Maintaining Mental Health

The world is very rapidly changing with the coronavirus, which means a lot of closures, lockdowns and other restrictions on movements and activities. Personally, I am currently working from home which brings about it’s own set of challenges and I thought that I would write a little bit on how you can maintain your mental health during this time.

I also want a clarify that I am not giving recommendations without qualification – I am a registered Psychologist here in Australia with a focus on depression, anxiety and stress.

Have a plan

Humans are creatures of habit and despite school and work being a drain sometimes they keep us acquainted with routine. We know what we expect day to day and therefore it is easier to fit in the things that we want to at the end of the day (also why these things actually feel like a reward). A daily plan or routine does not have to stick to a strict schedule, but having a few plans across the day can definitely help with keeping you on track.

In terms of what to put on the plan, try to get in a few chores or necessities every day and then try to populate with some of the below as well: 

Relax

Stress is going to build up over time, you will be annoyed by idiosyncracies of roommates or just want to leave the house for a bit. This is where relaxation is important. This can be active or passive. 

Passive relaxation is doing activities that allow you to disengage from your stress, and are often hobby related. Reading or drawing are really good examples of these, they allow quiet time and the focus is on the activity rather than stress. 

For times when passive relaxation activities don’t work then it is time for active relaxation. These activities are specifically aimed at the stress and the processes that surround it. The best example of this is meditation which helps the brain to slow down and disengage from the racing thoughts that you may be having. I highly recommend Guided Meditation for beginners and the Smiling Mind app is fantastic. 

Another great resource is the book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris and the resources that go along with it. 

Play

As boardgamers this is going to be one of the most important things during the quarantine. Getting through the shelf of shame, playing enough to review a game or simply just getting more to the table is going to be the goal for a lot of people.

But..make sure that you keep it as a realistic goal. Setting a goal of playing ALL games when you are working from home or looking after kids is just going to build anxiety and pressure to get things played and I don’t need to tell you that this isn’t the best mindset to go into your hobby. The SMART mnemonic is a great way of setting up your goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Oriented. 

Change it up as well – play online through Tabletopia or Skype (a great resource here from Girls Game Shelf), play games that you wouldn’t normally with the kids or other adults, play solo for the first time. This shifting of rules and expectations can help to keep your hobby fresh during down time.

My goal during this time is to learn and play Brass: Birmingham, Shadows of Brimstone and Vinhos as well as getting some more plays of Tapestry in. 

Challenge yourself

This time is going to be difficult for a lot of people financially, socially and physically, and it may be easy to just put off commitments until ‘later’. Unfortunately, the avoidance of today’s commitments can very well lead to tomorrow’s anxiety and before you know it, things are on top of you.

My advice here is to have a bit of a list going in terms of your commitments – calls to the bank, work from home, learning opportunties. Try to cross one (or on bad days half a one or less) off per day so that you can keep the wheels in motion. The rule is to be persistent with these not-so-fun tasks so that they don’t build up. 

Socialise

This one can be a little harder, given the distancing requirements, however there are ways around this. Socialising can help us get out of our ‘headspace’ and allow us to see things from a different perspective and can contribute to positive mental health. 

Socialising does not have to be face to face and there is a preference against that at the moment, so technology is probably the solution. Easy solutions such as Skype are great for connecting to friends and family, but also trying things you haven’t before like the Forums on BGG , a boardgame page on Reddit or trying to play a game over video conferncing.  

Socialising is not strictly about talking to people you know, but more about maintaining contact to the outside world. 

Exercise

Exercise is a massive part of our overall health and mental health. Depending on where you are in the world you may be able to get out for a walk, or you may need to rely on body weight exercises. Exercise can have great direct and indirect benefits for your mental health and can also help to fill up your day and beat boredom.

Hollywood A-Lister Chris Hemsworth has released a free trial for his Centr fitness app which is worth checking out.  Like with anything, make sure that you go easy otherwise you may end up a little Thor..

Seek help

COVID is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment, however this does not mean that you cannot seek help for your mental health should you feel that things are deteriorating. There are plenty of resources online that you can access below and if you are in a high risk category you can also seek out Telehealth services through Medicare (in Australia) which will allow you to speak to a Psychologist.

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890

Make sure to look after yourself during this difficult period, we will get through this and be on the other side at our games groups before you know it. 

Cameron B Author

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