It’s week four of lockdown. We’ve tackled our socks drawers and baked our own bread for the first time ever. But apart from all this ‘doing’, there’s also been a lot of ‘being’.
For some of us, the current situation might be accentuating previous mental health conditions. But over the coming weeks, it’s likely that many of us will experience feelings of anxiety, loneliness or isolation – or spot them in colleagues, friends or family members. We want you to know you’re not alone.
Frances is part of our real estate planning and development team based in Manchester. After struggling with various physical and mental health conditions in the past, she also decided to become a mental health champion. Things like eating healthily, exercising and talking to friends usually help, but what happens when life is turned upside down?
We caught up with Frances over email to see how she’s feeling these days, what she’s doing to look after herself and her tips for looking after your mental health.
Life now looks like…
“In many ways, my life hasn't changed too much compared with others who have children or caring responsibilities. I’m able to have a lie-in, fit in a 45-minute home workout, and then log in to my laptop to start the work day – though I wouldn't usually turn up to work with my hair in a wet towel!
I’ve found it’s easier to end up working longer than usual hours if I’m not careful, as there isn't that division between home and work, and not many fixed post-work activities. But I’m trying to force myself to log off and going outside for a post-work walk. It’s the best part of the day.
Outside of work, my fiancée and I have arranged loosely themed nights once a week. Last week we watched a livestream from the National Theatre and got our ice cream for the ‘interval'. We even enforced a ‘no-phones during the performance’ rule!
Our weekends include more walks, arts and crafts, reading, tidying (never had my bedside drawer been so tidy!), watching TV, playing games, and speaking to friends and family.”
It’s okay not to be okay
“Some days are easier, other days it’s a real effort to get out of bed. Due to my past health difficulties, I find being 'stuck' at home brings back memories of more challenging times. I could be better, but I could also be a lot worse. One of the biggest challenges has been letting myself be 'not okay'.
There are lots of great things out there to keep you entertained – online yoga, PE with Joe, viewing virtual art galleries in South Korea… oh, and everyone now seems to be a runner, an artist or a baker. Some days I felt guilty because I couldn’t care less about all of that. I’ve now come to terms with having off days without judging myself. And on the good days, I get to do all of the above should I wish.
The biggest positive for me, which feels somewhat ironic, is that this situation has brought us all that little bit closer. I’m catching up with friends who are usually hard to pin down, and even at work the way our team has come together made me realise we work with a great bunch of people.”
My advice for others
“In many ways, the global pandemic is breaking down the stigma around mental health and more people are talking openly about their struggles. It’s perfectly normal not to be okay. Remember, you’re not the negative thoughts swirling around your brain – you’re just being a human.
The best thing is to simply speak to someone you feel comfortable with, be it your GP, a co-worker, a friend or family. We all have our ups and downs, but I can guarantee that you’re not the only one who is struggling. You never know that saying 'I couldn't stop crying after I burnt my toast' could lead to the response 'oh no – I am feeling the same too'.
We’ve all been working from home for a few weeks now, so a final piece of advice: try and always shower, don't stay in bed until 08:58, get dressed, eat properly and go outside when you can. But most of all, don't beat yourself up for not doing any of these things in a day – you've always got tomorrow to try again.”
Mind your mind
We hope reading about Frances’ experience helped you feel less alone or encouraged you to start a conversation. If you need more support, visit our charity partner Mind for more tips on how to look after your mental health or how to get help if you need it.