The UK went into Lockdown and I went into Meltdown: Guest blog by Nicole

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(image: Nicole_no_filter)

The UK went into lockdown and I went into meltdown.

When I heard the announcement on the news, I was on my Mum’s sofa and I immediately felt the usual sick way that I do when I get anxious. I needed to get out of the house, so I quickly escaped on a walk with my dog. My thoughts were far from pleasant and I silently cried while I slowly paced around my local area. This marked the start of a tough couple of weeks.

I fell into the behaviours that you would probably expect from a person with anxieties, I was obsessed with updates on the lockdown, it became my most frequently searched term on Google! My skin condition, urticaria, flared up which happens when I experience stress. My sleeping got worse than usual and I was easily irritated by silly things. Most of all, I fixated on the negatives of my situation, such as the impact living alone would have on me.

I’m not going to pretend that I had an epiphany on day fifteen and I’m now thriving in my new life of one daily walk and it being a glam day if I put on jeans!

However, I’ve now established a flexible routine and I’ve settled into working from home.

I check the news once a day and I appreciate that I am lucky to be healthy and still have my job. However, I don’t give myself a hard time when I have a bad day and I don’t pay attention to unhelpful comments online, criticising people for struggling as there are others with more serious struggles. Of course, this is true, but I heard recently that, ‘you wouldn’t tell someone not to be happy, because there is someone happier’ and that has stuck with me ever since.

The most positive outcome of this situation for me, is that I am in touch with my thoughts, emotions and my behaviour, more than ever.

Some things that have helped me are:

  • Reawakening my passion for writing: As a Careers Coach, I regularly create resources and assist others with writing about themselves. However, it had been so long since I wrote for pleasure. I now record my thoughts in a journal, you are currently reading my second blog post and I rediscovered my love for writing poems. Writing has felt a bit like offloading to my best friend; I get out my thoughts and I then feel better. 

 

  • Walking: I think it’s amazing that so many people are focusing on their fitness, but I was previously anxious about my weight, so I don’t put pressure on myself to follow a rigid exercise routine. Pre-lockdown, when I had a crap day, I benefitted from getting out of the house and being around others; walking isn’t a substitute for this, but it helps me to get rid of negative energy by doing something active. 

 

  • Keeping my space tidy: This won’t work for everyone but a clear space, means a clearer mind for me. I also find cleaning quite therapeutic as it helps me to focus on the task in hand and not overthink. 

 

  • Paying it forward: I have been trying to spread some positivity remotely, for example, I suggested to my colleagues that we each send a card to another person in the team with a positive message. I also started an Instagram account to raise awareness of mental health and share experiences and strategies with others. As a people person, helping and connecting with others always lifts my mood. 
  • Revisiting coping mechanisms for anxiety: I have done a lot of research into cognitive behaviour therapy techniques over the last few years, as some of the principles are useful for my job in supporting young people. I have also personally been through this type of therapy; this helps me to reframe negative thoughts and therefore gain better control of my feelings and actions. 

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I still regularly think that I can’t wait for this to be over! I miss the little things in my life, but the lockdown has caused me to have a deeper appreciation for all the good aspects of it.

I have also realised that the little things ARE the BIG things. Being forced into this situation that I have no control over, has helped me to put less focus on other things that I can’t control.

I was previously anxious about being single as I am about to approach my 30th birthday, but I have gained a more positive perspective on this. I may not be able to control what happens TO me, but I can control what is IN me, which are my thoughts and how they make me feel and react.

Nicole is a careers coach and freelance writer in the UK and is on Instagram @nicole_no_filter

Im not coping perfectly right now, but that’s OK: Lockdown Life by Eleanor

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(image: Pinterest)

Hope will carry you through. At the moment it feels like fear is taking over at times! Everything is so uncertain with the current global pandemic and routines changing, being unable to source certain freelance work, having to stay indoors a lot, not being able to see friends or family in person. People dying and being hospitalised. Everything is scary. Add to that the fear of death, the fear of the virus whenever I go out and you have…

Anxiety overdrive!

I was in self isolation a few weeks ago for what could have been mild Covid 19- I had a dry cough, sweats and fatigue. I recovered and am fine and still don’t know if it was Coronavirus or something else.

Then, the UK went into a form of lockdown.

I am not coping perfectly with all this. I’m trying my best to put routine and structure into my days. Some days I am so tired from it all, I need an afternoon nap in order to be more productive. I wake some days feeling anxious about what is to come, it all feels so surreal. One night, I sat and cried as everything felt too much with trying to balance work and life.

But, I wiped my tears, talked it out with family and felt better.

One thing I have started is a project called Corona Cards which sends handmade cards to people feeling lonely or needing cheering up in isolation. I now have 3 other team members (Bex, Donna and Abigail) making cards and its been really enjoyable. We send them by post to UK residents at no cost to them and you can follow us on Twitter @corona_cards and Instagram @coronacards1.

