How to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak

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Following Boris Johnson’s announcement banning all unessential travel, everyone but Key- and front-line retail workers are staying home to look after their own physical health and that of others.

Whilst we urge everybody to comply with this instruction, confinement can introduce challenges to our emotional well-being.

We are living in unprecedented times. Nobody quite knows what will happen next and everyone has already had to significantly adjust day to day activities.

These are extraordinary societal measures at a time of peace and despite being in our best interests, could – if it lasts longer than anticipated – can lead to feelings of frustration.

Uncertainty can be scary, and in the UK we are not used to the government setting strict limitations to the citizens’ personal lives. That’s why it’s important to quickly establish new routines.

Not having an office to show up to each morning can compound feelings of isolation and disconnection as you miss out on your usual daily social interaction with colleagues.

If you are not used to working from home, you might find it difficult to get “in the zone”. Others may over-compensate then struggle to unplug at the end of the day, cramming in work at times that you would usually be unwinding. The first can lead to feelings of guilt; the latter to stress, anxiety and ultimately risk burning yourself out.

This pressure becomes even greater if someone depends on you.

Lack of items in shops, limited access to services and social distancing creates an exceptional set of challenges to parent, or care for elderly or vulnerable relatives, while trying to make your family’s daily life as normal as possible.

If you don’t have any teaching experience and are now having to home-educate, it’s easy to find this overwhelming. That’s why it’s essential to get in touch with others. Most communities are establishing online support groups – join or set up a Facebook page, form a WhatsApp group or an email circulation list.

The thing to remember throughout this situation is that we are not alone. Parents and carers across the UK are in the same situation and therefore have a unique opportunity to support one another.

Concern over the COVID-19 outbreak can be heightened greater if a loved one is in a vulnerable position. It’s important to keep communicating with the relevant authorities. You are not alone.

Here are some tips on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Set up a dedicated work zone you can walk away from at the end of the day.
  • Set up a schedule for your work, break, lunch and rest times and stick to it.
  • If other members of your family are working from home as well, set up some ground rules: depending on your situation, you might want to allocate personal working spaces and a slot of alone time each day, along with any other measures that work in your personal situation. No matter how much you love someone, you are normally used to spending several hours a day apart from them and it’s easy to become irritable and feel like you are ‘in each other’s pockets.’
  • Even though it may be tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day, changing into day clothes can make the transition from working time to downtime easier.
  • Make sure to stay in contact with your colleagues/manager to maintain to help stay on top of your tasks. Also maintain discussions that are not related to work: inside jokes, office banter and checking up on one another.
  • Create ‘a web of help’: Use technology to speak regularly to your neighbours, friends and family members and offer to run errands for one another within the restraints of the lockdown restrictions.
  • If teaching your children at home, check out social media. Many teachers are offering online help in their area of expertise.
  • Practise self-care: exercise, make sure to have enough sleep, pay attention to your diet, keep up with your hobbies and make sure to stay in touch with your family and friends via phone, Skype or chat.

 

 

Above all, try to stay positive.

We cannot ignore the horrible statistics coming in each day and it is a sad but unavoidable fact that some people will lose loved ones. But we must be grateful that we live in a time and a country where we have effective medical care provision and the ability to physically isolate in the short term without having to become socially isolated or risk thirst or starvation.  Support is available for those who need it most and we will get through this.

We will get through this.

We advocate a stoic approach where possible to what is a difficult, but short-term situation. However, if you do need additional advice or mental health support during this difficult time, the following agencies are available:

  • NHS: Find most up-to-date information about COVID-19 here
  • Mind: Info on looking after your mental health during the pandemic can be found here
  • Age UK: Information on coronavirus, updates on how to look after yourself and your loved ones, as well as ways to support older people are available here
  • Future Learn: Short online courses designed to help you manage your own mental health and support others who are struggling during the pandemic can be found here