How to cope with furlough and a mental health problem
From establishing routines to eating healthily and having a daily five-minute dance with yourself, Vari offers her top tips.
Vari works in the media team here at Mind. She lives in Surrey and enjoys paddleboarding.
None of us could have predicted that in 2020 the world would be paralysed by a pandemic. These unprecedented times have brought about significant challenges both for people and society. But it is the elderly, vulnerable and those of us with mental health problems that may be struck the hardest.
I was furloughed for four weeks. I was able to work from home. But my workload had decreased, and I wasn’t alone. Other people in my team were furloughed too, so I knew it wasn’t personal or a reflection of my capabilities.
I decided to embrace the time off and take the opportunity to focus on my mental health
I decided to try to embrace the time off and take the opportunity to focus on my mental health – I was diagnosed with bipolar 18 months ago and I’m still struggling and learning how best to manage my condition. I alternate between extreme highs (hypomania) and lows (depression) every few weeks otherwise known as rapid cycling. The pandemic contributed to a dip in my mental health, my episodes of rapid cycling have become shorter and I now have depressive spells every week as opposed to every couple of weeks.
I have learnt along the way and my advice on how to cope with furlough and a mental health problem is to have a routine and try your utmost to stick to it. I do understand, first hand, how difficult this is, but trust me it does help.
Communicating with friends and family is key in these testing times. Arrange FaceTime , WhatsApp calls, Zoom etc
Personally, I found the most useful CBT model for sticking to a routine and adding structure to your day is BACE.
B – bodycare: sleeping, healthy eating, exercising, getting out of your pyjamas, showering etc.
A – achievement: chores, learning a new language, DIY projects, study, work projects (when not on furlough) etc.
C – connect: communicating with friends and family is key in these testing times. Arrange FaceTime, WhatsApp calls, Zoom etc. You can organise virtual quizzes, drinks, games etc – whatever your bag is it’s just important to stay connected to people.
E – enjoyment: hobbies, sport if that’s your thing, socialising, volunteering etc.
Please don’t feel like you have to achieve all of the above. On some difficult days one or two are enough.
My top tips - these have helped me, so pick and choose any:
Eat healthily and drink regularly – it’s all too easy to eat too much or skip meals while on lockdown
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day – much easier said than done but try to stick to this as much as possible.
- Eat healthily and drink regularly – it’s all too easy to eat too much or skip meals while on lockdown. It can be helpful to limit caffeine as I've found it can lead to manic symptoms.
- Fresh air works wonders for the soul, senses and mind.
- Stay in touch with people. It can feel easier to self-isolate (no Covid pun intended) when you’re struggling but checking in with a loved one could help to brighten your day and theirs too.
- Have a five-minute dance anywhere in your house to your favourite tune. You might feel silly to begin with, but it will help to lift your mood and energy levels.
- Tick at least one thing off your to-do list every day.
- Watch a video on anything that interests you; cats, musicians, exotic locations, bloopers, cup finals, royal weddings, the list goes on.
- If you’re on medication try and take it at the same time every day.
- Limit alcohol intake. It can be tempting to start drinking earlier, especially when the sun is out and when you’re not working, so set a time you can start, say 7pm, keep to it and don’t go overboard
Hopefully you’ll find some of this useful. Wishing you all the best and sending positive vibes for this turbulent time.
Information & Support
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