The coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak is going to have an impact on everyone’s daily lives, as the government and health authorities around the world take necessary steps to manage the outbreak, reduce transmission and treat those who need medical attention.
It may be difficult, but by following guidance on social distancing, or staying at home, you are helping to protect yourself, your family, the health authorities and your community.
During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and to get further support if you need it.
This guide provides advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
What can help your mental health and wellbeing?
Consider how to connect with others: Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.
Help and support others: Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Remember it’s important to do this in line with guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep yourself and everyone safe.
Talk about your worries: It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope can help others too. You could also find support groups online to connect with.
Look after your physical wellbeing: Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise inside where possible and outside once a day, and try to avoid smoking and alcohol. If you are able to go outside, consider walking or gardening (keeping the recommended 2 metres from others as outlined in the social distancing guidance).
Look after your sleep: Feeling anxious can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment.
Try to manage difficult feelings: Many people find the news about coronavirus (COVID-19) concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared.
It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful.
Manage your media and information intake: 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more anxious. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting to a couple of checks a day.
Get the facts: Gather high-quality information that will help you to accurately determine your own or other people’s risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) so that you can take reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can trust and fact check information that you get from newsfeeds, social media or from other people. Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources.
Think about your new daily routine: Life is changing for us all for a while. Whether you are staying at home or social distancing, you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine. Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (such as reading or calling a friend). You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week.
Do things you enjoy: Focussing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and can boost your mood.
If you can’t do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online and people are coming up with innovative online solutions like online quizzes and streamed live music concerts.
Set goals: Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose – think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. It could be watching a film, reading a book or learning something online.
Keep your mind active: Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you.
Take time to relax and focus on the present: This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future, and can improve wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety.
If you can, once a day get outside, or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside much you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can.
Supplies: Think about how you can get any supplies you need – either from a neighbour, family friends or a delivery service so you don’t worry about running out. Try to pick healthy food, especially as you might not get as much exercise as normal.
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.
Managing physical symptoms that are triggered by stress and anxiety
It is quite common to experience short-lived physical symptoms when your mood is low or anxious, for example:
faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
feeling lightheaded and dizzy
chest pains or loss of appetite
Often people experience such symptoms due to stress, anxiety or low mood find that they get worse when they focus on them.
Managing panic and anxiety
If you have panic attacks or flashbacks, it might help to plan a ‘safe space’ in your home that you can go to and breathing exercises may also help.
Managing feelings of being trapped or claustrophobia
You are probably spending more time than usual at home so try to get outside if you can, once a day. It can also help to regularly change the rooms you spend time in (if possible). This can help to give you a sense of space.
Get help if you are struggling
Hearing about coronavirus (COVID-19), and the changes it causes in your daily life, might make you feel like you don’t have control, or make you worried or scared about your health. These feelings are common. Try to speak to someone you trust such as a friend, family member or supporter – as mentioned above, stay connected!
Dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency
You may find that the stress of the current situation could have a big impact on your mental health.
You may: feel great emotional distress or anxiety, feel that you cannot cope with day-to-day life or work, think about self-harm or even suicide, or experience or hear voices (hallucinations).
If this sort of situation happens, you should get immediate expert assessment and advice to identify the best course of action:
If you have already been given a Crisis Line number from a health professional, please call it.
If you’re under the care of a mental health team and have a specific care plan that states who to contact when you need urgent care, follow this plan.
Find local crisis support services near you that can support you.