Welldoing.org Coronavirus Mental Health Advice
Welldoing.org are working hard to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in ways that helps clients and therapists keep working together
This includes the launch of two new initiatives: free therapy for NHS workers (view here) and discounted online therapy for new clients (view here)
Below are the welldoing.org team's 8 mental health tips to help you manage the coronavirus crisis
The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting UK-wide lockdown has immense potential to both trigger existing mental health issues, and lay the foundations for new psychological distress. At the core of this is loss and uncertainty – loss of our usual lives, perhaps more significant losses too - of loved ones, of personal health. Uncertainty around what is going to happen next, and how long our lives might look different and feel out of our control.
Below is a list of mental health advice from the team at welldoing.org. We understand that this doesn't cover all bases – many of you are facing huge amounts of stress in terms of financial stability, childcare, trying to support others, and living with existing mental health challenges that may make this situation seem impossible to handle. We hope, nonetheless, that you'll be able to apply some of the tips below. Remember you can get in touch with us on [email protected] if you have any questions we might be able to help with.
1) Limit the amount of news you read
The ever-changing nature of the coronavirus situation makes for compelling reading. Whilst it's tempting to stay abreast of the constant updates, limiting the amount of news you consume could benefit your mental health. News providers aim to keep us clicking, and often pieces are recycled, marginally updated, and given a fresh headline. Limiting your news intake doesn't mean you will fall behind on what's going on.
We would suggest limiting yourself to 30-minutes a day to give yourself the best chance of some well-needed headspace.
2) Try to talk about other things
At the moment, it may seem that all conversational routes lead to coronavirus. It has had such a disruptive affect on our lives that it is difficult to think of anything that isn't touched by it in one way or another. I've been making use of The School of Life's 100 Conversation Cards to guarantee some coronavirus-free conversation. You could consider creating your own if you're isolating with others. If you're isolating alone, get some friends involved from a distance. Take some time to write down conversation starters, put them in a bowl and select at random. To steal a couple of ideas from The School of Life, try a range of light-hearted and more meaningful topics: Is there an art to loading the dishwasher? What makes a good travel companion? Describe a piece of art you really like and why. Do you have a technique for keeping calm? If you could choose only one medium (art, film, literature, music), which would you choose?
3) Make the most of time outdoors
Signs of spring are everywhere – blossom, daffodils, some blue sky – offering a much-needed sense of normality and hopefulness. Try using what time you have outside to your advantage – perhaps engaging in mindfulness techniques on your daily walk. Focus your attention by noticing what you can feel, see, hear, taste and smell. Can you feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk? The air on your skin? What can you hear, smell and see? Try and name something for each of your senses.
4) Movement and exercise
Exercise boosts endorphins and mindfully engaging with movement can offer a break from overthinking. As many of us have lost our usual routines, breaking up the day with something like exercise can also structure the day in a way that may feel reassuring. Especially if you are working from home and are accustomed to exercising after work: keeping this up may offer a sense of calm and control over a situation that otherwise feels anything but calm or controllable.
Limited space and equipment means some creativity may be required here. There is a wealth of videos online offering yoga, pilates and bodyweight exercise routines. If you'd like to create your own, try designing your own Alphabet Workout: assign each letter of the alphabet with a different exercise and choose random words from a book, or a mantra that you find comfort in and would like to focus on during your workout, and run through the exercises you've set for each letter. Designing your own programme like this can take the pressure off having to decide on what to do each time. It can also be useful if your usual exercise revolves around training for a specific skill, like a martial art or dance – using the alphabet technique, you can incorporate things you need to practise.
5) Look after your health
Beyond making time to exercise, there are of course other areas of physical health that we can try our best to attend to, perhaps most importantly nutrition and sleep. The produce at the shops may be limited at the moment; if you are someone who has a particular routine with food or specific dietary requirements, this may be particularly challenging. This situation forces everyone to become more adaptable and creative – it may be that you'll even learn some new dishes in the process! Try your best to continue to eat well, limiting caffeine and moderating alcohol, drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of veg.
Anxious thoughts are sleep's nemesis. And poor sleep contributes to daytime anxiety – it's a terrible cycle. Sleep loves routine; try your best to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Doing a gentle stretching routine before bed may help you relax, and why not give a sleep meditation or sleep story a go, too? Calm, who we are partners with, have shared these resources for us to share with readers – we hope they are helpful: Calm resources.
Keeping a routine throughout the day may also help – the temptation to work from home in PJs and jumpers is definitely strong. While it's certainly more than OK to do this, it may also be worth experimenting with getting properly dressed as you would for work, even wearing colourful clothes or doing your hair and make up. You might find that these acts of self-care really help you feel grounded and calm.
6) Stay connected with loved ones
While nothing may fully compensate for the loss of seeing your friends, families and partners face-to-face, we are fortunate to live in a world with a multitude of apps and technology to help us stay connected. Stay in touch with your loved ones by text, or perhaps you'll find further solace (and maybe even some fun!) in sending voice notes, arranging chats via FaceTime or Zoom.
For many of us, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of relationships. Perhaps we are mourning lost afternoons at the pub with friends, or missing family in ways that surprise us. Taking time to reflect on what matters to us can bring about difficult feelings, but can also offer a template for how we would like to live our lives when we come out the other side of this crisis.
Is there someone you have lost touch with, and has this caused regret? Maybe now would be a good time to reach out, reconnect, and make amends if needed.
Find ways to be connected to others – neighbours, your local businesses, the isolated elderly. Giving our time to help others has been shown to make us feel good; structuring your time in this way can also give a much-needed sense of autonomy over an unprecedented situation.
7) Practice self-acceptance, but challenge unhelpful thoughts
It is perfectly normal to be experiencing a range of emotions at this time, from anxiety to anger, disappointment and sadness. Many of you may have had to cancel important life events, like weddings, and others may feel their patience challenged as they try to juggle homeschooling and working from home. Others may find themselves being able to work fairly regularly, but still this period of self-isolation may bring up complicated feelings.
Without our usual distractions and social schedules, we're left with our own thoughts much more than we may be used to. In many ways, as we watch the world as we knew it being seemingly pulled apart, are being forced to take stock – of what needs to change in our personal lives, our relationships, our work, or across the world as a whole. Feelings of loss, self-criticism, frustration may arise.
Practising gratitude and taking the time to notice the good in the world can both soothe difficult feelings. It may also help to set aside time for worrying – try using a journal to write your thoughts down for a given period of time each day.
If anxiety is dominating, try to split up your time. Anxiety likes to jump forward and plan; this is something we aren't able to do as we normally might. Choose an amount of time you can feasibly plan for, and try to stick to it mentally. It may be the next week, the next two days, or just the next hour.
Lastly, practise self-acceptance – there's a lot of information floating about on how to make the most of self-isolation, often involving starting projects and dedicating new-found time to yourself and your development. You'll find some content like that on welldoing.org, too, because it does very much have its place. However, you don't need to always feel like you are 'succeeding' at self-isolation; there's no right or wrong way to be using your time, and you may find that some days you have more energy to engage with things than others. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that, although it may not seem so, this is temporary.
8) Seek support if you need it
Many of you may already be in therapy and are no longer able to see your therapist face-to-face. Your therapist is still there for you, from a distance. If you're adapting to working online there are some resources below. Our therapists on welldoing.org are also available to start online sessions with you, this can include text or email therapy services if working on video doesn't feel comfortable at home.
We have some great, supportive resources from our therapists and counsellors. Read our coronavirus specific content.