As many feared, a winter lockdown is upon us in the UK. We follow in the footsteps of many other European countries, and will no doubt be followed by many more. Lockdown is back, only this time summer is a lot further in the horizon.
For many, winter is already a difficult time.
Seasonal depression is a very real phenomenon and winter can be a harsh time of year. Some struggle with the pressures to return home and see their family, and other people just long to go outside and enjoy the sunshine. Lockdown only accentuates all of these issues.
It’s now more important than ever that individuals know how to look after their mental health. Although help is out there, it’s not always easy to access. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to looking after your mental health during a winter lockdown, so you can stay safe and make the best of a bad situation.
Do seasonal things
For many, winter and the holidays are about traditions.
However, even if we are out of lockdown by the holiday season, it is unlikely people will be able to continue their usual traditions.
While this is no doubt distressing for many people, the truth is that we just don’t know what will happen a month down the line. If you’re the kind of person that thrives on the run-up to Christmas and anticipate a decline in your mental health at the idea of missing out your personal traditions, know there are many things you can do at home and even alone.
Sure, you can’t go shopping for gifts early or drink mulled wine in a village market, but you can put the decorations up super early and make your own seasonal snacks with your partner, housemates or family.
Traditions are about giving yourself that warm fuzzy feeling inside, and we all need that during these harsh winter lockdown months. Find ways to bring your household together and put emphasis on the traditions you’d already do inside as the nights draw in early anyway.
It all sounds very twee, but this is a brilliant way to retain a sense of normality and live in the present. So much of this year has felt displaced (where did October go?) so being able to bring some seasonal magic into your life at the normal time sounds ideal.
Get yourself outdoors
We might not have the weather for evening walks after work or drinks in the local park, but there are still plenty of ways to get yourself outdoors and grab some of that vital vitamin D.
Without going all nature-writer-who’s-never-lived-in-a-city on you, winter is a brilliant time to ramble about and explore new spaces. The local countryside might be a little muddier by the time you get to it, but strapping on a pair of boots and going for a Sunday morning walk is a great way to clear your head ahead of another week of remote working or facing customers with a plastic shield strapped around your head.
Don’t feel you need to have a car, a map and the latest North Face jacket to enjoy a winter walk though. There’s something magical about city side streets as the frost sets in and suburban areas on a crisp sunny morning that anyone can enjoy.
Don’t restrict your perception of ‘the great outdoors’ to rolling hills and highland cows (coos). Getting outdoors during lockdown is about practicality and giving yourself a break from your seven-person shared house/bedroom/office. Ensure that you’re giving yourself room to breathe, wherever that might be.
Manage your news intake
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. If you’re anything like me, you spent a good portion of the first lockdown (and time out of lockdown if we’re being honest) ‘doom scrolling’ your way through minute-by-minute updates of everything in the world, virus-related or not.
While it’s important to stay informed, it will only do you so much good.
Reading the news and getting absolutely no concrete answers out of it will only have a negative effect on your mental health. There’s nothing to gain from searching another hashtag, falling for a click-bait article or peering into the rancid rabbit hole of comment sections.
It’s an old piece of advice, but an ever-pertinent one. Limiting your news and social media access to an hour a day max will make sure the news you do see sticks with you to a greater degree and ensures you don’t get sucked into a vortex of despair.
Learn from the summer lockdown
They say practice makes perfect. We may not have enjoyed the summer lockdown, but we can certainly learn from it.
While it was an upsetting and challenging period for many, we should all be able to take strength and solace from the fact we made it through. The days can feel long, we’ll miss socialising, but ultimately there were ways we kept ourselves occupied and hung onto our mental health.
Return to the hobbies that helped you get through that period. Bake bread, read books, rediscover old passions. Whatever helped you feel more normal during the first lockdown can be used to get you through the harsh winter one.
And remember, communication is still key! You don’t need to reignite the Zoom quiz craze, but having long phone calls with your parents, stopping for a virtual coffee break with your colleagues and having a big communal Sunday roast with your housemates can give you the human contact you so desperately crave.
With all hope, this will be a much shorter one.
There are going to be a lot of people struggling with their mental health throughout this winter lockdown period and subsequent restrictions.
The cold weather, dark nights and break from traditions will no doubt be difficult to get through, but by following these tips you can begin to see a light at the end in the tunnel and protect your mental health.