The outbreak of COVID-19 has the potential to affect more people from a mental health perspective than a physical one.
This novel disease brings with it a wave of uncertainty and a big disruption to our daily routines, which can cause many to feel fearful, anxious and stressed.
We are constantly hearing of new cases, business closures, isolation and an unknown future- which can understandably take a toll on anyone's mental health.
It's at times like this when we must do all we can to mind our mental health- but how?
Start by limiting your exposure to social media. Constantly watching, reading or listening to news that is making you anxious is not beneficial. Of course, we want to stay up to date, but try to limit your media intake to once or twice a day. There is also a lot of misinformation or 'fake news' in circulation right now, so be sure to get the correct information from trusted sources only. Whatsapp messages, many Facebook pages and 'hear-say' are often exaggerated or simply incorrect. Find up-to-date factual information on COVID-19 in Ireland at the HSE website or the national news provider RTE.
Try to stay connected with people. Social distancing and isolation are tough on mental health at the best of times. But with today's advances in technology, we do not have to see each other in person to keep in contact. Catch up with friends and family worldwide using phone calls, video chat, messages, email or social apps. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the current situation, talk it through with a friend or relative. We need to use each other as a source of support.
Try to maintain a normal routine. With most of us now working from home, it is important to keep some structure in our daily life. Set the alarm and get up at the usual time, shower and get dressed. Make a plan for your day, jobs that must be completed, meal times and time for relaxation. Keep regular sleep routines and maintain a healthy balanced diet.
Find some time to unwind. Exercise has time and time again been proven to have a beneficial effect on mental health. Here is some useful information on exercising from home in my previous blog.
Try to come away from screens. Read a book, sit in the garden, listen to some music, write or draw, get some fresh air, stretch and meditate, pick up an old hobby; the list is endless of activities we can do from home.
For anyone who has pre-existing mental health issues, this can be a very challenging time which may cause symptoms to exacerbate or worsen. It is advised to continue with your treatment and or medications. It is important to acknowledge that COVID-19 is an event that brings with it anxiety and stress, and so these feelings are normal and understandable. However, try to follow some of the above steps to lessen the effects. We should also try to notice some of the positives associated with COVID-19, such as the high recovery rate, the fact that most will only encounter mild symptoms, and the amazing community spirit and acts of human kindness that are being shown worldwide in response to the virus.
We need to mind ourselves but mentally and physically during this difficult time. Support one another, be kind and stay safe.
By Rachael Cleary BSc Physio, MISCP
Duan Li, Gang Zhu. Psychological Interventions for People Affected by the COVID-19 Epidemic. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2020 Feb. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30073-0
Gao, Junling and Zheng, Pinping and Jia, Yingnan and Chen, Hao and Mao, Yimeng and Chen, Suhong and Wang, Yi and Fu, Hua and Dai, Junming, Mental Health Problems and Social Media Exposure During COVID-19 Outbreak (2/17/2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3541120
'Manage Anxiety and Stress' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, March 14 2020: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html
'Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak' World Health Organisation, 12 March 2020: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf
'Minding your Mental Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak' Health Service Executive, 14 March 2020: https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/minding-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.html
Image by Gerardo Gómez from Pixabay