How to protect your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic
16 March 2020, 15:45 | Updated: 17 March 2020, 12:12
The World Health Organisation has released information on how to look after your mental health during the Coronavirus pandemic - a time that has caused anxiety for many people, with over 174,000 people currently carrying the virus.
The rise of the Coronavirus pandemic has been an anxiety-inducing time for everyone - and whether you're still going about your daily life (with a little more caution) or have taken to the quarantine of your sofa, it's time to start looking out for your mental health over the next few months.
The World Health Organisation, who have been keeping everyone up to date as the virus progresses, have released some valuable tips on how to keep your mind in check, and it's been very much welcomed by everyone.
Here's what you should be doing...
1. Keep in touch with your friends
If you're not yet facing the prospect of isolation or staying at home, there's always a chance that you will be. It'll also mean less contact with grandparents and other elderly relatives, so keeping in touch with people is super important for maintaining your social interactions.
Make sure you have the phone numbers, email addresses or social media handles of people you might want to speak to, and schedule times to have a little catch up - if you're having a particularly bad day, it may just help you out.
It's also handy to get into a routine whilst at home, so you can maintain as 'normal' life as possible, and who knows, maybe you'll get to cross a few things off your to-do list.
2. Take social media breaks, and mute triggering topics
When faced with such a widely-reported on topic or being sat at home with nothing to do, it can be more than tempting to spend all of your time scrolling through social media, and more often than not, it's going to add a lot more unnecessary stress to your life.
Mute or unfollow accounts that make you feel uncomfortable, avoid looking at Coronavirus hashtags (especially on social media, brands will over-amplify the situation for clicks) and only follow official advice given.
Don't be afraid to tune out for a while and find something else to do - don't worry, you won't miss any important information if you simply watch the news or listen to the radio at the end of your day.
3. Wash your hands - but not too much
The general rule throughout the progression of Coronavirus has been 'wash your hands' - but how much is too much? The idea that if you touch anything, you're going to get sick can be triggering for those with OCD tendencies, especially when having a lot of free time can recirculate these problems.
Charity OCD Action have advised for people to make decisions based on practicality - are you washing your hands to decrease the risk of the virus, or ritualistically to make yourself feel better?
Of course, germs do spread by not washing your hands, so official NHS advice suggests doing it for 20 seconds before eating and after touching door handles or coming into contact with other people. Also, we know Happy Birthday is a sh*t song, so we've put together a list of others you can scrub away to.
4. Don't burn yourself out
Let's face it, the next few months are going to prove pretty overwhelming for most of us, and in some way, everyone's daily routine will be affected.
It's important, that while in isolation, you keep as close to your routine as possible, maintain a healthy diet, and try to get outside - even if for a small walk (trust us, there is only so long you can watch Netflix in a day).
Anxiety UK have suggested using the 'APPLE' technique - a five-step guide on how to maintain the best living standards possible when you're faced with the anxiety of disruption.
Acknowledge the problem - Check in with yourself and acknowledge that you're feeling worried. It's totally normal, and a lot of the time, your mind can be over-complicating issues to make you feel stressed about it.
Pause - Don't react, just pause and breathe.
Pull back - Tell yourself that this is just a feeling and it will pass. Just because your mind is telling you something, it doesn't make it true.
Let go - Let go of how you're feeling. It's easier said than done but meditation or imagining yourself floating away in a bubble can help. Put yourself in a happy place too - even if it means watching your favourite rom-com to let the burden pass.
Explore - This is about being present. A great calming technique is to notice everything around you. You might be sat doing nothing, but think about your five senses - what can you see, hear, touch, smell and taste? It can help you bring yourself back to reality and focuses your attention on something other than what you were worrying about.
While now may seem like a worrying time, if you're young and healthy, there's not necessarily anything to panic about. Make sure you're looking out for your friends and family (especially older people in your life, they may need a helping hand with tasks such as groceries) and although you may be forced to stay home, don't cut yourself off from the world. This will pass, and hey...it's one hell of a story to tell your grandkids in 50 years, right?