How to cope with low mood in lockdown
It’s undeniable that our lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus outbreak. Work life, home life, social life…they’ve all been affected, so it’s not difficult to understand why some of us might be feeling low right now. Our mood doesn’t solely depend on the situations we find ourselves in, however. It’s also affected by the way we perceive a situation, and the way we behave in that situation.
In this blog Shazna Khanom, CBT therapist and UK Clinical Director with IESO, explains how we can tackle low mood in two ways: by changing the way we behave, and changing the way we think.
Changing our behaviour
As a starting point, we need to ensure we follow a routine. This should be built on a baseline of three main activities: • Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day • Eating a healthy balanced diet, and • Taking regular exercise.
“To stay emotionally well, we also have to engage in what we call valued activities,” says Shazna Khanom. “We can make sure we incorporate these in our lives by writing three lists – and including an activity from each list every day.”
First, list all the things you can think of that you can still do now which will give you a sense of pleasure and enjoyment. This could be gardening, reading, an art project or playing a musical instrument. Don’t forget small things like having a soak in the bath!
In your second list, write down all the things that will give you a sense of achievement. These could be big – volunteering for a worthwhile cause or helping the community, or small – like completing a chore you’ve been putting off like re-organising your cupboards or sorting your finances, or finishing a project you started.
Isolation can lead to loneliness, and loneliness can spiral into depression. It’s important to take part in activities that give you a sense of closeness. Think of creative ways to stay connected to loved ones. You could phone or video call friends and family, and organise online quizzes or parties. Share pictures and videos with each other.
Changing how we think
As well as behavioural strategies, there are techniques we can implement to manage unhelpful thoughts. Negative thoughts can make us feel worse – but we can break the cycle.
Note down the thoughts that are troubling you. A good way to capture them is to notice when your mood dips, or changes for the worse. Write each thought down, and bring it under the spotlight! See if you can challenge it with a counter-thought.
“The aim here isn’t to come up with a more positive thought; it’s about looking at that thought through a different lens to try to come up with an alternative,” explains Shazna Khanom. “This technique does require practice – and like all skills it becomes easier the more you do it!”
For example, someone might be thinking: ‘I’m stuck, I can’t see an end to this situation…everything I like has been taken from me, and all my coping mechanisms have been stripped away.’ Thoughts like these will inevitably make us feel low in mood.
A counter thought might look like this: ‘This situation will pass. I’m doing my bit by following the government’s advice in the fight against the global pandemic. And by slowing down I can really concentrate on what’s important to me and my family.’ It’s easy to see how countering the first thought with something like that will help to shift a low mood.
If your low mood is affecting your day-to-day life, you might benefit from seeking support. You can find more advice, and check if online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is available where you live, on IESO’s website. For videos on topics related to mental health you can subscribe to our YouTube channel.