Mental Health Matters: 5 Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health
1. Anticipate Stress
Some days it might feel like you’re in a constant state of stress, while other days you may feel calm and at peace with the world, only to have your stress levels shoot up again when you watch the news or go on Twitter.
It’s important to recognise what causes you stress and what can be done to limit the effects on your mental state. For example, a glass of wine or a takeaway in the evening may help you unwind, but if you notice you’re waking up the next morning feeling even more anxious, it might be worth cutting them out for a while. Similarly, it’s natural to want to keep up to date with news and current events, but if you start to see a link between sitting down for the 6pm news and your anxiety levels spiking, try and reduce your viewing. You could only watch the news every other day, or see if reading the headlines at your own pace online is less stress-inducing than watching a newsreader list them off.
By now the novelty of Zoom quizzes and Houseparty calls has most definitely worn off and it can be very easy to unintentionally cut yourself off from people. Sometimes the idea of a call or Zoom without the purpose of news to share or a game to play sounds either unnecessary or forced, but it doesn’t have to be.
Who says Zoom calls have to involve quizzes? Why not cook/eat dinner with a friend or family member, or both get crafting at the same time on a call. The activity provides a distraction from staring at each other with nothing to say, as well as allowing the kind of normal, everyday chatter we’ve lost (e.g. “Oh no, I’ve dropped a stitch”, “Does this roast look done to you?”).
Make sure to be discerning, however. As much as you need to spend time with people, don’t force yourself to say yes to everything. Some people are draining and, as much as you could cope with them before lockdown, may just be too much for you at the moment. If you need to, be kind, but be firm with your boundaries.
3. Control the Controllable
There are so many things you can’t control right now whether it’s other people’s blatant disregard for the rules or what time your grocery order will be delivered. It’s easy to feel like everything has been thrown out of kilter and you’re floundering, but there are some things that you can control, and use to get your feet back on solid ground.
A few things you can control:
- What you eat
- How you spend your free time
- How much you exercise
Try to focus on the things you can control in life, even if it’s something as small as what socks to put on in the morning. It may not seem like much but, once you get into the habit of focusing on the controllable, you will feel the benefit.
4. Set Reasonable Expectations
As an Early Years practitioner you have pressure from both the UK government and the families of children to provide quality learning, whether online or in person. You may feel like you’re not achieving all you want to, either in your setting or at home after work (when all you want to do is go to bed). This can cause a vicious circle of feeling unproductive and disappointed in yourself, leading to feeling down, making you even less likely to be able to face laundry, cleaning or anything else you’ve been putting off.
Instead of berating yourself because you haven’t been able to carry on with home life as normal during a global pandemic, instead set small, realistic goals. Allow yourself to just have a ready-meal instead of cooking for the family, so you have time to put a wash on before still getting an early night. Or set aside Saturday afternoon for a tidy-up, and allow yourself to ignore the mess during the week. Things are not normal, so don’t beat yourself up for not being able to act as you would normally.
5. Create a Dedicated Workspace
If you’re working from home, there’s a lot to be said for making your own office space. Don’t worry – we’re not expecting everyone to have a spare room with a full computer set-up, but there are ways you can separate yourself from family life slightly more than trying to work from the sofa. If you’re sitting at the kitchen table, use cushions to make sure you’re not slouching. If the bedroom’s the quietest part of the house, a laptop tray may help get you more in the mindset of work.
The important thing to remember is that you are working under intense pressure in a situation very few of us could ever imagine happening, so it’s unsurprising if you’re struggling. If things are getting too much, however, please consult the NHS website for mental health services in your local area, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.