For any of us who have been on an aeroplane, we have seen the safety message from flight attendants who urge us, in case of emergency, “put your own oxygen mask on first”. They tell us to do this so that, if an emergency happens, you will be in a better situation to help other people who may be struggling.
At this difficult time, it is important to have the same focus on your mental health and wellbeing… Especially if you’re volunteering – you can’t help anyone if you’re not looking after yourself first. Burnout is a risk factor and, if you don’t look after yourself properly, you could end up feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
Let’s be honest, most of us feel a certain amount of stress regularly and, you know what, it’s a natural and healthy response to challenging situations – and, sometimes, it can be helpful in motivating us to crack on and get things done. But other times, stress can overwhelm us and when this happens it affects how we cope (or don’t) with our daily lives.
So it’s important all the time (but especially now) that you understand how stress affects you and how you can look after yourself and manage your stress levels.
Connect – Many of us are feeling disconnected. Do what you can to keep in touch with family and friends (phone/social media). It might be you feel you don’t have a lot of talk about, but perhaps use the time to reminisce or plan a get together when lockdown is over? If volunteering through an organisation, keep in contact with them, let them know what (and how) you’re doing.
Active – Taking up a new exercise hobby might not be for you but building some physical activity into your daily routine is great for your mental health. It doesn’t have to be a 2 hour workout! It can be 5 minutes of dancing in the kitchen, 10 minutes of stretching, 20 minutes gentle walking round your block (staying 2 metres away from others, of course) or 30 minutes of housework (get that hoover going!). Your physical health is strongly connected to your mental health – do more, feel better.
Check-in – Find some time to check in with your own feelings. Often we get so caught up in the ‘doing’ of things that we forget to think about how we’re ‘feeling’ about it all. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time out to do something that works for you… Listen to some favourite music, have a leisurely bath, read a good book or start that jigsaw that’s been lying around the house for ages! Avoid alcohol to make yourself feel better – as a depressant, it can leave you feeling worse later on.
Learn – Learning can be a great way to relieve the boredom, distract from stress, build your confidence and have a really positive impact on your self-esteem. Obviously at this time it needs to be home-based but this could involve trying out new recipes or a free online course. It could be a craft (like sewing or knitting) or artier (like sketching or colouring-in) and, don’t worry, no one is expecting you to be Picasso but the pleasure of self-creating is empowering for us all.
For more information about looking after your mental health, there’s lots of great hints and tips out there, including: