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“Do what your body and your mind needs”

Mark Howe.JPGMS-UK Counsellor Mark Howe shares some tips for getting through the long winter lockdown

We’ve all been in lockdown for a large chunk of the past 12 months. It hasn’t been easy for any of us. When the lockdown was first announced, a number of people may have thought, this will be OK… I can cope. It soon became apparent, however, that a lot of people were starting to struggle.

This post is to talk about the little things that can be done to enable us to keep going. A lot of people are by no means OK… whatever that even means anymore. But it’s OK not to be OK during these challenging times. So what can we do? I hope by sharing my thoughts of lockdown with you it might give you some ideas, or some hope. We all need a little bit of that.

Maintaining your wellbeing is important. Sleeping, eating, exercising, routine… it’s all good. It’s the ultimate goal if you’re able to do that. But some individuals were on very unstable ground before lockdown. Some people have lost or have experienced a reduced support network. Some of us have taken a harder hit to our mental health than others. Some of us are just surviving and I want to assure people that that’s OK. That’s more than OK. If you are surviving, that’s fantastic. 

You have to do whatever it takes to just survive this and come out the other side.

Do what your body and your mind needs. If you can’t go out for a walk, just open the curtains at least. If you can’t get dressed or wash, simply praise yourself for getting up at all and facing another day.

If you previously went to a multiple sclerosis (MS) support group but can’t do so now due to the restrictions, continue doing a journal as if you are still attending. Every day write things that you’re grateful for, the things you’ve struggled with most, what you’ve learnt from it, and the things you’ve achieved. Try and maintain that feeling that the group still exists, even if it’s only you in it!

Speak to people on the phone, or connect to Skype or ZOOM. Many people are self-isolating. Speaking to people who are on their own offers support to others – it also helps us to feel better… like we’re doing a good deed.

Helping other people can often help you too.

If you have family around you then board games can keep you sharp mentally. But if not then online games are good too.

Walking is good if you’re able to. Our anxiety of encountering people who have no regard for social distancing can put you off, but still set yourself walking goals each week, weather permitting.

Listening to music, learning to play a musical instrument and singing can all be useful. It’s good to make noise and get pent up feelings out into the world through sound.

The biggest thing that’s helped me during lockdown has been using my creativity.

Creating music, art, any kind of craft, writing poetry, writing in general… it’s all useful for getting through times like this. Pour all your feelings into something productive, so you can have something at the end of it, something that you can be proud of.

There are many things you can do to keep well. But just getting by is enough. Whatever it takes. You’re doing the best you can. 

And one day I hope this will all be a shared memory, and we’ll be together again with loved ones, living life again, and recovering again. For now surviving is the goal. Be kind to yourself, stay safe, keep well and do whatever you need to in order to get through.