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Originally I was going to entitle this blog “An Essential Guide To Taking Care Of Your Mental Health During The Lockdown”

And then I went back to one of the mantras I’ve been saying for the past 4 weeks – don’t make rash decisions, make decisions that will help you long-term rather than just the next 3 months

If you see me on Social Media you’ll see the positive always smiling always happy side. That isn’t a fake image or an act, but it’s come through years of being the person who grew up listening to The Smiths, The Manic Street Preachers and My Chemical Romance – I’ve suffered from depression in the past when I was younger and through a really strong support network of close friends, setting goals which keep me mentally and physically fit and tuning into a mindset that rejects negativity I’m a much happier person for it. The Alex from age 10-20 on social media would have been a very different person than you see today

This blog isn’t for myself a “tick the mental health blog off the list” blog – but a genuine desire to help

These things help me – they might help you, they might not help you – and if you are suffering from mental health issues please seek out help from those close to you or professionals

1. Goal Setting
Whilst writing this blog I’ve just looked up at my goal lists for 2020

It’s probably the 1st year I won’t be able to achieve them in full due to the lockdown

I can accept that

But Goal Setting, which I’ve done every year since 2012 has massively improved my life and my business

I’ve always set 12 business goals and 12 personal goals and then printed them out and put them above my workstation to remind me

The personal goals are just as important as the business ones and I generally set goals around my health, fitness and social life – where possible I also discuss them with my close friend and inner circle so our goals are aligned wherever possible

If you’ve never set goals before, don’t wait until the start of the new year – set goals for what you want to achieve in the next month, few months or to the end of the year

Writing them down makes you psychologically aim towards them

Brian Moran put in his email during lockdown “You Still Have Goals & Dreams”

It spoke to me

2. Planning Your Days & Nights
When people consider their to do list they often focus on their to do list for their job / business

The great thing about working for yourself is it gives you flexibility on your working day

A working day in the Summer can be a working evening instead if you want to enjoy the rare Manchester sun

If you need to take time off for a birthday, friends birthday you can

Most people waste their evenings because they simply sit down at 7pm and scan randomly to see what’s on TV – I’ve gone through the TV guide at the start of the week, know what’s on and can plan reading books, listening to music and social media around it

Don’t forget to plan your “down time” or “social time” as much as you plan your worklife. Plan your weekends and you’ll never waste a weekend again

If busy suits you plan to be busy

If quiet time is needed plan gaps in your day so you take that non negotiable quiet time

3. Taking Weekends Off
Probably for 9-10 years of my business I worked hard at weekends

It built the business, but it was a mistake

I’d moved away from working to live to living to work – I had no work / life balance and no rest days

At the start of 2020 I’d made the call to take Sunday’s off 100% and during lockdown that has gone to taking weekends off 100% (well 95% as it’s social media I work in so there is no 100% switch off)

I feel better for it

As entrepreneurs and business owners we feel guilty if we don’t do something. Lose the guilt. You’ll start the week off with clarity and do more because of it

4. Eat Well & Drink Less (or don’t drink at all)
Do you know when you go on holiday and even though you’re on holiday you just feel drained through doing nothing

That lethargy that you have when you wake up after a full nights sleep

Most people have that lethargy feeling all year around because of what they eat and drink

I’m not saying never eat for pleasure or never have gluttonous days – people who know me know that I usually have a birthday week rather than one day

But if you’re feeling a little lacklustre – watch what you eat for 48-72 hours and watch your mood change as you up your intake of fruit and veg rather than binge eating cake and biscuits

This is entirely your decision – I don’t preach. But I’ve never felt mentally stronger than I have since going vegan and stopping drinking alcohol

You are what you eat and drink

5. Running
It doesn’t matter if it’s couch25k, if you’re a parkrunner, if you run 10ks, half marathons or marathons

It doesn’t matter if you consider your time fast or slow

If you put one foot in front of the other and you run then you’re a runner

In the world of tech and devices I love the switching off element that running gives you. The fresh air. The running with silence and the running with a soundtrack

I like to make running fun for people rather than about the fastest times or the longest distances so I set up a running blog called Running With Meaning. I’ve done so many varied runs whilst working around the country such as Pink Floyd, Beatles, Brookside and Richard Beckinsale runs in Cambridge, Liverpool and Nottingham respectively. And then of course there’s The Smiths, Oasis and the Hacienda locally

Make running fun – go and explore new places

6. Walking
I’ve never been a walker walker until lockdown

As a group of friends we said we’d go on one big walk a month, but we did one, one got rained off in February and then lockdown hit

I don’t drive so I walk everywhere, but walking for mental health has been lovely the past few weeks

Just heading out on the roads locally being a tourist in your home town and exploring the quiet streets around you

It’s wonderful to take everything in and if you want to learn at the same time put a podcast on for an hour and simply walk until the podcast finishes

I’ve found that walking has the same effect as running in that the fresh air and outdoor life just clears your head

7. Creating
Working in music for 14 years and social media marketing for 10 years I’ve never lost touch with my creative side

I still think it’s important to have a creative outlet that isn’t directly related to work though

My running blog is part of that – writing for fun, rather than writing for business

During lockdown I’ve started a series of self portraits during my walks or runs – simply using the 10 second timer on my smartphone to take more creative photos than the obligatory selfies we’re all used to taking on nights out

I think in many ways some of this creativity will continue in my photography, but I’ll start doing 30 day creative challenges which showcase my life or something locally I’m passionate about

Align your interests with something that you can create simply for fun

8. Ignoring News

I don’t buy newspapers

I don’t consume the 6 o’clock news, 10 o’clock news or the 24/7 newscycle of negativity

And my life is better for it

During lockdown I made a mistake for a week of avidly consuming news and it sent me into a spiral of depression

Once I’d got the message of wash your hands for 20 seconds, avoid people, stay 2 metres away the only news consumption needed was the 5pm daily announcement

I’d much rather spend the time in books and improving my life than dwelling on tabloid muck, people destroying people’s lives, ambulance chasing

Give up news for one month to start with – see if you genuinely miss it

9. Connect With Others (Regularly)
I speak to my best friend and parents most days

During lockdown I’ve been skyping with the parents and zooming with friends

We all need that human connection whether it’s virtual or physical

The conversations don’t need to be earth shatteringly important – there just needs to be a connection

Stay in touch with those people that are important to you

It’s so easy to lose touch and I’m guilty of it with some friends at times

10. Music
Last and certainly not least

Music saves lives

Music has always been something I’ve turned to and something I obsess about

I’m not expecting anybody reading this to go to 10 gigs a month, spend 20+ hours a week listening to music and to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of music

But here is what I’ve been doing during lockdown in terms of music and will continue to do so afterwards

* Listen to the music of the bands I’m going (was going) to gigs of that week
* Spend Monday as Discover Weekly and Friday as Release Radar day for new releases and discovery
* Do weekly dives into an artists complete backcatalogue of studio albums to day – I’ve listened to 6 Oasis albums in order, 13 Morrissey albums in order and 6 Suede albums in order at the time of writing this so far. Any suggestions for the next deep dive let me know

If you’re out of touch with new music simply ask your friends on Facebook which new bands they’d recommend and you’ll have at least one big music fan on who will respond

Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

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