I think we can all agree that lockdown has not only widened our waistlines, but also challenged us emotionally and mentally. We might have learned something about ourselves and our ability to be resilient and calm, or we might have been on the emotional rollercoaster, or probably, we’ve learnt that we can be all these things and more in the space of a couple of hours!
Martin Bell, from Open Minds Mallorca (you can find them on Facebook by searching for that or put in https://www.facebook.com/groups/1740697636236653/) is a counsellor who works extensively on the island and online. As you might imagine he has been quite busy during the period of quarantine. “People who wouldn’t normally be living together for such extended periods have had to get through this. I’ve had clients who share with flatmates who wouldn’t all even be in the property at the same time having rows about everything from who cleans up the kitchen to who chooses what they are going to watch on television! I suggested to them that they make a routine that they could all agree on, a rota of who does what on which day and just that small amount of organisation has helped them to get through it”. It has been important to make sure that not everyone is doing the same thing every day at the same time, give each other some space. “I have heard a lot of people whose sleep patterns have been affected, if you ask many people they can’t tell which day of the week it is at the moment. This all affects your mood and how to see your life. I think that routines are really important to put in as markers for your day: make an effort to get out of your pyjamas and put on some clothes. Taking an interest in your appearance will automatically make you feel better”.
Martin says he thinks the hardest hit might be people who are living on their own, “In the Open Minds Group we have started having a virtual drink with each other on Friday evenings, either on Zoom if you can get it to work or just on Facetime or video call. It makes such a difference to have contact with other people. And also a lot of the members have been supporting each other by calling and checking in. If you need someone to talk to then just ask in the group and you will get a response, the support in there has been remarkable”. Another strategy he has offered is to change your surroundings, “Although they have not been able to outside, change the living room around, move the furniture, change it up. I’ve also been recommending an App called Calm which is marvellous for bringing people back to themselves,and if they can get to the chemist try out Rescue Remedy, and also don’t forget to listen to my new podcast!”
What about families I ask Martin, how are they faring? “Again, I have had parents realising that they aren’t as close to their children as they thought, or there is something about their child they didn’t know. It has been a big period of adjustment for everyone. I´ve also told them to put away the board games! At the beginning everyone was enjoying playing games with each other, but that can get competitive and then nasty! Try to find other activities with less conflict.” And now? What about what happens next? “I have had clients telling me their children are frightened to go outside, that they have been complaining that their legs hurt to try to get out of their daily walk whilst other kids have been fine.
Everyone has been different. Certainly the children who are frightened of breathing in the virus have needed a lot more support, and you can do that by helping them by giving them a mask to wear or being careful about where you take them on your outing”. And relationships? “This experience has put an enormous amount of focus on marriages and partnerships. There will be some divorces and separations I think, but I have been trying to suggest to couples that they look back over old photos of happier times and try to recall those feelings for their partner of when they were not in these circumstances. In reality, if you want to split up, where are you going to go at the moment? You have to try to stay calm and kind.”
We don’t have so long to go now until we are going to have the pressure released, I say. “Yes, but then you are going to be faced with a new set of problems. How are you going to pay the bills when you realise your income is lower than it was before? I think as well that we might see people feeling anxious about going outside again. The release of the lockdown period will not be straightforward for anyone.
During the lockdown, on top of his counselling work, Martin who was a regular contributor to the afternoon show on Radio One Mallorca, has also launched a weekly podcast which you can hear by visiting https://www.mixcloud.com/openmindmallorca/ which is well worth a listen.
Shane Fisher of Eaglefishmedia.com has first hand experience of depression and anxiety and how to cope with it. How has he been managing in lockdown? “I think I have been preparing for lockdown all of my life,” he jokes, after many years working in the Magalluf bar scene he now runs a marketing consultancy and agency and works from home. “I know a lot of people have been struggling with lockdown, friends of mine who would normally be working on building sites for example, who are up and out all day working alongside other people, they don’t know what to do with themselves when they are indoors all day. But the situation has also been quite a leveller. A lot of the day to day pressures have been taken away. Everyone has had to stay at home so we are all in the same position, which might have been quite comforting I think”.
Although he works online he has been trying to be strict with how much news he is consuming, “I found myself watching the news and looking at the figures of new cases and deaths everyday and I realised that it wasn’t helping me and also that I couldn’t do anything about it. So I made a decision to stop looking.” He also mutes or unfollows online anyone who is spreading conspiracy theories or unsubstantiated news. “I am not the sort of person to dwell on negativity and I didn’t want to invite it in. A lot of people get triggered by things they see on social media and we have to be aware of what we are looking at”. We agree that keeping our “feeds clean” has been a great help when trying to maintain a work life at home. “It is really easy to get distracted when you are looking something up so I have stayed quite disciplined by making myself task lists on Trello. It is very satisfying to tick things off as they are completed.” What kind of things does Shane do to keep himself on track and feeling well? “I realised as I went along that I needed to take better care of myself. I drink at least 3 litres of water every day, I try to get seven hours of sleep every night, I don’t drink very much these days because I know the day after I feel low, I get out into the fresh air, and I exercise”.Shane also recommends using an App, called Headspace. “It is really good for helping beginners to start to meditate, and it is quite accessible, even for guys who may find the idea a bit strange. It is really easy to do and the guided meditations are good.” What are the benefits he found from meditating?
“I used to have quite a temper and it has helped me to manage that, it is kind of a mind training, I am more aware of myself and my reactions than I would have been before”.
Shane agrees that the next step, as we emerge into the “new normal” will be more challenging than the quarantine. He is hoping that what he has been developing during the last seven weeks will be useful:online support for bar and restaurant owners who want help with their social media. “You can go onto my website and request a review of your business and get my feedback on your social media and your online presence”. Having been in the hospitality business he knows what it takes and taking practical steps which will be positive for the business are certainly things which can also help alleviate anxiety about the future. “Just taking small steps forward right now and thinking about what you can do to help yourself and your livelihood will help you to feel more positive. Get in touch if you need any advice, I know how it feels and I can help”.
Finally, I ask Shane, how can you tell if someone is beginning to suffer or their mental health is deteriorating? “If someone is starting to withdraw, saying “no” to things they would normally do, avoiding socialising or calls etc. If they are usually active on social media and suddenly stop. If they start to break routines that they would usually benefit from. If they are drinking too much/drinking later/drinking earlier. If they are staying in bed later or not wanting to get up at all. Firstly don’t tell them to man up! Don’t feel you have to throw advice at them. At the start just encourage them to speak and most important of all be willing to listen without any judgement”.
We are all in this together, and we are all having bad days and good days, reach out and tell someone how you are feeling. Join Martin’s group Open Minds or the Majorca Mallorca, At Home Together group, or Shane´s “Tourist Attractor” group on Facebook and start there.
Mental Health Hygiene
1. Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.
2. Keep active
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.
3. Eat well
Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
4. Drink sensibly
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary. When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way the alcohol has affected your brain and the rest of your body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings.
5. Keep in touch
There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, but that’s not always possible. You can also give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open: it’s good for you!
6. Ask for help
None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan.
If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.
7. Take a break
A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health. It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, or a half-hour lunch break at work. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’.
8. Do something you’re good at
What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem
9. Accept who you are
We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn.
10. Care for others
‘Friends are really important… We help each other whenever we can, so it’s a two-way street, and supporting them uplifts me.’ Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.