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Seven top tips for managing your mental health in lockdown

As we enter a fresh period of lockdown, many of us are finding our frustration and anxiety are peaking. Kirsty Lilley, mental health specialist at CABA, outlines methods to maintain resilience in the coming months.

February 2021

Having spent several months looking forward to the end of 2020, we’ve arrived at 2021 only to find that, within days, we’re in no better position than we were before. For many of us, it might in fact feel worse.

Troubling as the next few months may seem though, there are steps that we can take to weather this storm of unpredictability and ensure that we come out the other side with our mental wellbeing intact.

1. Accept the situation

The first step towards getting through any challenging experience is to accept it. When things get difficult, we tend to resist or deny them, because it’s natural to not want to be in pain. The problem here is that this resistance uses a huge amount of energy, leaving little with which to actually confront the problem.

That said, acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean being happy about where we are. You might feel sad; angry, even. And that’s OK. What you do need is to acknowledge the situation at hand, so that you can take control and ask what you want the story of the next few months to be for you.

2. Reflect on last time

You might very well be thinking that you can’t cope with another lockdown. Depending on how you were affected by the tiers, you’ve done it at least once already and come out the other side. Instead, prepare yourself for the weeks ahead by reflecting on those previous experiences. 

What helped you get through last time? Likewise, what ultimately proved to be detrimental? Allow yourself time for this process. Give yourself space, privacy, and try to focus on what would genuinely help you, as an individual, instead of getting hooked on everybody else’s narratives.

3. Get back into your routine

During the first lockdown, one of the most widely offered pieces of advice was to establish a routine. Something that gave you a sense of purpose when we couldn’t leave the house. 

With the festive season over, and large numbers of people now back to work, albeit often still from home, consider the New Year an opportunity for something of a reset. Try to rediscover the routine that kept you going before, and you’re bound to find this new lockdown a little easier.

4. Manage your exposure

One of the ways in which we try to take control of stressful situations is gathering data. The problem, however, with an area as broad and intimidating as COVID-19, is that by plugging into the never-ending stream of news coverage and social media, we can easily become overwhelmed.

It’s important to be informed, but there’s a balance to be found. Consider watching the news just once in the morning or evening, and then putting barriers in place for the rest of the day.

5. Take comfort from the little things

With the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, many of us are taking comfort in the knowledge that there is now an end in sight. However, it’s not enough to take all of our joy from the bigger picture. To maintain our mental wellbeing, we need also celebrate the little victories we achieve on a daily basis. We need take hope from the here and now, just as much as from the future.

6. Be kind to yourself

Self-compassion is incredibly important. Far too often, we see parents, carers and healthcare workers neglecting their own needs in order to prioritise others. While this is admirable, it isn’t sustainable to be kind to others long-term if you aren’t kind to yourself.

This isn’t always easy; self-care can actually be incredibly courageous. It’s about looking at your experiences kindly – your failures just as much as your successes – and asking what you can do next.

7. Recognise that you are doing enough

This is especially important for parents who are trying to oversee home-learning while also remotely holding down a full-time job. Talk to your children about how they’re feeling and keep them in a routine, but ultimately, recognise that you can only do so much.

Whatever you are doing, you must recognise that it won’t go to plan everyday. If, at the end of the day you feel you have achieved something, then you are doing it right.

Resilience is an individual toolbox. Some of the suggestions above will work for you, while others won’t. Reflect on what works for you and run with it.

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