The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically disrupted all of the normal patterns in our lives. Coping with the stress, loneliness and uncertainty of everything is not easy for any of us.
What can help you maintain your health and happiness is building new routines and embracing positive things that comfort and relax you.
Here are some simple ideas that we think are worth doing regularly, if you don’t already. We’ve also included links to some important resources. We wish you and your loved ones the best.
Keep in touch with your loved ones and support each other
This is an obvious one that many of us have been doing and will continue to do. But we can’t stress enough how important it is to keep in touch with your family, close friends, and elderly or vulnerable loved ones. That 15-minute phone call or video chat, that choice to send a positive song (rather than the unsolicited message about the Coronavirus that’s landed in your group chat) to a friend, or that two second Instagram DM to show your appreciation to someone else who’s made you feel good, can make a difference.
Furthermore, if you are struggling, then your trusted loved ones should be the first people you reach out to. Further advice about mental health is below.
Mental health and wellbeing
Maintaining good health is essential, especially at this sensitive time. The NHS has advice about the Coronavirus and advice on mental health and wellbeing. Journalist Kate Russell has shared a series of mental health websites here on her Twitter feed.
There are also many wellbeing and mindfulness apps available, such as Headspace and SilverCloud. In-app purchases are present in these. If you’re after something simpler still, sites such as Do Nothing for 2 Minutes can be loaded up on your computer or phone in an instant and encourage you to actively take a mental break.
Exercise is good for the body and very good for the mind, too. Lots of resources are available online offering ideas and guidance on how you can exercise at home. Try to make sure you follow advice from reputable health and fitness professionals.
And try to enjoy nature and green spaces, when possible. If you’re fortunate enough to have a back garden, try to spend more time appreciating it.
Domestic abuse support
Sadly, domestic abuse is among the worst side effects of the global lockdowns. If you, or somebody you know, are concerned about domestic abuse in the UK, links to get help can be found on Gov.uk.
If you’re located outside of the UK, please consult your own government’s advice or seek help from local support hotlines.
Take breaks from social media
One of the extreme paradoxes about this whole situation is that millions of us have now been spending even more time on social media. Considering the constant torrent of noise – as well as the near-unavoidable negativity that you will see – this is not a good thing.
Use social media to stay connected with your loved ones and your communities. But try to take long breaks from it. Of course, this isn’t possible for all of us, especially if social media is central to your work. We would still strongly recommend taking regular breaks.
If you’re finding it hard to curb your social media use, most smartphones now come with app blocking features built-in (see screen time limits for Android and Apple), and extensions can be installed for web browsers, too (see StayFocusd and Waste No Time).
Listen to more music
We’re going to guess this is something you do and have been doing for a long time. Music’s ability to lift our mood and help us focus is well documented. But in this hype-busy age we live in, it’s become all too easy to forget the simple power of sitting back and listening to a good album from start to finish. This is something we strongly believe in, and we’re re-committing ourselves to recommending more artists over time.
A good playlist can be just as soothing, of course – and we curate some ourselves. But we also encourage you to give music radio a go if you’ve not tuned in at all. Stations such as BBC Radio 6 Music, NTS Radio and Reprezent Radio have a wealth of programmes covering a huge spectrum of styles. You can also catch-up or re-listen to radio shows via Mixcloud. The mixture of music, conversation and special guests can turn your mundane, alone time into something much more invigorating.
Read a physical book
We all use technology and are fixated on screens for hours and hours on end. Reading a good book – especially fiction – is a highly positive way to unplug and calm your mind. If you prefer a Kindle, or another ereader, try to make sure it is set to soften its brightness or tones during nighttime reading.
If you find it tough to commit to a book, then consider springing for an audiobook. And if you’re in need of recommendations, start by asking friends or browsing literature community sites, like Goodreads.
Spend some time writing or drawing by hand
Computers and touchscreens have made the act of physical writing or drawing seem almost redundant for those who aren’t in the habit of physical notetaking or drawing.
However, writing or drawing by hand can be very calming and therapeutic. Dr Claudia Aguirre, a neuroscientist and mind-body expert, described some of the benefits of handwriting to Headspace. Give it a try.
Listen to a podcast you’ve never tried before
The chances are you already have a favourite podcast or two, if not more. But it’s worth asking friends for recommendations of what they listen to, or taking a chance on one you’ve never tried before.
For example, in The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry, presenters Dr Adam Rutherford and Dr Hannah Fry use science and mathematics to investigate everyday mysteries sent by listeners, such as “how does love affect our brains?”, “what is fire?”, and “how do cats find their way back to their old homes?”. The presenters have great chemistry, the shows typically last just 30 minutes, and they’re filled with a playfulness and inquisitivity that makes for perfect comfort listening. Gemma Cairney’s The Leisure Society is also one we reckon regular readers of our site will particularly enjoy. And you will find plenty more shows when exploring the dedicated podcast app of your choice.
Give gaming a go
If you’ve never been one for video games, then now is as good a time as any to change that, because there has never been more ways to enjoy them.
For those that don’t know their Animal Crossings from their Pokémon, start by browsing a site like Family Video Game Database or Ask About Games. Click’s Marc Cieslak also offers his advice on family gaming.
For those who know what they want from their video games, there are many resources that can help you find games that might appeal to you, no matter what your preference is. On sites like Twitch and YouTube, you can find many users recommending games as well as doing whole playthroughs of games. Games are almost always better when played together, and Co-Optimus lists co-operative games that you can play on the couch with your household or online. Finally, we would encourage you to speak with gaming friends of yours. There are also many communities – such as Melanin Gamers, Black Twitch UK, Black Girl Gamers, and Gayming Magazine to name just a few – that can help you get more out of your time spent playing games.
If you’re an artist or creator, or you’re wondering how you can support your favourite creators during this pandemic, we’ve prepared this feature with some helpful advice.
Image: Eric Sonstroem/Flickr-CC