Samaritans' Tips For Dealing With Mental Health Struggles During Lockdown
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It's totally normal if the pandemic has affected your mental health and wellbeing.
You may feel unsettled by what's going on in the world, you may feel lonely or it might seem like everything is out of your control. At the same time, it can be hard to open up about your struggles, especially for young men, according to recent research from Exeter, Manchester and Brunel universities.
It's for this reason that, now more than ever, charities like Samaritans are a crucial lifeline.
While the organisation is available for a phone chat or email exchange 24/7, 365 days a year, they have also provided some top tips and resources to help you look after your wellbeing at this tough time.
Keep track of how you're feeling
Tracking how you're feeling and noticing how your mood changes over time can help you to see important patterns.
Not only can you prepare yourself if you're going to have bad days, but it also allows you to realise that while you're feeling bad today, you could feel differently tomorrow.
Samaritans' self-help web app can help you track your mood while providing practical tips and techniques to look after your emotional wellbeing.
Talk about how you're feeling
We know this can be hard if you're feeling down, but speaking to those who you love - whether friends, relatives or colleagues - is extremely important to feel socially connected.
Rather than just speaking to your pals in WhatsApp groups, why not give them a call one-on-one to ask how they're feeling and coping with the pandemic?
Same goes for your relatives. Try and reach out to them to talk, and try to be there to listen to their problems too.
And if you have no one to talk to, Samaritans are there to listen.
Make a routine and stick to it
Sticking to a routine has been proven to help keep the mind busy, make us feel in control and reduce stress levels.
You could try buying yourself a notebook and writing lists with realistic goals. Prioritise getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising too.
If this seems too overwhelming right now, something as simple as a short walk outside after lunch is a great place to start.
Make time for doing something you feel passionate about
Speaking of routines, another good starting point is making time for doing something you enjoy - even if it's just half an hour a day.
You could try learning a new skill, doing something creative or even reading your fave books or watching films.
There are tonnes of free online courses available on YouTube, or you could even have a go at sharing your skills by launching your own course.
Try relaxing exercises
Studies have shown that relaxation exercises such as mindfulness meditation, visualisation and yoga can help to relieve stress and boost your mood.
If you aren't vibing anything too strenuous, even something as simple as controlled breathing or muscle relaxation can help you to feel calmer.
There's a bunch of apps to help guide you through these practices - Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer are a few examples - or simply type 'guided controlled breathing' into YouTube and have a go at one of the videos on there.
Sometimes, a conversation with a friend can make all the difference.
We connected two lads from Samaritans to show how important it is to keep the conversation going. Azhar is a volunteer listener who answers the phones, and Danny was a caller who has managed to overcome his emotional struggles thanks to the support of the charity.
Azhar found it can be difficult for people to speak up in WhatsApp group chats: "All we talk about is Fantasy Football. There must be mental struggles between all of us, but we won't talk about it in the group
"What's important, especially for guys, is to check in with your friends.
"If you can call them one-to-one, do it. It doesn't need to be a deep and meaningful conversation, it can just be speaking to someone and letting them know that it's okay to accept that they're not feeling fine and there will be better times to come."
Danny, who first reached out to Samaritans in 2018, shared some advice he wishes he received when he was struggling with mental health: "Just take a deep breath, don't overthink things.
"Focus on getting through today and reach out to as many people as you can, whether it be family or friends.
"Tomorrow's a different day and it may be better than today."
UOKM8? is a campaign from LADbible, featuring films and stories that provide advice and inspiration about mental health.