On Monday 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an official nationwide lockdown. The purpose of the lockdown is to help contain the spread of Covid-19 as the number of cases increase by the day.
Physical health has been at the forefront of many people’s minds, with home-workout videos to challenges created by athletes all being released online. Physical health is important, but so is your mental health.
South Africans took to social media to express their despair at having to stay indoors with toxic family members, roommates and/or friends. Some spoke about how the lockdown will affect their mental health as their freedom of movement has been limited.
Here are a few tips to help you get through the lockdown:
Try a relaxation technique
Meditation and breathing exercises can help you relax. The Mental Health Foundation has said that progressive muscle relaxation teaches you to recognise when you’re starting to get tense and how to relax.
Click here for useful techniques.
Create a daily routine specifically for the lockdown period
This will help get your mind off the pandemic for a while. Also alert the people you live with that you have a routine, and nobody should disturb it.
Continue with your normal routine as much as you can
Many people have found what works for them when it comes to their mental health. If you know what works for you, stick to it. The lockdown doesn’t mean everything in your life has to change.
If you’ve been going to work up till now, go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
Get your work done during work hours or if you’re not working, find something else to keep you busy during those hours. This will make it easier to readjust to the outside world once the lockdown is over and it’s business as usual.
Take a break from watching, reading and listening to news stories
This includes all social media platforms. Constantly hearing about the pandemic can heighten your anxiety or evoke a level of panic in you.
If possible, set times for when or for how long you will be on social media. During the period you’re not hearing about the pandemic, do something you love or find something new to do.
Think of the lockdown as a time to focus on yourself
Reframe “I am stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on myself”. Try finding at least one productive thing you can do every day. This can range from reading a chapter from a book you’ve had for some time to a long-avoided task like cleaning out your wardrobe. Productivity can lead to a more positive attitude.
Use telehealth as an option
According to the World Health Organization, “Telehealth involves the use of telecommunications and virtual technology to deliver healthcare outside of traditional healthcare facilities.”
Talk to your psychologist, shrink or whoever you usually speak to, to organise a video-call session. If the communication is done over a social media platform, try to allocate that time to speak to them and them alone.
Have a safe word
On a live session with TMZ, Dr Phil listed having a safe word as one of the things that will help with coexisting during this time. “If you’re having a discussion and your partner says, ‘Hippopotamus’, or whatever, we’ve agreed in advance that if either one of us says this, we turn and walk away,” he said.
The lockdown is new to many South Africans and trying to find ways to coexist is the best thing for your mental health and the relationships you have with the people you’re in lockdown with. Continue speaking to those friends or loved ones who usually help you get through an episode or the wave of sadness that hits you randomly.
Here are various numbers you can contact for help during this time:
CORONA VIRUS (COVID-19) 24-HOUR HOTLINE: 080-002-9999
COVID-19 Connect (WhatsApp): 060-012-3456
Suicide Crisis Line: 080-056-7567
Domestic violence helpline: 080-015-0150