By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor 
As we begin to navigate the new year, living under COVID-19 restrictions, I want to focus on the need to look after our mental health and wellness, more than ever before. 
Here I offer you 5 tips for looking after your mental health this year: 
Set yourself a routine and adapt it to the season 
As creatures of habit, we tend to like routines that we stick to on a regular basis. From going to bed and waking at the same times each day or commuting if you are a key worker or in your home working routine, to going out for a walk, routine can help us feel more settled in an uncertain time.  
You may be planning a home school routine with your children; can the time of working be shortened to get active or go outside? 
You may well have a lockdown routine in place by now, but it is also important that you adapt if for winter. Whether it’s changing your exercise regime or finding new winter recipes, this change can really help you feel more refreshed when we are not sure how long this lockdown will last for. 
Stay Connected 
Let’s face it zooming your friends isn’t as fun as seeing them in person, but its still an essential part of looking after ourselves. Find a way that works for you, from a phone call to voice notes or even writing a letter or sending a card, there’s lots of ways to hear from your loved ones.  
Most importantly be open with how you are feeling. Talking through our emotions can help us process what might be triggering negative feelings and find key coping strategies.  
Counselling can do just that for you and the benefits are enormous. 
Set short term goals 
None of us know what the next few months will look like, so take it one day at a time, setting yourself smaller goals which are achievable for that day or week.  
I have enjoyed going back to basics with my running by challenging myself with the Couch to 5K programme. 
As plans for the last year have changed so much, we cannot think about the things we didn’t do.  
Let’s start celebrating the little wins! 
Be Mindful 
It can cause us to feel quite low in mood and negative watching the COVID-19 news and scrolling through endless social media doom and gloom.  
Instead try to set a time limit on how much news you watch each day and plan something else to read instead, so you don’t find yourself lured into negativity. If you feel overwhelmed, try switching off from tv news and social media and distract with something you can enjoy or relax with.  
Go out for a walk/run and notice nature and change of season, listen to music, write in a journal, play family games, baking and cooking can be therapeutic. Chose what is right for you and really spend time slowing down and enjoying whatever it is. 
Take care of your physical health 
Go outside at least once a day. Our mental and physical health are connected; eating a balanced diet, getting a good night’s sleep and keep moving can all have a positive impact on our wellbeing.  
Put a schedule up on a white board for your week and incorporate going outside and relaxation. Find an activity that works for you. This can be anything form a lunchtime walk, morning run or some yoga.  
Getting outside in nature boosts our mental health and mood and connects us to the outside world, whilst we are working from home. 
Resources I like to use that helps with mental health: 
The 'Headspace' App has mindful moments and meditation and sleep stories that soothe the soul and aid total relaxation. Navigating Change on Headspace is helpful to listen to in the current climate. 
'The Happy Place Podcast' - Fearne Cotton talks to incredible people about life, love, loss, and everything in-between as she reveals what happiness means to them. 
Read the book 'Good Vibes, Good Life' by Vex King. A real-world guide to achieving a greater life. 
Advice and resources at Mind or Mental Health Foundation. 
Call Samaritans on 116 123
Call Julie Wales on 07412 651 894, or send an email to to arrange an appointment. I look forward to helping you! 
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