Nealo’s mental health tips for lockdown

Words: Dylan Murphy
Photography: George Voronov

When the going gets tough we often reach for art to make sense of the world. In a time where we are becoming increasingly disconnected, music, television and other mediums can provide a sense of shared experience that makes the darker days feel a little less lonely. Experienced Clonsilla rapper Nealo spoke to us and provided hints and tips to make lockdown a little more manageable.

As we go into a second lockdown, the novelty of zoom quizzes and banana bread is well and truly wearing off. Especially when Christmas – a time defined by warm celebrations and togetherness is right around the corner.

In recent years, awareness around the importance of looking after your mental health has become an important item on the shared societal agenda. It’s paramount over the next few months that we look after one another and ourselves.

Nealo has spent the best part of his career as a hip hop artist speaking candidly about the ups and downs in his life. It has resulted in catharsis for himself and relatable content for listeners.

Following the release of his debut album ‘All The Leaves Are Falling‘, we spoke to Nealo to hear his tips for manoeuvring through the next few months.

“The reality is that if you’re not happy in this moment right now you’re probably not going to be happy in 5 minutes or 5 days. You know it’s about right now.”


Focusing on the present moment

Rather than fixating on the future and when things will change it is helpful to look at what is within your control in the present.

“To find peace in the moment is what that last one (Lockdown) taught me and not to be thinking a lot of the bigger pictures and your gigs and social situations like parties and stuff which I totally leaned into in my past for happiness.”

The pandemic has put our close relationships and any lingering issues under the microscope. Dealing with what we can change right now can lead to a happier future.

“The reality is that if you’re not happy in this moment right now you’re probably not going to be happy in 5 minutes or 5 days. You know it’s about right now.”

Gratitude and keeping your circle tight

Nealo suggests that focusing on what you have rather than what you don’t have in this very moment is important. Gratitude helps build a healthy perspective during the hardest moments.

“I find a lot of happiness meeting people through gigs and socialising at shit. What the first one taught me was that happiness it’s in the moment it’s right in front of you not at the weekends. I literally have a little chap right in front of me. He’s there in the moment at all times.”

What the first lockdown taught me was that happiness is in the moment. It’s right in front of you, not at the weekends.


Meditation and exercise

Life can be stressful at the best of times and more and more people are turning to meditation and mindfulness to relieve anxiety. The number of people who practice meditation globally is estimated at 200 to 500 million currently. Given the health benefits, it is no wonder so many people are turning to the age-old practice.

According to research meditation can:

– Reduce insomnia by 50%
– Practicing meditation for between six and nine months can reduce anxiety by 60%
– 80% of people who practice mindfulness see their blood pressure decrease.
– Reduce depression relapses by about 12%.

Nealo agrees that it is an important practice to help alleviate any lingering anxiety.

“If I was to try and do one thing every day it would be meditate I think it’s incredible for your mental health and something that takes little effort.”

“It takes 10-15 minutes of just sitting there. It really is a reset button on your brain. That was something I definitely got back into. I also got into working out a lot but I’ve fallen back out of that since. I need to get back into it but it’s hard when you have a kid.”

Forgiving yourself

It’s easy to have a black and white perspective on growth, progress and wellbeing. If we miss a day’s exercise we consider it a failure or we chalk it up to some inherent inability to stay on track. In reality, life is full of ups and downs and we couldn’t possibly make it through without a few bumps along the way.

Especially given the current circumstances of the world, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll have some days where we are less productive or don’t tick everything off our to-do list – and that’s ok. Instead of giving up we need to dust ourselves off and get back at it.

“Forgiving yourself for falling off the wagon. I’m pretty sure even the best monks in the world today stop meditating for a certain amount of time we have to forgive ourselves. It’s more important to get back on it and not feeling insecure about that.”

Keeping in contact with friends

While we can’t do a lot of the same things we used to, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy time with your friends. If you are sick of the zoom calls and virtual hangouts then it’s about being responsible. You can meet up outdoors with one other household outdoors within your 5km so do it!

Otherwise there are plenty of virtual options to stay in touch. Sometimes when you are feeling low the best thing to do is get out of your own head and check in on someone else.

“I haven’t done any zoom calls this time around because they remind me too much of the last lockdown.”

“I stay connected through WhatsApp groups, voice notes are really good and phone calls are amazing. Then actually meeting up with people within the restrictions obviously.”

“It’s about adapting to change isn’t it and not getting frustrated at the rules but trying to find to work within them. Be responsible.”

Making plans

Making plans, no matter how small is vital to giving yourself something to look forward to. Doing something for yourself every day can break up the monotony of daily life. Whether that’s going for a takeaway coffee in the morning or planning to watch your favourite series after dinner, be kind to yourself. Moreover, for those working from home, having activities pencilled in can create a clear divide from work and home.

“I think it’s a huge thing for mental health. Even setting an idea for what you’re gonna do that night. Even watching a film you really like, something like that. I found it to be helpful to have an idea of what I’m doing later. I’ve found a lot of my happiness is firmly planted in the future, unfortunately. Now, I’ll be like ‘maybe I’ll just get a takeaway and watch my favourite film tonight’ and that is enough for me a lot of the time.

“On a broader scale, the idea that things will come back to normal and when they do it’ll be a lot nicer. Things that were previously taken for granted won’t be there anymore, going to have a newfound glisten on them.”

Listen to Nealo’s debut album ‘All the Leaves Are Falling’ below: