As the world adjusts to a life constrained by various levels of lockdown, Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Jen Unwin and Dr Simon Tobin, an NHS GP, share their thoughts on how parkrunners might be able to nurture their mental wellbeing at this challenging time.
Modern life poses challenges to physical and mental wellbeing and never more so than now, as we all get to grips with a new normal.
Some of us are struggling emotionally as routines have changed so completely and uncertainty over our futures is universal. Heightened levels of stress, anxiety and depression are all normal of course, but at times it can feel quite overwhelming.
At an incredibly challenging and unpredictable time, and one where parkrun events are not taking place, how can we all nurture our own mental health and wellbeing, and that of those around us?
The five ways to wellbeing list forms a really useful roadmap to help us navigate the difficult period in all our lives. One idea is to try to tick off at least one thing in each category every day.
CONNECT - although many of our usual ways of connecting have changed in many respects we are fortunate to live in the digital age. We can connect with the world around us and interact with friends and family via social media and platforms like Skype and Zoom, take part in quizzes and listen to music concerts or even watch theatre productions. Why not take part in the parkrun quiz live at 9am BST each Saturday on the parkrun YouTube channel?
BE ACTIVE - keep moving if you can. Any movement counts, in any manner that suits you and your situation. Whether that be a walk, a run, dancing to music, gardening, doing an online yoga class or skipping. Don’t worry about the number of minutes or level of exertion, just focus on the joy of moving and using your body – within the social distancing rules that have been set down.
NOTICE – for some, this crisis has provided an opportunity to notice new or different things, whether that be the natural world, our relationships, our reaction to different situations. Take time to ‘check in’ with yourself and others, disconnect from the news and from technology and take a few minutes each day to really notice yourself and your surroundings. This could also be a good time to try to slow your mind and body down, and practice relaxation, breathing and meditation. There are lots of apps online that you can use, and just a minute or so each day could help improve your mental wellbeing.
KEEP LEARNING - some people may be much busier than normal, whereas others may feel that they have more time on their hands. If you fall in the latter category, maybe you could use the time to start a new hobby, learn a new skill or rekindle an old one? The options are endless, from knitting, bird spotting, painting, meditation, a foreign language. There are loads of online courses, which are often free. Keeping your mind and body active, and setting new goals, is incredibly important especially when many people feel like our world has been turned upside down.
GIVE – at the moment there are a lot of different people and organisations that you might be able to support and it has been incredibly uplifting to see an outpouring of generosity in response to the crisis. For example, people making visors and scrubs, helping collect food for those who may be isolating, picking up the phone to contact someone who might benefit from a chat and children putting rainbows in windows. If you are able, perhaps you could think about what skills, expertise or time you might be able to offer – as we know from parkrun, volunteering has a range of benefits both for the volunteer, as well as the person or organisation receiving the support.
In addition to these five ways of wellbeing, there are a few other things you can do to help maximise your mental health. For example, now is the perfect time to think about eating for wellbeing; trying to cook from fresh if you can, limiting processed food (those with more than five ingredients on the label is a good rule of thumb), reducing sugar intake and perhaps focusing on eating more green vegetables, if you can get your hands on them.It is a good idea to avoid drinking too much alcohol. Also, try to prioritise getting good quality sleep. For example by avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.
Think about sharing your thoughts and worries with someone you really trust. This can often seem daunting but it’s an important step towards feeling good again.
We hope this has given you some strategies to try out in the coming weeks to help you nurture your mental wellbeing, and support those around you too. Let us know how you’re getting on and tag us in your ideas and photos on Twitter #5waystowellbeing.
Jen Unwin and Simon Tobin
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