Top tips for looking after your mental health during lockdown!

woman celebrating sunshine

I don’t know about you, but at times, this Lockdown feels as though it is going on forever. I think it’s because the weather isn’t great, the evenings are still dark and we’re just about fed up with the whole situation.

The truth is however, Spring is on it’s way and with the vaccination programme, the end is in sight. So we just need to keep that in view. But sometimes it can still feel hard each day to just keep going with the humdrum day to day slog of it all.

To help with this and maybe to help you to change things up a bit, I’ve devised a list of top twelve tips to help keep your pecker up during this lockdown.


    1. Read. Anything and everything that takes you away from this situation. Sometimes when I’ve had tough times in the past I’ve turned to children’s books; Kenneth Grahame, Enid Blyton – The Adventure Series, anything to remind me of safer and more secure times. My other favourite when my daughter’s health conditions flare up or things are really tough is Pride and Prejudice. Once when I was in hospital with my eldest after renal surgery, really struggling to sleep on a busy ward, I drifted away to the familiar audio-recording of Jane Austen’s famous words. They are so comforting and brought the familiar to the scarily unfamiliar.
      You can either read whenever you want and just escape generally whenever you feel the need, or set a time to look forward to reading, especially if like me you have work and children to be helping with homeschooling, dinner to cook etc. The past couple of weeks, every evening after dinner, I treated myself to reading JoJo Moyes wonderful book, The Giver of Stars. It was a wonderful escape. I was no longer sitting there on the sofa in my lounge in the dingy winter light, I was riding the stony hillsides, with those brave women in 1930’s America, delivering books to the poor and isolated, as part of the first mobile library. Pure joy!
    2.  Watch escapist television. When I was super anxious after having my fourth baby and my eldest daughter was ill at the same time, I remember a wise GP saying, ‘do anything you need to in order to feel happy. Watch Mamma Mia several times over if necessary.’ I’ve never forgotten this advice. Try to get into a series, or rewatch Jane Austen movies (I never need an excuse to do that) no one is counting how many times you’ve seen them. The main thing is it can make you feel happier. The other week, was really tough, as my eldest daughter had been going through another mental health crisis, with some serious results and having done what I could (she lives in residential care) I tucked myself in bed and binge watched Bridgerton whilst eating bowls of Coco Pops. I can thoroughly recommend it, it didn’t solve the problem, but gave me a break so I could return to the situation with a refreshed mind.

