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Make sure you look after your mental health during new national lockdown

Health professionals are urging people across Lancashire and South Cumbria to look after their mental health as we enter the latest national lockdown.

The past nine months have been difficult and there are many who have struggled with poor mental health due to the changes that we have had to face.

Dr Andy Knox, GP and a Director of Population Health in the NHS, said: “We are living in tough times together right now and I know that many of us are struggling, so it’s important to look after our mental health during the weeks and months ahead.”

To help with maintaining good mental health during the latest national lockdown, Dr Knox explains seven basic tips that, by following each day, you can use to improve your mental health:

A – Ask for help

“If you are struggling with your mental health right now, if you have found yourself in a really low place and you can’t get out of it, if you are having any thoughts of ending your own life or hurting yourself or other people in some way, then ask for help.

“There is no judgment from us working in the NHS. Loads of us will struggle with our mental health at different times and more of us right now. Pick up the phone – your GP is there for you – we will wrap care around you, whether that’s through counselling services or different therapies or medication, whatever you need to help you get better or be able to stay level, we will be with you and walk through this time with you, so ask for help.

B – Breathe

“When we’re anxious or stressed or worried, often our breathing rate increases and that can make things worse, so deliberately slowing your breathing down where you’re feeling anxious or worried, can really help.

“The Royal Marines use a technique called ‘Box Breathing’ and we really recommend it. Breathe in slowly for four seconds, hold your breath in for four, then breathe out for four and hold your breath out for four. It changes the pattern of gases in your blood, which helps naturally calm you down.

C – Connect

“We’re going to really need each other more through this time and yet we’re socially distanced so we can’t be physically together. Pick up the phone, use Zoom or FaceTime or MS Teams or whatever you’re using and make sure you connect with people that you know and that you love.

“Also, watch out for people who might be isolated or lonely on your street and connect with them. Conversation is so good at helping improve our mental health.

D – Develop a daily routine

“It’s really important that we have things to do, things that we can achieve – just set out basic things and try to stick to them. Getting up at a certain time, having some breakfast and then getting on with some tasks that you set yourself – those things are really important at helping you focus and just keep on going.

E – Eat well and exercise

“What we put into our body has a massive effect on our mental health. So, try to eat a rainbow diet of vegetables if you can, particularly focusing on your greens, think about things like chickpeas and lentils and fish is also really helpful.

“In terms of exercise, getting out for a twenty minute walk once a day will do you the world of good. If you’re unable to get out and about for various reasons, try and do some chair based exercises or maybe do some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or some yoga or Pilates in front of the TV. There’s loads of help available and Joe Wicks is re-starting his ‘PE with Joe’ at 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“Exercise is really good at bringing good endorphins in our bloodstream, which boost our mental health and help us to stay more positive and more focused.

F – Focus on today’s activities

“Worrying too much about the future or the unknowns ahead of us isn’t going to help. Focus on today, focus on the tasks in front of you and be mindful doing them.

“Enjoy the sensation of chopping up vegetables and the sensations of smelling things when you’re cooking, focus on a jigsaw in front of you or the task or the work that you’ve got to do that day; that will really help.

G – Be grateful

“Think of three things to be grateful for every day before you shut your eyes and go to sleep. Write them down, just say them in your head or tell your partner – or animal if you have one! Being grateful will make a massive difference to your mental health.”

Dr Knox concluded: “These seven tips are fairly straightforward things that you can do every day to look after your mental health and wellbeing. We can get through this time together but it’s not going to be easy, so try these basic things: look after yourself, look after each other and let’s take care of our mental health.”

Paul Hopley, Deputy Director for Mental Health for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “I cannot emphasise enough the importance of looking after our mental health during this latest lockdown. This will be a very difficult time for many people, just after a tough Christmas and an altogether challenging year.

“Most importantly, make sure you ask for help if you need it. The NHS is still here for you and there are many services, both NHS and others, that can help to support your mental health during this time.

“Anyone struggling should call Samaritans on 116123, the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000.

“There is support available to help you with your mental health and wellbeing, including free access to online counselling and support services, support specifically for children and young people, information about mental health support and crisis lines and details of local and national mental health services. Visit healthierlsc.co.uk/MentalHealthSupport for more information.”

Watch Dr Andy Knox’s video: https://youtu.be/RneOrUUyLiw

Find out more tips on how to keep well this winter at https://healthierlsc.co.uk/KeepWellThisWinter