Top tips on managing your mental health during Covid-19

24/03/2020

The Covid-19 pandemic poses a threat to both our physical and mental health. The things we know to be good for managing our mental health like getting outside and staying connected have suddenly become more difficult to maintain. We asked our Communications & Marketing Advisory Panel how the crisis was impacting on them and for their tips on maintaining good mental health.

“Covid-19 is impacting on every aspect of my life”

Paige, a carer and registered Mental Health Nurse, told us “Covid-19 is impacting on every aspect of my life. I am worried for my family who are vulnerable and the service users that I care for as a mental health nurse. I am still working but I am becoming increasingly anxious.”

“Spiralling back”

Sarah who lives with anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder said that she had to “put things in place” to keep herself “from spiralling back to where I was in December”.

“An insight into anxiety”

Tim, who is a carer, feels that “people now have a window into the kind of anxiety that many people feel day to day. As a carer, I’ve seen my wife’s mental health rise and fall even while she’s on some good medication to manage it - and it’s really important that we are practicing self-care together while life feels so uncertain.”

The impact of isolation & accessing support

Rachel, who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder, told us that access to support has become more difficult “my weekly Dialectical Behaviour Therapy group has been cancelled, and it is hard to sustain doing that therapeutic work on my own. I am now only able to contact my care team via phone, which makes me feel a lot more alone.”

The challenges flagged by our Panel are significant, and will be shared by many. But, everyone we spoke to was united in the importance of prioritising their mental health and taking steps to manage it. Here’s some of their best ways of managing a mental illness whilst in self-isolation:

Safely getting outside – the garden will do (if you have one) or a quick walk around the block once a day (while maintaining your distance) if you don’t

The Government has instructed people to only go outside once a day for exercise and when they do so to keep a safe distance from other people (2 metres). Our panel reinforced the importance of doing this safely.
Sarah said “I’m trying to spend time outdoors where possible, I’m lucky to have a small garden so that’s a real blessing. I take some time to listen to birds, watch insects buzzing about and focus on the detail of trees and flowers.”

Ros, who lives with Bipolar, told us that it was important to “Go for a walk once a day, even if it’s just round the block, and looking out for all the signs of spring outside”.

Tim said, “Simple things like getting out in the garden and sitting together for meals have been important.”

Go online to exercise where you can

Rachel says, “I have started using an online yoga platform to help me get regular exercise, and it’s something I can do alone in my room.” Paige says “I am still trying to exercise at home, in the garden or using an online class, which is important for both our physical and mental wellbeing.”

Detuning from all the noise

While it is important to stay in contact with official announcements from the Government and advice from NHS England and other trusted sources of information, the sheer noise around the pandemic and the abundance of opinions can be difficult to manage. 

Sarah says “know what isn’t helpful to you. I’ve had to mute some WhatsApp group chats and explain to people I’m bowing out for a bit as I’m finding the barrage of scare stories, links and memes too overwhelming. But, don’t shut everyone out. I try to have at least one video call a day with a friend that’s positive, calm and uplifting and we try and have a C-word ban for parts of the call.” 

Paige has restricted her news intake to 15 minutes a day “my top tip is to only watch 15 minutes of the news per day! It is very overwhelming for all of us and as long as you are aware of the main headlines, try not to focus on all of the other content.”

Stay in contact

As referenced by Sarah above, a key theme that emerged was the need to maintain contact by phone, Skype or WhatsApp.

Ros told us that it was important to “stay in touch with family and friends - just a WhatsApp to say how are you doing today is a great way to keep connected”. Rachel says that every day she “tries to call or Skype one person, and text at least one person.”

Don’t work in your bedroom (if possible)

Paige reminded us of the importance of developing a routine for each day and “using certain rooms in the house for different things - e.g. don't do work in your bedroom!”

Find the small pleasures in life

Our final word goes to Ros, she says she likes finding the small pleasures. “Writing my journal, getting my thoughts down on paper. I always start with a photo taken on my phone of one thing I’m happy about that day – a small pleasure I’m grateful for.” 

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