Look after your wellbeing and mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
It’s fair to say that we’re all experiencing a strange set of circumstances at the moment. Staying home, avoiding others and not being able to meet with friends and family can be challenging, especially for those of us who live alone, or tend to rely on socialisation to maintain our wellbeing.
According to Anxiety UK, the fear of being out of control and able to tolerate uncertainty are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders. Because of the current pandemic, we’ve all been plunged into a state of uncertainty, so it’s understandable that we’re all a little anxious, whether we’ve experienced pre-existing anxiety and mental health conditions in the past or not.
However, there are lots of things you can do to boost your mental health and wellbeing, even during isolation. Here are some of our top tips.
1. Limit your exposure to the news
If reading, watching and/or listening to the news multiple times a day is causing you to feel anxious, try to limit your exposure to it. While it’s sensible to stay abreast of the developing situation, and important to have an up-to-date understanding of current government guidelines, choosing to check in just once a day might be more beneficial to your wellbeing than being inundated and distracted by constant news updates.
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, you can mute words that you might find triggering on Twitter, and unfollow or mute accounts you don’t find helpful at this time. You can also mute WhatsApp groups and choose to hide Facebook posts.
2. Stay connected
Staying in touch with friends and family will support your mental health during long periods of self-isolation, particularly if you live alone. For those of us who are more extroverted, or find that social contact tends to support them mentally and emotionally, this is especially important.
Connecting and checking in with others is more important than ever, and there are plenty of apps and websites to keep us all connected, with Zoom and Houseparty proving particularly popular at the moment. Set a time each day to chat with loved ones, or just check in regularly. This also gives you both a chance to share your feelings and offload a little – remember, social isolation doesn’t have to mean emotional isolation!
3. Exercise, eat well and stay hydrated
It’s tempting to reach for whatever you have in the fridge every half an hour when we’re stuck at home with nothing else to do, but try to eat well and maintain your usual diet if you can. Eating high fat, high sugar foods with little nutritional value can leave you feeling lethargic, which will contribute to any sense of poor mental health. That said, if you’ve still got easter eggs hanging around, we won’t stop you!
Exercise of any sort will help to boost your immune system and your mood. Getting outside is so beneficial to our mental health and wellbeing, so continue to access nature and sunlight wherever possible, whether that’s for a daily walk, run or bike ride. If that’s not enough, or you’re self-isolating and need to stay inside, there’s also plenty of exercise you can try from your living room. There are plenty of at-home work out videos on Youtube, including HIIT, Yoga, Prenatal exercises and even classes for children!
4. Use anxiety techniques or meditation apps
Use breathing techniques, mindfulness or other anxiety relieving techniques to manage your mental health. Here are some suggestions:
AnxietyUK suggests practising the “Apple” technique to deal with anxiety and worries.
Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.
Popular meditation apps Calm and Headspace normally cost £50-£60/year for a subscription, but they’ve both released free content specifically to help those struggling with anxiety and stress at this time.
Headspace has a collection called Weathering the Storm, which includes meditations, sleep and movement exercises. It’s available on the app (for iPhone or Android), or you can access some of the content via the Headspace website.
Calm Zone are also offering a daily webchat from 5pm until midnight.
You can call, email or write to the Samaritans. Call free at any time of day or night on 116 123.
5. Be kind to yourself
Whatever your current situation, most of us have found ourselves in a strange and unusual time. We’re uncertain of how and when this will end, and constantly subconsciously aware of a new threat, which is both tiring and traumatic. It’s no wonder it’s difficult to concentrate or find motivation on certain days.
Our advice is to be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself a slow morning, or an early night. Accept that you’re not always going to feel 100%, and that’s okay.
For more resources and wellbeing guides, take a look at some of these:
World Health Organisation
Mental Health at Work
The Calm Zone
Rethink Mental Illness
Mental Health Foundation