It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the moment. In fact, it’s quite natural. What with the coronavirus statistics on the news, concern about loved ones, difficulty finding food supplies, new working arrangements, possible home schooling responsibilities, and restriction on what we can and can’t do, these are definitely strange and unsettling times. It would be unusual NOT to feel stressed now and again – it’s your body’s fight or flight response kicking in.

We’ve compiled some tips to help you unwind when things feel too much, and to help you keep mentally well during this disruption to normal life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed for long periods, please speak to your GP or check out the resources linked at the end of this blog.

And breathe

Deep breathing helps you feel connected to your body — it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind. Even a few rounds can help you calm down when things feel too much. Try it now if you need convincing! Breathe in for a slow count of 5, hold for 3, then breathe out for 5. Repeat 5 times and feel the difference! You could also try one of the many mindfulness apps out there that promote good mental health, like Headspace and Calm.

Find the positives

Even when life is miserable, there will be things that make you feel blessed. The Spring sunshine and flowers, your pet (who’s delighted to have you home 24/7), your family (even if they’re less delighted), that Netflix series you're watching. So, what are you grateful for? What are your rainbows of hope in the Covid dark cloud? Make a list that you can revisit and add to when you need reminding. You’ll be amazed at how many positives you can find when you look.

Embrace the opportunity

How many times in the past year did you complain you didn’t have enough time as you dashed from one responsibility to the next? Yes, coronavirus has massively disrupted our lives and we can’t do many of the day-to-day activities we used to take for granted, but that’s actually a rare opportunity to slow down. Even if you’re still juggling work, kids and exercise, you hopefully have some room round the edges without a commute, play dates, etc. Don't pressure yourself to use this time for massive 'self-improvement' - self love is just as important, so do what you love – read, do a puzzle, listen to music, paint, bake, or research that dream holiday for once things return to normality!

Stay active

Mental health experts say that exercise can elevate your mood and reduce anxiety as well as your overall fitness. When we exercise it releases endorphins - the "feel good" chemicals in our brains, and that makes us feel happy, so don’t forget to build exercise into your day too. Our free Places Locker app has lots of home workouts for all ages and abilities, included some mindfulness videos to help relaxation, so that’s a great place to start. And, while the weather is so nice, a daily walk in your local area (keeping to the social distancing guidelines) is perfect too. You can use the GPS function on Places Locker to track walking, running and cycling and don't forget that everything counts - even the garden projects you're taking on during lockdown.

Turn off the news

Constant negative updates will not be doing you any favours. In fact, your brain will just be getting more ammunition to manifest negative thoughts. Limit yourself to watching the news just once a day. The same goes for your social media – if there are certain people or pages you follow that are causing you anxiety, consider muting them temporarily.

Stay connected to friends and family

Use social media in a positive way instead – you may not be able to visit some of your loved ones, but you’re only a video call away from them. Apps like Facetime, WhatsApp and House Party mean you can still have a chat over a glass of wine, albeit virtually! Ironically, you might even speak more often than before!

Connect with others

Whether it’s joining in with the clap for carers each Thursday, helping a vulnerable neighbour get some essential items from the shops, or donating to a charity, doing something for someone else will make you feel better about yourself. It’s not just the positive vibes you get from the good deed itself, but about getting perspective too – it takes you out of your own head and personal concerns and helps you remember, we’re all in this together.

Yes, this is a scary time, but this pandemic has also blessed us with a myriad of opportunities and given us the time to be able to become better versions of ourselves. Once this is all over won’t it be great to look back and say we used the time to better ourselves both physically and mentally? The theme for this Mental Heath Awareness Week is kindness - take a look at what you could do to get involved.

Stay safe, stay active