Looking after your mental health and wellbeing might be the last thing on your mind right now but the coronavirus outbreak can lead people to having unexpected feelings of anxiety, stress and loneliness.
The NHS in Walsall has some tips to help those who might be affected, or those who are worried about a friend or relative’s mental wellbeing.
Dr Anand Rischie, Chair at NHS Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We know that this is an especially worrying time, so it’s important that people recognise that it’s ok not to be ok.
For many people, their everyday routine has gone out of the window whilst they stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. With this change can come fear, anxiety and the feeling of loneliness.
The NHS has some great tips to help people to take care of their mental health and wellbeing and I would urge everyone to take a look as it could make a lot of difference.”
Stick to the facts
Fact-check information from the news, social media or other people against trustworthy sources so you can make sure not to share information that could cause worry or lead people to do things that are unhelpful.
You might also want to consider limiting the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak, including that on social media, and think about turning off breaking-news alerts on your phone. You could set yourself a specific time to read updates or limit yourself to a couple of checks a day.
Connect with people
Maintaining healthy relationships with people we trust is important for our mental wellbeing. Whether it’s over the phone, via messages or online, talking to others can help you develop a balanced view of the situation and make you both feel better, so do try to keep up contact with your family, friends and colleagues. Remember, it is really important to follow the social distancing and stay at home guidance when it comes to see and being around others.
Talk about your worries
It’s normal to feel a bit worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember: it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust – and doing so may help them too. If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of charities and helplines you can try instead including the NHS Every Mind Matters and Mind.
Support and help others
Helping someone else can benefit you as well as them, so try to be a little more understanding of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours at this time.
Try to think of things you can do to help those around you. Is there a friend or family member nearby you could message? Are there any online or virtual community groups you could join to support others locally? Remember, it is important to do this in line with official coronavirus guidance to keep everyone safe.
If you care for other people: You may be worried about how to ensure care for those who rely on you – either your dependants at home or others that you regularly visit. Let your local authority know if you provide care, or support someone you don’t live with. Further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK.
Make a plan
Thinking and planning ahead for if you need to stay at home should help you feel more prepared and less concerned. Think through a normal week: how might it be affected and what would you need to do to solve it?
Remember, it’s important to follow the social distancing and stay at home guidance when it comes to seeing and being around others. You might want to think about talking with your employer, understanding your sick pay and benefits rights, and preparing some essentials for your time at home.
Look after your body
Our physical health has a big impact on how we feel. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. The NHS offers lots of resources about exercising at home including 10 minute workouts suitable for people at all levels.
You can also find lots of online support for your and your family including Change4Life where you can find over 150 healthy recipes and exercises for all the family to enjoy.
Avoid smoking or drugs and try not to drink too much alcohol. It can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse.
Stay on top of difficult feelings
Being concerned about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal. However, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their daily life.
Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to, and where and how often you get information.
It’s fine to acknowledge that some things are outside of your control, but if constant thoughts about coronavirus are making you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try some ideas to help manage your anxiety or listen to an audio guide. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.
Do things you enjoy
If we’re feeling worried, anxious or low, we might stop doing things we usually enjoy. Focusing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax with others will help with anxious thoughts and feelings. Try to make an active effort to do things you like.
Focus on the present
Focusing on the present, rather than worrying about the future, can help with difficult emotions and improve our wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people deal with feelings of anxiety. You can find some helpful breathing exercises on the NHS website.
Look after your sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Try to keep a regular sleeping pattern and follow good sleep practices. Try to avoid screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. The Every Mind Matters sleep page provides practical advice on how to improve your sleep.
For local mental health advice and resources during the coronavirus outbreak you can also visit Walsall Council website. The website contains tips and advice on steps you can take to improve your mental health. You can also access Walsall Community Living Directory where you can find local organisations, groups, and agencies that provide services and support people affected by mental health issues.
If you are experiencing stress, feelings of anxiety or low mood, you can use the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and practical tools Every Mind Matters also provides simple tips and advice to start taking better care of your mental health. If you are still struggling after several weeks and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.
In a medical emergency call 999. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.