Coronavirus and your mental health...

As the news continues to be dominated by coronavirus, how can you help yourself - and others - while protecting your mental health?

This is a first for me - I don't ever remember a situation like this dominating the news and people genuinely behaving a little bizarre about it... panic buying, fighting, things I've seen and read on social media I've only ever watched in movies. Stuff like this doesn't happen in my 'bubble-wrapped' world...

This situation has shown to me that there are so many others losing control and allowing their anxieties to flourish - and not just those who have officially been diagnosed with a mental health condition... I'm actually thinking I'm now one of the normal ones for a change?!?!?

Over the last few years, I've discovered that you CAN take back control of your mind and those crazy thoughts - I'm living, breathing proof! So, during this challenging time, what can you do for you and those that are more vulnerable around you?

1. Switch off notifications and tune into official information
As with many things that get picked up in the news, there is a lot of misinformation about coronavirus. It can be easy to get sucked into these articles, clicking on link after link until your head is swimming with panic-inducing headlines. I'm not a news fan full stop. I don't read papers or watch it on the TV. If I want to know something, I'll find out for myself from the best possible source.

If you have news notifications set up and you’re finding they are triggering anxiety, switch them off. Try to limit yourself to only reading information from official sources such as the NHS and Public Health England. If you're not UK based, take a look at World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for updates.

2. Spring clean your social
Sometimes it isn’t news outlets that trigger our anxiety, but the people in our social media feeds that have us worried. Perhaps you follow someone who is sharing unofficial news updates, or someone who is talking about it in a way that feels uncomfortable to you.
Whatever the reason, remember that there is no shame in unfollowing or even temporarily muting someone from your feed. Focus on following uplifting accounts that make you feel calm and in control.

3. Be mindful and try to understand opposing points of views
Before you start a conversation, check in with the person you’re talking to about it. Are they comfortable having a discussion or would they rather you talked about something else? We all react to news like this differently, and rather than turning on each other, being kind and offering alternatives can be more productive. Remember, we’re all human and are doing the best we can with the tools we’ve got.

4. Shop mindfully, shop locally
According to Alastair George, Investment Strategist at Edison Investment Research, it’s fear rather than the coronavirus that may be the UK economy’s biggest enemy. You may have noticed a lot of shops are being emptied of their supplies and while it’s easy to understand how fear is driving this behaviour, try to only buy what you need and shop locally where you can. It’s small businesses that are most likely to be affected during and when this is all over.

5. Be aware of who you can help
If you know of anyone who may be struggling to get what they need, whether that’s information, food or health supplies or someone to talk to, see if there’s any way you can help. Consider older people who may not be online or those with pre-existing conditions who don’t want to risk a trip to the shops. Speak to them and see what would be helpful for them and see if you can support or signpost other support to them.

6. Seek professional help
Whether you already have a condition like health anxiety or OCD that’s being triggered by the news or you’re simply finding your mental health is being affected, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. If you’re keen to see a counsellor but are worried about travelling to see them, look for a counsellor who offers online or telephone sessions instead.
You may also want to look into support groups and helplines that can provide peer support. Know that you’re not alone in this and it’s not ‘silly’ to be worried. You are well within your right to get help.

AND, if you have to self-isolate.....
If you do find yourself in a position where you have to self-isolate, taking care of both your mental and physical health is key. In her article Coronavirus anxiety, isolation, treatment - the emotional impact, counsellor Karin Seieger MA, BA (Hons), Reg. MBACP (Accred) includes the following recommendations:
  • Ensure that you create a realistic and helpful daily routine and structure to your day, and stick to it
  • Have regular times for getting up and going to bed as well as meal times
  • Have fresh air if you can open windows or have a safe outdoor space
  • Do keep in touch with others and keep connected
  • Keep a journal
  • Set yourself tasks and goals
  • Look at the time you have as an opportunity to learn a new skill or tick some of the things off the bottom of your to-do list.
I'm confident when I say none of us want to be affected by coronavirus and instead continue with our plans, hopes and dreams (I have a much-needed retreat to attend on 12 April for my own mental health!) 

What we need to remember are these are challenging times, which can play on our minds; BUT our minds are the most important tool we have to make choices and decisions for how we want to cope - hopefully the tips I’ve included here can help you do just that.

In the meantime, breathe deep, try not to panic and be kind to those around you. Time really does heal. Be patient and listen to the official information that's being distributed. If we work together, we will all be okay, I believe in that 100%.

Big love,
Kate x

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