Now more than ever, is a time to concentrate on mental health. Our 10-point guide aims to ease the impact of living under the shadow of coronavirus
As the impact of coronavirus takes hold, stress across the region is likely to be at an all-time high, with concerns over job security and personal finances escalating, and those who can, working in isolation from home in line with the government’s social distancing instructions. It’s so important that we keep an eye on our mental health in these difficult times. Here are a few tips to help keep you on top of things:
Establishing and maintaining a healthy daily routine can help put you in a positive mind-set. Getting up at the usual time, preparing a healthy breakfast, scheduling time for exercise, set times for dinner – all this can really help.
Experts believe exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and help you concentrate, sleep and feel better. Exercise also keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.
We may not be able to use the gym or sports clubs at present but many of us are still able to walk in the park or garden. And even doing housework can help keep you active. There’s also plenty of online fitness classes that you can join in with for free. Experts say most people should do about 30 minutes exercise at least five days a week. Try to make physical activity that you enjoy a part of your day.
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel. For example, caffeine and sugar can have an immediate effect. But food can also have a long-lasting effect on your mental health. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
With the supermarket queues, restrictions and shortages it’s tough, but try to maintain a healthy balanced diet with lots of different types of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds and oily fish. Eat at least three meals each day and drink plenty of water. Try to limit how many high-caffeine or sugary drinks you have and avoid too much alcohol.
We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness but the effect is only temporary. When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way alcohol withdrawal symptoms affect your brain and the rest of your body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings. Occasional light drinking is perfectly healthy and enjoyable for most people but stay within the recommended weekly alcohol limits
Give yourself some ‘me time’. Take a deep breath… and relax. Try yoga or meditation, or just putting your feet up. Listen to your body. If you’re really tired, give yourself time to sleep. Without good sleep our mental health suffers and our concentration goes downhill.
Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life. Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. While we can’t currently catch up with someone face-to-face we can still call and there are lots of free ways to video call like WhatsApp, Skype and Facetime. Apps like House Party can also provide a valuable way to stay connected with loved ones.
The constant stream of news and social media updates about coronavirus can be anxiety-inducing, so use your calls to not only ask how friends and family are feeling but also to discuss other things too like films, books, hobbies, etc.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Concentrating on a hobby like gardening or the crossword can help you forget your worries for a while and change your mood. Maybe learn a musical instrument or try sketching. This is a great time to express yourself creatively.
THINK OF OTHERS
Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together. It also helps us see the world from another angle. That can help to put our own problems in perspective.
TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS
Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Talking this way isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.
It’s not always easy to describe how you’re feeling. If you can’t think of one word, use lots. What does it feel like inside your head? What does it make you feel like doing? If it feels awkward at first, give it time. Make talking about your feelings something that you do.
ASK FOR HELP
None of us is superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things go wrong. If you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear. Local services are there to help you, too.