Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time. We believe that mental health is everyone’s business. So, for one week each May, we campaign around a specific theme for Mental Health Awareness Week.
One thing that we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times. We have learnt that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope. The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress and improve your emotional wellbeing.
Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current coronavirus (COVID-19), can be scary and can affect our mental health. While it is important to stay informed, there are also many things we can do to support and manage our wellbeing during such times.
We know that many of us are worrying about the current situation around coronavirus and how it might affect our lives. It’s likely that we’ll be working from home for longer periods of time to help keep us all safe during the coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, it’s important we recognise how it may affect our mental health and ensure we are taking care of ourselves and our colleagues.
Here are some tips we hope will help you, your friends and your family to look after your mental health at a time when there is much discussion of potential threats to our physical health.
More of us will be spending a lot of time at home and many of our regular social activities will no longer be available to us. It will help to try and see it as a different period of time in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.
Use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype or other communication/collaborative working platforms to connect with colleagues and work together. It can also be a good idea to use a range of technologies so you’re not always typing or looking at a screen – switch things up with a telephone call or video call so you can see someone face to face.
Try and keep in touch with your friends and family by telephone, email or social media, or contact a helpline for emotional support. Stay in touch with friends on social media but try not to sensationalise things. If you are sharing content, use this from trusted sources, and remember that your friends might be worried too.
Also remember to regularly assess your social media activity. Tune in with yourself and ask if it needs to be adjusted. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or unfollowing accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious.
Try to manage how you follow the outbreak in the media
There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is causing you huge stress, it’s important to find a balance. It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.
Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. You could try reading more or watching movies, having an exercise routine, trying new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet. Try to rest and view this as a new if unusual experience, that might have its benefits.
Talk to your children
Involving our family and children in our plans for good health is essential. We need to be alert and ask children what they have heard about the outbreak and support them, without causing them alarm. We need to minimise the negative impact it has on our children and explain the facts to them. Discuss the news with them but try and avoid over-exposure to coverage of the virus. Be as truthful as possible.
Focus on what you can control
It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you have a long-term physical health condition that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.
It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking.
Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.
Try not to make assumptions
Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sex.