Coronavirus lockdown anxiety and boredom is all too real. We asked wellbeing experts for their tips on how to care for yourselves.

The coronavirus lockdown has meant we're all facing unique challenges.

It's brought about great changes in our daily routines and social lives, leaving even the most 'zen' of individuals feeling unsettled. With this anxiety comes the need for a positive outlet.

We talked to experts about the best ways to to boost your wellbeing and stay calm at home during these difficult times.

Here are their suggestions...

Section off a space in your home

Many of us are sharing our home with others and it can – if we’re really honest with ourselves – start to become a little overwhelming and frustrating at times.

"On any normal day outside of lockdown, you would have your own space and time – so decide amongst you where your special 'space' will be and agree the boundary that this is yours and yours only," suggests mindfulness expert and confidence coach Lisa Hawkyard.

"By doing this, you are valuing yourself, giving yourself much needed time to do what you want to do.

"So much has been taken away and so it’s important to create some certainty and look forward to it. In the same vein, acknowledge that others around you may need to do the same."

bedroom  - Unsplash

Live in the moment

"Believe it or not, research suggests that we spend 40% of our time thinking about the past and 40% projecting our worries into the future, which means we are only living in the present 20% of the time", says says Jane Barnfield-Jukes, a psychotherapist and mindfulness coach.

"The good news is developing the ability to use mindfulness won’t just extend this period, but will result in a calmer healthier psychological emotional state.

"If you are new to this, staying in the moment is remarkably difficult to achieve. Start with small tasks such as cleaning your teeth or washing your hands.

"Really attend to what you are doing, attune all your senses to that activity in that moment. How does the water feel? What does the soap smell like?

"As you touch your hands and gently wash them, what do they feel like? Can you hear the sound of the water splashing in the sink?

"This simple act of mindfully washing your hands will help your brain develop the skill of mindfulness and you may gradually be able to move on to longer periods of being in the moment."

But allow yourself to indulge in nostalgia too

"When times are tough, the desire to escape to a place of perceived peace becomes ever harder to deny – the warm bath of nostalgia is ready and waiting", reported the BBC news a few weeks into lockdown. 

The Beeb was referring to telly programmes.

Quiz, a programme watched by almost six million people, told a story from the beginning of the century, from pre-Iraq New Labour, the time of Chris Tarrant and bootcut jeans. Meanwhile, Friends is doing the rounds again, as is Seinfeld and many, many other series of old.

Nostalgia is a powerful tool and in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, it can keep people distracted and more positive, say experts.

So indulge yourself in your favourite old movies and telly series that remind you of days of old, even though you may know every line.

Get out your old photos, make contact with people you have slipped out of touch with and talk about some of the good old days with those you live with. 

Research shows that deliberate nostalgia helps improve feelings of social connection and can lessen feelings of loneliness, as well as improving feelings of personal identity as it links your past with your present and future.

Done well, nostalgia can bring on warm, rosy feelings that make you feel generally more optimistic.

old photo album - Unsplash

Unlock your inner creativity with a new hobby

Discovering a new hobby that requires us to lose ourselves in the act of doing is enormously beneficial to our mental health.

"Often we find ourselves so focused on the world around us that we tend to get caught up in the frenzy of it all," says psychotherapist Jane.

"When we engage in a hobby such as building a puzzle or knitting a scarf and can completely immerse ourselves in the task at hand, time seems to almost stop.

"We are so wholly focused that the outside world ceases to exist. Psychologists call this a flow activity and it is extremely good for our minds.

"Once you unlock your inner creativity you might be surprised to find that you feel calmer and more able to re-engage with the world.

"The sky’s the limit when it comes to hobbies to consider – you could, for example, upcycle unwanted items in your home, do some DIY, pick up a musical instrument you’ve been meaning to for ages, get involved in sewing for the NHS or try cooking a new type of cuisine. Just to name a few."

Main painting - Unsplash

Socialise in a new ways

"When we connect with others, we release the feel-good hormones of dopamine and oxytocin, the love hormones that help us soothe and heal", says Jackie Coventry, who runs meditation retreats in Hampshire and Morocco.

"Try to make a video call instead of a phone call, send a voice note rather than a text – anything that deepens the communication with the people you are missing.

And don’t forget group gatherings – you could organise a cocktail party or quiz night via video call."

home office - Unsplash

"Try not to let the conversations be too superficial," advises mindfulness coach Jane.

"In particular, attempt to master active listening. We are often constructing the next sentence in our own minds before the other person has finished speaking.

"Try to stay with them and experience the thoughts and feelings behind the words. In this time of physical distance, it is important to remember that it’s the emotional closeness that counts.

"I'd suggest going to The School of Life website, where there’s a wealth of resources designed to enrich personal interactions and cultivate deep meaningful relationships."

Take on a redecorating project 

"We can’t change what is happening outside of our four walls, but we can on the inside,’ says Lisa.

"By making and creating your living space exactly how you want, you’ll create a welcome distraction and a feeling of comfort. Where focus goes, energy grows."

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Yoga teacher, Jonquille Chantrey, agrees: "Interior design is a way of enjoying the product of your creativity.

"Re-arranging existing furniture can bring literally new perspective as well as freshen up the stagnant energy that may have lingered in the rooms.

"Paying attention to where natural light falls in a room and spots where you feel comforted can help with our feeling of home – rather than feeling confined."

Create your own spa space 

"How many times have you wished you could do more for yourself?" asks Lisa.

"Choose a set time for making an appointment with yourself in the diary. Light the candles, run the bath, put on a face mask and pour yourself a glass of what you choose, and relish in the bliss. By doing this, you are prioritising yourself and not fitting in with the world."

Bath - Unsplash

"You could even create a mini spa day alone or with a friend via video call, suggests mindfulness teacher and meditation coach Jackie.

"Why not try self-treatments such as manicures and pedicures, as well as hand and shoulder massage using essential oils or creams that you’ve been saving for a special occasion – perhaps include a light lunch and a glass of fizz."

Minimise clutter

Some days may it feel like the walls are closing in and the feeling of being cooped up can cause stress and anxiety.

"Decluttering not only keeps you busy, it’s also the perfect way to clear the mind and feel more in control," says Lisa.

"Minimising the clutter in our homes and the clutter in our minds are inextricably linked", agrees Jane, who says the very act of decluttering your home can make your mind significantly clearer.

"Reducing the physical baggage that clutters up our lives often results in feeling lighter and psychologically healthier, and creating physical space often helps create emotional space, leaving us free to enjoy our surroundings and the people we share them with."

But don’t put yourself under pressure to achieve too much.

Research suggest you are much more likely to complete a task if you write it down, so make a list of areas in your home that need the most attention.

Decluttered home space - Unsplash

Meditate 

"Meditation is about being fully present in the moment – and can be a huge tonic during lockdown", says Dr Brendan Kelly, psychiatrist and author of Coping With Coronavirus: How to Stay Calm and Protect Your Mental Health – A Psychological Toolkit 

"For some people, that means sitting cross-legged and engaging in classic meditation practices - focusing on the breath, noting sensations in the body, clearing the mind.

"But while this can be wonderful, other people prefer more familiar activities like eating or gardening, with mindful awareness - feeling each moment for what it is, performing each action in an unhurried way", he says.

"In a world of physical distancing, we have the space and, for some people, the time to do this now. Finding the mental space is more challenging, but hugely rewarding. In the words of the Buddhist proverb, 'Don't just do something; sit there'."

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