Make a plan and set aside some time to chat. Make an effort to actively maintain social contact groups using Skype, Zoom, Text, Telecall or WhatsApp.
The increased time spent at home can be challenging for some families but it can also be an opportunity to reconnect with our loved ones once again. Connecting with others can help us regain a sense of purpose and belonging. This is especially important when we are feeling more disconnected physically from family. Let’s take this opportunity to have longer conversations and really listen to what they have to say. All these communication gestures help us feel truly close and connected.
Get as much sunlight, fresh air and nature as you can while maintaining a social distance. Keep a routine that involves walking, running, cycling or gardening. Spending time in green, natural space can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and make you feel more relaxed. Ireland is blessed with some of the world's most stunning scenery with woodlands, beaches, riversides and hills. Check out what spaces are available near you through the likes of Get Ireland Walking, the Sports Partnership and Coillte.
A number of fitness instructors are also generously offering free online short workouts to complete at the same time each day with the online community or in your own time.
Stay active and purposeful by catching up on long deferred household tasks and use this time wisely. Get into the garden, rearrange furniture, clean, redecorate!
Being mindful of how we are feeling at this time is important. Noticing these feelings can help us to address them. If consuming and trying to process too much information is increasing stress levels, step back and limit the time spent reading or listening to news reports and social media. Decide to include a period of Digital Disconnection time in your day, this will help to regain a sense of perspective and give an opportunity for reflection.
Be mindful of where you source your information from also; only use reputable Irish sources such as the HSE or Government As the pandemic is affecting different parts of the world differently, it’s important to tune into timely and local information from an Irish context.
Taking a reflective moment to appreciate our immediate surroundings is beneficial. Taking notice can include spotting the changing seasons while on a walk, the birds, and trees. Taking notice of ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, and the world around us helps to aid orientation, improve mood and our sense of wellbeing. Take notice of the simple details of the day - the scent of coffee, a child’s smile or a favourite song on the radio. When we stand in that moment, our brain gets an opportunity to process the pleasure, boosting our serotonin levels - the feel good hormone that helps elevate mood and keeps us calm.
If we are out of our usual routine, our sleep can be disrupted with intrusive concerns or changes in our usual life pattern. Be aware of your sleeping patterns and the things that might help you get a good night’s sleep. Aim to keep a good routine by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. Aim to get between 6 and 8 hours sleep for adults, 8 – 10 hours for younger adults and 10-12 hours for children. If the uncertainty of the current situation is causing you to lose sleep, talk about your worries with friends and family rather than trying to cope alone.
We may find we have increased time in our day over the coming weeks. We can use this an opportunity to try something new we may never have done in the past.
Signing up for short online courses or trying something as simple as cooking a new recipe every second day can help us give us a sense of purpose and keep our mind active.
Make time to learn something new like a card game, a breathing technique or learning a new word in a different language each day.
Remember we all have our preferred coping mechanisms and it’s helpful to try out some new options. Develop a varied diet of coping strategies to maintain good mental health and be generous - share your ideas with friends and family
When we teach, we learn. Maybe you can help a young person in your family with their studies or support a student over the phone with their college assignment.
Giving back is an opportunity to provide people who need it with some of our unique skills, information or advice.
We have seen an incredible and spontaneous increase in the number of community response groups offering services to the elderly or most vulnerable in our community. Volunteering your time with these services, if safe to do so, can help give you a sense of belonging. Offer your time, skills, expertise and availability - it makes a real difference and will help to channel any anxiety you may be feeling
Giving can also include something as simple as making someone a cup of tea, or telling a joke.
Give yourself the space and time to look after yourself. This could be making a healthy meal, doing something you enjoy, or taking 20 minutes to yourself if the house is crowded.
Be kind to yourself and to those around you, we will need to be patient and together we will come through this challenging time.
In Ireland, we still have an extraordinary sense of community and it’s at difficult times that this spirit shines through. Many local groups and volunteers have stepped forward to give generously of their time and talents – let’s celebrate this national trait!