Looking After Your Mental Health During Coronavirus

There’s been plenty of advice on how to minimise the risk of infection during the coronavirus outbreak (if you haven’t seen the video of Gloria Gaynor washing her hands while singing ‘I will survive’ check it out, it’s genius!) The truth is, however, that the coronavirus also poses a threat to our mental health. Social isolation is not what we’re built for! With that in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts on how you can look after your wellbeing.

1. Take back some control
Our brains are hardwired to dislike uncertainty – so a situation like this, which seems completely outside of our control, can lead to rising anxiety. Finding out what is in our control and being proactive will reduce this. Examples of things we can do are:
· Check the small print of travel insurance if you’ve booked a trip abroad
· Sort a nice workspace out if you’re working from home
· Have childcare plans in place in case the schools shut
· Follow hygiene protocols

2. Prioritise sleep
When we sleep, we dream, and this is when we process our thoughts and worries from the day. If we don’t get enough good quality sleep, our worries can build up and overwhelm us. Here’s how to get a good nights sleep:
· Create a bedtime routine – you need to wind down before bed. Have a warm bath, dim the lights, turn off screens and watch or read something relaxing (not the news!)
· Write down your worries before you get in to bed – make a conscious decision to leave them on the notepad until morning
· Quieten your mind with meditation or relaxation exercises. Try headspace or the calm app

3. Get some exercise
Exercise is great for physical and mental wellbeing. So not only will it help you fight off infection, it will also help you release endorphins and stay in a positive frame of mind. It doesn’t matter what it is, the focus should be on enjoyment and movement. So, dance round the living room or get outside in nature if that’s what floats your boat. 20 minutes outside at lunchtime if you’re not self-isolating can really give you a boost.

4. Talk to someone
Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok to feel that way. And sometimes being able to get things off your chest can help. Reach out to someone. We’re all in this together.

5. Focus on the positives
It’s easy at times like this to focus on all the bad things that are happening, especially when we’re glued to the news! But when we do this our brains think that we’re under threat, and this can result in anxiety or depression. Instead, try and focus on all the things you’re grateful for. Every night I say thanks for all my blessings, my family, home, health etc. And even in times like these, we can always see good around us. In this last week I’ve seen more conversations between strangers in supermarkets than I ever have before. And did you see
that video of people in Naples on their balconies singing and playing instruments together? Magical.

6. Keep perspective
This is a difficult time, but we will get through it. Great scenes from China this week of Doctors taking off their masks and makeshift hospitals being dismantled. That will be us soon!

7. Limit your exposure to the news and social media
I get it, I’m as addicted as the next person, but it’s so bad for mental health, because it stops us keeping perspective. By all means keep up with the news and latest health advice, but maybe limit yourself to looking twice a day. There is a life to be lived outside the coronavirus.

8. Keep up social interaction
Humans are designed to be part of a tribe. We’re better together. So, while social interaction might need to be limited to stop the spread of infection, it’s not good for mental health! Make sure you get on skype or the phone and keep in touch with people. Forget texting, go back to old fashioned conversations. This can actually be a time of deepening your connections with others. I’m making plans to have an online wine Friday with friends! Let’s get creative and share our ideas with others.

9. Keep your routine as normal as possible
I said earlier that our brains don’t like uncertainty. They like routine. Keep as much of your routine the same as possible; get up at the same time, get dressed for work, finish at your normal time and do your normal activities as much as you can.

10. Do something nice for someone else
We feel good when we do something for others. There will be plenty of opportunity for this at the moment, whether it’s looking out for relatives or elderly neighbours who need someone to go to the shop for them. Share your toilet roll! If we really do hit rock bottom you can always wash your bum!