Today, I’m writing this post to offer you support and guidance to help you maintain good mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These are worrying times, but I want to reassure you that we are still here for you. Like many practices, Altum Health therapists are largely working from home. However, we are available to see you online via Zoom or even outside in the park (at time of writing this is still permitted). You are not alone.
As social animals, the idea of being isolated is difficult for many of us. And with so much uncertainty in the air, it’s normal to feel anxious. Striving for routine and consistency is a key part of maintaining our mental health and well-being. I understand how hard it is when these things are threatened.
At times like these, when you are under stress, it’s very common to revert to your traditional coping mechanisms; that is, it’s normal to fall back into familiar behaviours that have helped us to feel safe and contained in the past…even if they are not the healthiest! But please don’t think this is a backwards step. Think of it as a ‘side-step’ and please cut yourself some slack – be kind to yourself.
Until the dust settles, I want to offer some tips to try to help you maintain stability and good mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Make time for your own health, fitness and well-being
Make a routine for yourself so that your day has structure and purpose. If you have children at home due to school closures, create a timetable with them so that they, too, have a routine. Ensure the day has variety, but also time for you. It’s ok to schedule in a coffee break while the children have some downtime, for example.
Maintaining a fitness routine is really important for your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Exercise – or even gentle movement – releases feel-good hormones, such as endorphins. So whether you choose to head out for a walk (which at the time of writing is still allowed!), do a home workout, or practise some yoga, I wholly endorse incorporating exercise into your daily routine and staying as active as you can.
Sleep is also a major factor in maintaining our mental health and well-being. Just because the world is a little topsy-turvy right now, it doesn’t mean our sleep has to suffer. Utilise the unusual situation we are in to indulge in a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a bath, open that book you’ve been meaning to start, and set your alarm to start your day at the same time each day. Remember, we can create structure and routine for ourselves at home – we just need to adapt.
2. Use technology to your advantage
We are fortunate to live in a world where technology allows us to connect even if we can’t physically be present. If you are in regular therapy, considering starting therapy, or just need some ad hoc support, we can connect with you through video conferencing technologies such as Zoom. I know it isn’t the same as being face-to-face, but our therapists are here for you via this encrypted video technology if you need us.
Remember there are also a host of support groups online, if you’d like to reach out to others in that way.
And don’t forget, there’s the old-fashioned method of picking up the phone and having a chat! Schedule in a call with friends and family, check-in with them – that simple human connection can be incredibly uplifting.
3. Take the opportunity to reconnect/connect with people
So you and your partner are both now working from home and the kids are off school? It sure is a change from the ‘norm’, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take positives from the situation. This is an opportunity to reconnect with your family. Get a board game out, sit down together, chat and get to know each other better.
Who knows when we’ll next have an opportunity to connect with our families in this way? This situation is unprecedented. It could be the only chance we get to home-school our children. Personally, I’m going to find it challenging, but I’m trying to embrace it, make the most of it and be grateful.
If you live alone, now is the time to reach out to friends, family and neighbours. Pick up the phone and use video calling such as Whatsapp or Facetime rather than just calling – seeing a familiar face and making that connection with others is sometimes all it takes.
You can also use these technologies to host virtual get-togethers – perhaps a cocktail party or a coffee morning! We’re all in the same boat, so I’m sure others will be delighted to receive an invite to a virtual meet-up!
4. Stock up on compassion
Helping others and pulling together at times of hardship is a guaranteed way to lift the human spirit.
Communities up and down the country are busy setting up groups to help those people who are vulnerable and/or in-need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Have a look online to see how you could support your neighbours, or pop a note through their door to let them know you are available to help with errands, collect medicines or even walk the dog, if needed.
Do you have a particular skill you could share to help you feel more useful at this time? Perhaps you play the guitar or teach dance. Why not use YouTube to create some tutorials that can be shared with your community or the wider world? Maybe you are an English lecturer.
Could you create some content to be shared online that could help your friends’ children so that they have access to a qualified teacher?
5. Curb your media and social media consumption
Keep Calm and Carry On! What I mean by this, is, “Don’t panic!” The news can be sensationalist. Personally, I’ll be getting my information from places such as Public Health England as opposed to the tabloids.
While social media is a great way to connect with others, it can be destructive to our mental health and well-being if we focus too much of our attention on it – now more than ever. There will always be the person who cannot contain their own anxieties and chooses to spread their panic online. But you can choose not to read it. I recommend setting yourself specific times that you check your social media, limit your usage, and avoid searching for certain hashtags, for example, ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’.
And while you’re not on social media, focus on something that will make you feel productive. Get those household jobs done so you can finally strike them off the ‘to-do’ list, take up a new hobby or engage in a meaningful activity, such as cooking.
With the constant stream of information about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s normal to feel somewhat overwhelmed. My advice to you is to think of the person in your life who’s the most level-headed and use them as a touchstone to help focus and centre your thoughts.
While this situation is unsettling, it won’t be forever. I hope this post has offered you some support during this time of uncertainty and some tips for maintaining your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remember, our therapy sessions will continue via Zoom, so please do reach out to book in your regular sessions, or get in touch if you need support.
In the meantime, take care and keep safe.
Dr Courtney x