It can be tough work trying to avoid the negative psychological effects that can come with the self-isolation, working from home and social distancing that are crucial in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Our mental health can really suffer during the scare of an infectious disease outbreak like the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis – especially in those with underlying mental illnesses.
Coronavirus and COVID-19 are conditions that affect the physical body, but the precautions we all need to take to stay safe are starting to take their toll on people’s mental health as well as their physical wellbeing. There are many things we can do to manage and improve our mental wellbeing in times like these, so it’s important to get informed on what you can do for yourself.
As long as the rising death toll of COVID-19 continues to be the main topic of any news broadcast, it’s going to keep feeling like the virus will never end and will be a permanent feature of our lives.
It’s worth keeping an eye out for any potential symptoms of depression or mental illness, as they can vary widely from person to person. Key symptoms might include being unable to get up in the morning, wanting or trying to kill yourself, ongoing lethargy, having no appetite or eating too much, and being unable to sleep. A ‘Catch 22’ can quickly form, where the depressed person’s sense of worthlessness is reinforced with exams being failed, pre-lockdown plans failing to come to fruition, friends ceasing to visit and promotions being narrowly missed.
In this article, we’re going to take a step back from the ongoing discussion of our physical health and safety and provide some tips to help you, your family and your friends to look after your mental wellbeing. This is especially important if you are someone who is prone to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. The following suggestions may be helpful in allowing you to support your mental health at this time.
Your Mental Health at Home
Even as lockdown is gradually loosened, many of our regular social activities aren’t available to us right now and we’re all spending a lot of time at home.
Where individuals are quarantined at home with other family members, it’s not uncommon for the loved ones of someone going through a depressive episode to gradually run out of sympathy for their family member. This is bad news when having a social outlet is such an important part of managing our mental health. Great emotional costs come from this social withdrawal.
Even though you didn’t choose this new, home-based lifestyle, it can help to try and see this as just another period of time in your life – and not necessarily a bad one.
Instead of focusing on the things you can’t do, try to think about the things you enjoy that you can make a bigger part of your life.
Now is the time to find new, interesting ways to get in touch with the people you care about – video calls, online games, even good old-fashioned letter-writing – and to adopt a new rhythm of life. While you can’t meet up with your friends and family in person, and if you do you have to stand 2 metres away at all times, there are still ways to socialise and spend time with the people who care about you.
On the other side of the equation, if you are feeling happy and emotionally healthy, it’s worth taking a minute to think about the friends you haven’t heard from recently and touching base to make sure they’re getting on alright.
Try not to spend all your time trying to communicate online, though! Prioritise looking after yourself in your new daily routine. If you aren’t working from home, you could take this time to find new knowledge on the internet, get to the bottom of your reading list, watch movies, exercise or try new relaxation techniques. Don’t judge yourself if your productivity is a little lower than usual in these exceptional circumstances.
Your mental health can really be influenced by how well you look after yourself, which is a problem when social distancing makes it so easy to slip into the habit of sleeping late, spending all day in your pyjamas and eating junk food. Keeping a well-supplied home will help you stay on top of these things. Remember also that your mind and body are interconnected, and that making sure you have all the food, sleep and prescription medicines you need will also help improve your mental wellbeing.
While practical tasks can be a challenge during a depressive episode, the way you feel can be improved even by carrying out simple tasks like washing your face. Many people find it easier to make these basic healthy decisions if they make themselves follow some type of routine.
Avoiding the Rumour Mill
Do what you can to get information on the virus from reputable sources only, and avoid speculation where possible. Anxiety thrives on speculation and sensationalism. You may feel more in control if you know you have access to good quality information about the outbreak.
Don’t bother with what the tabloids and politicians are saying: What are the scientists saying? There is plenty of authentic, reliable information available online.
It’s widely accepted that the best thing you can do right now is wash your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, and wash them more often than usual. Any time you eat or handle food, come home from a walk, blow your nose, sneeze or cough, take 20 seconds to wash up. You can use hand sanitiser to tide you over if you can’t wash your hands straight away.
Knowing you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy will help you feel more in control, and improve your mental wellbeing.
For more information about depression, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to Depression, which provides people with the information they need to make an informed decision as to whether they need to seek further help. Need2Know also have some great books about bipolar disorder, the terrible twos and anorexia. Whether you’re newly diagnosed, a concerned loved one or just interested in the subject, we have all the information you need!