Cornavirus and Mental Health
Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current coronavirus (COVID-19), can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times.
Here are some tips we hope will help you, your friends and your family to look after your mental health at a time when there is much discussion of potential threats to our physical health.
Looking after your mental health while you have to stay at home.
More of us will be spending a lot of time at home and many of our regular social activities will no longer be available to us. It will help to try and see it as a different period in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.
It will mean a different rhythm of life, a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual. Be in touch with other people regularly on social media, e-mail or on the phone, as they are still good ways of being close to the people who matter to you.
Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. You could try reading more or watching movies, having an exercise routine, trying new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet. Try and rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.
Make sure your wider health needs are being looked after such as having enough prescription medicines available to you.
Try to avoid speculation and look up reputable sources on the outbreak.
Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.
Follow hygiene advice such as washing your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds with soap and hot water (sing ‘happy birthday’ to yourself twice to make sure you do this for 20 seconds). You should do this whenever you get home or into work, blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food. If you can’t wash your hands straightaway, use hand sanitiser and then wash them at the next opportunity.
You should also use tissues if you sneeze and make sure you dispose of them quickly; and stay at home if you are feeling unwell.
Make a personal financial plan
If the pandemic has stretched your expenses, reduced your income or left you unsure about your job prospects, this uncertainty can take a toll on your mental health.
Plan your finances this winter , including making sure you are getting any benefits you are entitled to and getting help with any debt concerns you may have. With different restrictions in place, using a budget tool to redo your household budget for being at home could be useful. Remember that you may be saving money by not spending on things like transport and socialising. Factor that in when looking at your budget. Trying to stay in a stable financial or debt position is incredibly protective to our wellbeing.
Try to stay connected
The way we are able to connect to others is changing, but this is happening at a different pace depending on who you are and where you live. Advice is significantly different if you are shielding, and you still need to take extra care if you have a long-term physical health condition, are pregnant or aged over 70.
At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family, by telephone, email or social media, or contact a helpline for support.
Stay in touch with friends on social media but try not to sensationalise things. If you are sharing content, use this from trusted sources, and remember that your friends might be worried too.
Also remember to regularly assess your social media activity. Tune in with yourself and ask if they need to be adjusted. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious.
Try to anticipate distress
It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you are shielding, have a long-term physical health condition or fall into one of the other groups that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking, drinking and overeating.
Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.
Looking after your mental health as lockdown eases
Across the nations of the UK, lockdown is easing in different ways and at different times. As we begin to come out of lockdown many of us are faced with both challenges and opportunities.
Within social distancing guidelines, we may be able to see friends and family in person, play sport or return to work.
However, many of us may find even these longed-for changes difficult for our mental health. The idea of coming out of lockdown when the scientific debate is ongoing may also be worrying for those of us who are more at risk from the virus or living with mental health problems.