The current coronavirus pandemic is scary. None of us has ever seen anything like this before, and hopefully, we never will again. It is hard to keep going, and we all need to help each other to get through this time.
There is plenty of guidance available about measures to protect our physical health, and I hope that we are all following the advice on social distancing, self-isolation and so on. But there is also another aspect of our health that requires attention at this time – our mental health. Being confined to your home most of the time when you are used to being out and about can be difficult to adapt to. Not seeing your friends and family can take a toll. Anxiety about the situation is normal but can be damaging. So here are some things we can all do to help maintain our mental health through this trying period.
- Keep things in perspective
Yes, this is a very serious situation and it is worrying. But it will pass. Think back to a time in your life when you faced a potentially life-changing situation when everything looked as bleak as could be. At the time you couldn’t see a future of any kind beyond that crisis. And yet here you are, months or years later, still going strong. This pandemic is temporary. It will end and life will continue. Try not to let the gloom and worry get on top of you. Think and plan all the exciting things you will do when this is over.
- Don’t watch or read too much news
The media loves to sensationalise everything. That’s how they get viewers and readers. But it is very easy to damage your mental health by hearing the same bad news, again and again, every day. We all need to keep in touch with the latest developments and especially with the latest advice from the authorities. But don’t overdo it. Watching the news all day will hurt your mental health on any day – at a time like this, it can be more damaging than ever. Watch for a bit, then switch to a comedy or listen to some music.
- Stay in touch with family and friends
Most of us are now stuck in homes most of the time. This is hard. But there are lots of things you can do to avoid isolation. There are more methods of keeping in touch than ever before. When I was a child many, many years ago, videophones were only in science fiction stories. Now we all carry them in our pockets. Talk to people and share how you are feeling. There is strength in numbers and a problem shared really is a problem halved. There will be other people looking out for you just as you are looking out for them, but they can only help if you connect with them.
- Create and stick to a new routine
Change can be hard for many of us, and having your everyday routine disrupted suddenly like this can be very unsettling. The answer is to make a new routine. If you are now working at home, work out when you are going to work, eat, exercise and so on, just like you did when you were going out to work. There are security and comfort in repetition and familiarity.
- Make the most of that extra time to yourself
If you are staying at home, chances are this has freed up some time you do not normally have. Your commute to work may have changed from a car, bus or train ride to walking downstairs or across the hall. Use this extra time to do something positive, something for you. Have you always meant to write a book, learn a new language or play an instrument? Now is the time. Take time for yourself and do something for you.
Above all, keep track of your mental health and be aware that in times of high stress like this you are more at risk of struggling. There is nothing wrong or weak about having a mental illness, and there is plenty of help and support available. If you are finding things hard, please do not suffer alone – reach out and get the help you need.
This time will pass even if it doesn’t feel much like it right now. We will get through this together. Stay well and stay strong, physically and mentally.