5 ways to look after your mental health during Coronavirus

  Tay      May 18 2020     Expert Articles, Remote Toolkit

18th-24th May is Mental Health Awareness Week

How to look after your mental health during Coronavirus

While self-isolation and locking down might be the best strategies for our physical health during the COVID19 outbreak, it can also heighten feelings of loneliness, fear, stress and anxiety. These feelings may be new to you, or they may be things you were already dealing with.

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, 18-24 May 2020 is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is kindness, and one of the most important things you can do for yourself during this period of uncertainty is look after your mind. Here’s how.

Check in with yourself

It’s tempting to try not to think about everything that’s going on, but that can leave you feeling overwhelmed by an overarching feeling of helplessness and dread. It can be helpful to ask yourself specifically what is bothering you and then deal with those emotions head on. Are you worried about your health? Or that of your loved ones? Do you feel stressed about the financial impact of what’s going on? Are you struggling with loneliness and missing social interaction or physical affection? 

One really quick, useful way to do this is by completing the NHS Mind Plan quiz, which gives you tips and advice based on your answers to five straightforward questions, and is currently tailored for the coronavirus outbreak.

Control your media exposure

While some people find it makes them feel more in control to stay as educated as possible with every news development, for many people an overexposure can cause severe anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, it could be beneficial to limit your news intake. Perhaps watch one bulletin a day and then focus your attention on other things the rest of the time. 

And think careful about where you get your news from. Rumour and speculation can increase feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control, but clicking on every conspiracy theory link you see on Facebook is likely to make you feel more helpless.

Eat well and keep moving

Eating healthily doesn’t just have an impact on your physical health - various research bodies have found that eating fruit and vegetables is closely linked with wellbeing, while a Mediterranean-style diet (high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats) supplemented with fish oil led to a reduction in depression. If you find you have more time on your hands during this period, a great way to fill it is to spend time trying new healthy recipes, or putting together fresh, nutrient-packed salads or smoothies.

Meanwhile, exercise releases endorphins (happy hormones!) so try to stay active. It would be easy to fall into sedentary routine while gyms and pools are shut, and you’ve no walks to the station or cycles to the office, but try to replace these things with other activities, like walking, jogging or online yoga or dance classes.

Stay connected… but know when to disconnect

Luckily, technology has made it possible to stay connected to others, and video calls have become a new way of life for many of us - not just to stay in touch with friends and family or to conduct work meetings, but everything from pub quizzes to choirs have found a life of their own on the computer screen. But it’s not unlikely that video call fatigue has well and truly kicked in by this point of lockdown. Just like with seeing people in normal life, everyone has their own tolerance levels when it comes to face-to-face interaction. Take advantage of communication technology when it cheers you up or makes a task easier, but also know when to say no if you’re starting to find them draining. 

Be kind

The theme of 2020’s mental health week is an important one, in the current situation and beyond. Kindness simply means choosing to do something that helps others or yourself, motivated by genuine warm feelings. And warm feelings are exactly what we all need right now. Studies have found that acts of kindness are linked to positive wellbeing and increased self-esteem, so think about what acts of kindness are doable in your circumstances, such as checking in with friends you know might be struggling, offering to get groceries for an elderly neighbour or volunteering for the NHS or a local food bank.

It’s just as important to be kind to yourself, so allow yourself to be self-indulgent when you need it. What makes you feel happy and relaxed? Maybe it’s lighting scented candles and having a long bath, or cooking your favourite dinner and eating it in front of your favourite film, or baking cakes, or maybe it’s turning some music up loud and dancing around the living room. Decide what small things give you pleasure and prioritise them.

For more information and resources on Mental Health Awareness Week, click here.



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