Coronavirus: A young person’s guide to coping with lockdown

Luca WeinmannImage copyright
Luca Weinmann

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Getting the motivation to exercise can feel hard at times, as I know from personal experience

Who could have predicted that the world would have to spend the spring of 2020 indoors? No one.

Lockdown has given some the chance to relax while others are working from home in more stressful conditions with their family driving them up the wall.

Personally, I had to travel 100 miles (160km) on a smelly bus to my home in rural mid Wales from my shared home in Cardiff shortly before lockdown was announced.

Away from the liberty I have when living off my own back, I am once again enjoying the care of my mother washing my clothes and cooking my meals.

Like everyone else however, my social life has taken an unprecedented hit by the lack of choice forced upon us during lockdown.

So what is it that we can do to make the best of the new situation until we get back to some kind of normal?

Anxiety is on the rise

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Lockdown restrictions have contributed to mental health issues soaring, according to data gathered.

According to the Prince’s Trust, 43% of young people say their anxiety levels have risen amid the coronavirus crisis, and a third say they are overwhelmed with a feeling of anxiety and panic on a daily basis.

Dr Judith Roberts, a psychology lecturer at Bangor University, explained the isolated nature of lockdown itself has been a major factor in why people were struggling to cope.

“Any extreme event that threatens our health or well-being will test our capacity to cope with the changes such an event brings,” she said.

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Judith Roberts

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Dr Judith Roberts recommends a three-step approach to coping

“Our capacity to cope with what life throws at us is influenced by a range of factors, and one of the more important factors is social support.

“Therefore, the more worrying aspects of the current situation is isolation and the breakdown of social support.”

With the situation still so far out of our control, what is in our control? What can we do to keep our wellbeing in check?

Dr Roberts suggests a simple three-step programme which could help with any angst which may manifest itself:

  1. Accept that this is an ever-changing situation and allow yourself time to adjust
  2. Adapt at your own pace – in times like these, our productivity and routines are not what we would want them to be and that’s OK
  3. Be kind to yourself and to others.

Is there anything else that we can do to help keep ourselves mentally healthy?

Despite many people turning to comfort eating and drinking too much alcohol during the period, myself included, the right food and drink are some of the things which could really help your frame of mind.

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Seren Charrington-Hollins

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A balanced diet “will help physical and mental health” says nutritionist Seren Challington-Hollins

According to Seren Charrington-Hollins, a food and drink historian and qualified nutritionist, there are all sorts of physical and mental benefits to having a healthy diet that you may not expect, benefits that make it seem a lot more attractive.

“A diet that is rich in nutrients can improve brain function and help you to combat depression and low mood swings,” she said.

“A balanced diet will promote good physical and mental health.

“When people are under stress and strain and time pressure, they often turn to sugary fatty foods.”

And yes, I’m sure there are a lot of us who can relate to that.

While the obvious cons of eating such food are well known, it’s often not easy to change our habits.

“We watch and read more about food than ever before and we seem to have more knowledge about how to nourish ourselves,” said Ms Charrington-Hollins.

But the “time-poor” nature of society means that though many of us educate ourselves about the benefits to our mood and physical health, many of us actually fail to “make significant changes”, she said.

Some of us recognise this and exercise to compensate for our diet choices but it’s not just our waistline that improves.

Physical exercise is beneficial to our mental wellbeing and yet this too has been restricted with gyms shut and having to stay local to get our bodies moving.

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Even 10 minutes of exercise can make a difference to your mood

Dr Jamie Macdonald, head of sports science at Bangor University, said: “There are well-established benefits of exercising in green and blue spaces, many of which are now prohibited to access.

“Whilst this prohibited access was required to prevent tourists from spreading the virus into Wales, it is harmful for the local population’s health and wellbeing to restrict access to these areas long-term.”

Dr McDonald is hoping any lifting of the lockdown sanctions in Wales will include permission to access exercise space.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, a person’s mental health can be looked after through exercise.

Even short 10 minute bursts of physical activity can do wonders to improve mood, increase our self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety.

Many people, myself included, lack the motivation to get up every day and do a sufficient amount of exercise.

This in mind, Dr Macdonald says: “Choose an activity that you can enjoy.

“Many people in Wales have started walking, cycling and running during the lockdown.

“If these activities aren’t attractive to you, can you make them more interesting? For example, by downloading a podcast, audio book or album, or scheduling a social phone call, to occupy you during your walk.”

In the meantime, I’m going to go for that run I need, eat a healthy meal and give my best friend a ring… just as soon as I’ve finished the boxset I’m watching… I promise.

If you need support or help – you can also find resources on the BBC Action Line website.

BBC News

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