Cllr Joshua Lindsey is the Lambeth Health in the Built Environment Champion and a councillor in Ferndale ward. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Joshua has written this blog on giving you some practical steps to look after your mental health during lockdown.
Like almost everyone else, the Coronavirus’ spread and the subsequent shutdown of our ‘normal’ way of life filled me with dread during the start of 2020.
As someone who has suffered from Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and the associated depression that often comes with anxiety, my sympathies and concerns were with our communities. I knew that this was going to be an incredibly challenging time for everyone in our borough.
In this blog I would like to share some practical steps for dealing with poor mental health. I’ve drawn on resources from Lambeth Council, Lambeth Together, Mind, the NHS, the Mental Health Foundation and my own trial and error.
Lambeth has resources, support and advice on the impact of Coronavirus here.
In my experience, the best way to support yourself through poor mental health is with a proactive, but kind approach. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘kindness’ and I want to emphasise the importance of being kind and forgiving to yourself during these very difficult times.
It’s important to remember that it is entirely normal to feel worried at the moment, we all have a built-in fear of the unknown. Uncertainty triggers our ‘fight or flight’ responses and releases cortisol, the ‘stress’ hormone. Recently there has been a lot of uncertainty!
Here are some ways to help support yourself at the moment:
With the theme of ‘kindness’ in mind, it’s important to appreciate the small things at the moment. Take each day as it comes and try and notice the little things. Perhaps it’s a conversation on the phone with a friend, or a small act of kindness , or the weather being particularly good, try to keep a mental list of things your grateful for.
Whether it’s a diary, a list or a daily plan, writing can help organise thoughts and feelings. Having everything on one page can help you see things more clearly and make sense of things.
There’s lots of resources to help with mindfulness exercises, but at its core, mindfulness is about giving yourself a few minutes to become aware of your surroundings and yourself. Try taking a few minutes out of your day to focus on your breathing or the soles of your feet whilst your walking.
Having a routine, and planning for each day as it comes, can help with anxiety or uncertainty. If possible, try building daily exercise into a routine. Exercise can include cleaning your home, getting up each hour if you can, online exercise workouts or seated exercises.
Avoid smoking and drinking in excess
Cigarettes and alcohol both have an impact on mood and negative influences on our mental health. COVID-19 attacks the lungs and smoking causes damage to the lungs. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. There’s support available from Lambeth here.
Stay in touch
Lots of people are shielding or self-isolating alone at the moment. Loneliness can be incredibly damaging for our mental and physical health. Don’t forget to speak to friends and family.
Through Connect Lambeth, welfare calls and telephone support can be arranged for older people suffering social-isolation. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0333 360 3700.
Lambeth Council have a page dedicated to other resources and support for Mental Health on our COVID-19 pages here.
You might need more support. A mental health crisis might mean you feel like you’re unable to cope, that you could harm yourself or others, or that you or someone you’re close to are having frightening thoughts. If you feel like you need urgent support, Lambeth Together have a list of resources here. If it’s urgent you can call:
- South London and Maudsley NHS Trust has a 24-hour mental health crisis line
Phone: 0800 731 2864 (Option 1)or visit www.slam.nhs.uk/crisis
- The national NHS website has advice on dealing with a mental health emergency or crisis. You can call the NHS helpline on 111.
- Samaritans has a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you want to talk to someone in confidence. Call them on 116 123.
In writing this blog I checked in with our wonderful new Mayor Philip Normal and we’ve put together a list of resources for LGBT+ readers:
- Mindout.org.uk – If you are feeling stressed, isolated and uncertain because of Covid-19 you are not alone, Mindout’s LGBT+ online support workers are here every day.
- Gendertrust.org.uk – Is available for all those affected by gender identity and is active during the lockdown.
- Londonfriend.org.uk/counselling – offers video addiction counselling for the LGBT+ community
- Metrocharity.org.uk – offers online and telephone support in health, community and youth services across London and the South East
- Openingdoorslondon.org.uk/ – Helping LGBT+ over 50s live happy and sociable independent lives.
Best wishes and stay well,
Cllr Joshua Lindsey