According to the Opinion and Lifestyle Survey, one in eight adults developed moderate to severe depressive symptoms in June this year- twice as many recorded during the same period in 2019.
Of course, this doesn’t come as a surprise, a global pandemic where millions of lives are being turned upside down has a good chance of making most of us feel more anxious or depressed than usual.
Now, while I can’t wave a magic wand and make COVID go away, or even give you an idea of when it’s all going to end, what I can do is give you some tools to help you and your family cope when the anxiety and low mood, and the good news is – it won’t cost you a penny!
Healthy body, healthy mind.
As the saying goes, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, and it’s true!
We know that exercise is good for the body, it keeps your heart healthy and your bones strong, and reduces the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes.
But it’s also a fantastic way to keep your brain positive, releasing endorphins that can enhance your sense of well-being.
Endorphins are chemicals which are released through increasing your heart rate with cardiovascular exercise such as running, swimming or walking. The effort you put in doesn’t have to be particularly strenuous, as long as your heart starts pumping and your breathing gets heavier, the endorphins will rush to reduce the brain’s perception of pain and give you a feel-good feeling in return.
That goes for kids and adults, so if you find that your children are losing concentration easily or getting more emotional than usual, pull on your trainers and get your bodies moving for half an hour – those natural chemicals will be bursting to get out!
Mind over matter
Another huge advantage of doing exercise is that everything else in your life seems to float away in an instant.
A competitive game of football or pounding the pavement for half an hour will take your mind off your worries for some much-needed respite. If you’ve been feeling low for some time or your children aren’t their usual happy selves, then getting outside for a kick about, a game of tennis or simply a run around the park will do you good. Anything you enjoy as a family will be enough to help get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety.
Lean on me
Another great benefit of exercise is that it can be a fun social event too. Getting active with pals – abiding to your local COVID restrictions – will not only enable you to put any worries or concerns to the back of your mind, but the social interaction will also help you and your kids build up confidence and enjoy some fun and laughter with friends.
If group sports aren’t your thing, a walk to the park with a mission to say ‘hello’ to all the dog walkers you encounter will be enough to give you that buzz. Approaching dog walkers is a fantastic way to get some social interaction as you can keep conversations as short as you want to!
Make a goal
Of course, if you are feeling low or depressed then just getting dressed could be a struggle, so start as small as you need to.
The idea of going for a 10k run sounds fantastic, but what’s the point setting that target if just getting your trainers on is a chore? Choose something that is achievable, whether that’s doing the vacuuming, walking the kids to school or going for a walk around the block. Anything that gets your heart beating will release those endorphins, and the more you do, the better you will feel.
Kids are alright
If you have a child who is struggling come up with a goal together and try to be their motivation for them.
Telling someone to exercise when they are feeling low is easier said than done, but offering to be by their side and giving them the choice of activity could be enough to lift their spirits enough to give it a try.
Of course, once you get them out and about the endorphins will take over and do their bit, so it’s just a case of persevering with the hard part!
The same goes with kids – start small. If they tend to spend a lot of time in their room and have no interest of joining a sports club or team, try and encourage them come and spend half an hour with the family before dinner and use that time to get moving. This can be as simple as going for a walk, encouraging them to have a wild dance around the kitchen or going on a bike ride.
Being depressed is not unusual, particularly under the current circumstances. It can also leave you feeling low in energy, which might put you off being more active.
But if you can find something you enjoy, something you can commit to regularly either as an individual or a family, you will soon find your mood lifts, it will become a little easier to get out and about each day, and you will have a happier, healthier family!