1. Invest in your physical health
To look after your mental health, you also need to look after your physical health. When staying at home or self-isolating, it can be easy to slip into unhelpful habits. Here are the key areas to consider:
Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you to concentrate, sleep, and keep your brain and other vital organs healthy. Thankfully, exercise doesn’t have to be too intense – walking or even housework can keep you active and act as a great distraction! Try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel. The brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like other organs in the body. A diet that is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. Try to eat 3 balanced meals per day, drink plenty of water, and avoid too much caffeine.
We often drink alcohol to change our mood however, when the drink wears off the withdrawal symptoms can impact our brain. Occasional light drinking is perfectly healthy and enjoyable for most people. Try to stay within the recommended alcohol limits:
3-4 units per day for men
2-3 units per day for women
2. Stay connected
Friends and family can be a great support, especially in such difficult circumstances. They can offer advice and views that are different from what is going on in your head, which gives you fresh perspective. You can also help loved ones, as everyone is finding this a particularly challenging time.
Face-to-face contact is often not possible at the moment, but there are a lot of other ways you can keep in touch such as phone calls, text messaging, social media, and video calls. Be creative and play games, have a coffee, or do something fun!
It’s good for us to keep the lines of communication open.
3. Limit your media intake
Try to limit the exposure you have to the news – consider how helpful it is for your mental health. Do you need to know every single detail of what is going on at the moment? How helpful is this to you?
Think about turning off news updates on your phone, limit the amount of time you watch the news, or listen to the radio.
If you need to know information, ensure you are getting your information from credible sources, as there is a lot of misinformation about coronavirus circulating on social media and WhatsApp. Use trusted websites, such as GOV.UK, NHS.UK, and WHO.
4. Remember the positives
It can be very easy to focus on the negatives of the situation now, due to the constant exposure on the news and social media. It can also be very easy to spread this negativity on to others, so it is helpful to try and give focus to the positives.
One of the things which this outbreak has done is display the kindness and resilience of human beings. Note down acts of human kindness you have came across, or things that you have done for others. Give yourself credit for the things you are doing, such as offering to take groceries to your elderly/vulnerable neighbours (leaving them on the doorstep of course!).
Start a positivity jar with your family, write down positive things and experiences that have happened when you have been socially isolating. When you are feeling down or deflated, get the positivity jar and look through your notes – and remember to be a source of positivity to others!
5. Give mindfulness a try
Mindfulness is a great way to focus on the ‘here and now’, instead of trying to predict what is going to happen in the future, especially at this very uncertain time.
As many of us have more time on our hands, now is a good time to begin to practice mindfulness! It’s a great way of reducing stress and anxiety, by training the brain to accept what is going on in the present moment.
Different mindfulness activities include:
- Mindful activity, such as walking while taking notice of the sights, sounds, and smells around you
- Mindfulness body scan
- Mindful yoga
The Headspace mindfulness app has made some specially chosen meditations and mindfulness activities free for to use, you can find them at www.headspace.com/covid-19.
6. Keep a regular routine
It can be very easy (and sometimes tempting!) to fall into an unhelpful routine when our way of life has been altered virtually overnight.
Routine is important for many reasons: it gives you structure, familiarity, and purpose – all of which is important in this difficult time.
- Try to keep your sleeping and your eating times the same each day
- Give yourself realistic goals to achieve each day, even if it is housework or reading
- Plan your week with activities
- Ensure the activities are balanced between the necessary (e.g. going out to get essentials) and pleasurable (reading, watching a TV series).
7. Do things you enjoy
Amongst the uncertainty, it’s still important that you have fun and do things you enjoy. This will act as a good distraction from the negativity of the current situation, and will also lift your mood.
There will be a lot of things which you can no longer do in the same way, but make time to adapt these activities. Here are some ideas:
- Exercise in the house/garden as an alternative to the gym
- Cook things that you would previously not have the time to cook
- Spend that quality time with your family – play board games, puzzles, quizzes
- Read a book that you have been putting off for a while, as you haven’t had the time.
- Find a new hobby i.e. learn something new
8. Managing the practicalities
Due to the rapid change in circumstances, it is important that you are still managing practical problems.
When we’re feeling anxious, we can often put off a lot of practical things which need addressing. This means that we put them off until we feel very overwhelmed, which is when we eventually have to tackle them. Even if we have to break the practical problem down into manageable chunks each day, at least we are still doing something about it. In turn, solving our practical problem will reduce our anxiety.
Ensure you are planning things such as grocery shopping – or who you can ask for support if you need help. If you’re in contact with other services for your physical or mental health, make sure you contact these services to enquire about your upcoming appointments.
If you need regular medicine, enquire if you can order your medication on repeat via telephone or online. See if your pharmacy is delivering medicine, or see if someone is able to collect it for you.
Although this is a challenging time, try to be proactive and ask for support if it is needed.
9. Get quality sleep
Our quality of sleep, and our ability to fall asleep, can be impacted by what activities we do throughout the day and our exposure to daylight.
Natural daylight allows our body to produce a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. The best time to be out in the sun is between 11.00am-3.00pm, so this might be a good time to schedule your walk or outdoor exercise into your daily routine.
- Keep a sleep routine so your body knows when it’s time for sleep
- Have a wind-down routine before bed, such as relaxation or mindfulness
- Keep the light dimmed and shut the curtains
- Avoid electronic devices for at least an hour before bed (these give off blue light, which can make our brain think it’s time to wake up)
- Avoid watching the media about stressful current events before bed, as it can trigger your adrenaline response which will make you more alert
10. Take a break
Don’t be too hard on yourself! Right now we are going through a very unusual and stressful situation, where we’re having to change our lifestyle rapidly. It’s okay to feel worried and anxious – we are all uncertain of what’s going to happen next.
We may find ourselves experiencing a lot of different emotions – that’s okay too, be kind to yourself. Try not to put pressure on yourself to think or feel a certain way, just try your best to do what you can to look after your own wellbeing.
We have also gathered some useful wellbeing resources to support you during the coronavirus outbreak: to see them, visit our Coronavirus and your wellbeing page.