Be kind to yourself and don't feel guilty — Dr Zoe's guide to beating Covid gloom

HERE we go again, national lockdown mark III. And if that wasn’t tough enough, it’s freezing cold, miserable and grey outside . . . and it’s January!

I am naturally a positive and optimistic person. But as hard as I have tried to pep myself up this week, I have struggled.

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This feels like the hardest stretch so far. I found myself doing nothing – I couldn’t even motivate myself to move off the sofa.

I’ve been struggling with my mental health, I’ve felt anxious and emotional, and this week has really got to me.

I watched as Boris Johnson put us back into lockdown last week and my heart went out to all those people who are shielding again.

It feels like it’s getting worse – and what really gets me down is knowing it is going to get worse than this still before it gets better.

Even though I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s hard. The mass rollout of Covid vaccines is a really big step. It will give us our lives back.

'FINDING THINGS TOUGH'

But even with that to look forward to it, this is a difficult time – and it is OK to acknowledge that and admit you are finding things tough.

While we have been through two national lockdowns, each has been different. The first was something we had never seen before.

We had no idea what it would be like and no expectations. The second, in November, was only for a month and we could all see the end in sight – with Christmas our reward at the end.

And that is what makes this one so different – and arguably harder. We feel let down, we’ve all missed out on Christmas with our families and, on top of it all, it’s January.

We all have down days but there is still hope for a much better year. Once we get past this lockdown, the countdown can really begin.

I estimate we have until Easter. It sounds far away, I know, but by then the sun will be shining and we will (surely) be able to see people again.

Move your body

Until then, there are things we can all do to feel better. While trying to be healthy is more important than ever, being perfect should be an anti-resolution. So first things first, give yourself a break!

If you want to bake banana bread every week, bake it. If you eat more, eat it and don’t feel bad.

If you are tired of cooking, get a healthy(ish) takeaway. If you spend a whole day binge-watching Netflix, fine.

The key is this: Don’t be too harsh on yourself, and stop feeling guilty.

The next few months are about surviving – and a bit of what you like is good in the short term.

Once you have promised to be kind to yourself, there are three things you can do each day that I’ve found helpful.

The first is to get out in natural sunlight for 20 minutes, even if it is standing by a window or on your doorstep.

It will make you feel better and help regulate your body clock, which aids sleep.

HELP YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

The second thing is to move your body. I’m not suggesting you run a 10k every day. Start with a brisk walk and build up. Apps like the Active 10 and Couch To 5k are great.

While there are lots of things we can’t do, we can get outside for exercise.

Why not meet a friend? (Don’t forget, you can meet one person from another household outside if you maintain a two-metre distance.)

If you need to stay indoors, stretching every ten minutes at your desk or a few squats while you make a cuppa counts.

It will help your health but more importantly, it will help your mental health.

It can act as a stress relief and help you feel a sense of achievement that you have done something to alleviate muscle aches and pains.

Last but not least, stay in touch with your friends, family and colleagues.

Try nominating a phone buddy who you call once a week, or dedicate each night to a different loved one.

If you feel really down, sometimes the last thing you want to do is talk to someone. But actually having that call scheduled and chatting will make you feel so much better.

These are three simple things we can all try each day. You can even combine them into the same ten-minute walk out in the sun, talking on the phone.

Try it. Sometimes the small things make the biggest difference.

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