We are currently on day 19 of a nationwide lockdown announced by the government on March 24th, 2020. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, it is very likely that the lockdown will extend beyond the initial end-date of April 14th. In fact, several states, like Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana, have already announced their plans to continue the lockdown measures until April 30th. The whole nation is expecting the government to announce an extension until the end of the month. 

Now, we know that this is necessary, that it’s the responsible thing to do and could flatten the curve even further as we fight this pandemic. But if you mentally groaned at the mere idea of extending the lockdown, no one would really blame you. 

With that in mind, I thought it might be time to talk about something over the next few days that people might not be giving enough attention to right now, and that’s mental health. 

Staying at home seems simple enough but it’s far from it. There are various psychological effects of isolation and restriction of movement that can develop into long-term stress and burn out. This is something we should all try to avoid since, sooner or later, this lockdown will end and we will need to get back to our lives. 

So here are 5 ways to maintain your mental health during this (probably extended) lockdown.

  • Try to stick to a routine

We did talk about this earlier in our article about incredible habits to develop during this lockdown (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already). Keeping your time unplanned leaves room for boredom, anxiety and mood swings. This is not only unhealthy for you, but also for those who happen to be sharing space with you during the lockdown. Unchecked, people end up finding unhealthy ways to cope with these feelings. 

It’s worth the energy to stick to a routine. This entails sleeping, waking up, working and eating meals at set times, as much as possible anyway. Experts say that sticking to a routine helps people build resiliency and resolve in stressful events and I’m pretty sure this qualifies.

  • Clean and de-clutter

I’m a personal advocate of this one and genuinely recommend it. Since we all now have so much time on our hands and there’s only so much Netflix you can watch in a day (never thought I’d be writing down such a blasphemous thought), maybe it’s time for some spring cleaning.

Start with something small, like that one shelf that we all have where we just toss a bunch of random things and justify it by calling it a “miscellaneous shelf”. Find things to throw away for good or donate if you can to make you feel even better. You can eventually move on to your room and the rest of the house. Why? Well, need I mention the incredible feeling of having a clean room? But in case you need a scientific reason, according to studies, cleaning is such a predictable activity, that it lets you feel a sense of control that can be therapeutic when faced with uncertainty.

But don’t get obsessive about this; this is supposed to relieve stress, not cause it!

  •  Breathe/meditate

Okay, I’m not the meditating type (much to the chagrin of my mother, who swears by pranayama and is like the second coming of Mother Teresa). Anyway, if you’re not the meditating type either, I get why you probably scoffed just now. But the ability of focused meditation to reduce stress and even expand certain mental functions is widely accepted amongst mental health professionals. 

If it isn’t for you, just call it your breathing time. Many experts agree that setting time aside for slow, controlled breathing has been found to help people suppress excessive energy, and stress, like panic attacks. It also gives people time to think of certain things, like the next thing on our list. 

  • Connect and maintain community

If you’ve recently been finding yourself accessing social media more often and engaging in life-altering conversations in the comments sections of posts, there’s a reason. Social connection is a basic psychological need and a huge determinant of positive mental health. So it’s no surprise that we wish to connect and gather more than we normally would when we’re faced with a crisis. 

Social distancing prevents us from doing this literally but it’s more important than ever to maintain a sense of community and belonging. Whatsapping and sharing Tik Tok videos are all well and good but lockdown calls for a little more creativity and effort. Facetime or video call if you can, or have conversations on the phone with family, friends and colleagues. It’s a basic but vital step in coming out of this relatively unscathed. 

  • Be kind to yourself

Now, this is something that I only recently started doing myself but I’ve been feeling much better since I have. 

Let me throw down some facts here. There will be days when you spend too much time playing a game, or avoid doing work or your share of the chores. There will also be days when your mood is off or you argue with whoever you’re stuck with at home. Maybe you haven’t left the bed or taken a shower in days, and that can make you feel like you’re failing at life and adulting in general. 

Honestly, cut yourself some slack and don’t beat yourself up for not being some paragon of lockdown behaviour. The things that happen during lockdown are generally a result of it, not you. This is such a crazy time and just because you have the time to overthink and over analyze doesn’t mean that you should. 

The biggest thing to remember is that, even though you may be feeling alone at times, we’re in this together. This will pass and we will all need to be that much stronger to recover what we miss out on because of COVID-19. 

So keep your chin up, everybody. We’re rooting for you!