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Looking After Our Mental Wellbeing

In these uncertain times, we are all struggling with life in lockdown in some way. For some of us it is about being away from our loved ones, or maybe becoming our children’s teachers whilst trying to carry on with our jobs, some may have financial concerns.

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Whatever the challenges we face we are not alone and one thing we all have to take care of is our own wellbeing and mental health.

This has become a massive challenge for my household

I have openly admitted to suffering from anxiety and depression since around the time my youngest son was born 10 years ago. My family dynamic is my husband, 3 sons aged 9, 12 and 15 and our dog.

Up until last year, my husband was the rock, pulling us through the hard times, however, that all changed one day in September 2019 and now he himself is struggling with depression.

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"What is happening with my GCSEs?"

Like many year 11s, my eldest has been studying for months towards his GCSEs and to be told this is now not happening, it has produced very mixed feelings, on one hand, he is chuffed as he isn’t the biggest fan of school but on the other, he is confused and scared, so many unanswered questions.

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“What grades will I get?”

“How will this affect my future?”

“What will I fill my time with?”

“Does my current school work count towards my final grade?”

“Will I get my sixth form choice?”

These are all questions that we as parents just cannot answer, and is stressful to both us and them.

"I just want to play my Xbox"

Now my 12-year-old is getting on with the schoolwork he is set but always wants to rush through it to get on his Xbox, we look forward to that daily showdown.

"I miss my school / friends."

Then you have my 9-year-old, a lot of his learning isn’t independent, so has to have someone helping him with the majority of his work, he is so desperate to see his friends, playtime in primary school is so important, he has taken to video calling his friends with my phone.

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Oh, and did I mention my 2 eldest are football fanatics and are used to training and playing football at least 3 times a week, there is a lot of pent up energy there and I am so pleased that we have a punching bag. And finally our rescue dog, he is probably enjoying lockdown the most he is diagnosed with the dog version of ADHD and separation anxiety. He loves us all being around him, so his nightmare will be as we all get back to normality.

So that’s us, we are having good and bad days – but trying to keep our spirits high – there is a lot of good advice out there and here is some I would like to share.

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Can news and social media be bad for you?

We all need to stay connected, but with the news, I found I was obsessing. Be careful where you get your news from and if it is making you feel anxious, turn it off and ask someone else to summarise what you need to know.

Social media is a great place to stay in touch with our friends, but personally, I find it drags me down as there is a lot of negativity on it, maybe have a social media detox whilst we are in lockdown.

The benefits of bringing nature into our daily lives

Both our mental and physical wellbeing benefit from fresh air and nature, it helps to improve our mood, stops us feeling stressed and angry and can make us feel more relaxed. Where possible go for a walk or just sit in your garden (if you have one).

If you can’t go outside try bringing the outside to you. Open a window, look out a window at the sky for a minute or two. Or how about listening to natural sounds, like recordings or apps that play birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall. Get as much natural light as you can.

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Need to change your scenery?

We are all stuck inside for the majority of the day so how about changing the room you spend time in, I know for some that’s easier said than done.

Is your house too quiet?

This is not a problem in my house however if your house feels quiet, listen to a talk radio station, podcast or play some music.

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The daily routine is important

Plan your day, but be flexible and realistic, maybe write this down and put it on your fridge. When making your plan try to base the plan on your ordinary daily routine as much as possible, get up at your usual time, go to bed at your normal time. Set reminders or alarms to prompt you to move on to the next part of your daily schedule.

Try to block time for important tasks such as helping the children with their school work and time for your work, you really can’t do both at once – I have tried. Put some downtime in the schedule too.

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We all know the importance of exercise, but now more than ever we need it for both our physical and mental health. Add some form of exercise to your daily plan and remember it’s not just running that counts, for the unfit among us, there are a lot of simple things you can do:

•Cleaning your home
•Running up and down the stairs
•Plank challenge
•Watch a YouTube video on exercise – you have to join in for it to count!

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What about the weekends

Maybe you could relax your plan or even have a different one, try to use this time to deal with all the jobs you are always putting off, like:

  • Having a spring clean
    •Hoover your mattress
    •A digital clear out
    •A bit of DIY
    •Play some board games
    •Do some colouring, drawing or sewing
    •Practice mindfulness
    •Challenge yourself to learn an instrument or a new language
    •Have some fun and laugh

I speak from the heart when I say to look after your own mental wellbeing. My hope is that even if you follow only one of my suggestions it helps you through the coming weeks or possible months. Just remember to be realistic and even more important stay safe.

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If you have any tips on maintaining your own mental wellbeing I would love to hear them

Claire McClean

Project Developer

For more information on mental wellbeing you can check out the NHS's guide to mental wellbeing, if you're worried about how your mental health is affecting your finances, please visit the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute for advice and assistance.

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