IMAGINE a way to improve your life and your mental health day by day. This is what this post is about. Since Covid-19 emerged, we have lost our sense of control over our lives. Many have lost their jobs, even more are working from home with less interaction with others. Staying at home with less interaction with others can increase depression and anxiety. When we have more time to sit and think, we tend to worry unnecessarily about things that may never happen.
When times get tough, mental resilience is the key to coping and surviving. IMAGINE is a “mental health survival kit” that I created to help others (and myself) maintain mental strength during difficult times.
So what can you do to survive living in lockdown? Use the acronym IMAGINE daily to keep a balanced mental state. If you run through the 7 ideas daily, you will find that the lockdown survival kit helps you to be more resilient and better able to cope:
I = Self care
Staying at home means many of us are neglecting self-care. Self-care isn’t just about brushing your teeth and having a wash. It’s also about treating yourself well, having healthy boundaries with others and showing yourself compassion. What have you done today that has made you feel better about yourself? Self-care boosts your mood and signifies that you are valuable. The obvious self-care activities are a healthy diet, exercise and getting enough rest. Go for a walk, spend some time doing what you enjoy (don’t work all day without a break) or take a nap. Cherish yourself.
M = Mindfulness
Contentment comes from being present in the moment. When you are in your mind, you are often in ‘enemy territory’. When we spend time overthinking we worry incessantly about regrets from the past or fear about the future. We focus on what is uncertain and this increases feelings of anxiety. When you stay in the moment as much as possible, you have the opportunity to notice those fleeting moments of bliss. A laugh with a friend, a smile from a stranger – you will notice the smaller things when you stay focused on what is happening right now.
There are many creative ways to be mindful – playing a game on your phone or reading a book are forms of mindfulness. You could also use the 5-4-3-2-1 method:
5 things you can see
4 sounds you can hear
3 things you can touch
2 things you can smell
1 thing that made you smile today
When your brain is focused on your 5 senses, it doesn’t have the capacity to worry simultaneously. Mindfulness produces a feeling of calm. Try an app – Headspace and Calm are highly recommended. Even 5-10 minutes per day is a good start.
A = Acceptance
Acceptance is an important part of the lockdown survival kit. Ask yourself what you might be resisting today? Are you focusing too much on how unfair your current situation is due to Covid? Sure – it probably sucks big time but focusing on what you can’t change is wasted emotional energy. Instead focus on what is within your reach – what you want to think about your situation and your reactions. Acceptance lifts a huge weight off your shoulders and frees up energy for where your real power lies.
You may not like the situation and this is when problem-solving is a good way forward. brainstorm possible solutions – focus on this rather than the unfairness of the general situation – you will be hopeless and perhaps angry and frustrated of you do focus on what you have no control over. Healthy acceptance leads to increased contentment and a calmer outlook on life.
G – Gratitude
Some researchers and mental health experts state that we are biologically wired for threat and as a result, we focus on the negatives. When we live life with a negative-mental-filter, we end up feeling miserable and disempowered. When we make an effort to focus on what is good, this shift can increase your mood instantly. Shift your focus from what isn’t going well to the small things that you appreciate. Good examples: a roof over your head, a warm bed, family, friends, good health, a job, a pet….no matter what your situation, there will be something that isn’t negative. Look for this and remind yourself daily.
I = Interaction with others
This one might be more difficult during the Covid pandemic but there are ways around this. It’s a proven fact – too much time alone will end up affecting your mental health negatively. If you live alone and don’t see many people, try going online to chat to others on forums. If this isn’t possible, find out about local services or charities in your area that offer help at home or some type of outreach service. Even a friendly neighbour can do the trick. We are social creatures by nature and withdrawing or isolating yourself is never a good idea on a longterm basis.
N – Nurture fun and playfulness
Try not to take life too seriously. A sense of humour is an amazing tool when it comes to coping with sadness and anxiety. A sense of humour helps you to step back from the situation and see it from a different perspective. Your thoughts affect how you feel and your feelings affect what you do. If you have a handle on your thoughts and try to see other ways to look at a life situation, you may just protect your mental health from intense emotions that are harder to cope with. Resilience is bolstered by seeing the funny side of life.
Be playful, laugh a lot and protect yourself from stress.
E = Explore
I highly recommend that you work on your self-awareness. The better you know yourself the easier you will navigate life. When you know your strengths and weaknesses you can adjust your life accordingly. Counselling is a great way to understand yourself and explore your inner reality. I regularly see clients who need help seeing life from an objective angle. When our emotions are involved we don’t always know what’s best for us.
Exploring your patterns can help you live a more successful life. If you want support to help you survive the Covid pandemic, online counselling might be just what you need. I’d be happy to talk to you and help you to figure out your direction and next steps.
Use this lockdown survival kit regularly and you will find your life will be more balanced. I use it myself and I have found that this structure keeps me on the straight and narrow.
Get in touch with me if you need someone to talk to – I can help with relationship problems, anxiety, low confidence, depression and many other common problems.