It's only human to feel anxious during a global crisis on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As well as worrying about our own health and that of our loved ones, many of us will be experiencing uncertainty about money and work.
Add in disrupted routines and unexpected caring responsibilities (not to mention home schooling) and it’s enough to make the most resilient among us feel overwhelmed and stressed out.
Mental wellness is essential for returning to our lives and rebuilding society for the future, so we need to take steps to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic. Fortunately, there are some simple things that can help to relieve and control anxiety during this difficult time.
We’ve teamed up with the Mental Health Foundation for Mental Health Awareness Week to share our top five tips for coping with pandemic-related anxiety.
Five tips for coping with COVID-related anxiety
- Be kind to yourself and others
- Check your sources (but not too often)
- Keep in touch with the outside world
- Focus on the things you can control, not the ‘what if?’
- Bring some structure to your day
1. Be kind to yourself and others
“We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging.” – Metal Health Foundation
‘Be kind’ is the message for Mental Health Awareness week this year. You might think it’s hard to be kind in isolation, but there are hundreds of ways to make others smile without leaving your house. Check out these tips from the Mental Health Foundation for ideas for random acts of kindness that you can do from the safety of your sofa.
Make sure you extend your kindness to yourself too. It’s a difficult time, so remember to cut yourself some slack!
2. Check your sources (but not too often)
Fake news and misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic are rife on social media, and can easily trigger unnecessary worry. Make sure you get your news from trustworthy sources like the CDC, NHS, World Health Organization and other public health authorities.
While we're on the topic of news, continuously checking for updates and monitoring the situation can become compulsive and fuel anxiety. It may be a good idea to limit how often you check the news or scroll your social media feeds.
Also remember that spreading alarmist stories and misleading health information about COVID-19 will also ramp up anxiety for the people around you, and could even be harmful. The BBC has some great advice for how you can play a part in stopping misinformation from going viral.
3. Keep in touch with the outside world
“Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life.” – Mental Health Foundation
Most of us have an abundance of technology in our homes that can help us keep in touch with loved ones, even if we can’t see them in person.
It’s not quite the same as a hug, but social media chats, video or phone calls, and even writing letters can help you feel connected to people outside your household.
4. Focus on the things you can control, not the ‘what if?’
Nobody knows when the coronavirus pandemic will end. Hopefully, a combination of testing, contact tracing and symptom monitoring through the COVID Symptom Study app will help get things moving again. And with a bit of luck there will be a vaccine in the not-too-distant future.
But for now, life may still feel very uncertain. You might not know when your kids will go back to school, when you will return to work, or when things will be ‘normal’ again.
This can be very scary, but there isn’t much point in worrying about the unknowns in the future when they are beyond your control. It will just leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless.
If you start to feel anxiety spiralling, it might be a good idea to write down what's worrying you. If it is something you can plan for, make a plan or draft out some solutions to make it feel less scary.
Try not to obsess over ‘what if?’ scenarios and feeling sad or anxious about things that haven’t happened yet. Instead, focus on what you can control right now: how can you have a good day today?
5. Bring some structure to your day
"As tempting as it might be to stay in pyjamas all day, regular routines are essential for our identity, self-confidence, and purpose." – Mental Health Foundation
Planning your days and maintaining a schedule can help things to feel more normal and reduce anxiety. Here are things we recommend including on your plan to help you feel your best:
- Cooking and eating healthy meals (Remember, eat more plants!)
- Exercising. It doesn’t have to be a hardcore workout - just walking at the same time each day, such as every morning, is a great way to add structure to your day and start things off right.
- Time for relaxation and de-stressing. Yoga and meditation are great options if you enjoy them, but find a relaxation practice that works for you.
- Activities you enjoy, such as reading, crafting, baking, gardening, dancing, music… whatever makes you feel good
- Connecting with friends and family.
- Spending time outside getting close to nature is great for your mental health - even if it’s just watching the squirrels or seeing flowers in your local park
- You may want to include time for social media and reading the news in your plan, then turn them off when your time is up. You could even plan an electronics-free day – you won’t miss much, we promise!
Remember, be kind to yourself and don't try to cram too many things into your day. Give yourself time to do things at a steady pace, and if you don’t manage everything, forgive yourself and move on.
To find out more about how you can look after your mental health, check out the resources from the Mental Health Foundation.
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