Biomedical Science student at University of Manchester
2020 is definitely a year we won’t forget. Things we never even imagined could happen have become reality. For example, I never thought I would sit at home, with my cup of tea and still attend university abroad.
This virus has brought forth so many challenges by interrupting our mundane routines and has even cancelled our travel plans for the summer.
On a different note, it has also affected our mental health. This might seem like a trivial subject and some might even choose to neglect it, but along with taking care of our physical health, it is essential that we invest in our mental health, too. Especially in these unprecedented times.
The frustration caused by the uncertainty of this situation has, no doubt, hit some of us worse than others. However, even in the midst of chaos, we find ways to smile, to laugh, to be grateful and remind others around us to be grateful; for what we have and even for what we don’t. We continue to progress and grow, even in this discord that I like to call ‘the hurricane’, where we are sometimes in the eye and sometimes in the rain.
No doubt, it’s hard to stay positive if you have lost a loved one or your job or an opportunity you were looking forward to; your feelings are valid. However, we need to remember, there are somethings that we can control and somethings we simply cannot. So, here’s a piece of advice: Focus on the things you can control.
Here are 8 ways you can get your life on track, all while taking care of your mental health.
This might seem like the perfect time to slack off and chill, but let’s not make every day a ‘slack off day’ for the rest of the months 🙂 Plan your day, so you don’t end up feeling aimless. Whether you like to use a to-do lists or a weekly planner, try to set some goals for each day that keep you motivated.
What’s more important than achieving these goals is simply taking the initiate. Productivity of each day will vary, so don’t let that stress you out, because at the end of the day it’s your effort that counts. Instead of just putting down study, study, study, write down things like workout, read, art, mediate, skin care, etc.
It’s time to break that ‘sleep late= wake up late’ loop. Becoming a morning person is probably one the healthiest decisions you will make, and it will simply save you a whole load of stress throughout the day. Here are some tips on how to fix your sleeping schedule and get better sleep:
Go to bed 15 minutes earlier each day until you reach a healthy bedtime.
Avoid use of tech (which includes your phone) at least an hour before your bedtime.
Avoid drinking too much water before going to bed.
Avoid long naps during the day.
Keep your curtains slightly open to let light into your room in the morning. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm.
Stick to your sleep schedule. (This is a challenging one).
Try apps like Calm & Headspace for a little support.
If you are already a morning person, then give yourself a pat on the back. Do it!
Choose a time, be consistent and don’t over work yourself. Remember, it’s all about taking an initiate.
So, whether you start with 15 minutes a day or an hour a day, consistency is key! Nevertheless, don’t beat yourself up for skipping a day, because it’s alright to take a break sometimes. Be kind to yourself!
Learn to do something that will pay off in the future, even if it’s simple real-life skills like cooking, cleaning, making your bed, calling the customer service or even changing the bulb. Basically, anything that makes you feel more empowered and independent. There is always room for improvement, so take this time to groom yourself and remember it’s “progress over perfection”. Moreover, if you want to learn a specific skill related to your field, there some insightful courses offered by Coursera or edX from top universities free of cost. Check them out!
Give time to your relationships. Since parents and children are home, it is a great time to link up with your family. You can call your grandparents to check up on them or set up a zoom meeting with your friends occasionally.
Furthermore, you can reach out and make a difference through virtual volunteering opportunities. Take this time to practice empathy and develop your communication skills. Talk to people, but most importantly connect with yourself, with your thoughts and have positive conversations with yourself if that brings you peace. Connect with your surroundings and practise mindfulness.
It’s a great way to stay up to date on the latest news/ trends and stay connected. You can use this platform to educate yourself and spread awareness. However, it is important to note, there’s currently a lot of negative news out there; therefore, if you find yourself aimlessly scrolling for hours through your feed and reading tones of upsetting news, it’s about time you take a break.
We are not all born as artists, but the great thing is with practice we get better. Art is therapeutic and has many forms like painting, calligraphy, sketching, photography, poetry and even cooking. It not only connects you with your own creativity, but releasing your emotions as art alleviates anxiety, depression and stress. Therefore, find the type of art you find the most relaxing and get on with your masterpiece!
One thing this whole situation has made us realise is how much we take for granted. Therefore, take a few moments to reflect on your experiences and focus on what you gained from them. Do things that inspire you and those around you. Smile! Read! Write! Breathe!
Observe the movement of your lungs and the air you inhale and exhale. Notice the little things in life and appreciate them. Make it your goal to be a different person after this period of isolation. A kinder and a thoughtful person.
Feel free to get in touch with CAMHS.Digital or me (email@example.com) for any questions you have or just a talk 🙂
Being a part of CAMHS.Digital has been a truly wonderful experience and we have gotten so much insight into topics like mental health and wellbeing and how different technologies can be used to improve these. They have very dedicated and caring members that continue to stay in touch with us even during these difficult times. I am grateful to be a part of this group that allows me to make a difference in society, whilst learning ways to improve our own mental wellbeing.
