WeAreTheCity talks to Amy McKeown about maintaining your mental health during isolation

diverse woman working from home on sofaI am writing this sat on my bed steaming. Just five minutes ago I was downstairs screaming at my partner and children about not very much indeed.

As I calm down slowly, I start to feel the beginnings of shame and embarrassment. I’m not proud of my behaviour. I should have held it together. I’m an expert in health and mental health for goodness sake…

The truth is that the current lockdown is pushing all our buttons and testing us all in many different ways. For me, trying to work and juggle 2 very small children in the house is excruciating. I need my space. For others, it’s the isolation of being at home alone, for hours and days on end. This is against the backdrop of fear, anxiety and uncertainty; fear of illness, death and suffering, fear for our family, friends and loved ones, fear of businesses and clients disappearing, fear for our financial future. It’s not a surprise that we all have good and bad days and moments of extreme emotion like mine above.

Here are 5 top tips to help you keep or easily regain your balance

  1. Food and Mood

Remember that your food and mood are inextricably linked. What and how often you eat will affect your energy and how you feel. Aim for regular, light and healthy meals. Go easy on stimulants (coffee and tea) and sugars (hard after Easter I know) which will spike your sugar levels and heart rate, leading to big dips in energy and mood. Eat healthy snacks (nuts, rice crackers) little and often. If you live alone, cook and eat well. Don’t forget that you are eating for your mental health as well as your physical health. To get through the next few months you need to eat well.

  1. Moving around

Incorporate some daily exercise or movement into your routine for your mental as well as your physical health. Exercise gets your endorphins flowing and endorphins eat stress hormones. Even if you don’t like exercising, do it. It will help you lift your mood, reduce your anxiety and help you manage your stress in a safe way. I realise my outburst was after 5 days of not leaving the house. Schoolgirl error… Get of the house daily or frequently for a run or a walk. The change of scene and the movement will work wonders.

  1. Menstrual Matters

There has been a lot in the press recently about menstruality or being aware of and using your menstrual cycle. As something I have been using for 15 years, I am delighted to see this see the light of day (finally). For those of you who menstruate, figure out where you are in your cycle (for those that don’t menstruate, you can follow the rhythm of the moon). This might sound a little crazy but knowing this and how it affects you will help you weather the ups and downs of lockdown more easily. Knowing that you are in the days before your period will help you understand why you might be feeling more sensitive to what’s going on. Resting during menstruation will help you get through the next month. Figure out where you are and let your body guide you through what it needs. Go gentle with yourself on any moods or ups and downs. We ebb and flow naturally through the month.

  1. It’s a boundary issue

Enhance your personal sense of safety through establishing some clear boundaries for yourself. With the people you live with, work with or family and friends. Everyone in the world has a heightened sense of arousal, fear and anxiety at the moment and is finding it tough. This manifests for us all differently. For some it’s the need for connection, for others it’s pulling back and retreating. We are all being pushed into old patterns. You need to develop a way of being there for yourself as well as everybody else. This might mean having distance from the people you live with at times (locking yourself in the bath, going for a walk alone…), setting boundaries about how often you speak to friends and family, or giving clear office hours or your availability to people at work. It’s called self-preservation and survival. You can support others until you have supported yourself.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up

This is a new experience for everyone on the planet. We are all muddling through and surviving as best we can. No one has the answer or the right way of doing things. If you find yourself drinking too much, over or under eating, over exercising, or working yourself into the ground, be compassionate with yourself. Old coping mechanisms and habits are rearing up as the weeks go on. Be aware of them, notice them but try not to judge yourself or beat yourself up about them. We are in extremis, it’s only natural that this will happen. Try and dial down the unhealthy behaviours but compassionately. Be gentle with others too. Outbursts and arguments are only natural as we are all pushed to our limits.  We are only human. And on that note, it’s time for me to slink downstairs and make some apologies…

I’m aware times are tough for all right now, so I’m now taking bookings for 1hr or ‘Power Hour’ consulting sessions, which are affordable to all business sizes. If I can help, I will. Do drop me an email at [email protected].

About the author

Amy McKeownAmy McKeown is a strategic workplace mental health expert with unique, varied and award-winning implementation experience.

Amy has a huge amount of unique and varied experience writing and implementing strategic mental health policies (and health and wellbeing ones) across workplaces and organisations of all sizes, including a large corporate. Her policies are evidence based, measureable, long term and sustainable. She is considered a thought leader in the UK in terms of mental health and is considered an innovator in mental health policies and solutions. Amy has a distinctive skill set which combines a clinical background (specialising in psychology), expertise in mental health, occupational health, health analytics, and health insurance. She combines the ability to design strategic programmes with the practical ability and experience to then implement them.


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