I don’t need to tell you that talk of Coronavirus is everywhere. Things are getting tense and people are understandably worried. Even for those who do not have a mental illness, this is a stressful time. For those who do have a mental illness, this time of stress can be extremely tough on our mental health. I wanted to share some tips I am using to cope mentally that I thought may be helpful for others.
1. Talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust
If you’re feeling worried, don’t keep it bottled up. Talk to somebody you trust about your feelings and concerns, whether it’s a friend, family member, partner or a helpline. Get things off your chest. Even if you feel like there’s nothing they can do to help, sometimes just talking about things can feel as though a burden has been lifted.
If you really don’t feel like talking, write down your feelings. You can always rip them up afterwards and nobody else has to read your private thoughts.
2. Limit the amount of time you’re reading about coronavirus or watching the news
It’s tempting to try and keep up with everything that’s going on all the time, but there’s so much media coverage and you can’t possibly read or watch all of it. Constantly checking for updates is not good for your mental health. Try to check once or twice a day to keep up with important updates, and be firm with yourself about leaving it at that.
3. Only read factual, science-based resources
A lot of the media coverage can invoke panic and perpetuate worry. Try to find your updates from responsible, fact-based sources such as the World Health Organization. This ensures that you are only getting the facts you need.
4. Stay away from social media posts about coronavirus
Talk of coronavirus is all over social media, and it is adding to the panic people are feeling. Try to stay away from people’s social media posts about the situation. Remember you can mute or hide words and phrases from your social media feed.
5. Distraction, distraction, distraction
As long as you’re keeping up to date with professional, fact-based information and guidelines, the rest of the time you don’t need to be thinking about Coronavirus. That’s easier said than done. Distraction is key. Do anything you can to keep your mind occupied and thinking about more cheerful, positive things. You could exercise, watch films, listen to music, chat with friends, do arts and crafts, cook, bake, learn something new, literally anything to keep you busy.
6. Keep up with your usual routine as best you can
This is easier said than done with the current situation, but do your best to keep up your regular routine as much as is realistic. Try to keep a good sleep routine, remember your medication, work during working hours (even if you’re working from home), and eat when you usually would.
7. Practice self-care
As well as ensuring you are sleeping, eating and keeping up with personal hygiene, set aside time each day to do one act of self-care. You could take the time for a bath, do a facial treatment, anything that makes you feel good.
8. Consider meditation, breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques
There are lots of great ways to relax. You could meditate. If you’ve never meditated before there are lots of resources online to guide you. You could practice breathing exercises. Yoga and other mindful movement can be useful. Even listening to relaxing music or an audiobook can help you to unwind.
9. Stop any ‘spiralling’ in its tracks
If you find your mind ‘spiralling’, meaning thinking about the future, what is going to happen, catastrophizing about the worst-case scenario, panicking about things and so on, stop it in its tracks. You can say out loud or think ‘STOP’ and actively force yourself to think about something else, or to get up and do something to change your mindset.
10. Set boundaries with others
Most people are talking about the situation, a lot of the time. If loved ones are talking about coronavirus, and you’re trying to get your mind off it, be firm and assertive. Set boundaries and explain that you are trying to take care of your mental health, and you’d like them to change the subject. If they aren’t willing to do so, or you don’t feel able to ask them, you could remove yourself from the situation instead.
11. Monitor your mental health
Keep an eye on your mental health. If you notice signs that you are struggling, use your self-management tools to try and get things back on track. Be self-aware.
12. If you feel your mental health is declining, reach out for help
If you find that your mental health is declining and you’re not able to cope, speak to a loved one, a medical professional or your psychiatrist or crisis team if you have one. Remember your crisis plan if you have one. Remember that mental health is just as important as physical health. Take care of yourself.
Last but not least, I just want to send my love to anyone who is reading this.