Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
by Tom Home
Inherently, we are a social species and because of this, require a certain amount of communicative interaction every day. With many people resorting to working from home and self-isolation restrictions reducing our abilities to see family, friends and colleagues, it is easy to understand how feelings of loneliness, disassociation and helplessness can become overwhelming for some.
Following Boris Johnson’s recent announcement that the British public should be remaining within the confines of their homes as much as possible, it is crucial that we are doing as much as possible to look after our mental health during this period of uncertainty. With the hope of providing some helpful guidance and advice, here are some of my top tips for looking after your mental health over the coming weeks and months.
Whether or not you’ve found yourself working from home, implementing a routine is an ideal way of providing structure in day-to-day life. During these unsettling times, it is important to focus on what elements of your life are in your control, rather than ruminating on what is not. Getting out of bed, showering and having a hearty breakfast are excellent ways of staring the morning positively and setting you up, physically and mentally, for the day ahead.
Whilst being home-based, it is essential to ensure that you’re allowing yourself time to go outside, get some fresh air and exercise. With all gyms, leisure centres and fitness clubs closed until further notice, we must each become more responsible for keeping ourselves active. Whether it be through running, cycling or just taking the dog for a walk, increasing our levels of physical activity reduces stress, boosts energy levels and encourages improved sleep. You can read the Mental Health Foundation’s guide on keeping active here for some ideas to get you started.
As previously mentioned, we must focus on the controllable aspects of our lives and relax by focusing on the present. This can both improve our mental health and significantly reduce the impact of negative thoughts. At times, we can feel so tense and anxious that it is easy to forget what it means to be relaxed but meditation and breathing techniques, such as mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation, are both brilliant for recognising when you’re beginning to feel tense and how to ground your trail of thought when this happens. A range of relaxation techniques from the NHS are available here.
Last but by no means least, keep on being sociable! Thanks to the plethora of connective technologies that are readily available to us, just because we cannot physically be with someone does not mean we can’t spend time with them. Whether via email, social media, phone or video, we all have the ability to remain in contact with our nearest and dearest. Make a conscious effort to set aside some time to have an actual conversation with someone at least a few times a week, for their benefit as much as your own.
For the foreseeable future, the only certainty is uncertainty. Amidst these unsettling times, everyone must make their mental health a priority and be sure to do everything in their power to preserve their wellbeing. If you begin to feel alone, isolated or lonely, you must talk about how you’re feeling – a problem shared is a problem halved.