Was it really only a year ago that we started hearing talk of a virus overseas? I don’t know about you, but I certainly didn’t expect to be still talking about it in 2021 let alone be in a third national lockdown. It’s been a veritable rollercoaster, literally and emotionally and personally, I am reeling from that. I am sure I am not alone, and you don’t need me to tell you how tough it has been for everyone and that there has been an impact on wellbeing.
You also don’t need to be reminded that the challenges that come with Lockdown 3 are, of course, exacerbated by dark mornings and evenings, the bad, freezing cold weather and the post-Christmas blues and financial pressures that many of us face.
For me personally, this latest lockdown has also taken away the one thing that sustained me through 2020 and that really lifts my spirits (swimming at the local outdoor pool). Plus, it’s also thrown a painful bad back into the mix to boot (I damaged it over the New Year – if only through wild partying but no, simply sleeping in the unfamiliar spare bed of my bubble).
Either of these things alone wouldn’t be such a problem, but combined with each other, and against the backdrop of the chaos and doom that’s continuing in the world around us, it’s all started to take its toll on my mood.
The link between physical and mental health is well documented and last week gave me a very real reminder of that. I was grumpy, irritable and getting out of bed in the morning was more of a chore than it used to be. And even though the two-week festive break had allowed me to physically rest, I was by no means rested mentally. Gearing up to re-enter the working world and endless Zoom meetings felt overwhelming and nearly impossible.
As someone with a history of depression, I knew I wasn’t depressed again, but my mood was certainly creeping down bit by bit, moving in a gradual decline, and it took me by surprise just how quickly it happened. I have worked incredibly hard to keep my mood positive during the pandemic but in the space of a week I went from feeling a bit ‘meh’ one day to pretty hopeless a few days later.
Depression is like that – it wraps its tendrils around you and slowly and insidiously envelops you until you’re in the grips of an episode. It’s a bit like the boiling frog theory – place a frog in boiling water and it will instantly jump out. But turn the heat up gradually and it won’t acknowledge the danger of reaching boiling point.
So how can you escape its grip? First, trust that you have more control over your mood than you perhaps realise. I used to think I had no control over it and it was the output of dealing with whatever life threw my way. I have since learned that’s not true, but it requires some effort.
Once I worked out the specific things that boost my mood (stop press – it isn’t as simple as eating well and getting a good night’s sleep – although these things inevitably help), doing them can help me – and pretty quickly too. Of course, I’m not saying that these things can miraculously stop depression in its tracks, but, during times like these, every little helps and even the smallest ray of light can make a big difference, particularly if you seek it consistently.
How I’m taking care of my wellbeing during winter
I’ve shared what I’ve done recently to take care of my Winter wellbeing below. Of course, they may not work for you but hopefully they will spark some ideas.
- Invested in a ‘SAD’ lamp (or light box)
This has been hugely helpful for me. I try to get outside every day in ‘daylight’ but walking doesn’t motivate me in the way swimming does so I am easily dissuaded by rain. I needed a lamp to ensure I had good lighting for zoom meetings and buying a SAD one had the benefit of providing a steady stream of natural light to lift my mood. It definitely makes a difference and it’s worth trying if the dark skies affect your mood.
- Watched comedy clips and read humorous books
Because I can’t boost my endorphins through exercise like I used to pre bad back, I’ve found that reading funny books has been a life saver. I recently read Sarah Millican’s ‘How to be Champion’ which I read while lying flat on my back in pain and it really helped lift my spirits. I can personally vouch for the fact that laughter is good for the soul.
- Bought new cheap and cheerful clothing
Just having something new to put on in the morning, rather than my usual tired old clothes, has without a doubt made me feel a bit brighter and given me a reason to get up and dressed. And comfy loungewear never goes out of fashion….right?!
- Enticed my cats to spend more time in my workspace
I’ve made a few more places for my cats to sleep around my workspace (if you know me you’ll know they already have quite a few beds but they were in other parts of the house!). The benefits of furry friends are again well known – and having them nearby whilst I work allows me the odd stroke mid Zoom meeting, and often results in them jumping up to investigate and help me with my work and that really makes me smile.
- Ring-fenced daylight time in the diary for self-care
It’s easy to power on through my working day and only stop to rest at the end of it. But snatching a piece of daylight and making sure I at least step outside has made a bigger difference than I thought it would. Going for a walk is a real boost but even putting the bins out somehow helps.
We’d really love to hear your tips too so please do share them with us over on social media.