What a start to 2020. As we all came together as a community none of us could have foreseen the huge challenge looming on the horizon. The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is unprecedented. And it’s confusing and worrying for all of us, effecting our mental health, causing increased stress, anxiety and fear in many.
For people already living with complex mental health issues, the impact of a pandemic like this can be significant. Physical and psychological impacts of imposed quarantine, self-isolation, physical distancing and separation from loved ones can exacerbate or trigger the symptoms of mental health issues. Anxiety disorders such as health anxiety, hoarding disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), agoraphobia and panic disorder can be particularly affected. Caring for ourselves and others and spreading kindness is essential if we’re to get through this period as a community.
How to care for ourselves and others during COVID-19
Now more than ever, it’s important to learn or put into place strategies that will help us get through these tough times. It’s important, though, to remember that while the methods below can be useful in easing our stresses, it’s completely normal to need more support for our mental health and wellbeing. None of us have experienced a global pandemic on this scale before, and we’re all just doing the best we can to cope.
Don’t forget the basics of self care:
- Try to get enough quality sleep – it’s good for your immune system.
- If you take medication, try to ensure you have enough available to you. This is one less thing to worry about.
- Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol to cope with stress.
- Physical exercise is calming and may boost immune function. Even when inside your home, try to do some kind of activity that works for your body.
- Continue to access nature and sunlight wherever possible, within the current government guidelines. Even indoors, you can care for a houseplant, look out the window at nature, or listen to natural sounds like birdsong, ocean waves or rainfall.
- Participate in relaxation and mindfulness activities.
- Try to stick to a routine that work for you and gives you a structure to your day.
Physical distancing, with social connection
Being physically isolated doesn’t have to mean that we’re cut off socially too. Reaching out to people you trust is one of the best ways to reduce negative psychological effects from isolation. Consider talking to someone outside your household at least once a day. You could try:
- Video chatting – you can ‘meet’ with friends and eat together or ‘catch up for coffee’
- Watching a movie or TV show at the same time from afar
- Phone calls, email, text or instant messaging, social media, hobby chat rooms.
- Joining a virtual book club.
- Talk to us in our pharmacy
Stay informed, but limit media exposure
Ingesting large amounts of information can heighten feelings of anxiety. Ways to minimise the impact include:
- Staying informed (not knowing can be just as stressful) but seeking out factual information from reliable sources.
- Limiting exposure to coronavirus media to one or two times per day.
- Focusing on the facts, rather than emotions experienced by yourself or others.
- Changing social media settings. Mute triggering keywords or groups if they are too overwhelming, and try to limit the amount of time you spend scrolling.
- If people around you are talking about coronavirus and you are finding it overwhelming, it’s OK to ask them to talk about something else or move away from the conversation. Don’t participate, if it’s making you feel anxious.
Accessing factual information from reliable sources can help you feel more in control. Reputable sources of good quality information include:
Caring for others
Try to offer support and check in on family members, neighbours, friends and colleagues, particularly those who live alone. Even just knowing that someone cares can be enough to dampen a person’s stress responses. Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories and positive images of people adapting to physical distancing. Acknowledge that others are likely to be feeling anxious too. Try to avoid sharing sensationalising news you may have heard when in conversation. Or perhaps ask someone’s permission before sharing unsolicited information with them. If they prefer not to engage with conversations around the virus at that moment, respect their boundaries.