The Coronavirus: How to protect your mental health
As the full effects of the Coronavirus pandemic slowly begin to be felt, what is becoming more and more clear is the toll it has taken on our mental health. And, although we hope that the worst is behind us, anxiety and uncertainty about an unknown future can leave us with feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. Thankfully, there are things that we can do to minimise the distress and bring some sort of normality back to our lives.
- Accept where we are – It seems like the virus will be around longer than we thought and, with areas of the country experiencing lockdowns and a second wave possibly coming, we need accept that the uncertainty is here to stay. By focussing on what is in our control rather than what is not helps us to reduce anxiety and create boundaries.
- Physically distance, socially reach out – The restrictions on how we can socialise are arguably to biggest change we are facing. Balancing social responsibility with individual freedoms can be tricky but together we will get through this.
Socially distancing doesn’t mean we need to be shut off from our friends and family. Increasing telephone calls, Skype chats and other ways of staying in touch are even more important at the moment. Reaching out to others and checking in with a friendly face and voice will keep a sense of connection.
- Structure your time – For many of us, being asked to work from home is something new and may take some adjustment. Making sure we keep to a routine is one way that we can keep on top of things. If you normally have to dress for work, keep doing this. It helps to separate work time from leisure time. Make sure you have regular breaks and keep to a similar schedule you would if you were in your office or normal workplace. Ensure that you find a balance between routine and making sure each day has some variety.
- Limit social media and the news – Social media overload is something that may intensify feeling of anxiety especially for those people with pre-existing mental health conditions. Limit reading or watching the news to 15 minutes and day and avoid reading social media posts from people who aren’t experts. Take breaks from Instagram and Facebook and mute any group chats that might increase your distress. Seek information for practical steps you can take to prepare yourself and your family and make specific times to update yourself with the WHO and other healthcare professionals.
- Exercise and avoid burning out – More so than ever, it is important to keep up exercise and accessing sunlight on a daily basis. Taking walks, eating healthy and staying hydrated with benefit both your physical but also mental health. Find down time to relax, be creative, watch a funny film. Home workout videos and meditation apps will help to reduce anxiety and reduce worries.