    3. Get outside and walk. I try to vary my walks depending on my mood. Some days I go if I can where there aren’t many people, difficult I know at the moment, but there are some quieter paths in the forest. It’s nice to try to forget about things  and watch nature around us getting on with it. There’s a comfort in that.  The fact Spring is coming and the bulbs and catkins are appearing. Within a few weeks the fresh green shoots with be budding on the trees and next month the clocks go forward. All things to look forward to. Other times, if I miss human company or if I don’t have time to go far, I walk the local streets, smiling and saying hello to familiar faces. It’s nice to just try to reconnect even at a distance. Within the lockdown rules of course. Some days it’s tough to do because the weather is horrible and it’s cold, but then you’ve got the reward of coming back in the warm and having a nice hot drink and a snuggle in front of the fire, or heater, or even under a blanket. The air does you good and walking is great for mental health. If you have a dog, it’s even better as walking is compulsory and so enjoyable as you can often meet fellow dog walkers at a safe distance of course.                                                                                                                                                                                                  
    4. Routine. It’s good to have some kind of routine, even if it’s only the basic things such as trying to get up at the same sort of time each day at least in the week and then maybe a bit of a lie in at the weekend. Whatever we may think, we are all creatures of habit and a routine can help us feel more secure. It doesn’t have to be rigid at all, but planning meals/snacks to look forward to or a certain programme each day at a particular time can help us feel in control and have something to look forward to. In the first lockdown last March, we all sat together each lunchtime during our break from work and school and watched Four in a Bed. It became a bit of a thing to look forward to. At the moment in the evening we all watch Merlin or Lupin on Netflix, whilst eating our tea. We found quite quickly with these little things, we soon look forward to finding out what happens next.
    5. Keep busy. Projects, art, sewing, tidying out your cupboards (only do so, if you’re feeling very strong, if you’re anything like me, I hate tidying and they’re a real mess!) Along with the above point, it’s good if you can to find some things you like doing, especially if it’s creative, maybe some paint by numbers or colouring. Or write that poem or article. You might be completely tied up in work and home school, so keeping busy isn’t an issue, but it’s still important to keep a tiny slot of time for yourself, to do something that’s of interest to you and changes things up a bit.
    6. Make plans. If you’re worried about planning things that might not happen, make those things small and possible, not reliant on outside factors. It’s good to think of something you can plan for the next month or so. Gardening is a great one. If you have a garden, now is a great time to pick which seeds you want to grow and get them ordered, ready to plant next month. If you have a small space, you can grow seeds in recycled pots or cups in a window sill. I’ve often grown sweet peas like this, they’re easy to grow and smell lovely. In the spring, they can be transferred to pots on a balcony or outside space. Or on a small level, you can grow cress seeds, there’s something really cheerful about the miracle of watching tiny green shoots sprouting out of the soil or a simple dish. Kids love making sandwiches with the cress and mashed boiled eggs.
    7. Try to help others. It’s often difficult, especially when we all have busy lives, to manage our own needs let alone those of other people, but it really can help to think what might make things easier for someone you care about. It can take our mind off our own troubles, even if it’s for a moment. Just adding a few items on your own shopping list for those who need help, or can’t go out at all. Or seeing if they need help with the computer remotely, or by lending someone a good book. You can always phone them to discuss it after.
    8. Reach out – stay connected. Sometimes when you’re really struggling, it almost feels too much effort to speak to someone. I also secretly worry that however sociable we may be, we are all getting more and more used to not mixing. Picking up the phone even if it’s occasional and speaking to a neighbour or old friend can just help us to reconnect. It doesn’t matter if it’s to have a moan about how we’re feeling, or to listen to what they’ve been up to. Make an effort to smile under your mask and wave, or say hi to people on your walk. (It always makes me laugh as I try to smile with my eyes, I probably look in reality as though I’m squinting, but at least I’m trying!) We’re all in this together and at the moment it’s easy to forget that.Sometimes from horrible situations, unexpected treats can arise – one of the most wonderful things that has happened this year was something I really didn’t expect. My old room mate at Uni reached out to all of us and suggested a Zoom reunion. It was an amazing experience, to chat to my old friends, who I haven’t spoken to in over twenty years. Really moving, to see how in some ways we’ve changed but in others, not at all. It was a beautiful, uplifting and cheering experience and helped me reconnect to my old pre-children self. We were all reunited on a screen from all over the world, Texas, Kuala Lumpur, New Zealand – all over the place. Whoever thought it would take a lockdown to achieve that?
    9. Exercise – if you can, exercise is a great mood booster. Whatever floats your boat, do it. I love my Zoom Zumba classes a few times a week. It’s not quite the same as meeting all my friends at the sports hall, but at least we can still dance together and wave on screen, or laugh in the same way, when it all goes wrong. If you don’t like dance, there’s keep fit classes a la Joe Wicks, kicking a football round the garden if you have one, going out on a bike orYouTube has great Yoga to do each day – although don’t hurt yourself – I did manage to crick my neck trying to do one of the moves the other day! If nothing else, put on some music and dance round the room. It doesn’t matter, there’s no one watching – I love Dua Lipa and just the sound of her music makes me want to bop around. If you aren’t so mobile or are simply too tired, I find waving my arms around sitting at my desk is quite stress relieving. Just find your jam and do your thing. The kids love it too!
    10. Mindfulness – this is a big one. It’s tough to make time for, but if you can, it is so helpful to try to get that feeling of being in the moment. I like Headspace, it’s free to download the basic package for a month so you can give it a go. My kids don’t like the man’s voice who does the mindfulness exercises, but I quite like it. Also you can change him to someone else if you find him annoying (shame that doesn’t work for some real people – lol!) I’ve done quite a lot on the Action for Happiness Website – I really can’t recommend these guys enough; there are excellent seminars on ‘Coping with Stress’ and various other self help techniques and monthly planners to help you get through the winter months. They can be found on There’s also Calm, an App which does sleep stories, but if you don’t like any of these, you can just put on some relaxing music and shut the world out for a few minutes. Try not to fight the thoughts which will come through your mind, I’m a frequent overthinker about what’s for tea, or next on my to do list. But merely pretend you are lying on your back looking at the clouds in a summer blue sky. Observe them, note them, then return to letting your mind idly drift. It won’t happen straight away, but after a few days, I promise it does really help to give you just a short break from all the background noise.
    11.  Take some time for yourself. If you’re having a tough time, or even if you aren’t, practice some self-care, take an evening for a pamper and bubble bath session. Or do something you really want to do and haven’t had a chance, like painting or writing a letter to a friend. You can include others in your plans, plan a stay at home date night with your partner or a movie night with your family with popcorn and icecream. So often it’s the little things that count.
    12.  Give yourself a break. It’s okay not to feel okay and we all get off days. If you’re having a particularly bad day, be extra kind to yourself, watch something nice, plan a special snack or dinner, something you enjoy and accept this is how you feel for now. It doesn’t mean you will still be feeling that way tomorrow or at the weekend, or next week. Acceptance is particularly important, okay this is the situation, it’s pretty rubbish, but it will get better. But if you really feel you can’t cope, which happens to all of us at times, reach out to someone, to anyone – family, friends if you have them. You might find they are struggling too and are happy to talk about it. Or if you’d rather talk to someone you don’t know, somebody impartial, of if you have no one to discuss with, the NHS is still accessible for mental health support, call your GP without delay. Or the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day
      My daughter who has autism and really struggles to communicate her difficulties, says Shout is really helpful. It is a texting service with a great response time and is there for anyone, whatever your worry. There is always someone there to talk to about your problem.

Remember we are all in this together, I know it may not feel like it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve done most of the hard bit and we can do this. I really hope these tips help and if you have any further ideas, do please add them in the comments section below.

Lots of love and virtual hugs,

Fiona/Chloe xxx