Protecting your mental health

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GM Walking is a space for you to get excited about walking, to read and to share walking stories. It’s a place where we celebrate the multitude of walking health benefits… and we feel it’s really important to talk about what the current COVID-19 pandemic could mean for our mental health. And even more pressingly, how to protect it. 

There is lots of advice on how to stay well through these weird times. So we’ve picked some of our favourites and provided you with actionable tips and website links to get you on your way.

Access the Support Services You Need

This one’s from us. There are a number of local and national services you can access for support. You can find your local services here.

The NHS Volunteers Service also has a telephone ‘check in and chat’ service if you have mental health issues and are feeling isolated. You can call 0808 196 3646 to talk to someone. Samaritans have a page dedicated to supporting mental health for people worried about COVID-19 here, and a Contact page where you can call, email, or write a letter here.

Be Active

NHS’ Every Mind Matters empowers people to support their physical and mental health. They offer lots of great ways for people to develop their own self-care. One of our favourites is ensuring we keep physically active. You can do this in any way that suits you. From a 10 minute at-home workout to a long walk in your local area. 

“Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel.”

And many of us walkers, brand new or really experienced, will understand just what that means. Exercise helps release some of those feel good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

Since lockdown, exercise will have been harder to do for a lot of us. You may no longer have your commute to work. Gyms were closed for a long time, and you might not feel ready to go back! So keep finding new ways to keep yourself physically active, for both mind and body. 

Stay Connected

Charity Mind has been an invaluable mental health resource for people through these difficult times. One thing they say it’s important to do is stay connected with people. Many of us typically find great support in our walking groups, or group school runs. These may look different for a lot of us. So it’s important to find ways to stay connected to the people we care about. And we don’t mean the Zoom work meetings!

One-on-one FaceTime video chats. Group WhatsApp Saturday hangouts. Make time for phone calls with the people you miss. This kind of support makes a real difference for people, whether we are social butterflies or not!

Create a Routine that Suits You

The Mental Health Foundation has a list of helpful tips. But one of our favourites is: “Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself.” This is important to think about, because often think of self care as something we have to have one specific day for. Wellbeing Wednesday or Self Care Sunday, but The Mental Health Foundation reminds us that we should make time for this everyday with a daily routine that works for us. This routine can incorporate anything from breakfast to a lunchtime walk to daily meditation.

The region has just gone into a Tier 2 high alert level for COVID-19. This will feel uncertain and scary for a lot of us as we navigate through this uncertain time. It’s impossible to predict how things will go, but one thing we can try to do is actively protect our mental health.

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