New stringent measures will see social distancing, working from home and quarantine become a reality in the coming days and weeks. But with such an overload of information from constant news updates and social media feeds, fear and panic is also spreading. So, whilst we try to come to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that we also protect our mental health during this confusing and unprecedented time.
From panic buying and scenes of empty shelves, to worrying about loved ones, it is normal to be concerned and for stress levels to rise but it’s important to find ways to cope and control any rising levels of anxiety before they control us.
Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include a number of changes in the way you usually feel.
These could include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of existing chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
- To help combat these feelings, there are a number of things you can do to help support yourself and your loved ones.
Informed but not overwhelmed
It is now easier than ever for outlandish claims and misinformation to reach a mass audience. Setting yourself boundaries on how much news you read, watch or listen will allow you to focus on your life and actions over which you do have control over, as opposed to wondering ‘what if?’
- Stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information only such as government, WHO and NHS websites. These credible sources of information are key to avoid the fear and panic that misinformation may cause.
- Try to avoid excessive exposure to media coverage. Constant monitoring of news updates and social media feeds about COVID-19 can intensify the feelings of worry and distress that you may be experiencing. Limit these to certain times a day.
- Limit your social media scanning, mute WhatsApp groups and hide Facebook posts and feeds if you find them too overwhelming.
- Consider turning off automatic notifications on your phone and take a break from the news
Self-Care within your control
Self-care is vital in the fight against poor mental health and anxiety, and in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak includes focusing on things you can control instead of those you cannot. Where possible, maintain a daily routine and normal activities, such as: getting showered, dressed, eating regular healthy meals, getting enough sleep and doing things that you enjoy.
- Whether self isolating or working from home, consider creating a daily routine that prioritises your wellbeing and positive mental health
- Stay active and where possible get fresh air when you can. A walk or jog round the block will help you to relax and will have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing. Consider doing this early in the morning or later in the day when you are likely to meet the fewest people. if you are self isolating and unable to go outside, get those windows wide open and fill the house with fresh air whilst listening to the birds
- Exercise at home. There are plenty of dedicated apps, instagram accounts and YouTube channels designed just for this purpose. Participate in HIT training, yoga or similar in your living room and set aside a time every day just for you
- Practice mindfulness. Have a bath, write a journal, enjoy some colouring or meditate
- Simply relax and read a good book – sometimes it’s ok to do nothing and can help us to feel grounded
The coming weeks and possibly months are likely to be a challenging time for us all, especially for those who struggle with mental health and anxiety. But with some simple planning, self awareness and self care strategies in place, it will be easier to focus on the things you can control and worry less about those that you can’t. Social Isolation doesn’t have to mean emotional isolation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and where possible try to help others.