We have sent about 30-35 cards already and you can request them by asking me or messaging our pages. We hope it helps people’s mental health, particularly anyone very low or suicidal.

Crafting and focusing on the project has helped me a lot, I go for a short walk to the postbox to post them and therefore have a purpose to my walks! To know it is helping people also means a lot, and I have had 2 back in return which is lovely.

Thankfully, I can still have sessions with my therapist by Zoom and I have family support too. It is such a strange time in all our lives and it is understandable that anxiety and fear will creep back in. Especially if we have loved ones who are ill or we have existing mental health conditions.

I am thinking of those who are ill, particularly the ones I know about personally and wish them a full recovery.

A wise friend of mine told me this week that it is OK to take time for yourself. To just be, to look after your mental health. She is right.

So right now, despite feeling like I should be constantly working or busy with Pesach cleaning, I will be looking out for self care and I hope you will too. Keep focusing on gratitude.

Wishing all my Jewish friends a happy Pesach and everyone else a good Easter break.

How are you feeling?

Eleanor x

Lockdown and Dealing with Mental Health: Guest blog by author Graham Morgan MBE

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(image of Ardmore, Scotland by http://scotlandwildlife.blogspot.com/2011/07/tobermory-to-ardmore-bay-isle-of-mull.html )

My name is Graham Morgan. This is my story of how I’m coping under lockdown.

I have just got back from walking Dash the dog round Ardmore. There was not a person in sight; just the sound of the curlews and the crows, the roar of the cold wind in the trees and the sound of the waves on the seashore. It gave me a chance to think and ponder on this first day of lockdown. It blew my tiredness away. As I reached the point; I looked along the Clyde to Dunoon; where my sister works as a midwife and hoped she was ok and thought about my brother, a medical director and psychiatrist;  having to make decisions about the future that no one should have to make.

Driving the two minute journey home I passed the post office van ; strange to see the postie with his mask and blue gloves. I felt slightly guilty for being out and had to remind myself that we are allowed one exercise session a day; that walking the dog counts as that.

I am so lucky compared to others. My friend phoned last night to say he had just managed to get home after breaking the news to his friend’s sister that that friend had killed himself days ago. Back to an email saying he was sacked from his job and that his tenant. who he shares his house with, was leaving the house as London, feels too unsafe. To deal with that?

I found out recently a Twitter friend was passing round my book on a psychiatric ward. The thought of being back in hospital but with no visitors and all the restrictions that happen now, fills me with horror; makes my last hospital stay feel pleasant. 

Yesterday a young man contacted me on Facebook to say how much he enjoyed my book START and how he was now in self isolation. I remembered he had been in hospital for months and months; was just getting used to his first flat; getting back to education, finding joy in his creativity. I remembered the loneliness I felt when I lived alone; those days when there was no one to speak to, to share a smile with. How it tore at me! Slapped me to the ground with sadness. I think of so many friends who are already lonely; lost in their lives, lacking the energy to even make a cup of tea.

I am indeed lucky. So far in our tiny household we have got over the twin’s meltdowns when we took them out of school last Monday. How frightened they were and how much they miss their friends. Home schooling for the moment is fun, I imagine, as the weeks go, by it will get harder. We are lucky we still have perspective; not to get angry and argue because of our own anxiety.

I am used to being awake in the early hours, yet somehow I am sleeping OK at the moment and have decreased my drinking. 

My understanding of the world (due to my beliefs at the moment) is that I am evil and bringing about its destruction; I think I am partly responsible for the fires and floods; the wars but, for some reason, coronavirus seems to have nothing to do with me. I have no idea why, but it is a relief.

I have more realistic worries, like the special care my Mum made to get a long tight hug when I left her in England to go back up to Scotland. 

We have been working from home and have been more or less self- isolated since Monday because my partner has asthma and yet her separated husband is a key worker  and looks after the kids too. There is relief that these are ‘real’ worries that I can grasp; not my usual ones.

The most pressing concerns are how to work from home as well as home schooling the children; how to get bread and eggs. The biggest inconvenience has been having to queue outside the chemist for my anti depressants; thankful that my GP realised I was taking them too infrequently and that now I am back up to the required dose I feel so much more relaxed.

I have one quandary; a minor one. I went to get my jag (injection) yesterday for my mental illness. The CPN (community psychiatric nurse) who gave me it had no more protection than normal. It was quick and painless.

He said he didn’t know where the community mental health team would be soon; they may be based with another more urban one by my next appointment. He said that if I, or anyone else near me, got any symptoms I was to phone in but that he had no idea what they would do if I did; that I might have to take oral medication.

At that I was lost because, of course I would have to;  not doing so at such a time would cause so much trouble but, at the same time; I am on a community section because I cannot make myself take medication, how can I agree to that, if it happens?

