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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Black

Mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

Infectious disease like Covid-19 can be very frightening – and can affect our mental health. As well as taking steps to stay well informed, there are also many other things that we can do to support our physical and mental wellbeing through this time.

Here are some tips that I hope you will find useful to look after your mental wellbeing at a time when there is a lot of conversation about threats to our physical health.

Looking after your mental health while you must stay at home

We are being told by the government to stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work, to stay 2 metres away from other people and to frequently wash our hands.

Consequently more of us will be spending most of our time at home and many of the regular activities that we took part in, will no longer be available to us.

It can be useful if we try and see it as a different period of our life (that won’t last forever) , and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.

This means that we are going to have a different rhythm of life, and an opportunity to stay in touch with others in different ways than we usually do. Keep connected to our friends and family by phone, email or social media. Many apps now have functions where we can meet in group online as well as 1to1 – new ways to stay close to the people who mean so much to you.

Create a new daily routine that prioritises looking after yourself. This may mean that you spend time reading, or watching movies, and having an exercise regime. Take time in the day to rest if you are able to. This may be a new way of doing things for you, that may have benefits for both your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Ensure that all of your physical health needs are taken care of, by having sufficient medications available to you.

For further information on taking care of your mental health while staying at home (staying at home link)

You might also find these links helpful

NHS guidance about coronavirus and staying at home, in english:

Welsh Government guidance about staying at home in welsh and english:

NHS guidance about what to do if you, or someone you live with, has symptoms of coronavirus and you need to self -isolate. This guidance is stricter than the general guidance about staying at home.

Try to avoid speculation about the outbreak, instead rely on reputable sources of information

In order to feel that you are more in control of the present situation, it’s important to have good quality information about the virus. Otherwise anxiety can rise, fuelled by rumour and speculation.

Up-to-date information and advice about Coronavirus can be accessed here:

Try to stay Connected

During times of stress, we operate better in company and with support form others. Try and stay connected to you friends and family, by social media, telephone or email, or contact a helpline for emotional support.

You may also like to focus on the things that you can do if you feel able to:

- Stress management

- Keep active

- Eat a balanced diet.

Stay in touch with friends on social media but try not to sensationalise things. If you are sharing content, share from trusted sources, and keep in mind that your friends might be worried too.

Also remember to regularly reassess your social media activity. Check in with yourself and ask if they need to be adjusted. Are there particular accounts or people that are increasing your worry or anxiety? Consider muting or following accounts or hashtags that cause you to feel anxious.

Talk to your children

Involving our family and children in our plans for good health is essential. We need be alert to and ask children what they have heard about the outbreak and support them, without causing them alarm.

We need to minimise the negative impact has on our children and explain the facts to them. Discuss the news with them but try and avoid over-exposure to coverage of the virus. Be as truthful as possible.

Let’s not avoid the ‘scary topic’ but engage in a way that is appropriate for them. We have more advice on ‘talking with your children about the Coronavirus outbreak’

Try to anticipate distress

It is OK to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as read about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past, or if you have a long-term physical health condition that makes you vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.

It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking.

Try and reassure people you know who may be worried and check in with people who you know are living alone.

Try not to make assumptions

Don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or sex.

Try and mange how you follow the outbreak in the media. There is extensive news coverage about the outbreak. If you find that the news is causing you huge stress, it’s important to find a balance.

It’s best you don’t know avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.

– From the Mental Health Foundation

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