With the return of lockdowns and restrictions comes the need to isolate and stay home.
For kids and teenagers at school, the daily contact with peers - a key form of connection, belonging and stress release in adolescence - is dramatically decreased. The uncertainty and loss of daily structure can become key factors in increased stress, anxiety and poor mental health.
As an organisation that supports young males, Top Blokes mentors have been working with many of them during these lockdowns to help them manage their mental and physical well-being. One of our mentors, Toby shares his top 5 tips that he works with the boys to implement in their lives.
1. Establish a routine
Routines are important because they create structure, give us a sense of accomplishment and keep us on track to achieve small tasks throughout the day. With lockdowns in place, routines have been significantly impacted. Here are some simple tips to follow when trying to create a routine for yourself:
Wake up at the same time every day;
Complete a regular hygiene routine, as if you were going out for the day;
Dress for the day - that is, don't stay in the clothes you slept in (however comfortable they are!);
Eat meals at regular times;
Exercise at least once a day - even if it's just starting with a few push-ups;
Limit your use of electronic devices or TV.
Sleep is one of the most important pillars of positive mental and physical well-being. Sleep allows the body to recover from physical and mental exertion and is important for emotional reactivity.
“Sleep is closely connected to mental and emotional health and has demonstrated links to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions.” - Sleep Foundation
It's important that you try to maintain a consistent sleeping pattern, aiming to achieve 7 or more hours of sleep per night.
Healthy sleeping patterns are linked to establishing a routine for yourself. Firstly, go to bed at the same time each night. While you may not fall asleep immediately, you can begin to train your body to recognise when it's time to rest.
3. Stay connected with family and friends
Staying socially connected via phone or video calls is important during lockdown when it can feel quite isolating. Daily check-ins with friends and family can help to ease these emotions and get some face-to-face time in when staying at home is necessary. Some suggested video call technologies you can use are Facetime, Zoom or Skype.
Make a daily occasion of your video calls and play some games too. There are plenty of online games to try out, or you can stick with classics like Charades, Scattergories, Pictionary or Kahoot.
4. Get out into the sunlight
Sunlight is directly related to sleep/alertness, mood and regulation of reproductive hormones.
Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, explains how natural light can positively affect the 3 factors above, and therefore increase serotonin. Serotonin, sometimes known as the "happy chemical", is responsible for our overall mood and stress management. So make sure to get some time in the sun* every day, whether it's going for a walk or moving your workplace outside.
*Make sure to wear sunscreen.
5. Maintain a balanced diet and drink water
With the loss of routine and structure can come the loss of motivation and healthy habits. It can be easy to get complacent with your diet and choose the easy options that may not be as beneficial for your overall health.
A balanced diet will positively affect energy and sustenance levels to increase productivity and mood during uncertain times. If you're struggling with motivation, start with creating meals you know you'll enjoy and include additional healthy options on the side. Fancy a burger? Throw in a fresh salad on the side.
Keeping hydrated is equally as important for digestion and energy levels. Make sure every meal and snack has at least 1 glass of water to accompany it.