Alumni Stories: James Lindsay and coping with mental health during COVID-19

James Lindsay studied for his MSc in Marketing at Herts and now works as a Marketing Assistant at the National Animal Welfare Trust. Today he is sharing his own personal story about his mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has some advice on how to cope with daily life at the moment.

Alumni Stories: James Lindsay

Can I be honest with you all? I have had a really difficult time in 2020 so far. In December last year, I had a relapse of my mental illness; acute psychosis. I had to take time off work and attend local NHS therapy classes to get better, as well as taking many different medications. My levels of anxiety, anger and sadness have been all over the place at times.

Then, just when things are getting better for me and I am starting to feel stable, this awful corona virus decides to get involved. Thanks to covid19, I am still waiting for the green light to return to my job (marketing assistant at an animal charity in Watford). This has all been very frustrating, but I am choosing to be a ‘glass half full’ person about the situation. I am very lucky to be living with my supporting mum, dad and brother. I also met my girlfriend in October last year, and she has stuck by me despite all of my drama. I have incredible supportive friends and I still have a job to go back to.

It is not all doom and gloom though, trust me on that. Despite things seeming more bleak and difficult than ever, I firmly believe we will all get through this and come out of the other side stronger. I’ve got some bits of advice that I want to share with you, things which are helping me cope with everyday life at the moment. 

1) We are allowed one exercise per day at the moment, use this very wisely if you can! 

I have been doing long walks, cycling and running. Sometimes I really have to force myself to do one of these due to low mood, but nine times out of ten, I come back home feeling more positive and hopeful. Even more so if I have immersed myself in nature, take advantage of your local parks, forests, and green community spaces.

Exercise is proven to help with our mental health, once you experience the sensations of endorphins and serotonin in your brain, you will be glad you treated your mind and body to a workout. Plus regular exercise will keep your immune system strong, something we all need right now.

If you’re more of an indoors exercise person, I highly recommend yoga. I follow a YouTube channel called ‘Yoga with Adriene’ and there are loads of videos on there that have helped me with back pain, as well as anxiety, self-esteem and confidence, the benefits are endless! There are also many cool atheletes doing good ‘hiit workouts’, I personally find the Joe Wicks PE lessons on YouTube give me the workout I need (and then some). 

2) If you have the equipment available (laptop/tablet/phone), make the most of video calls

Once a week I have been part of video calls with my friends from uni and my mates from football, we sometimes do a quiz too! Since we are not currently able to have human contact, it’s important to not lose touch with our loves ones. Even if you don’t feel like being social, you might find that a video call lifts your mood considerably.

3) Use the lockdown as an opportunity to learn something new

You could try learning a language, or learn how to play an instrument, or get crafty and take up knitting for example, get creative! It’s good to keep the brain active, so that once the lockdown is lifted, you are raring to go! Whatever you decide to do, it will also serve as an effective distraction from all the depressing news at the moment.

4) Be mindful if what you eat and drink

I know it’s tempting to indulge on chocolate and alcohol (I have dabbled at times), but don’t punish your body too much. Life is very challenging at the moment, so keeping a healthy diet is important to keep our health in tip top condition. Make sure you look after your gut health, because this also affects your mood and energy levels.

5) Help out your fellow humans

Doing good deeds makes you feel good, trust me! I have done some volunteering recently, by posting covid19 charity leaflets through people’s door near to where I live. Obviously we need to help the cause by staying at home, but there are plenty of ways to help even more if you feel up to it. For example I also gave blood recently, and signed up to the St John Ambulance weekly lottery, there are so many things out there that we can all do to help, I am sure your ‘thing’ is out there too!

6) Don’t be hard on yourself

Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about your situation. Being self-critical is a slippery slope, and can lead to agitation and depression (I speak from experience). If you’re struggling, please share it with someone and don’t keep the negativity to yourself. You will be surprised that sharing your mental health actually leads to receiving unconditional love. In my case, it has also opened up a few opportunities, such as writing this blog!

I really hope you have found any parts of this advice useful. Just remember that virus or no virus, we are all going through a shared human experience. In my opinion, having an invisible mental illness can make you feel like you are on lockdown, or have a two metre safe zone around you anyway! Keep being the best version of yourself, then when this is all over, you will look back at these uncertain times with pride. You will feel proud of how you coped with a global health crisis, and be inspired to share your good vibes with others. 

Take care of yourself and stay safe,
James xx


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