Mental Health in Lockdown

It’s in your hands

As someone who has notoriously struggled to prioritise improving my own mental health, I’ve always been great at finding welcome distractions to ensure it’s never at the top of my list. But, deprived of interruptions through lock-down, I gave time to think about the way I think.

What I found wasn’t great.

Working in a high-pressure environment and generally putting high pressure on myself in life, I learned I thrive off nervous energy (and black coffee), only feel I’m succeeding when working myself to the bone, and had stopped giving attention to hobbies I’ve always loved.

Lock-down meant I had no choice but to slow down. Spend weekends in. Have hours with nothing whatsoever to do. At first this meant panicking about not being productive and definitely drinking too much wine. Lately though, I’ve made a conscious effort to get back to old hobbies and find excitement in doing things I’ve always loved.

So many people are going through hardship and I imagine many feel the way I have: burnt out, stressed, nervous of what this pandemic means for our lives long term. Without realising, these thoughts can take over, removing the ability to find the positive.

I wanted to share some methods which helped me re-focus my mind-set and seek to find something good in each day, no matter how small.

What’s helped me see the good:

 ‘Positive emails’ inbox: My job involves a lot of highs and a lot of lows, meaning appreciation always goes a long way. Since joining BJ in 2018, I’ve started saving positive emails into a folder. When having a hard day I spend time reading these and reminding myself of times my colleagues and managers have gone out of their way to tell me I’m doing well.

– The ‘good things’ list: I was recently reminded of some really great things that had happened lately which I’d totally lost sight of in amongst colossal negatives in the world. It shocked me how easily I’d let these positives pass me by. Now, I give 5 minutes a week to think of at least 5 things which have happened in the last 7 days which were positive or that I’m proud of.

 Look around: Maybe lock-down has given you time to redecorate. Maybe you cleaned the windows for the first time since moving into your apartment (guilty). Maybe you nailed a job application, or finished a first draft of a CV. Maybe you binge-watched the entirety of Money Heist in four days (also guilty). Remind yourself of what you achieve every day and high-five yourself for it.

– Gratitude: There’s been a lot of anger lately. But there’s also been a lot of thanks. I’m so grateful for my partner making sure I eat lunch everyday and I’m thankful for my big sister who makes me laugh with daily videos of her home-schooling my nephew. Remind yourself of the people who bring positivity into your life without even trying.

– Hobbies that are just yours: I’ve found a new love of jigsaws, rejuvenated the love I get from writing, and go barely a few hours without reading some of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five (yes I bought all 20 books). Find/rejuvenate a hobby that you only need yourself to do. My guilty pleasure is Wasgij puzzles and Talk Radio on a Saturday night.

These have been a small selection of things which have worked for me. In no way do I mean for this to take away from the impact of what has been a monumentally challenging few months, but I hope that it provides some support to those out there who need it.

For anybody struggling with their mental health, please reach out to one of the following resources:






How Writing Changed My Life

But by all means, do it

At the ripe age of 24, I’m still embarrassingly proud of winning a ‘performing arts’ award at eight years old. The award certainly wasn’t for my artistic prowess nor my shining acting ability, but for my writing.

I always had a book in my hand as a child: eating breakfast, cleaning my teeth, sat in the crook of light which came through my propped-open bedroom door after bed-time. Put it this way, there was never a struggle for my parents to know what presents to get me. I read Joy Adamson’s ‘Born Free’ age seven, Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ not long after, and the highlight of each week was a trip to the library with my nan.

After reading Anne Frank’s Diary at a similar age, keeping my own became my first creative outlet. I was traditional in my style: ‘Dear Diary’, ‘Love Lauren’ with the now-hilarious anecdotes of an 8-year old child to read back on. My language was indicative of my obsession with Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ and reflects my idyllic childhood of horses, Devonshire caravanning holidays, and a roast dinner on a Sunday.

It wasn’t long before this love of creative writing became apparent in my school-work. I’d write story after story, using books I’d read as inspiration. This was always encouraged by my family and school teachers, providing me with the support and motivation to continue doing what I loved. Growing up I was on the school journalism team, frequently contributed to the local newspaper, and started my career working in the Sixth Form I’d studied at, supporting students in university applications and sourcing career opportunities. I started an Open University BSc (Hons) Psychology Degree in 2015 which taught me what I loved and most definitely hated (neuroscience and I will never be friends). But, with my studying came the realisation that staying in Devon was never going to offer me the career path I so craved.

My partner and I moved just south of London in 2018 to chase higher salaries and fulfilling career opportunities. This move meant subconsciously creating a new identity to fit in with these unknown surroundings. I stopped reading, stopped writing, changed how I looked and before long was living a life that definitely wasn’t mine.

The irony of getting ‘gnothi seauton’ (know thyself) tattooed on my arm in the midst of all this has not been lost, and a recent wake-up call meant working on actually knowing myself before I started really disliking who I saw in the mirror.

The last year I’ve focused on re-familiarising myself to areas of my personality I’d nearly forgotten. I’ve read more books in the last three months than I had in the prior two years. I dusted off my diary and committed to writing for fun at least once a week, and have published well-received articles on LinkedIn.

Re-igniting my passions has achieved so much more than simply putting pen to paper – it grounded me. I no longer feel like I’m chasing the life my current situation requires of me. I am living the life I want.

My partner loves an analogy and once told me “if you don’t talk about how you feel, you stack each problem on top of each other like unstable china plates. The longer you don’t talk, the more precarious your stack of plates becomes.” But, each time you talk about a problem, you remove one of the plates from the stack. This is how I feel when I write: I get my thoughts into coherent words and then deal with them.

Right now, I’m more happier with myself and my life than I have been in a long time.

Give yourself time to do the things you love, and the rest will work itself out.