Today marks World Mental Health Day 2020, this year’s theme is ‘mental health for all’.

2020 has been quite some rollercoaster of a year. I think it’s fair to say that this year has been a challenge in terms of mental health for us all. And perhaps some sudden exposure to more fragile mental health for those who in the past, may not have considered themselves vulnerable. But that’s the reality of mental health. We all have mental health, and we all need to ensure we look after it. And get help looking after it if we need to.

This World Mental Health Day has proved a good opportunity to reflect on my own situation. For me, lockdown has had both positive and negative effects on my life and on both my physical and mental health. On the physical side, I’m pretty sure I had the virus in March when there was no testing. I didn’t get very unwell, just really tired and completely lost my sense of smell. This hasn’t yet recovered properly and there are some things I still can’t smell or taste. Or at least they now smell and taste strange. I’m still hopeful it will get back to normal soon!

But also on the physical side, I found, without the need to do school runs and external meetings etc, extra time in my day. This led to a love affair with my bike and either cycling or walking by the river every day, as well as more time to eat right and feel in good health. This was such a positive thing, as I hadn’t ridden a bike confidently for years. It was like rediscovering an old love!

With regard to mental health, I missed people so much. I’m a people person. I’m sociable. I bounce off others a lot of the time. And I struggled with the quieter lifestyle. The lack of smiles, laughs and hugs. I also missed the structure that my life usually has. Being able to get out and about, punctuated by school runs and the comings and goings of our big and busy household. Day after day after day at home doing the same things and being on a screen so much was hard. 

I felt fortunate of course, to be in the lucky position of being in our comfortable home with lots of outdoor space to enjoy and of course that everyone was safe and well. But, everything is relative. I loved the analogy of everyone dealing with this pandemic in their own type of boat, and feel hugely grateful that mine was sturdy. But we can’t and shouldn’t compare ourselves to others when it comes to mental health. If we feel it, and it affects us, we should give it attention.

A positive impact

So, what were some of the positives that came with lockdown that had a positive effect on mental health? These are some that I feel were, and continue to be, helpful:

1. Kindness

Lockdown encouraged kindness and a mindfulness of how others might be coping, or might need help or check ins. Families kept an eye on each other. Neighbours got to know each other. Random acts of kindness and simple gestures drew the nation together and that is something that can always impact positively on mental health.

2. Technology

Staying connected via Zoom or phone was never going to be a favourite option for any of us. But aren’t we lucky we have the technology and are able to do that? Being able to stay connected to the people around you has been invaluable, and has strengthened some relationships whilst also making it possible for many to continue working in a new and unexpected way.

3. Getting outside

Thank goodness that even at proper lockdown time, we could at least still go out and take a walk / run / bike ride / exercise. Getting outside and breathing the fresh air is always something I feel makes a monumental impact on my wellbeing and mental health. This period of time just served to reinforce the power that nature and getting outside, has.

4. Exercising

Sometimes in our day to day lives, we are so busy that some things that are good for us and make us feel great just drop off the To Do list. Almost as though they’re a luxury. But they’re not. Exercising pretty much every day during lockdown has allowed me to get back into regular habits, and that feels great. Exercising is the most underrated form of natural antidepressant. Those endorphins that are released really do go a long way to lift us and maintain good mental health.

5. Eating well

Again, just like exercise, eating well and nourishing our bodies is essential. And yet, when we get busy we get lazy and we just keep grabbing things to keep us going. More time at home has meant a return to some much better habits!

6. Finding a hobby

Having something to focus on just for you is more calming and uplifting than I had remembered! Generally I don’t find time to get done the essentials, let alone taking time out for a hobby. But during lockdown I started to re-learn the piano, and it was lovely. Admittedly that has already gone by the wayside a little as things have returned to normal. But it’s a start, and something I now know can give me a lift and some peacefulness.

So why not take a little time to reflect on your own position this World Mental Health Day? How have you kept your mental health in a good place? Anything you would like to share?

Not everything works for everyone. I thought I would find my way with meditation during lockdown as it was something I’ve always felt I should do, but that just didn’t happen. Don’t shoehorn yourself into what you think will work when it comes to keeping that balance and looking after your mental health. Experiment until you find the things that really help you.

As a small business owner it has been a point of pride to be able to help others through this difficult time, both with their businesses and their wellbeing. Our membership community has really come into its own and allowed us to be a life line to our members who otherwise would have been battling away on their own. Always surround yourself with your tribe. Find those people who lift you up and enable you to find a more positive outlook.