CORONAVIRUS: 10 WAYS TO LOOK AFTER yOUR
MENTAL HEALTH DURING AND BEYOND COVID-19
Across the UK, we are celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (18-24 May), aiming to raise awareness of mental health, mental health issues and inspire action to promote good mental health for all. In this article, Will Lee looks at how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting our mental health, and suggests 10 ways we can look after our mental health during lockdown and beyond.
Whilst COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory virus, lockdown and social distancing are adversely affecting mental wellbeing across the globe to a formerly unseen extent.
Statistically speaking, common mental health issues affect one in four of the UK population before the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is already thought emerging of patients, healthcare staff, key workers, parents, young people, and children all reporting higher rates of common mental ill-health as a result of COVID-19. It is believed that public health plans across the world have yet to realise the ‘perfect storm’ brewing; social isolation, loneliness, economic stress, and decreased access to mental health support, will likely see a rise in mental health issues, and even suicide rates too.
Church Army staff are on the frontline across the UK and Ireland supporting some of the most vulnerable and deprived communities and individuals. Some of those they’re working with are struggling to feed their children, can’t get hold of their medication, or haven’t spoken to anyone face-to-face since before lockdown began. You might not be in these situations, but the quantity and quality of your sleep may be worse than normal, you might be more anxious, or your mood is low - all of which are contributing factors or symptoms of poor mental health.
If we are to overcome the mental health issues in during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must first understand that mental health affects every one of us, even if we have no prior diagnosis of mental ill-health.
Here are my 10 tips on how you and those in your community can look after their mental health during and beyond lockdown:
1. Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break because no one has ever experienced what we’re currently living through.
2. Maintain your pre-lockdown routine as much as possible. This will keep your mind feeling comfortable with familiar experiences.
3. Allow yourself to feel and try to recognise your emotions. You may find the Wheel of Emotions useful to learn about your range emotions.
4. Express yourself creatively. This could mean building, drawing, singing… or something else creative!
5. Stay active. Physical exercise does wonders for our mental health due to endorphins rushing to our brain. Go for a walk, follow a YouTube workout; whatever works for you.
6. Be honest with others. If you're having a wobble, communicate this with those around you. Lower productivity or a missed call is a small price to pay for your wellbeing.
7. Write a key plan. A key plan is small steps you decide to stick to in order to improve your mental health. Examples include: to carry a bottle of water, or only drink a small amount of alcohol on a certain day every week.
8. Meditate. It's proven that regular prayer and meditation changes the shape of your brain by enlarging your pre-frontal cortex (rationality/decision making), decreasing the size of your amygdala (fear-centre), and thickens the hippocampus (learning & memory zone).
9. Check in regularly with people you love and trust. Try to get into the habit of regularly speaking openly to close friends, family and colleagues about how you’re finding lockdown. Could you schedule a regular call just to chew the fat?
10. Speak to a GP. If you're finding things a lot harder than normal or you're worried about your mental health, you should always book an appointment to see your GP.
15 May 2020
Will is Communications Officer for Church Army. During lockdown, Will and his mates have started HeadHacks, a weekly support email with tools to look after your mental health during and beyond COVID-19, written by individuals with personal experience of common mental health issues. It’s free and available to anyone who may find it useful. You can sign-up here.
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