How to work on your mental health

I am worried, here we go again, another lockdown.

The feeling that there will be light at the end of the tunnel is disappearing to a dot on the horizon. My first reaction is that gut wrenching frustration of ‘oh no’, followed by flat depressive feelings. I know how devastating this is going to be for so many people that I have been talking to online. There is a philosophical oracle called the ‘I Ching’ that makes suggestions on the best course of action that you should take. A common phrase in the Ching is ‘it favours you to have somewhere to go’. This means to me that we each need a goal or a destination, a meaning or a purpose to life. This is what seems to be missing right now. In lockdown with continued restrictions and closures it can be hard to see a future. If we feel that there is nowhere to go, that there is no future, then there is no meaning and it can easily become ‘what is the point?’

Because I know how my mind works and how easy it is for the negative monkey in my head, that I call Eric, to come out and throw negative bananas at me, I am vigilante and at times like this and I do my best to not give Eric any head space. It is the living reality of…

…thoughts become things.

I know that once I start to ruminate on the negative it will grow and get even bigger in my mind. Once the rumination begins I am lost so I either, don’t let it happen or I nip it in the bud as soon as possible.

Mind control

It was hard for me to realise that I was responsible for my mind and for what I was thinking or feeling. Now I know how real this is. Either we are on autopilot and simply accepting and reacting to what we are told by media or other people or we are mindfully observant and respond to events in ways that serve us well. This is the living reality of…

…it is not what happens that is important,
it is how we respond to it that really matters.

You have a choice

How are you reacting or responding to the news of more restrictions?

First time around we faced without knowing what it would be like. We played with ideas of working though box sets and taking training, learning to cook or catching up on that pile of books that need to be read. First time around we were naive this time we have knowledge. For those on furlough what will you do.

Let’s get real

Okay, so have a look at the first lockdown. What went well and what didn’t? What do you need to do this time around to make it better?

When life loses its meaning and we lose our motivation the best thing that we can do is make a plan. In the non lockdown world the days of the week have a meaning that is mainly dictated by what we would do on those days. Most of us would work all week which made Sunday a good day to sit around and do very little, take it easy and not feel the need to do anything. The problem is when everyday becomes a Sunday it can feel like there is never anything to do.

Let’s make a plan

Think of it like this, every morning the universe gives you a time cheque, you now have twenty four hours. How will you spend this free windfall? How will you invest your today. What you do will dictate just how you will feel at the end of today. How you feel at the end of today, when you go to sleep will dictate how you will feel tomorrow when you wake up. How about you make a plan?

Either get some paper, or use your device, and set out a calendar of your week. First entries need to be about sleep, exercise and food.

1: Set your alarm – set your sleep pattern
The first thing that tends to go astray is our sleep pattern. It can be easy to think what is the point in getting out of bed. Then your sleep pattern slips and you are awake until the early hours and getting up at lunchtime. Decide on the best time to get up that is pretty similar to your normal regime, count back eight hours from there, that is your bed time. Don’t take phones, tablets and computers or televisions into the bedroom. Your bedroom is your sleep room. We now know that if you are sleeping for less than seven hours this could be due to worry or stress, feeling anxious and if you are sleeping for more than nine hours this could be due to low mood or depression. Either way exercise can help.

2: Move your body
Go for a walk. Go a bit further each day. Decide on your step count, make sure that you do at least that. At least three times a week, but preferably 30 minutes each day, raise you heart rate. If you can run or dance even better. Find an exercise dvd or check out youtube online to see what resources they have. We know that if you raise your heart rate for at least twenty minutes your brain will release happy hormones and you will feel good.

3: What is going in your mouth and when are you doing it?
So many people put on weight in the last lockdown.

The joke is ‘are you doing the lockdown 5k?’. That is not the 5k race it is the 5k of weight that you can put on if you are not careful. One problem that we have identified with people who do manage their steps each day is that they then often feel justified in eating whatever they want. Sadly it doesn’t work that way. Weight is like a bank account. If you deposit more calories than you spend the balance just keeps on growing. It is so important that we all maintain regular meal times and avoid snacking. We now know that when you eat carbohydrates your brain secretes serotonin, the happy hormone, and you feel better. So when you are craving those carbs you are really self medicating to make yourself feel better.

So, the deal is that to survive another lockdown we all need to get organised, plan what we going to do and create a purpose and meaning to each day. In the next podcast I want to look at the seven levels of our human egos and personalities that need to be tended to maintain our sanity.

Take care and get that weekly diary sorted.

Sean x

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