This is the first blog I have ever written, so kindly let me know what you think in the comments. Peace!
.…by Emma – CAMHS Research Advisory Member (22 years)
“Everything is so strange at the moment, everything is confusing, everything is uncertain!!
No one knows what is happening, no one knows (really) how to handle the situation, no one knows what this means for the future.
As a university student during this pandemic, this period has been a HUGE learning curve for me. Not only has all of our learning been transferred online, but so has (or, so it seems) the entirety of our lives! If I want to see my friends, we have to organise a videocall (I quickly learnt how to use Zoom, pre-March, I had never heard of it before), if I want to see my grandparents… videocall! If I want to organise birthday gifts for family/friends… online shopping (I thought I’d save money during lockdown, but it is clear to me that online shopping can very easily become your new best friend). Our new online lives are strange and confusing, but they are also exciting.
And, that is why I feel so lucky and grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of the CAMHS digital advisory group. This group uses the involvement of young people to conduct research and, as a result, develop digital mental health interventions relevant to service users. How relevant is such a group, especially at the moment, in a world that is increasingly relying on technology to run. CAMHS digital group is still running every week and it is amazing to feel surrounded by such dedicated and passionate individuals who, not only, want to create positive change for mental health services but who want the resources to be easily accessible to our online generation! The passion, dedication, ambition and commitment of everyone involved is inspiring to see, especially so as a university student, and I feel proud to be part of such a valuable group.
I am also passionate about helping others (in whatever way I can), so here is my unsolicited advice on how to cope and be kind to yourself during this pandemic:
While it’s important to keep up to date with Covid-19 developments, it is equally as important (if not, more so) that you keep a check on your mental health over the coming weeks and months, to ensure you’re best placed to handle any impending challenges with resilience and strength.
Distinguishing between what you can and can’t control is a key component of managing your mental health and lessening anxiety. By focusing your energy and attention on the factors within your control, you’re giving your mind something practical and helpful to focus on.
It’s important to acknowledge how you are feeling, rather than dismissing ‘negative’ emotions or beating yourself up for feeling them. Accept that you feel the way you do, and that it may be what you need to feel in this moment.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a great way to express emotions.
Have self-compassion – be kind to yourself. Showing yourself a little kindness can often be the best way to help keep anxiety under control.
Self-isolation might become a very real experience for many of us over the coming months, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stay connected with loved ones and the outside world. If you’re worried about being alone, try to prepare in advance by reaching out to your community, friends or family.
Don’t force yourself to be productive. The current climate is crap enough without the added guilt of not learning Latin, doing Tai Chi or making artisan bread from scratch. If you woke up, brushed your teeth, ate something and spent 15 minutes not thinking about the Coronavirus then well done. That IS an achievement. Sometimes the best thing to do is just be, feel things and get through. Survive. That is more than enough.
Talking. Talk about how you feel. You’re not going through this alone. WE’RE not going through this alone. It is okay to struggle. Struggling is understandable and reaching out for help does not make you weak.
It is okay to feel what you feel now.
Ultimately, the difference in how we get through these uncertain times will come down to how we think about the situation. We can’t predict the future, and if we focus on our fears and doubt our ability to cope with what will happen, we will naturally feel anxious. If, on the other hand, we focus on the present and what we can control, as well as our strength and resilience, then together we will get through this difficult time.
At times like these, we need to remind ourselves that, whatever we may feel, it is valid. It is okay. It is important. It is justified. And, equally, it will pass. It is okay to be a mess. It is okay to respond differently to how others respond. It is okay to not be productive with every single minute of your day. It is okay to survive. These aren’t normal times so do not have normal expectations of yourself. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Allow yourself to simply exist.
Your thoughts are only thoughts, they too shall pass. Our current situation shall pass as well. What is important is that you stay true to yourself. Who you truly are will never change.
One day this will be over and we will all be so grateful for life in ways we never recognised before.
If you’ve got to the end of this blog (well done) and would like the chance to get involved in this inspiring group, follow this link – https://camhs.digital/contact/
Blogging off (like ‘logging off’ – I’m proud of my pun okay), Emma”
Cara is passionate about transforming healthcare using data & digital. Cara is leading on Covid and mental health for Health Innovation Manchester and will be talking to us about the new developments to support young people.
Alan Ford: Greater Manchester Children and Young People’s Mental Health Commissioning Lead, Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership.
Al will be speaking about wider developments across Greater Manchester to help with children and young people’s emotional wellbeing throughout this pandemic. Al will be able to provide an overview of GM’s response and helpful resources.
Lauren Barclay, Youth Mental Health Matters
Lauren is the Founder of this mental health charity and sits on many boards across Greater Manchester giving a youth voice in Mental Health services. She is also a Young Advisor for Young Minds. Lauren will be sharing her top tips on how to keep well during Covid-19 and answer any questions other young people may have.