It’s no secret that the past two months in lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak have had an impact on our mental health in some way.
Dr Lucy Atcheson, a counselling psychologist, says that one of the main problems with the way we’re living now is that we start to miss “micro-lifts” that we normally have peppered throughout our day without even necessarily realising.
She previously told The Independent: “You’re on your way to work, you might pop into your favourite coffee shop or say hi to someone in the street, there are small little things throughout our day that help to lift us often without us even realising.
“When you’re alone at home that doesn’t happen – and the cumulative effect of that is massive. So instead we need to create micro-lifts. That might be a new exercise, learning a little bit of a language, talking to someone on FaceTime or joining a book group online.”
IndyBest has tried and tested many products that we have found to be comforting during uncertain times, from sleep apps to help get a good night’s rest to uplifting novels to read. Here are our favouries.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The perfect running shoes
The new lockdown restrictions now mean you can do unlimited exercise every day, and besides maintaining your physical health, it can also help with your mental wellbeing too.
Buckley previously told The Independent in our guide to managing your mental health during lockdown that: “Our physical health and mental health are linked, so try to create a routine that includes some physical exercise.”
If you’re looking to pick up running as as new form of exercise, our guide to how to start running is ideal for beginners and there’s a whole host of resources and tools at your disposal to help you meet your fitness goals.
All you really need is a pair of running shoes, too. We found the New Balance fresh foam 1080v10 London (New Balance, from £135) to be the best in our IndyBest reviews for both men and women’s running shoes, which were loved by our reviewers for being lightweight, helping with a smooth heel-to-toe action and keeping legs feeling fresh even after a long run.
The midsole was praised for keeping the foot in place and anchoring the heel for an all-rounder shoe that excelled in comfort and performance.
Or if cycling takes your fancy, find our guide for beginners here. It’s also one of the best ways to safely maintain social-distancing when outdoors too.
Something to ease you into sleep
With stress and increased anxiety often comes fatigue as well as difficulty in getting a good night’s rest.
If you struggle to drift off, a sleep tea can be a godsend. In our round-up of the best sleep teas, our favourite is Pukka organic peace tea (Holland and Barrett, £2.99). Infused with ethically sourced hemp (CBD), chamomile and spearmint to help mental and physical relaxation, calm feelings of anxiety and soothe digestive discomfort making it the ideal cuppa to create a bit of inner peace before bedtime.
It also uses ashwagandha – a root commonly used in Ayurveda to treat insomnia both for falling asleep and sleep quality, which when blended with other supercharged healing herbs adds up to a deep, restorative sleep.
A sleep app can track the quality of your sleep, using sounds and meditation techniques to help you drift off and wake up gently.
The best one we found in our round-up of sleep apps was Portal – focus, sleep, escape. It’s free to download or an optional £3.99 to unlock its premium content. From spring barley fields in Devon to Monteverde’s cloud forest in Costa Rica, it transports users around the world, helping them drift off to sleep with the assistance of some of nature’s most relaxing sounds.
Whether we fancied a quick nap or just wanted to switch off after a long day, this was our go-to sleep aid and our reviewer found it helped them sleep no matter their mood. “There’s a sound to suit everyone – plus you can mix Portal’s audio with other apps if you find that audiobooks or podcasts help you snooze,” said our reviewer.
“As an added bonus, the app’s sleep timer and alarm integrate with Philips Hue lighting systems, adding an extra dimension to the ambience with the lights fading in and out,” they added.
A diary to track your thoughts
“Getting it out of your head and onto the page can really make a difference and help process how you’re feeling,” she says. This Moleskine 12 month daily diary and planner (Moleskine, £7) is small enough for a back pocket but is chunky and compact.
There’s a day per page, which makes this suitable for anyone who wants to do more with their diary than jot down appointments or birthdays.
Dr Hibberd says something as simple as practising gratitude can help stop you from getting caught up in what’s making you unhappy and encourage you to look at the bigger picture. It can be simple things such as a sunny day, a hot mug of tea, being outdoors and delicious meals.
“Keep a diary of all of your feelings – lots of people have reported a catch up of emotions as they are less busy and there is more time to think. Getting it out of your head and onto the page can really make a difference and help process how you’re feeling,” she explains.
Fiction and non-fiction must reads
As we’ve not been able to do any of our usual weekend activities from trips away to brunch with friends, the extra time means you can spend it immersed into an uplifting novel from our IndyBest list, which has no doubt been on your reading list for months.
For a much-needed bit of escapism, try The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Waterstones, £8.99) to boost your spirits.
It’s the first book in the author’s classic series, The Cazalet Chronicles. The story starts in the summer of 1937, when three generations of the Cazalet family gather at the family home in the heart of the Sussex countryside.
Despite the idyllic setting, siblings Hugh, Edward, Rupert and Rachel have each experienced heartache. Hugh is haunted by the ravages of the First World War, Edward is trying to hide his latest infidelity, Rupert seems unable to please his demanding wife and Rachel risks losing her only chance at happiness because of her unflinching loyalty to the rest of the family.
It’s divided into 15 digestible chapters with to-the-point heads, such as “remember this when you’re scared of your own brain” and “remember this when you can’t stand your own body”. What follows is razor-sharp prose that reads like advice and anecdotes from a trusted friend.
Van Eijk tackles traumatic incidents from her own past, such as the time she badly burnt her forearm with cigarettes, with lightness. A self-professed lover of lists, she punctures the prose with bulleted sections designed to help the reader take better care of themselves.
Themes include “not-so-cringeworthy mantras that help me”. It’s a raw and comforting read.
CBD products to help you relax
CBD encourages relaxation and brings a general calmness to your overall wellbeing it has been suggested and The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis reports that the CBD market is currently one of the fastest-growing wellbeing product categories in the UK.
The pack of three mini soaps are so good, our reviewer used all three in one sitting. They described them as gorgeously silky on the skin and each one features a powerful 50mg of CBD that quite simply does what it says – melts on contact with water.
To use, simply massage into wet skin while in the tub, then lie back, relax and emerge feeling moisturised, with no need for any other lotions or oils post-bath. The packaging is also fully recyclable.
However, if you don’t have a bath but are seeking something budget-friendly, try The Inkey List hemp oil moisturiser (Feel Unique, £7.99)
It’s infused with hemp oil which naturally contains a high amount of omega-3 and omega-6 that helps calm and soothe irritated and stressed skin while replenishing hydration too.
Although highly moisturising, it’s a lightweight and non-sticky formula, while the 30ml weight makes it a handy handbag must-have for busy beings that often get ready on the go. It works wonders as a hand cream too.
If you are in need of mental health support, you can contact charity Mind by calling the helpline on 0300 123 3393, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or texting 86463. The helpline is open Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 9am-6pm
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.