It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and this year’s theme is kindness. To be kinder to yourself in the pandemic, we’ve got a few suggestions on how you can use screens in quarantine to improve your mental health, rather than negatively impact it.
Most of us are separated from family and friends right now and we’re giving thanks for the wonders of technology that can keep us connected. A FaceTime call can do wonders to help an older relative feel less isolated and help us stay in touch with our mates too.
But Zoom fatigue is real and connection doesn’t have to be all about video calls. A retro phone call will help you connect in a more personal way to the person the other end than shouting at them on a screen. We recommend rediscovering audio calls for Mental Health Awareness Week (and beyond).
#2 Get off screens and get outside (if you can)
It’s not easy for all of us to get into a green space but if you can – and if you leave your screens at home behind you – it’ll do wonders for your mental health. Study after study has shown the benefits of connecting with nature and spending time outside. A short walk in a green space will boost your spirits and list your mood. If that’s too tricky, cultivate a house plant on a window sill as a pretty good alternative.
#3 Give bad news a break
It’s only natural that we want to keep checking the news to see what the latest with the pandemic is; cases that have been treated, people that have survived, the latest about lockdown. But checking in once a day to stay informed and compulsively reloading your feed several times an hour while your anxiety is mounting are very different approaches.
Limit your news checking to reputable sources and set rules for yourself about when you will check. If you notice yourself becoming more anxious or depressed adjust your news schedule accordingly. Don’t forget to seek out all the very many good news stories circulating right now too, of people doing wonderful things to help their communities and neighbours – all of which will leave you feeling uplifted.
#4 Set clear boundaries
Working from home as most of us are now, it’s easy to let work and play blur into each other which can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Set clear physical and time boundaries around when you are working and when you are spending time with those you live with – or connecting with friends at a distance. A separate space, if possible, to work from which isn’t your bedroom and a clear cut-off time in the evening and morning when you move from work to ‘home’ will help you feel more in control.
You can also consider allocating devices for work and play to help with this. Your laptop or tablet for all your work activities, your smartphone for anything outside the office. Take work email off your phone to really make this effective.
#5 Keep yourself safe
There’s been a big surge in cyber scams since the pandemic began as cyber criminals take advantage of our increased time on screens to target us through them.
Phishing attacks (where the cyber criminal sends a message as if it was coming from your bank or another trusted institution to get your account details), are particularly rife. Remember, all the same rules about how to keep yourself safe online still apply when you’re on screens in quarantine. Don’t give out any sensitive details to anyone who approaches you directly. Always end the conversation and contact your bank via your normal methods to make sure the message has really come from them.
Unfortunately trolling and stalking on social media are on the rise right now too. Cutting down on your social media usage will help keep you away from attacks like this, but if you’re still getting unpleasant attention online we always urge that you block the offender and report their activity within the app. For more serious cases of threatening behaviour, always inform your local police authority. Don’t suffer in silence, tell as many people as you can about what’s going on.
#6 Give yourself a break about screens in quarantine
This Mental Health Awareness Week is all about kindness and we want to suggest we’re kind to yourself about your screen use right now. Which is not to suggest we recommend unfettered 24:7 use of them! But it’s simply inevitable that your screen use is going to be much, much higher than it was before the pandemic. If you’ve set yourself some kind of arbitrary screen time daily rule you’re going to find that you’re way over your limit every day. And that’s OK. We’re in an unusual and once-in-a-lifteime period of time when all of our routines and plans are going more than a bit awry.
The only thing we want to ask you to do is to be mindful about how your use of screens in quarantine is making you feel. If every time you go on a screen it’s boosting your mood, making you feel connected and productive and having a positive impact on you, then you’ve clearly got the balance right. If, on the other hand, you notice that your screen use is tending to make you feel stressed and anxious then keep a note of what activity or behaviour you’re spending the most time on and experiment with cutting back. Keep adjusting until you get the right balance for you.
We’re providing updated resources specifically during the pandemic period so check back regularly for other helpful tips on how to use screens in quarantine.