I have my work, I have food, my lovely family and Dash the dog who cuddles tightly up to me every night. I have my writing, my books, my music. So many people I know have nothing approaching that. 

I think I am glad I don’t have the imagination to see the scale of what is happening and am not torturing myself with the ‘what ifs’. Good luck to all of you who may not be in such a good place. Let us all help each other as best we can over the coming weeks.

 

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health and is the Author of START (by Fledgling Press) a memoir of compulsory treatment, love and the natural world. Available from Amazon and Waterstones on line.

He can be found at @GrahamM23694298 on twitter and at Graham Morgan – author; on facebook or at the Scottish Booktrust Live Literature database at https://www.scottishbooktrust.com/authors/graham-morgan

 

Life under Lockdown: Keeping yourself busy at home: Guest blog by Chloe Walker

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(image: https://www.cottagesforcouples.com/)

As Covid-19 continues to spread and the world scrambles to stay a step ahead, many of us are finding ourselves isolating at home in unprecedented circumstances. All around the world governments are increasingly ramping up safety measures to protect both their medical staff and their most vulnerable citizens.

As we all adapt to a new and still rapidly changing world, there are challenges to our wellbeing, financial security and even mental health.

On the other hand, many people are now realising that life in lockdown offers many unique advantages. Just because you’re self-isolating or social distancing, it doesn’t mean that life has to be put on hold completely. In fact, now could well be the time to capitalise on the extra time spent at home to do things that otherwise would have taken the back seat.

Here are a few ideas for ways to make sure your time under quarantine is spent wisely.
Get your garden ready for spring

In the UK, the first glorious days of spring have appeared, reminding us all that there’s plenty to be grateful for. Warmer and brighter days lure us outside again after a long winter. If your garden needs some love, put on your wellies and know that a little outdoor work could do wonders for stress levels.

Gardeners know that work in the yard is never really finished. Still, avoid mowing your lawn too short for now. According to mowing specialists Mowers Online, “As the growing season starts selecting the blade height to 50mm will give optimum grass blade thickness which is crucial for growth. This height may seem rugged at first but remembering that grass blades are solar panels for the lawn and the more energy created, the more luscious the lawn.”

Finding time to garden during the Spring will keep you occupied, physically active and out there getting essential vitamin D.

Try some spring cleaning

In the same spirit, why not use the longer, brighter days to inspire you to clean up a little? If you’re now working from home, you may find yourself with extra time on your hands – and the opportunity to get around to all those deep cleaning jobs that have accumulated over the year.

Lift your spirits by clearing away clutter, reorganising drawers and cupboards, shampooing the carpets or cleaning the windows. The lockdown will end eventually, and you’ll really appreciate a bright and shiny home to see you through the challenges that will come with getting back to work again.
Bring a little of the outdoors indoors

It’s now well understood that nature has an incredible ability to relax us and boost mental wellbeing. As most of us try to manage the inevitable stresses the coronavirus has brought with it, we can turn to nature to recalibrate, de-stress and remind ourselves of what’s important.

Even if it’s gloomy outside, bring a little nature indoors to get the benefits. Stonehouse Furniture suggest ‘‘A window box on the outside is a great way to add a splash of colour to your day as you do mundane kitchen chores. Spring bulbs, miniature daffodils, polyanthus and summer bedding plants are a very cheap way to add nature and colour to your kitchen outlook.’’
Enjoy cooking
Now’s the time to get in touch with your domesticity! There’s more time now than ever to really relish the joys of preparing fresh, healthy, home-cooked meals for your family. With grocery shop orders being a little unpredictable, you likely have a stock of ingredients on hand anyway. Why not get creative and try some new recipes you were always too busy to attempt before, or concoct your own meals? Rope in the family for some quality time cooking together, and experiment with different daily routines.

Can’t find your usual ingredients in the store anymore? Accept the challenge and eat something a little more exciting and out of your culinary comfort zone. Have too much fresh food on your hands? Try batch cooking and then freeze the extra food for emergencies.

It may at first seem limiting to have to stay at home, but use your imagination and reframe staying at home as a great opportunity instead. Get stuck into that hobby you’ve always put off, or flex your creativity with painting, poetry, crafts or knitting. Stay fit indoors by doing yoga or YouTube workouts, enjoy your pets, or have your own mini party in the living room with your favourite music. Films, books and musical instruments are your friends right now.  Keep in touch with your literal friends online, or get out some board games to play with the family.

The coronavirus has challenged us all to prioritize what’s truly essential: our mental and physical wellbeing. Take this opportunity to reconnect with yourself, with nature, and with those you love, and you’ll soon wonder why you don’t spend more time at home!

This blog was written by freelance writer Chloe Walker, who is based in the UK.