Looking after your mental health and wellbeing during lockdown

Posted by Kelly Dare on

The announcement of moving to Alert Level 4 knocked me for six. I cried a minute into the announcement and then sat on my stairs crying after officially announcing the lockdown. 

Last year's lockdown had huge repercussions on my mental wellbeing, and ultimately, it's what led me to create Kōura - which wasn't a bad thing! I was working full-time in a demanding job; I had a toddler, my partner was an essential worker. It was a bloody time, and going back to that was a devastating blow. 

But, this time, I had something to help get me through: wellbeing routines that are flexible enough to roll with how I'm feeling right now but still solid enough to have real benefits on my mental wellbeing. 

Remember, it's ok and understandable to feel a bit shit about this whole thing. I have to keep reminding myself that just because I'm feeling distressed, anxious, and sad doesn't mean I'm weak. It just means I'm experiencing this in a more challenging way than some other people are. 

Below are some of the tips I've found helpful as I work through this lockdown.

Take your time

I'm very lucky to be able to take some time off to look after me. I rang my managers yesterday, promptly bursting into tears, and they were immediately "don't worry about work, look after yourself, here's EAP's phone number if you need it". The message was clear and consistent: work will wait; my wellbeing won't. 

If you're not in a position to do this (like I wasn't the last lockdown!), it's still possible to take your time. Be realistic about what you can achieve: most parents won't be doing full 8-hour days. So tell your people that. Get people to understand the context that you're working in. 

Whatever your situation, prioritise looking after yourself. If you're working from home, take regular breaks, be realistic about what you can achieve. Hopefully, your workplace is understanding of the challenges that this can bring. If not, Ask A Manager has some great advice on dealing with Covid-19 at work and some great scripts for pushing back on work. 

Get some exercise

I like to combine getting some exercise with going outside. I take the whole whānau, and we go for at least 30 minutes around the streets in Wellington. 

Man pushing woman in wheelchair and family giving each other a hug.

Do one good thing for yourself or your community every day

Doing one good thing doesn't have to be a significant thing. It's more about mindfully noticing the good thing you're doing. So when you take that first sip of delicious, much-needed coffee, see that and think, "this is a good thing". My good thing yesterday was getting a big hug from my partner and my toddler inserting himself in the middle of us. And it was just a nice moment, ya know?

For your community, reach out to your friends and whānau. Think about who might need help food shopping or check-in on their mental health. Keep connected online or over the phone and schedule regular catch-ups with the people who matter to you. 

Watch out for yourself

Do the things you need to do every day to look after yourself. 

  • Get up and go to bed at similar times every day.
  • Have a shower or bath. Brush your teeth and hair. Put on deodorant. 
  • Get outside. 
  • Allocate time for working and time for resting.
  • Make time for doing things you enjoy.
  • Take your meds and/or vitamins. Get your prescriptions filled. 
  • Drink something non-alcoholic. 

Also, in here? You don't need to watch the 1 pm briefing. This time, I'm not going to watch the briefings; I'm going to go for a walk instead. I won't obsessively scroll through the cases and new locations of interest because I will play Crossy Castle on my phone instead. Doing these things helps me keep a hold of the panic and reminds me that this is something out of my control. 

Also, if you want a laugh, check out this IMDB 

Woman stretching in bed and a salad bowl and a bowl of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream.

Eat what nourishes you

Eat what makes you feel good. Trust yourself to guide you in making nourishing food choices, eating what feels right to you, when it feels right to you.

Get some rest

If you're anything like me, when you're anxious, sleep goes out the window. So I've kinda given up on sleep. It'll happen when it happens, but instead, I'm strict about resting. For me, this looks like me and my son lying in his bed at the end of the day, me reading my book and him watching his tablet. I do some painting or read my book. Some people meditate or do some yoga. Getting rest isn't always about sleep. Sometimes it's about taking a moment to chill out and pretend the world has stopped for a while. 

Woman doing watercolour painting and the two Koura journals

Keeping track of the stuff you're doing

If these tips have resonated with you, consider getting a Kōura journal. It'll help you keep track of the great things you're doing to look after yourself, in a pressure-free, no judgment kinda way. The basic tenet of Kōura is to do what you can and don't do what you can't. 

For the duration of NZ's lockdown, we've made the Digital Download free of charge and will be shipping printed journals semi-regularly as my courier is in my area. 

 Stay safe, and don't panic buy! Supermarkets have plenty of stock. 

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