As South Africa enters the first day of lockdown in order to combat the spread of coronavirus, we are all faced with the reality of diving into scary and uncertain times. Not only are we faced with the fear of this pandemic infecting ourselves or our loved ones, we now have to deal with isolation too. It can leave one feeling scared, lonely, anxious and overwhelmed. In order to combat some of the difficult thoughts and emotions that may come with this lockdown, the counsellors at Counsellors in SA have put together a list of activities to help you and your family during this difficult time:

1. Maintain a routine – this is by far the most important thing that you can do in times of stress. When at home, it is easy to fall into the trap of just “doing whatever you feel like”. However maintaining a routine is one of the best things you can do for your mental health and is the number one piece of advice recommended during times of trauma. This can be done by:

  • Going to bed and waking up the same time
  • Eating meals at similar times of the day
  • Reading a book, completing work, doing a craft at the same or similar time everyday

2. Exercise – it is hard to imagine doing exercise while stuck at home. However daily physical movement is an excellent way of keeping those positive emotions flowing. Youtube home workout videos, follow along with an instructional video or even do some vigorous housework.

3. Get some sun – here is more information on the benefits of sunshine. Grab a blanket and sit outside or scroll through Facebook while sunning yourself by an open window if you don’t have a garden. Sunlight is absolutely essential to us!

4. Eat well – the delicious snacks certainly are tempting, but it is important to eat well and get in your fruits and vegetables. It will maintain a better mood (less sugar and carb crashes) and be better for your budget. Google some new recipes or try to make something you’ve always wanted to. Include a fruit and vegetable as part of your daily routine.

5. Start a gratitude journal – it’s true, there is a link between a grateful heart and overall health (read more here). Grab a piece of paper and write down at least one thing you are grateful for every day. Put it in a little jar, pin it to your fridge or even type it out. If you have a partner or children, do this with them during one of your daily meals.

6. Work – if you are working from home, set yourself daily goals and keep up to date with your employer and colleagues. During this time it is important to stimulate your mind (sign up for a free online course, coursera.org is a great option!) Watch TEDtalks, documentaries, or research something you have always wanted to learn more about.

7. Limit screen time – binge watching can be the most tempting thing to do, especially when faced with hours of free time, however too much screen time is just not good for your health. Not to mention the endless negativity and bad news we are sure to find on our social media feed. Limit screen time or schedule it for a specific time of the day. 

8. Talk with friends and family – write letters, emails and contact friends and family you haven’t spoken with in awhile. Skype, video call, whatsapp, Facebook – whatever is easiest for you, but definitely check in with the people you care about and the people who care about you.

9. Try to have fun, too. Consider the following

  • Board games
  • Dress up activities or putting on plays with the kids
  • Make up tutorials
  • Gardening (look in your garden for a plant that you could grow from a cutting)
  • Arts and crafts
  • Write a short story
  • Make a video blog
  • Learn how to greet someone in a new language
  • Watch or read something or listen to music usually outside of your norm
  • Paint
  • DIY something around the house, here are some ideas 
  • Rearrange your furniture
  • Meditate

In summary, when dealing with such uncertain times, it is best to stay in a routine as much as possible. When dealing with things you can’t control, it is best to focus instead on what you can control. If you find yourself overrun with anxiety, have a look at some more coping techniques here

However it is important to note that anxiety is not necessarily a problem for some people – others may find themselves dealing with apathy – which can be just as difficult. Being isolated at home means that you are exposed to very little stimulus. Many people thrive on external stimuli (driving, going to the shops, sights and sounds, hearing strangers voices etc) and being stuck at home can lead to feelings of numbness or apathy, which can also then result in feelings of depression. Watching too much TV, being online too often, watching too much news can result in a type of desensitisation that can have negative impacts on your mental health. If you are a person that thrives on stimulus, here are some ideas that may help you:

  1. Call friends and family on video chat – not just texting
  2. Turn the radio on (the different voices, music types and even the adverts can beat feelings of isolation)
  3. Avoid watching too much tv
  4. Do sensory activities eg: make dough, garden with your hands, build a puzzle, draw or paint (even if it is not something you usually do)
  5. Exercise

Should you find yourself struggling to cope at any stage during this lockdown, please be in contact with me at bookings@jalex.co.za and I will put you in touch with a counsellor providing online counselling during this difficult time.

Stay sane, safe and positive and remember – we are all in this together!

Sometimes keeping the most simple of routines is a great way to maintain positive mental health. During lockdown, it can be easy to slip into unhealthy behaviours without even knowing it. Use this daily checklist as a way to ensure you are treating your body right!

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