The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak means life has completely changed for all of us for a while. This disconcerting new environment may cause you to feel anxious, stressed, worried, sad, bored, lonely or frustrated. These emotions are completely understandable. It’s important to remember it’s okay to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these feelings will pass.
There are some simple things we can all do to help us take care of our mental health and wellbeing during times of uncertainty. Doing so will help us think clearly, and make sure we can look after ourselves and those we care about. Here are 10 ways you can help improve your mental health and wellbeing if you are worried or anxious about the coronavirus outbreak.
1) Stay connected with people
Maintaining healthy relationships with people we trust is important for our mental wellbeing, so think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while needing to stay at home.
You could try phone calls, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s with people you normally see often or linking up with old friends. You can connect with colleagues by switching on your video during calls and participating in group chats on Microsoft Teams.
2) Talk about how you are feeling
As with any major life changing event, you’re likely to be going through a range of different emotions. It’s okay to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too. Remember: you are not alone.
If you don’t feel able to speak to someone you know or if doing so hasn’t helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead.
3) Support and help others
Similarly, think about ways you can help others and be mindful of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours at this time.
Try to think of things you can do to help those around you. Do you have skills/experience which could be of benefit to others? Is there a friend, family member or work colleague you could message? Are there any community groups you could join to support others locally?
Remember, it is important to do this in line with official coronavirus guidance to keep everyone safe.
4) Feel prepared
Working through the implications of staying at home should help you feel more prepared and less concerned. Think through a normal week: how will it be affected and what do you need to do to solve any problems?
Establishing a daily routine on both work and non-workdays may help. Admittedly, this may be limited by kids, pets, family obligations, workspace or even your WiFi capacity so don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to follow this all the time. Just focus on what you can do and remember we are all facing similar challenges!
If you have not already, you might want to find out more about benefit rights for you and your family.
If you haven’t been able to secure a delivery or click and collect slot with a supermarket, you may want to consider approaching local grocers and butchers as many are delivering fruit, vegetables and essentials boxes to your door.
You could also think about who you can get help from locally – as well as people you know, lots of local and community help groups are being set up. Try to remember this disruption should only be temporary.
5) Look after your body
Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Also, try not to drink too much alcohol and stick to your regular mid-week diet routine.
You can leave your house, alone or with members of your household, for one form of exercise a day – like a walk, run or bike ride. But make you keep a safe two-metre distance from others. You may also decide to try a home workout.
6) Stick to the facts
You might also want to consider limiting the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including on social media and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone. You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to a couple of checks a day.
7) Stay on top of difficult feelings
Concern about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal. However, you may find you experience additional anxiety that can affect your daily life. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to, and where and how often you get information.
It’s fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about coronavirus are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try ideas to manage your anxiety or listening to an audio guide.
8) Do things you enjoy
If we are feeling worried, anxious or low, we might stop doing things we usually enjoy. Focusing on your favourite hobby, relaxing indoors or connecting with others can help with anxious thoughts and feelings.
If you cannot do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online. People are coming up with inventive new ways to do things, like hosting online pub quizzes and online jamming.
9) Focus on the present
Focusing on the here and now, rather than worrying about the future, can help with difficult emotions and improve our wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help deal with feelings of anxiety, or you could try a mindfulness breathing video online.
10) Look after your sleep
Good quality sleep makes a big difference in how we feel mentally and physically, so it is important to get enough.
Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. More advice on sleeping well can be found here.
Hopefully these tips will help you improve your mental health and wellbeing during this uncertain period. If these are useful to you, why not share them with your team or friends to help them cope too. Remember: we’re all in this together.