Living with a Mental Illness: Keeping your mind busy during isolation

I have anxiety and with that comes the constant thoughts, questions and terrors inside my head about everything and anything. Anxiety can also bring along their friend depression which makes those thoughts turn darker and make you feel there is no way out. We are currently experiencing a pandemic. There’s no way to sugar coat it, it’s extremely crap. We are all afraid and it’s hard to turn off that fear without distractions. A lot of us are now working from home or self-isolating, so there is less day-to-day distractions to keep our minds busy. We need those distractions to keep those negative thoughts at bay, even if only to just switch off from the shit every now and then.

If, like me, you fancy switching off from it all but not sure where to start – there are plenty of ways you can keep your mind busy and try and focus on something else for a while.

Listen to a podcast

Guaranteed to make you think about something else for a bit, podcasts have become insanely popular over the past few weeks. I recommend starting a new podcast that has episodes way before this all started to really make you remember the slightly easier times. Some of my favourites:

  1. Shag, Married, Annoyed by Chris and Rosie Ramsey.
    This podcast is hilarious, if not a bit rancid at times. But I would rather have a laugh right now about someone defecating themselves than listen to another news bulletin that repeats the same thing over and over.
  2. Off Menu by comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster
    James Acaster pretends to be a magical genie who serves his guest’s favourite drink, starter, main meal, side dish and dessert. I don’t think I need to say more other than it’s a complete laugh each week.
  3. All Killa No Filla by comedians Rachel and Kiri Pritchard-McLean
    Rachel and Kiri talk serial killers and I have only just discovered this podcast and love it. I have seen both Rachel and Kiri live at the Frog and Bucket in Manchester and they were both awesome, which then led me to discover their shared podcast.

Definitely recommend downloading Spotify as it lists all the different genres for the podcasts and is a great way to discover something new. We also previously wrote about some awesome mental health related podcasts you can check out here.

Watch a motivating travel or lifestyle show

I know what you’re thinking, “Emma, why would I want to watch a travel show to make me envious that I can’t leave my house?” and you would be right, it makes no sense I won’t deny that. However, there’s something motivating about watching people discover new places and experience something new. A particular travel programme of mine is Travel Man: 48 hours in… hosted by Richard Ayoade. It gives me little pockets of insight into different places around the world that I can add to my list to visit once this is all over and I actually have some funds.

Furthermore there’s something enriching about a lifestyle programme that involves a transformation. Queer Eye (yes we mention this programme 5,567 times in our blogs, we are not sorry) or Escape to the Chateau where a couple completely transform a chateau in France. Again, a nice way to escape every day life at the moment and discover some joy.


Busy hands, busy mind

Keeping your hands busy with a hobby or task, albeit sounding quite suggestive, is a good way of keeping the mind busy and clear of any negative thoughts. This could be painting, knitting, baking/cooking, crocheting, drawing – anything that requires full focus can be beneficial to try during lockdown to keep those thoughts at bay.

Reading or Writing

So far during this lockdown I have read 20 books, yes, 20. I read less than that in the whole of 2019. I love that feeling when you have found a gripping book, so gripping you are sat down reading for 4 hours straight and don’t realise the sky has gone dark. Here’s some favourites I have read so far:

  1. The Dressmakers Gift by Fiona Valpy
    Set during WW2 the book follows 4 young twenty-something women during their most troubling times. This book was hard to read at times but also beautiful to read and I found myself very much gripped. 5 stars
  2. Freshers by Tom Ellen
    I felt extremely old reading this as it feels like decades ago since I was in my freshers week at university. The characters were extremely relatable and it was a great storyline. 5 stars
  3. Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern
    I love Ahern’s books and this was another favourite of mine. Following a young woman who has been living in secret for over 10 years and her journey back to reality. You want to just jump in and protect her from the real world. Great read.
    4 stars.

It’s also a great opportunity to get some writing done, so if the creative juices are flowing it can really be healthy to get some of your thoughts onto paper. Document how you are feeling, sometimes seeing your words written down can help.

Creating your own playlist and going for a run/walk

Yes we are in lockdown but we are able to still go for a social distancing walk or run and therefore it’s an opportunity to be taken. It’s healthy to have some fresh air and explore a new environment, even if it’s only for a short period of time. I have rediscovered my love for running during this pandemic and feel it has been my main period of time where I can be alone with my thoughts and get some of my negative energy out.

I hope this has been helpful, please reach out if you are feeling low. Please also remember you are human and if you feel like a day lounging around, please do so and don’t make yourself feel bad for it. If you have days where you feel like you have more motivation then you can use those days to be more active or productive.

We are all new to this, but we are not alone.

Emma x

P.S. Massive thank you to our key workers and NHS to continuing to leave their homes to support us.

If you have any advice or tips that you have found useful to help during isolation please share in the comments below.

13 thoughts on “Living with a Mental Illness: Keeping your mind busy during isolation”

  1. These are really useful típs – keeping away from negative thoughts is so hard during times like this. I’ve been watching a lot of films, doing puzzles, and listening to audiobooks. Nice to see a recommendation for James Acaster under podcasts – currently listening to his book Classic Scrapes and I could honestly never get bored of it! Hands down my favourite comedian right now.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I should listen to that! I love him best on Would I Lie To You? – he’s had so many bizarre experiences.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. These are great. I like to keep my mind busy too and podcasts are amazing. They make me laugh or teach me something new and it stops me staring at a screen all the time. I even listen to them in the bath or when doing the washing up!

    Liked by 1 person

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