Written by Millie Bower, 23.
Mental health is one of the most complex subjects that I truly believe we'll never fully understand, as no one person's experience with it is ever the same. We’re often labelled as the ‘snowflake generation’, this is because to some people we are viewed as being less resilient than previous generations. However, in my opinion being responsible for your own self-care and helping to end the stigma surrounding mental health is something to be proud of and not something to shy away from.
Not only is the threat of a new virus scary, many people are also trying to navigate personal challenges as a result
I struggle with my own mental health (Borderline Personality Disorder), and while I think that a diagnosis can help you to understand part of what you struggle with, to myself and my family and friends I am just me, and I learn to control and live with my own mental health. One of the biggest things that helps me is exercising, I know it’s a cliché and a lot of people go on about ‘endorphins’ but it really is true. Exercising is something that needs to be a constant in my life and helps me so much alongside any medication.
Let’s just say for me personally lockdown has been… a rollercoaster. I don’t think anyone imagined when this started and the UK went into lockdown, that it would go on for quite as long as it has. So with lockdown in full swing and the government instructions that staying at home, social distancing and self-isolation are crucial in stopping the spread of COVID-19, those are the rules we must currently follow, but of course all these measures can affect us psychologically.
I think at this point my Dad is fed up of hearing what I had for dinner or what film I watched last night
Not only is the threat of a new virus scary, many people are also trying to navigate personal challenges as a result. Lots of people working in the hospitality industry or self-employed are facing the prospect of losing their jobs or having their income cut, which can be stressful and scary at the best of times let alone when not being able to see family and friends for that comfort and support. I don’t think the doom and gloom of the mainstream media does anything for anybody except fuel their anxiety and get frustrated as it all seems to be political and one sided.
I never thought I would ever hear myself saying that I missed commuting into work – however as myself and my fiancé live just outside of London and my parents live in France, my commute to work and seeing my colleagues are a big part of my social interaction. I am very close with my parents and I think that if I didn’t have them, or my partner Charlie as my support network, I would’ve found lockdown a lot harder. I think at this point my Dad is fed up of hearing what I had for dinner or what film I watched last night, or how many images I retouched at work.
One thing I have learnt throughout this period is how important it is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. For me, and I am sure for a lot of other people, I found the change in routine difficult to adjust to at first. I am a creature of habit and my routine was always important to me – I always got up at 5.30am, made a coffee, went to the gym (not every day of course), started work at the same time every morning, and after work travelled home and made dinner and often tried to avoid the majority of the chores that needed to be done. When the lockdown got imposed and we were instructed to work from home for the foreseeable it was almost like everything was thrown up in the air. Suddenly the gyms were closed, we no longer had to commute into work, and all of a sudden the chores that I never had time for…well, time was all I had really.
I was putting so much pressure on myself to adapt to a new routine quicker...In reality, that just wasn’t me
At first, I thought I would start running, get up super early and complete all the housework, do my daily exercise and shower, have a healthy breakfast and start work, when in reality it was more like rolling out of bed at 8.20am ready to start in 10 minutes. For me this was probably the hardest thing to adjust to, I had to find new ways of exercising outside of the gym (something that I find very uncomfortable). I really struggled at the start to even get out of bed in the morning, it was like my body just wanted to hide away until this whole virus went away, which of course was not realistic as we had no idea how long this would go on for. I often woke up feeling sick and as soon as I started my day, I got a really bad stomach ache that just stayed constant, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years it’s how much anxiety and stress can manifest physically. I was putting so much pressure on myself to adapt to a new routine quicker, I wanted to be able to get up at 6, run 3 miles and not worry about the effects COVID-19 would have on my job, or when I’d see my friends or family again. In reality, that just wasn’t me.
I needed to let myself off at the next stop on the guilt train and take it one step at time. I started off just trying to do some circuit training in the morning, so at least I knew I was getting a bit of exercise in before sitting at the desk for 8 hours, and once that became my new routine, I just made smaller changes each day. Now I’m not saying I’m ready for my 5.30am mornings again, but now it's more like 6.45am instead of 8.20am, and it only took me 2 and a half months before I gave in and started running (I even managed to persuade Charlie to go with me), I still hate it but at least it gets my heart rate going and I feel like I’ve done a decent amount of exercise.
It’s important to find things that help to distract you, or soothe how you’re feeling and relax you
As well as exercise, I also find colouring extremely therapeutic and it helps to take my mind away from any anxiety I might be feeling. I also have a very unhealthy obsession with skin care and sheet masks, something that has been greatly missed during this period have been my trips to TKMaxx. It’s important to find things that help to distract you, or soothe how you’re feeling and relax you, because sometimes you can’t fix how you’re feeling immediately, so the best thing you can do is ride it out.
Something I think it’s important for people to remember is that you’re not a failure if you haven’t learnt a new language during lockdown, or suddenly become a master chef, or run a marathon, I think there’s so much pressure to ‘become the best version of yourself’, but who’s to say you aren’t already fabulous?! You don’t need to use this period to change who you are, just to practice self-care – or if you're like me, watch an embarrassing amount of TV and every Marvel film there is.