The coronavirus pandemic means we’re having to radically adjust to a new normal.
It’s a situation we’ve never encountered before, so it’s no wonder that a lot of us are struggling with our mental health as a result.
Add in the impact of self-isolation, the fear associated with illness, and the loss of work, and we’re tunnelling towards a mental wellbeing crisis.
To provide some support during this time, Metro.co.uk’s mental health podcast, Mentally Yours, will be releasing some special episodes all about mental health in the times of Covid-19 – all recorded remotely while we work from home and maintain social distancing.
Our first episode (embedded at the top of this post, but also available on Spotify, Audioboom, and iTunes) is a general introduction to looking after your mental wellbeing in these strange and scary times, with advice from Rosie Weatherley, the information content manager at mental health charity Mind.
From our chat, here are some practical steps you can take to take care of your mental health during the pandemic.
Continue accessing treatment
If you have an existing mental illness, make sure that you take the steps necessary to keep going with any treatment you’re under, whether that’s taking medication or having therapy sessions.
See if your GP will do over-the-phone prescriptions or look to online pharmacies for delivery of your regular medication.
Many counsellors offer video call sessions so you can keep up your regular talks.
Acknowledge how you’re feeling
‘There isn’t a right way to feel right now, and all emotional responses to this are valid,’ says Rosie. ‘But a lot of people are going to feel heightened levels of anxiety and that might be a new thing for them.’
She notes that feelings of anxiety are perfectly natural – we’re all going through a period of adjustment and establishing a new normal – and that they usually come down to one of three drives: frustration, boredom, and fear.
Frustration emerges when things are happening to us and we feel we have no control. If your anxiety is based in frustration, it’s worth reminding yourself of what you can control – your personal routine.
Boredom will happen when we don’t have proper mental stimulation and don’t feel like we have a purpose. It’s important to find a purpose and feel productive even if you’re not doing your usual work – can you learn a new skill, provide comfort over video call, catch up on reading?
Fear may be because you don’t know what’s going on or you’re taking in too much stressful information. Take time to pause the flow of news and do some grounding exercises.
Create a routine
Don’t let the days all blur into one. In this period of adjustment, it’s essential to create some structure to help you adjust into this new way of life.
This is also a good time to break any bad habits you may have been holding on to.
Wake up at a normal time, do some indoor exercise, and have different types of stimulation throughout the day. Make sure to do things that feel good and are relaxing, and consciously fill your day with work, rest, learning, eating, and entertainment – rather than just staying in bed and watching Netflix.
We’ll need to adjust to new methods of communication to ensure we don’t feel lonely, even if we’re physically isolating.
Video chats, phone calls, messages, even having a pal on Skype while you eat dinner – that’ll all help to feel connected.
You can still get the benefits of nature when you’re staying in.
Invest in some houseplants. Open your curtains in the morning and throw open the windows for a bit for some fresh air. Go on a virtual aquarium or botanical garden tour. Even just setting your phone background to a photo of a forest can soothe your mind.
For more information on looking after your mental health amid coronavirus, Mind has a comprehensive guide on their website.
You can listen to episodes of Mentally Yours: Coronavirus through Audioboom, Spotify, and iTunes.
To chat about mental health in an open, non-judgmental space, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.
Follow us on Twitter at @MentallyYrs.
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