COVID-19 has presented many challenges and probably key among them is how to effectively manage the impact it has on mental health and wellbeing. Whether you are isolating at home, suffering from symptoms, working within the health service or taking care of others everyone is being affected in different ways. From worries about our own health to the health of those we love, the organisations we work for and our financial futures, anxiety and uncertainty levels are high. However, there are some steps you can take to manage your mental health during the pandemic and maintain your wellbeing even in challenging times.
1. Make sure you have reasonable expectations
You might not emerge from this time with the body you always wanted, a new business venture or the book you always dreamed of writing. In fact, you may find that it’s hard to concentrate, that productivity levels are low and you feel very distracted. It’s important to give yourself time to adjust, to find new ways to make your life work and to revise goals that may now be unreasonable.
2. Lay positive foundations for mental health
Sleep, exercise and eating well will give you a good grounding where sound mental health is concerned. Despite limitations, you can find new ways to exercise as this will reduce feelings of stress – and use your one session outside each day to get some fresh air. Eat well, avoid excessive alcohol consumption and be wary of the impact of too much sugar on how you feel. Give yourself the chance to get good sleep by avoiding blue lights before bed e.g. switch off your phone an hour before you want to sleep.
3. Create a new routine
This is an unprecedented situation for everyone but developing a new routine will help to make it feel less out of control – make sure you have clear distinctions between work and non-work time.
4. Practice compassionate self talk
This is a challenging time when many of us are alone with ourselves and so internal self-talk really matters. Be kind to yourself, allow for moments of panic and giving up, gently pick yourself up and start again each day and make sure you ask for help when you need it.
5. Be present
Uncertainty can feel overwhelming and trigger a lot of anxiety. Living in the present can minimise the impact this has – tools such as meditation can help to achieve this.
6. Understand what triggers you
Make sure you’re aware of what your triggers are as well as the signs of a problem when it comes to your own mental health. This could be something physical, such as constant butterflies in the stomach, or actions such as repeatedly reading the news online. Address each of these individually, for example learning how to breathe deeply to calm physical anxiety and limiting the time you spend on your phone.
7. Nurture your connections
A connection is key for your mental health, especially in troubled times, and there are still many ways to nurture this. From online forums and messaging to video chat with friends and family, writing emails and social media, use everything available to you to stay connected.
These are challenging times but it is possible to take steps to ensure that your mental health and wellbeing are secure.