Coronavirus (covid-19) may have changed your life in some way, perhaps you have to work from home or socially distance. These new changes may feel stressful, overwhelming or provoke anxiety. There are things that we can do to support and manage our mental health during the current crisis.
Here are top 10 tips we recommend you practice during the coronavirus pandemic to look after your mental health:
1. Acknowledge negative thoughts. Constantly thinking about the negatives associated with coronavirus and isolation can affect your mood. You may feel worried, angry, sad or frustrated when you have these negative thoughts. Firstly, it is important to recognise that these are just thoughts. Thoughts are fleeting, they come and go. Try to bring your attention to what you are doing or whatever is happening in the present.
2. Focus on what you can control. Accepting the situation and focusing on what you can control are important steps to looking after your mental health. You cannot control what happens in the future or the coronavirus itself or the economy. But you can control what you are doing now. You have control over your behaviour.
3. Have a regular routine. A routine will provide you with certainty and stability on what your day or week might look like; two things that may be difficult to find during the current pandemic. Have a set time of the day for eating lunch away from your work space, exercising or reading your favourite book.
4. Create a work office. If you are working from home try to create a work office, create to-do list every morning for the priority tasks and attempt the Pomodoro Technique: staying focused on work for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break to stretch or make a cup of tea. If it is not possible to have a dedicated work space, make sure you clear up your work away at the end of each day so that you can switch off from work mode.
5. Connect with loved ones. Having a supportive network has always been fundamental for our physical and mental health. Now more than ever it is important to maintain relationships and have regular contact with loved ones. Although you may not be able to see your friends and family in person, you can connect with them via video calls, text messaging, writing letters or phone conversations.
6. Try to exercise daily. Physical exercise helps to release endorphins in the brain, which make us feel happy and reduce stress. Exercise could mean walking around your house, doing stretches or going for a run.
7. Watch what you eat. What you eat is essential to improving your mood. Research shows that poor diet (which included high levels of saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and processed food) was linked to poorer mental health. Eating a well-balanced diet can help to improve your mood.
8. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental way. Practicing mindfulness can help with anxiety and stress. There are plenty of mindfulness exercises online that you can try out. We recommend practicing the mindful body scan: lay down in a comfortable space, bring your awareness to your body breathing in and out and move your attention to whatever part of the body you want to assess. Each time your attention wanders, simply just notice this and bring your attention back to your body. Be gentle and kind to yourself during every mindfulness exercise.
9. Try to not make assumptions. Rumours and speculations can trigger anxiety. It is important to not make assumptions about what will happen. Look up reliable sources and follow the guidelines proposed by your government. Having quality information about the coronavirus can help you feel more in control.
10. Sleep routine. Healthy sleeping habits can make a big difference to your mental wellbeing. It is important to stick to a regular sleep schedule, avoid naps during the day and create a relaxing bedtime ritual e.g. having a bath at 9pm every evening.